Last month, we went on a drive to Dodda Alada Mara, located 28 kilometers from Bengaluru. ‘Dodda Alada Mara’ literally means the Big Banyan Tree. During the drive, I told my daughter what a banyan tree is, how big a banyan tree can be, and about the aerial roots that start from their branches. I myself visualized a big banyan tree with its roots finding the way down into the soil.
There are mentions of banyan tree in religions, that originated in and around India. Earliest mention of it is in the Rig Veda, that originated around 5000 B.C. Lord Buddha was enlightened while meditation under a huge banyan tree, called Bodhi Tree. Great sages knew some secret that makes this tree something special.
As we entered the gate, my daughter shouted, “Jungle!”. It did look like a mini jungle with many happy monkeys screeching and jumping around. As soon as I entered the gate, my eyes fell on the information board just and started reading. My jaw dropped! What we assumed to be a ‘mini jungle’ was a single tree, spread around 3 acres. “This is huge!”, I exclaimed, and moved on to explore. There is a tiny temple in the premises of Dodda Alada Mara, outside of which, many people were offering prayers. Monkeys were happily climbing up and down the roots. Somewhere in between those roots and those branches, I was lost. Lost in thoughts: A moment of introspection. As we grow old, like the roots of the banyan tree finding its way in to the soil, we too find ourselves going back to our roots. Like the banyan tree grows high up and spread its branches wide, we grow, spread our presence in the social circles we live in. After we mature, like the roots of the banyan tree, we start to find our way back to where we belong – a journey backward. We want to be close to our home land, where we were born and spent our childhood. Our people and our cultures, from where we started our life’s journey seem so dear. I was snapped out of it by the bells in the temple and I heard my daughter ask, “Why are you smiling mommy?”
Red wine, Red wine
I don’t know why I whine!
Saw the up, saw the down
You are the only one my own!
Red wine, Red wine,
I think of you, when I dine.
After a day full of stress,
You are the only one I confess!
Red wine, Red wine!
Oh, don’t worry I am fine!
When the life turns its back,
I just change the track!
Oh, Red wine, I am fine!
“Mr. Funny caterpillar where are you going…
Mr. Funny caterpillar what are you doing…”
Sang my daughter as she got ready for school and the thought flashed in my mind like it did a hundred times in loop. “Had I placed the caterpillar elsewhere it would not have been alive”, I thought again.
A few days back after dropping off my daughter at school, I went for my walk. The pavement surrounding the apartment complex is good 500 meters, an excellent walkway. While walking I saw something moving on the pavement beside the parking lot. It was a big beautiful caterpillar wriggling towards the road from the pavement. I have never seen such a big caterpillar. I was amazed at the different ways in which the Almighty brings out life. So beautiful, so unique! I wondered how the butterfly or moth that was inside would look like. I clicked a picture of it on my phone and continued to walk. As I passed the little voice inside me said “help it reach the garden on the other side of the road”. “May be during the next round, the busy hours of traffic are over, so no worries” I replied to myself and left. As I came closer to the corner, where I found the caterpillar during the second round, I started searching for it. There it was smashed on the road. My heart broke into a million pieces. It was not far away from where I found it. Some car smashed it right after I left. I wish I had listened to the little voice. I stood there for some time as all these thoughts passed. Feeling guilty I walked towards my apartment.
While dropping my daughter off to school today, I saw another caterpillar. A cute little colourful one wriggling on the pavement going in the direction of nearby bushes. I started to search frantically for a twig or something to pick it up and place in the bushes. My daughter’s and her grandpa’s chorus stopped and the duo gave me a what-is-wrong-with-her look. I told I want to help the caterpillar. “Not needed” said grandpa, “I will tell you why, after we drop her off” he added.
On the way back, my heart was in my mouth as I neared the bushes. I searched for the caterpillar, there was no trace of it. I was worried and told my dad why I was trying to save the caterpillar. After hearing the whole episode, dad said “You do not have to feel guilty of not saving the caterpillar. The energy that kept the caterpillar alive must have gone into some other body to keep that alive. That caterpillar’s time on earth had to end, to take some other form. If it had to live, you would have just picked it up without even a thought. It was meant to die, as another form was waiting for its life energy. It is alive in some or the other form. Why worry? Lord Krishna says that in Bhagavad Gita. I think you need to read Gita again”. We both went silent thereafter. The song my daughter sang played with a very different meaning in my mind since then.
“Mr. Funny caterpillar where are you going…
Mr. Funny caterpillar what are you doing…”
In the quiet hours of afternoon, I stood in the balcony watching a Gerbera Daisy bud, swaying in the breeze. A light breeze blew a few strands of hair that were resting on my cheeks and it took me to something back in Alleppey, a smile blossomed on my face.
Alleppey, my hometown is an abode to all sorts of water bodies. It has lagoons, canals, backwaters and beaches. Each time I visit, I am mesmerized by the scenic waterways, and the reminiscence of what was once a well-planned hub of business and transportation. With the development of much bigger Cochin port nearby and other means of transportation like roads and railways, development of Alleppey took a back seat. Small canals, which once crowded with canoes that took goods and people in and out of the city are now covered with a layer of weeds. The city is now a major tourist location.
Whenever I visit Alleppey, I never miss an opportunity to visit the Beach. I hear Her welcomes from far. When I reach close by the welcomes become louder. When I get closer, walking in the sand, Her waves make a big thud and rush to embrace me as if they know I have stepped on her sands. The waves are carpeted with tiny white bubbles that pop at my feet as if in celebration of my return. The canvass of sky bears different hues and strokes each time. Whenever we meet, I make sure there are some quiet moments between us. I close my eyes and listen to the thunderous thud the waves make, and feel the breeze and soak in the warmth of the sun. The Beach patiently listens to the beats of my heart and feels the storm in my mind, strokes my hair with the breeze and calms the storm. As I enjoy the welcome of the waves, one after the other, they dig my feet deep in the sand without my knowledge, rooting me deep within as if they do not want me to leave. Before I get back home, I make a promise to return soon.
This is what these innocent places do to you, isn’t it? They cleanse you and connect to your heart so well that no matter how far you go, you find your heart lost in the nook and corners of those places and beating for it.
I was returning home after the Cradle Ceremony of cute little Anushka. The blessed angel slept in her well decorated cradle in midst of chatters and laughter of all her relatives who surrounded her. “The world has so much in store for you Little Anushka, go ahead. Explore!”, the thought crossed my mind, as I smiled and rocked the decked up cradle. After the ceremony, there was a sumptuous meal. Yum! Thank you Little Anushka!
Heading back home with an over-full tummy, especially in an Autorickshaw is a tough job. With the wind blowing in from all directions your eyelids feel heavy. My daughter had already surrendered. She comfortably snuggled on to my lap. Struggling to keep myself awake, I looked outside. At a traffic signal, I saw just what I was looking for. I saw three girls, standing beside an auto rickshaw, with their little money bags open. They were pooling in money to pay the driver I assume. The driver had a Will-I-Get-The-Money-Anytime-Soon look. I smiled! Those open money bags dragged me back to my little bag of memories.
We too were a “gang” of three at college- Anagha, Vaishnavi and me. We were doing our Masters at University of Bangalore. After our class, we would go to places and dawdle. Often, we would go to Gandhi Bazaar, Jayanagar or Commercial Street to check out what’s new and eat at the local eatery or else we spent hours at the University library doing our assignments and having coffee at the university canteen and sharing our food. Anagha and Vaishnavi both had that interest in introducing me to local food and language and took care of me so well as I was new to the place. The by two coffees, the Palak Chaklis, the Chitranna; which Anagha fondly called Picture Rice (‘Chitra’ means picture, ‘Anna’ means rice), the Prasadam at Iskon; where Vaishnavi took us enthusiastically, The Star Fruit and many more! Those memories live so fresh in me that I almost had a feel and taste of all those and I felt a little hungry. As I sank in an overwhelming feeling of gratitude towards them I heard the auto driver ask something. I gave an inquiring look.
“Ee Gate aa (This gate)??” Asked the Rikshaw driver.
“Haudu (yes)” said I.
I had learnt in my school that a rainbow is an optical illusion. The one you see is different from the one I see. Millions of tiny water droplets, a few more rays of warm light is all that is required to fill the canvass of sky with colours. You cannot see it just anywhere. You must be positioned at a certain angle from the source of light i.e. the sun.
I visited my home town Alappuzha last week. It is known to many as Alleppey, a major tourist location in Kerala. We spent a couple of days at a small resort, named ‘Kayaloram’ meaning ‘on the banks of a lagoon’. At the resort, there was an array of around 8 cottages, built in old ‘Naalukettu’ style of construction, in a grass carpeted compound that housed a restaurant, a spa, a pool and a pond. A gaggle of six geese patrolled around and honked, occasionally chasing the guests who went too close to them. Drenched by the monsoon showers, the place looked nothing less than heaven.
As I enjoyed the heavenly peace from the veranda of the cottage, my daughter came running, splashing the water on the ground. “Rainbow!” She shouted. She came up to me, grabbed my finger, pulled me outside and pointed up. “You see that?”, she asked with a startled expression. It was the first time she saw a rainbow. She was so elated that she shot a few questions at me in one single breath. The first one was “Who painted it?”. Do I tell her the science or tell her what I believed as a child? I wondered. When I was a child I was quite sure it was God’s painting. Later the belief was destroyed by a few science chapters. “It happens when sunlight passes through water drops up above” I replied. I don’t know how far she understood. Luckily there were no further questions regarding rainbow formation. We were disturbed by the gleeful geese. They were honking and flapping their wings in the pond. They seemed to enjoy the rain. Perception! I thought. Some crib and curse the monsoon showers, some enjoy it like the geese.
It’s how you look at it, isn’t it? Some look at the sky and see a rainbow, some others see just a dull sky. Water droplets up above and the light passing through them is all the same. Only thing that matters is the angle. The angle in which you look at life determines whether you want to see it as a rainbow or a dull sky. As I was thinking of this excellent simile of life and rainbow, it rained again. Like those geese, we drenched and saw life as a rainbow!
I’d been to a shopping mall today. As I recollected what I wanted and moved swiftly past the shops, my eyes fell on the doughnut shop. It has been a long time since I had one. I made an instant decision of having one. I walked towards the shop. I glanced through the wide range of doughnuts and there it was in a corner, a very simple Sugar Doughnut. I ordered one and waited for it at the table. While waiting I scribbled down a rough list of what I wanted. There it came. I took a bite, like a gentle breeze flipping the pages of a book, it flipped back many years in my mind.
“What do you want?” asked my Dad,
“That one” I replied with a smile, pointing out to the Sugar Doughnut.
The doughnut reminded me of this conversation many years ago. I still remember watching it through the glass of the bakery display case. It was my very first doughnut. No doughnut I ate in the later years matched the taste of it. Not even this one. Thank you Dad.
That doughnut I ate opened a big box of memories. The one at the beach, is my all time favourite. I was scared of waves when I was a kid. The scare was wiped out through a trick. Dad used to hold my palms tightly, and wait for the wave to come. Once it was there near our feet, he used to lift me up. Then put me down gently, I felt the water withdrawing under my feet. Gradually the scare vanished. The trust I had on you during those ‘wave attacks’, has multiplied many times, as I encountered many waves in life, and without fail you’ve lifted me up always. Thank you Dad for being there and making memories memorable.
Now when I see my husband and daughter, I see my dad and me, the bond between a daughter and a father. It is a delight to watch them. I am reliving the experience through them. Like the shape of a Sugar Doughnut, in life, I have reached back where my dad and I started.
Happy Father’s Day!