The Life Purpose

What is the purpose of my life?

Every time I face a difficult situation, this question makes its way to my head, making me believe for a while that I’m indeed an existentialist. But before long, I argue myself out of it in an agreeable fashion. This time the conclusion I’ve reached is so fascinating that I’ve decided to share it with my readers. Read on…what if I am able to help you fix this problem called life? Maybe I’ve found an answer which you would only be too glad to understand and analyze!

Well, this question first came to me when I was an adolescent. I even tried to share it with one of my literature professors, but he just smiled and shrugged, thinking that an ambivalent attitude would be the best way to get out of the dilemma. He was a poor man who had received a scholarship and a gold medal at the end of his university years. Once I watched him long enough from a train, when he was standing just on the opposite side, on a platform, looking at the ground near his feet, contemplating hard. What was he thinking about? I do not want to define the feelings that I experienced at this sight. It is enough to say that, that image of my professor has stayed in my mind forever. The reason I bring him here is because, what he conveyed to me was, in spite of all the odds he had decided to look at the brighter side of his life, and somehow he had turned that into a life purpose.

Yes, that is what I’ve been taught by everybody ever since I have faced any difficulties.

Now as an exercise, let’s erase all that we have been taught. Let’s unlearn what has been drilled into our heads since childhood. No, I’m not going to tell you how bad the world is. I don’t want to talk about the entity called soul. Neither will I dive into Karma theory. I won’t even bring in quantum mechanics.

What I’ve discovered when I unlearned all these theories and facts about life and living is that our life indeed has a purpose and it makes me smile because just a decade ago I was so full of doubts about it and wished I was never born. I looked for answers everywhere.

I looked at the people around me who told me earning a lot of money was the true purpose of life and I tried doing that. But I soon realized I was not ambitious for material things. Then there were others who said that work is worship, and I took a job to dedicate myself to some purpose. But, it got tiring after a while and still I do not have a clue why I was doing it. A quick resignation followed. Then I went to the temples to understand what religion has to offer. Other than faith it had nothing to offer and alas I could not pray. So I turned to books to seek answers and I found many interesting people and guides there who had interesting theories that stimulated the mind and for a while I wanted to trust them and adopt their ways. But then, again, the wisdom they shared was too difficult to imitate and adopt. So then I turned to spirituality which took me on a journey to seek my soul. But again it was an arduous journey. I soon learned that I couldn’t eliminate the petty desires of my senses.

So, did that mean at the end, I had not found any purpose? Any concrete evidence of what I was supposed to do with my life?

No.

The answer that I was seeking was beautifully hidden in the question itself. The word ‘LIFE’ which I considered as a noun was in fact a verb. The purpose of life was life itself. To live and experience life. To see it ripen and embrace the nature from which it had risen for a brief time. To see it falling down, getting charred, and then rising like a phoenix, innumerable times. To see it rolling a stone up the mountain like a Sisyphus forever and ever. To see it condemned to Hell like Satan. To experience the anguish of being banished from the Garden of Eden again and again. But to also enjoy the brief period of bliss before the Fall.

The only logical question that arises here is about death.

How could the fact, that we die, also retain the meaning and purpose of life? What is the life purpose of a body which has been mutilated, raped, abused? What about mental illness, what about cancer, hunger, famine, poverty, incarceration? How do these experiences give meaning to life? Why do we experience such intense and extreme realities, if we can call them so?

So, as we say, youll never know until it happens to you. The people who suffer such extreme realities, are here to experience life as it has been given to them. And when we learn to take an experience for its own sake, we actually learn something consequential from it. Some of us somehow need to experience that variation of our existence. It is an experience ‘meant’ for some of us to lead us on some other path. It is an experience not ordained, but perpetrated by the desires of an uncivilized, discontented race of human beings.

And there is nothing pessimistic about it. Just like there is nothing optimistic about gaining fame! We are not here to argue if experiences are good or bad, but just that these are the experiences that have to be experienced.

So each life has a unique purpose. And that is to experience the unique journey of life that has been charted for you. Your experiences are going to be unique and all your own. These are the real treasures of your existence. And no amount of experiences borrowed from others, ‘wise or otherwise’, is going to make the journey any easier or difficult for you.

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What is my Karma?

I read the Bhagvad Gita once again…yes, because the profound messages that the short text contains, cannot be internalized by reading the book once, twice or even ten times. And as the deconstruction theorists say, one always brings his repertoire of experiences to the book and unfolds the unique message for himself.

However, what I’m intrigued about this time is a little doubt about the nature of ‘karma’ or duty that Lord Krishna instructs Arjuna about. When Lord Krishna says that one ought to do his karma without thinking about the fruits of his action, that was pretty simple for a warrior like Arjuna. Arjuna was a kshatriya, belonging to the class of warriors, in a time when the duties of the four different castes were explicitly differentiated and structured. The four classes, Brahmins, kshatriyas, vaishyas and shudras, had different roles to play and so in a way nobody demonstrated an ambition to usurp the functions or privileges of another class. So as a kshatriya, Arjuna’s role was to fight his opponent, even if it was his own relatives.

But as a modern day woman living in a society where caste and class restrictions do not obstruct my decisions and the way I conduct my business, how am I going to decide my ‘karma’? What defines the nature of my birth? What is my role as a woman in a 21st century educated on a borrowed system of education? How can I say whether my actions are well within the scope of my nature and what lies outside it? How should I validate my existence?

If my middle class society defines me, then what about people who have transgressed such limits? And if my country of birth defines me, then what about the immigrants? If my role as a wife defines me, then what about the women who divorce or mothers who sacrifice their motherhood for the greater good? Every decision that I make can well be according to my nature or may be not.

So, does it mean that when I’m faced with a crisis, I take into consideration my position and then do my duty that is right or proper? But even in that case, how will I know if I’m doing the karma that I’m assigned to do?

And if I’m going to do my karma in any case (as the Bhagvad Gita states), it just means that Lord Krishna was assigned as a charioteer to encourage Arjuna so that he does not deviate (if we can say so) from his Karma.

A character..

When I met her a few years ago, the acquaintance which had developed into a brief friendship, I took her to be a very jovial and fun loving person. Though I was well aware that an obese person hides behind her rich attires not only layers of stubborn fat but also a horde of problems that are shed in installments at the pillow every few nights. Her first impression that conveyed to me was a very agreeable one as such people are wont to convey to distract others from their physical excess; so that she assumed the impression of a very cheerful person who loves all the good things in life. Though there is no denying the fact that she did love all the good things in life, she never enjoyed them for their own sake; instead it was an overwhelming need to be looked upon as a dignified, sensible and a refined being where nature would have no part to play.

Ever since she attained puberty and her timid heart started taking a liking for guys against her best intentions, she had realized that the joy of reciprocal love was denied her and it gave her acute pain to see all her female friends happily engaged; Men whom she liked never found her plump body attractive though she had the fairest face. She resembled more like a snowman or a doll of dough whom one had fixed the same kind of round beads for eyes, nose and mouth. And all the beads seemed so closely stuck together towards the upper part of the sphere that a considerable amount of space was left below making her chin pudgy. A thin layer of brown hair covered her head; parted from the middle and fastened with a colourful clip near her fleshy neck. She never tied her hair in any other way so that her face appeared the same always. Her body was likewise plump with a huge belly and hefty thighs and when she walked she seemed to bounce at every step. As a result the dislike meted out to her in turn cultivated a deep hatred in her for men and matrimony about which she was quite vocal with her married friends. Even then a casual talk regarding sex would make her blush and she would drop the subject readily.

However to make up for what she had felt a great injustice to her womanhood (though she never displayed any signs of guilt), she cultivated excellent manners and attired in the best clothes that showed the more agreeable parts of her flesh. But all her outward appearances were not enough to pacify her subconscious and her depression soon turned to binge eating which kept her pleasantly occupied and also plump. She binged on every kind of food from the roadside chats to the delicacies of a three star hotel as well as the popular eating joints that sprang up in the famous parts of the town. One advantage that she acquired from this habit was that she could display all the required table manners expected at a restaurant or a public place, much to the consternation of her friends who had not learnt to hold their forks and knives properly. At such times she assumed a kind of snobbishness which her eyes could never conceal and she beacme more lively and cheerful.

Also she read a lot of popular literature, celebrity magazines and self help books and more often than not she spoke nothing original but what she learnt from such books. But the conviction and confidence in her voice concealed this theft and made her sound quite original. And at the same time very few of her friends were actually well read and also thrived on such literature for knowledge. So the conversation mostly revolved around food, lifestyle and ambitions for which her literature equipped her sufficiently.

To appear more interesting she also constantly attended picnics and trips with her friends showing a great amount of enthusiasm for which in fact she cared very little. But all this helped her create a very favourable impression amongst her friends to the extent that some people took a great liking for her.

But behind this display of exuberance were several lonely nights spent cursing the pillow, the dread of a dim solitary future and the eagerness to hold a strong hand; which always ended with a why.. but also with an unceasing hope which aroused her every morning with renewed vigour to take on her life as she seemed fit.

An excerpt

It was dusk. For most people it was the end of their day’s work as they were hurrying home to their family – who spread the warmth on their stony faces. But in Prabha’s house everything was quiet. Tonight nobody would be coming home.

“Just leave and never come back!” She had screamed at him.

He had reluctantly packed some clothes later in the evening and left with their six year old son.

She sat on the divan laid with a hard mattress and an old yellow bed-sheet, looking at the trees from her window, which were turning darker as the light dropped below the horizon. She did not turn on the lights in her house. There was gloominess within her which no amount of light seemed ever to erase. She sat very still going over the events that had transpired over the day and the last and she wept softly. Her heart seemed to sink every moment as the dark house began to haunt her. She looked just like the dark hous – dark and deserted.The traffic sound outside couldn’t drown the silence that seemed rather over powering, screaming, beginning to engulf her. Outside, the sounds of civilization continued unceasingly taking no account of the sadness which she experienced now.
Suddenly, she picked something from the table that lay close to her.
At that moment the street lights outside turned on as if surprised and in the light entering through the window, the blade of a knife glistened in her hand.
With one swift action she could have ended all her troubles she thought.
She held the knife to her wrist for a long time, procrastinating, thinking. What lay between the knife and the wrist was the delicate, innocent face of her son.
“I love you mom..” she heard him distinctly. And then she heard him. “You are a bad mother! you will ruin him in no time!”
She closed her eyes and strengthened her grip on the knife. As the cold steel touched her wrist, she shuddered and her heart started beating faster.
She began to wonder who would find her first as she bled here all alone, unknown to anybody of having committed such a horrendous act. She scanned all the faces she knew. Shocked weeping faces. Maybe his would reflect hatred. But suddenly the idea of lying all alone, blood stained, slowly retreating into the arms of death seemed distasteful to her. She was beginning to dismay at her cowardice. She had too many commitments – most of all to her son – to end up her life like this.
She threw away the knife and lay down on the divan. She was very tired and she felt sleepy. Deep within she knew that everything was going to be alright ina few days and that she would settle quietly again in her role as a wife and a mother.
She suddenly felt disgusted and started looking for the knife in a frenzy. She saw it lying on the floor, the light falling directly on it, and picked it up.But now she just looked at it as if shocked. She seemed to be making sure that after all there was a way out of it and that she was not choosing that way now.
She knew how it was going to end. She always forgave him. No wound was deep enough to replace the ones that she had received when she was growing up. But now she was shocked as she saw the unconscious desire of creating a family seemed to crumble – the desire that had erupted from being a part of a broken family. A family which was never complete and to which she still belonged.

Mandakini

When Mandakini turned eighteen,she was the loveliest woman of Giri. The men of Giri had eyes for none other women and the women envied her day and night. Attired always in the richest silk that her parents could easily afford, she looked resplendent and heavenly.With skin as white and soft as milk and comely features, she loved to tread and crush the feeble hearts of men like a brilliant shot of lightning. Her hazel eyes never missed the slightest attention she received from the opposite sex.She took extreme pleasure in her beauty which was more of self pride most common with women her age. She was stubborn and careless, but in matters of morality and religion, she was respectful. Raised as she was by god fearing protective parents, she was haughty yet innocent. She did as she pleased but never transgressed the moral limits set by the religious heads in her society. She had experienced not a single occasion of scarcity ever and she attributed this to her being a strict god fearing person. She was the most beautiful woman having the richest things in the world and living in the most beautiful house in the town.

Soon after her eighteenth birthday, the parents decided to find a suitable groom for Mandakini. They didn’t have to look long enough as people far and wide had heard about the beautiful Mandakini of Giri. Every day the parents entertained in their lavish drawing room, gentlemen from different regions belonging to different trades for a few hours where after a thorough discussion of their abilities and income they decided if they could consider them as their prospective son in law. Mandakini was never brought to the room where the question of the prized possession was being settled, but she had to content herself from the gentleman’s image she could make out from the small keyhole at the far end of the chamber. Ah..lovely strong and swarthy hands..! was the impression of the first gentleman who had arrived in her house one evening. After he left, the parents spent another two hours reflecting about the pros and cons of having such a son in law and most often than not, the suitor was ruled out. “Such hairy hands!” exclaimed the father, “like a bear!” “Well, the merchant’s son will be here tomorrow, I heard he is fair.” replied the mother.

After nine months of entertaining hundreds of such fine men, the parents were still dissatisfied.They wanted the best for their child just as they had brought her the finest dolls from abroad when she was small. The gentlemen they met did not fit their definition of the best son in law. Some were fat, others too thin, some were very handsome but their business showed little promise, still others were completely dumb and not so good looking. But nobody asked Mandakini. She had liked quite a few of them, from what she could make out from the little key hole.She loved the deep voice of the merchant’s son, the hazel eyes of the minister’s son, just like hers, the delicate hands of the architect’s son. She was enamored by the different men and she became desperate. The garland of flowers she was ready to throw around her husband’s neck withered in her fair hands. Her eyes
began to lose their luster, her cheeks lost color and her face hardened.

After a year of having failed to obtain a successful son in law, the parents suddenly put an end to all this foolery. Mandakini, her desperation having reached its limit, soon began to show signs of physical weakness. She took to bed immediately and spent two summers within the confines of her beautiful house. Sunlight burned her eyes and the cold sent shivers through her body. Her golden white hair turned grey and thin. Numerous visits from the doctor yielded no results. Something was sapping all the liveliness from her body and her parents could do nothing but watch their child die. She lived for some more months when she overheard her parents discussing her marriage. But soon those talks ended as her weakness increased. Now all that she learnt was the different names of medicines and the different names of illnesses attributed to her condition.

One quiet day in Fall, the most beautiful house in Giri was overshadowed by grief. Mandakini was no more.Nobody remembered her and she was lost in the ravages of time. The beautiful wings of the butterfly were clipped and it lay dead in the mud from where it emerged for a transient moment.

~ Inspired by a true event..

What art means to me

A great piece of art always kindles unusual emotions in us,something sublime that is difficult to express, that stirs our aesthetic sensibilities; something that inspires in us awe and exquisite or virtuous feelings that elevates us from our baseness. This I believe should be the purpose of every art work.

What works against this premise is that: we live in an age where it is easier to corrupt ourselves than to live a virtuous life without profits. What results thereby is that an artist is more inspired by the sordid details which he thus wants to portray because they are akin to reality. And the worst I believe is that he leaves the utterly confused audience to interpret his work, who being slightly less refined than the artist, are at a loss to understand anything at all. Now shouldn’t this be the most important duty of an artist for the sake of the greater good? Because the audience is necessarily uninformed, it becomes even more important that the artist teaches it to appreciate the virtues. But sadly most artists do not care anymore. Our age appears more interested simply in demonstrating how to profit by misdeeds.

Once I met a photographer who having very little aptitude for photography had entered the profession because he considered it to be a lucrative business. He had availed himself of the costliest lenses with which he was able to click decent pictures, but which most of the time failed to win any encouraging responses from the audience. When I asked him about his idea of a good photograph, he said that as long as a picture stimulates any kind of feeling, be it good or bad, or even a hate mail for that purpose, it is a good picture. Well, I didn’t argue or try to explain him the purpose of art, now in this case it would naturally have been a waste of time! But then I was deeply upset by this attitude, which I realize is exhibited by most wannabes.

This is why an ancient piece of work is more valuable than what we seem to be manufacturing ready made these days. The ancients believed in producing art that was as beautiful as a tapestry created with utmost attention to details. There was no space left for the beholder to fill it up with diluted colours. Instead, it was designed, woven and coloured so intricately that one was inspired by its exquisiteness.

So, what I find lacking in art today is its inability to serve its purpose as an object of beauty and learning. And it has a debilitating effect on the younger minds, who are exposed to a degenerated quality of stimuli from which they derive their values. It is worth noting that when Abraham Lincoln was a child, his mother never read him fairy tales. On the contrary, she read and enacted the different themes from “The Pilgrim’s Progress”by John Bunyan, and sure enough this shaped the child’s future more handsomely than any fairy tale could have done.

What I also find a matter of apathy is that very few adults today would attempt to read, understand or discuss such works as “The Pilgrim’s Progress”. And this is because the readers or audience are bombarded with inadequate and insensible stuff that appeals to their baser instincts and impedes them from comprehending the true import of the great works of art.

I believe that artists are endowed with divine abilities and the art of creation is in itself a religious activity. It is a pity that this skill is put to devilish, unworthy and selfish motives.

Stranded

The sun kissed clouds huddled in the open windless sky. Tints of purple and red were splashed in an uneven fashion all across the firmament calling forth wonder and amazement at the magnificence of its Creator. From a tall structure in the middle of a city a mellow part of the setting sun was visible beneath the far away mountains veiled in parts by the tall cement towers and a few trees.

Below, the city streets were increasingly coming alive with the artificial lights of the houses, shops and passing traffic. Everything on this part of the Earth was demonstrating its supreme liveliness by way of some activity and incessant clamour. Even the little birds nested among the drooping branches were crying out with amazing vigour as they struggled to get a mouthful of the dead worms brought home by the older ones.

The hawkers yelling along the streets enticing the crowd with their merchandise, the brightly lit shops teeming with customers, horde of uninteresting tired people chatting away on cell phones or walking on the shining tar crusted street, the never-ending honking of unyielding vehicles, the clanking of pots and pans or a blaring song on TV in beautiful furniture crammed houses, infused the ambiance with a sadistic energy.

Hidden amid this forest of civilization Paras looked out at the dark sky from his humble shelter. The din of the city hurt his ears and he pressed his hands tightly over them and closed his eyes. He imagined the different sounds travelling in a single line getting louder and louder till they reached a crescendo and exploded into soft little mute flowers all around him and he was transported to a solitary landscape devoid of human presence.

He opened his eyes and set out to look for a solitary spot at the outskirts of the city. He knew where he was heading. At the outermost part of the city along the creek laden with factories was a small patch of secluded land, which served as an unusual rendezvous point in his youth. He treaded past the clamour and the crowd oblivious to everything. The pregnant moon had already risen and coupled with a slight breeze that was now flowing and the sun well below the horizon, the weather grew cool and dreamy. He gazed at the moon with eyes swollen and red. The moon looked beautifully large and bright and illumined the clouds around it which concealed it from time to time as they rolled in the wind.

He sighed and walked further till the verdure and the crowd thinned, opening out into a barren patch of untended land beside the creek. At the other edge of the creek shedding their reflection in the water stood the tall drab factories enveloped by a dull yellow light and smog. Far away along the wide highways heavy vehicles travelled heartlessly. Paras stood with a heavy heart looking at the bright reflections in the silver rippling water.

Away from the maddening city Paras had come to this quiet place to ease his pain. He had come here to seek his beloved through his memories of togetherness. Many a times he had met her here in the quiet of the setting sun. Many a twilight he had spent here with his beloved; at that hour when nature instills loneliness in tender hearts. It was here they met and parted every day, and it was here he had again come to seek her, well knowing that she would never arrive. Even then he lingered, enlivening the memories.

It was twilight again and there was just loneliness.

He trembled and let out a moan as he closed his tearful eyes. Maybe that is why he came here at twilight. He wished the pain that intensified at this hour could kill him at this place. But fate decided otherwise. Tears flowed freely from his eyes as he opened them. Just then he saw a radiant figure standing before him smiling, a smile he treasured. Tears welled up afresh in his moist eyes and his lips parted to reveal a faint smile.

From far away a passing truck with big bright headlights illumined the place for a brief second when one could have seen a lonely man stranded on a solitary spot by the creek smiling through his tears.