Sreenath Sreenivasan

Thriving Mindfully


We are clouds.
Thick and grey,
brimming with rain,
brimming with potential.

We are aware, that a single droplet we contain
can send ripples of revitalization in a placid pond.
We have the energy to share.

We’ve done it before.
We know this.

Yet, we hover in the skies above.
We look eagerly for a pond to rain into.
But there’s none in sight.

Meanwhile, time elapses.
The wind, and life, not caring for our indecision drift us aimlessly.

We fail to realize that we have to rain down first to create the pond.

But, for once, we decide to act.
To precipitate.

The immutable law of the universe,
gravity, aids us on our journey.

We fear the contact of the Earth,
the impact on the crust, on the rocks,
But we have no choice.

And we rain down without inhibition.

Drops turn into rivulets, and lakes,
ponds, and streams.

Before we know, we become a river,
chiselling the rocks smooth on our advance,
The very rocks we once feared.

And from being a nebula of meek, diffident droplets
We culminate confidently into the might ocean.

We rest in deep satisfaction.

Soon, the sun shines on us.

We rise up as vapor, ready for another challenge,
another downpour,
across the Pacific.

So, I ask you my brooding cloud,
I ask you, my tiny droplet of promise,

‘When are you going to rain down?’

THE KEY TO THIS LOCKDOWN – A message from an artist

In this period of a lockdown, this is a simple message from one artist to another. Now, you might be thinking that this message might not concern you because you might not see yourself as an artist.

I can empathise with you for this ‘non-artist’ self-image that you’ve cultivated over the years. But I would like to make you believe otherwise.

We have become experts at reducing the magnificent scope of our creative energy to a badge or title that we believe represents our identity. The chances are that you refer to yourself as a coder, a teacher, a marketer, a manager, or the underserving frown inviting ‘housewife’.

And in doing so, in closing the door, on drawing a circle around yourself with this identity, you are reducing your capacity to grow and embrace the 3-dimensional sphere of possibilities you hold (or thought once held, likely when you were a child).

The prevailing time of a total lockdown—where you have 24 hours that seem to feel miraculously too long, when there’s no one breathing down your neck, pointing to a work deadline, when you have time on your hands— present a wonderful opportunity to re-evaluate who you are deep inside.

We usually associate all social prestige to our occupation, rightly so because that’s how we keep ourselves occupied during a typical workday. But today, when there’s an infinite duration of hours to pass, how would you keep yourself occupied?
And would the way you spend this time tell something about what you have turned into while toiling away in your work-life?

It is a revealing time; indeed, when no online streaming service is capable of satisfying your stream of consciousness. When, in these moments of quietude, the conscience knocks gently on your heart and asks,

‘What could you do to add beauty and meaning to this seemingly unforgiving hour?

With a strict curtailment of all ‘non-essential’ forms of work—when you find yourself sitting at home and realise how dispensable your occupation has become in the light of this tragic humanitarian crisis— you will wonder what counts as an essential form of work.

When you’re past all that period of resting, you’ll wish to be a part of the task force that is currently and rightly so, essential. The feeling of wanting to be meaningfully engaged is deeply human, after all.

As you think about the question, of what counts as essential, I invite you to peep into the bedroom of a writer, who writes still, late into the night. I welcome you to the studio of a painter, who still paints and brings a canvas to life. Come and watch the dancer who still sways to the beat of changing times, or the poet who, even in this dark hour of our lives, pens down songs of hope.

All of these people who we see as artists are still following a discipline they used to every day for years. They practice and perform as usual, in the pall of a looming threat, in these times of a complete lockdown.

This period of gloom has only seen the artist to have taken a more proactive step towards making art and sharing it with the world. Suddenly, the real importance of art is shining through in this dark hour of humanity.

Whom one would usually deem as a struggling singer-songwriter, is adding a priceless value to our time when they put out a grainy phone recorded video of a song that springs from the heart, as it always did. Why are people choosing to watch them instead of the mundane cute kitten videos that would usually relegate the artist to the bottom of the stream?

Perhaps we are learning to find the essence, of what’s true and beautiful and most importantly, human.

These times of a lockdown call for three things from us—

1) Validation to art, its value in our life, and the respect every artist, no matter where they are in their journey, deserves.

2) Gratitude to our brothers and sisters who are working hard to secure our future, and making sure that our lives still run smoothly.

And most significantly

3) Acceptance of the artist in you, who’s struggling to break out of the cocoon of conformity that’s loosening as you squiggle in discomfort to find the butterfly in you.
Your work may have been deemed non-essential at the moment, but your life is still every bit essential. Art can help exalt that life.

It is an opportunity to make something with your hands. Go don that apron and try to make an omelette, even if you haven’t set foot in the kitchen, ever. Dust off the layer of civilizational history that’s sitting on top of your old musical instrument. It has been longing to channel a song through you. Do not worry about how good the art you create would be or how functional or relevant it is. The value of art is in the process, not in the outcome.

You might forget the importance of art when things normalise, but if you emerge out of this lockdown with the acknowledgement that you are an artist at heart, art will blossom in the rain of that realisation.

I invite you to switch off the internet* for a few hours every day and apply yourself. Make art. It is therapy.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

P.S. *Really! Switch it off 🙂
         Consider sharing this if you found value in it 🙂

The brotherhood of colours

Once, the colours in the palette entered into a fight
Arguing who among them held dominion over light

Each colour was busy singing its own praises
They came forward one by one to present their cases

The Vainglorious Violet was dressed in its regal pride
He was drunk in his glory, haughty in every stride

Said Indian Indigo, hail ! I colour the scrolls with ink
I’m the blood of books, Every pen’s favourite drink

Said Bubbling Blue, I colour the sky and all the depths marine
I am cool and composed, comforting and serene

Said Glorious Green, look around, I am half of the Earth’s hood
Without me, there won’t be any forests or food

Said Yelping Yellow, of golden ancestry, I am second to none
I drape the world every day with the light of the sun

Said an Ordained Orange, I am the colour of every higher pursuit
Am I not the only colour that’s also a fruit?

Said Raging Red, ‘Stop the Quarrel !’ with all its might
It flashed the danger light to put an end to the fight

‘Who’s the best colour of them all?’ they had to find a solution
The colours entered the ‘prism of peace’ to find a resolution

Tranquil was the arena, from the prism as they emerged
They blended as one light, in harmony they merged

Awestruck they wondered if they’d lost their traits respective
As they joined hands and entered another ‘prism of perspective’

And slowly, from the inverted prism, as they made their way out
The arena dazzled in the light of a brilliant rainbow spout!

And nobody cared finally, which colour had won
As colours joined hands cherishing the spirit of being one !

On smiling and laughter

A welcoming smile, a moment of laughter…such priceless gifts of expression.
A life bereft of either of these expressions is absolutely unimaginable. When you smile with a loving intent, your eyes gleam and invite others around you to borrow a part of your disarming expression. A smile makes it presence felt first in the eyes. The face merely dons a charm to feel consonant with the way the heart feels at that moment as the smile rides silently, from one set of eyes to another.

However, when you indulge in a moment of laughter, the eyes respond much too differently. Your eyes open up wide at first in a vain attempt to contain the amazement, and soon enough, they shut shop, drawing a blind over the visual world around.

Laughing is a bodily act, where each body part joins in—in its own unique way—to celebrate a mirth-filled moment in time. First your facial muscles jiggle with the giggle, then your shoulders jig up and down as the resulting resonance reaches the epicentre of our gastronomical desires—the stomach. The bouncing belly belches an air of celebration as a loud guffaw hitches a ride on it and laughter echoes in the surroundings, arousing the curiosity of clueless bystanders. If the moment calls for an even greater celebration, the laughter travels through the spines to the legs, making it impossible to be seated to enjoy the moment fully. You stand up, stamp your legs in a vain attempt to douse the flaming source of laughter, for it only intensifies, as your hands join in the celebration in the need to meet the pressing urge of patting your own thigh, or stroking the back of a friend, or best of all, meeting another palm in mid-air to add a smack of a layer in the gamut of giggles infected by laughter.

The success of a smile is in reciprocity while that of laughter is in finding communal consonance. Both expression celebrate our similarities. A smile is an acknowledgement of how we are all seeking the same things and a shared laughter celebrates the pleasure we derive from a common occurrence.

It is interesting to observe how either expression develop in a human since the time of birth. A child learns to smile first. The capacity for laughter develops at much later stage of understanding. Then, perhaps a smile is a more natural expression, a primal state of being.

Laughter being always open to exhibition makes for an attention seeking cousin of an introverted smile. A laugh is perceptible and has more to do with the air (think of the air you expel when you go ha ha), while a smile, subtle by nature, has an almost ethereal quality.

As much solemnity as we attribute to a smile, there are instances when we are forced to smile ad nauseam (ask the bride and groom at an Indian wedding reception), where the seemingly effortless expression, by virtue of repetition, becomes a facial torment. On the other hand, we look forward to unsolicited, belly-aching laughter, as if the pain is a reflection of the pleasure we derive from it.

The extent to which you can control either expression differs greatly. No matter how hard you try, the mirth in a moment can seldom be muffled, for if something tickles your funny bone, you cannot help but let out a loud laugh, almost as if it were an involuntary psychological function.

But the case with smiles, especially as we grow up, is drastically different. We sadly hold a distinction in holding hostage an ocean of smiles, out of fear, insecurity, mistrust, diffidence, and a void of love that we feel inside. And because we withhold our smiles and exercise our control over them to such an extent, an inviting smile from someone that beckons you to emancipate your own, feels liberating, as if a caged bird destined to sing and soar under the open sky is set free.

But if a smile is transmissible, laughter is communicable. A gaggle of giggling gentlemen is bound to pique the interest of bystanders. And, depending on how funny their laughter is, there is a good chance that passers-by find enough amusement in their expression to chuckle for a moment. The tendency of our collective conscience to be moved by a spell of laugh-worthy moment has given rise to the ubiquitous feature in the sitcoms of our generation – the laughter track. It serves as a repetitive aural reminder of what we must find funny in the act. While being constantly reminded of when to laugh can cause vexation, considering how media of entertainment are consumed these days, mostly alone in a dark living room at night, the act of laughing all by yourself, with not another soul around to share the laugh with, one’s own solitary laughter can somehow seem tragic to a viewer.

Desirable as they are, there is a dark side to both a smile and laughter. Think of the smile etched on Joker’s scarred face, or his menacing laughter, think of the Monalisa’s enigmatic smile, the echoes of the laughter of a spectre, or the vengeful laughter of an antagonist that manages to infiltrate into our dreams. By virtue of the purity of either expression, the slightest aberration in delivery invites an unsettling dread. No wonder that the ever laughing is deemed a lunatic, the ever grinning a clown, and as an act of balance, the ever smiling is celebrated as the Buddha.

Nostalgia has charming relationship with either expression. The memory of laughter shared in the past invites a cherishing smile, while the memory of a smile lived in the past might invite a wistful teardrop.

If laughter is a medicine, smiling is therapy. A smile celebrates truth and beauty, while laughter celebrates our capacity for folly, a far unsettling truth that’s best tempered by our ability to laugh it away.
A smile emanates from the core of the soul and laughter springs from the core of our body. No prizes for guessing then, on how to keep your body and soul awake, alive, and thriving.

Why the Ocean dances…

An innocent sand castle celebrates a few moments of gifted existence, before being smoothed out to the ground, grain by grain, as it yields to the unyielding surf of the ocean waves.

But on the other coast far far away, where the tide is still low , another castle in born, cupped together by diligent little builders.
Before too long, this castle will meet the same fate as its cousin across the ocean. It will melt with the chilling advance of an ice cold gush.

Needless to say, another castle will be born somewhere and the ocean wave will rush to lay its reign on it.
And thus the ocean dances, from coast to coast…in a fruitless attempt to win over the resilience of the spirit of a child.

A sand castle materializes whenever it senses the presence of the soul of a child…it’s but nature, for a child to cup the sand…and build. Children are born with the blueprint and with a resolve…

A resolve big enough to make the ocean dance for aeons…

The Power of Everyday – February 2020

Spring is just around the corner. It’s a wonderful month to start working on being a better version of yourself with a little bit of effort every single day. As a gift that comes every 4 years, there’s that one extra day to dedicate to the betterment of the worlds inside and outside.

Personally, I feel the need to work on my physical and psychological health this month.
After much pondering, I’ve narrowed down to challenges to work on in the month of February 2020.

1) Restrict mobile usage to less that 60 minutes a day, EVERYDAY.

2) Practice Yoga for 2 minutes EVERYDAY.

Through the process, I wish to explore how these activities affect my state of being, creativity, productivity and a general sense of health and well-being.

I cannot stress how valuable and transformative taking a tiny Power of Everyday project can be. I would highly recommend that you take one this month. How about reading a book for five minutes before bedtime? Think about it and post it in the comments below!

I’ll give an update about my progress at the end of the month.

Enjoy the subtle departure of the winter and the perfumed arrival of spring.

See you soon!

कागज़ की क़ैद

कागज़ पर खिंची सीधी लकीरें, सलाखों से कम नहीं

कैद हैं इस कारावास में न जाने कितनी कहानियाँ

सलाखें भी ऐसी कि आर-पार कोई सार ना दिखे

और पन्ना पलटें तो फिर कई सीधी लकीरें... 

कई क़ैद नज़्म...कई अनकही कहानियां...

कोरे कागज़, कोरी किताबें, क़ैद कई प्रश्नों के प्रेत

कब छूटेंगे प्राण इनके, कब सींचेगा कल्पना के खेत?

इस सवाल से जूझते हुए तू

कभी उम्मीद में, कभी हताशा में

उन सलाखों के परे छिपे शब्दों की पुकार ढूंढे

सन्नाटे में दूर कहीं जो मद्धम सी लोरी सुनाई पड़े...

जब तलक तेरी सोच झांक कर आज़ादी को ढूंढे

जब छलक कर उफ़ान मारे अभिव्यक्ति की बूंदें

तब कागज़ और कलम की नोक में घर्षण होगा मंद सा

चुप्पी के ताले तोड़े बोलेगा मन मलंग सा

हिचक की हिचकी से बेहतर आखिर

शब्द और स्याही की सरिता

बह जा इस पावन धारा में

 मुक्त कर हर कैद वो कविता

उठा कलम, रचते चला चल, 

मुक्त कर हर क़ैद कहानी

जो स्वर्ग समाए हर सर्ग में, 

अमर हो मानुष की वाणी...


Finding an Equinox in Life on Solstice

December 21. The eve of the solstice. A local celestial event that bathes earth in different hues of light, with peculiar views of the sun, no matter where you are on the planet.

As the tilt of northern pole, reaches its furthest extremity with respect to the earth’s annual pilgrimage around the sun, the Northern hemisphere, curled up in the windy winter, witnesses the shortest day of the year. At the same time, the south pole, leans closest to the sun, as the southern hemisphere saunters in summery delight, witnessing the longest day of the year, just a few days before a Christmas celebrated sans the celebratory snowfall.

And the closer you are to the poles, the more fascinating the spectacle. Beyond the Arctic Circle, the sun wouldn’t hover even for a moment in the sky, drenching the area in darkness, while within the Antarctic Circle, the sun would efface the night, as it suspends in the sky all through the 24 hours that make a day.

The gentle tilt of the earth gives us so much to celebrate – the gift of seasons, the trade winds, a breath-taking biodiversity and of course, seemingly unearthly events of solstices.

While a solstice is a fascinating earthly phenomenon that marks the extremes of the duration of daylight, the human conception of a day, its length and the value derived from it is rarely synchronous to the event. There are cultural and psychological influences at play that dictate our relationship with the duration and depth of what we now understand as a day.

In the sweep of advancing technology, our species has successfully conquered darkness with illumination. Culturally, we’ve moved beyond the local solar day, thanks to household electrification. Being a flick of a switch away from illumination past sundown, our days have become longer for sure.

However, as far as we have come from being dictated by nature beyond us, we are still tethered to our own human nature. On a psychological level, each human perceives the length of a day differently. It’s an experience as personal as a dream that nobody else is privy to. A day spent in good company or spent being meaningfully engaged, breezes past elegantly. But a day spend without purpose slithers painfully, adding undesired friction in our stride.

Evidently, a ‘long day’ at work is a phrase that’s being used far too often in our cultural parlance, part due to the wear-out, part in lament of a day divested of depth. Gone are the times when daylight was celebrated as an incantation for living life outdoors in the field and the nights were a hymn that decreed us to rest peacefully.

Most of us have lost the privilege of retiring from work as the sun retreats beyond the horizon. Global connectivity and economic metrics can dictate us to work as the sun rises and sets in a more prosperous part of the world, time zones apart.

Our days have come far beyond the solar day. Incandescence has bled into our earthly night as we forget the value of the most natural de-markers of dusk from dawn.

And along with that, we’ve lost the romance for the spirited rise of the sun. We have a hard time recollecting the last instance when we watched the parting winter sun paint splendid hues in the sky, with a dazzling Venus in its tow. Perhaps the further away we are from such natural invitations for contemplation, the more unsettled we become deep inside.

We live in a funny era, where after unsettling elegantly designed natural equilibria, we run around like chickens to find balance in life!

The workdays are becoming longer, so are the commutes, and sleep is drifting further away from being a continuum of placid repose.

The best thing about a good night’s sleep, just like a good day’s work, is how you only remember the beginning and the end, while all the magic that happens in between is effortless as a flamboyant stroke on the canvas by a painter in flow.  A good day at work and a good night of sleep are precursors (and pre-requisites) of each other, in our daily cyclic dance. And more than duration, what matters most in either engagements, is depth.

Nowhere else is this profundity of engagement better exhibited during childhood days. The presence in each moment of wakefulness, in each moment at play is at its zenith. And the hours of sleep are as deep as they can be, in preparation for another day full of joy and zeal.

Perhaps what we need more than longevity in life, is the elegant passage of time, both in sleep and in wakefulness. And, as time passes elegantly, the notions of length of the day would matter little, for what would matter more is the completeness in our involvement in all states of our consciousness.

Then shall we find a balance, not a perennial solstice in our workdays where the days are always long, but an equinox, with profound presence throughout, both in sleep and in wakefulness, regardless of the position of the sun in the sky, regardless of the state of our consciousness.

Today is the shortest day of the year. Perhaps, for a change, it would be nice to give up control of the luminosity around us, and watch the sun paint a silhouette in the far horizon. If we choose to do so, the Venus shall burn brighter, in its retreat into the afterglow. While the length of the day today on 21 December, might be the shortest this year, the presence in the moment, as we pore the sky in wonder, shall be a worthy consolation.

एक दर्शन ऐसा भी !

अभी तो सवेरा हुए कुछ ही पल हुए थे
कि गुप्ता जी मंदिर की ऒर चढ़ावा लिए चल पड़े थे

दूर प्रांत से ज्ञानी बाबा आये थे नगर में
भक्तों का तांता लगा था मानो हर डगर में

दर्शन पाने को आतुर आये बाबा की पनाह में
थी कतार ऐसी लंबी पुराने मंदिर की राह में

पर इस मंगल अवसर पर गुप्ता जी ने देखा कुछ ऐसा
कि जैसे कामधेनु के बगल में खड़ा हो काला भैंसा !

गुप्ता जी ने देखा राह पर झाड़ू लगाता एक गरीब
बौखलाए सज्जन की मानो बाहर ही निकल आई जीभ

वो बोले,

सोच था होगा दिव्य मिलन, पर मिला ये झाडुवाला मलिन
इस कलमुहे को झाड़ू लगाना था क्या आज ही के दिन?

अपशगुन हाय अपशगुन, मेरी किस्मत ही है मारी
जो ढूंढता चला ब्रम्हा को और पल्ले पड़ी ये बीमारी

पावन इस अवसर का यह तो रायता फैला रहा है
जो झाड़ू लिए यह भिखारी धूल उड़ाता जा रहा है

इस तरह झाड़ू लगाने का भला कोई अर्थ है?
जो धूल तो कल फ़िर जमेगी, ये काम ही देखो व्यर्थ है !

अरे क्या दर्शन पाने का आखिर उचित है यह काल?
सोच बैठे गुप्ता जी रख कर मुँह पर रुमाल

फ़िर शंखनाद से प्रारंभ हुआ पावन सा प्रवचन
विचलित से शांत हुआ कुछ गुप्ता जी का मन

फ़िर घंटो तक बाबा बोले सभी दिव्य ग्रन्थों का सार
ब्रम्हा विष्णु महेश की लीलाएं अपरम्पार

ज्ञानी बाबा बोले

सैकड़ो बार यह सृष्टि बनी, और सैकड़ो बार नष्ट हुई
यह महिमा मण्डित प्रकृति भी धूल में ध्वस्त हुई

फ़िर उसी धूल से फूटे पुनः जीवन के यह नव अंकुर
फ़िर नारद बोले नारायण और छूटे संगीत के पहले सुर

और इसी तरह बारम्बार चलेगी सृष्टि की अद्भुत माया
यहां देवता भी सर्वनाश से मुक्त नहीं रह पाया

पर पुनः होगी रचना, होगा सृष्टि का नवसर्जन
तू काम में बस राम ढूँढ़, कर हर चिंता का विसर्जन

भावुक होकर गुप्ता जी ने कर तो दिया दंडवत प्रणाम
पर मन में शंका थी एक, भला पूछे कैसे सरेआम?

ख़ैर हिम्मत जुटा कर गुप्ता जी ने पूछा ही लिया

कि बाबाजी उत्पत्ति और विनाश का चक्र पल्ले पड़ता नहीं
जो सृष्टि का एक कण भी सर्वनाश से बचता नहीं

जो तांडव तले कुचलेगा सब तो क्यों रचा ब्रम्हा ने संसार
क्यों झेलते हैं ब्रम्हा बार बार, अपनी ही सृष्टि का संहार?

जो भस्म बनेगा आखिर ब्रम्हांड तो ब्रम्हा क्यों रचते हैं
क्यों बार बार इस व्यर्थ परिश्रम से छूटे नहीं बचते हैं?

मैं तो सोच बैठा था की देवताओं का भीषण है पराक्रम
पर देखे तो बनता है उनका जीवन बस है निरंतर श्रम

उत्पत्ति, जीवन और विनाश, ब्रम्हा, विष्णु और महेश
यह सृष्टि है इनकी माया, या इनके नसीब में लिखा है क्लेश

अचरज को मेरी कृपा कर सुलझा दो मेरे गुरूजन
एक उत्तर ऐसा दो कि बस शांत हो जाए विचलित मन

पर ज्ञानी बाबा ने धरा मौन, हर भक्त हुआ उठ खड़ा
प्रवचन हुआ पूरा पर गुप्ता जी के पल्ले कुछ ना पड़ा

घर जाते हुए उन्होंने सोचा

जो देवता की भी हर रचना है व्यर्थ आखिरकार
जो सृष्टि का विनाश होता है बार बार

ऐसे में किसी भी काम का कोई अर्थ है भला जी?
इस सवाल में उलझे चल पड़े चकराए गुप्ता जी

मंदिर की राह में था धूल और धुंध का माहौल
मुह पैट रुमाल धरे गुप्ता जी का खून गया खौल

वो बोले

इस झाड़ू वाले का दिखना ही था अपशगुन का पैग़ाम
जो दर्शन हुए तो भी ना मिला विचलित से मन को आराम

रोज़ धूल उड़ाता है सड़क की न जाने क्यों ये अनाड़ी
जो धूल कल फिर वहीं जमनी है, व्यर्थ है ये दिहाड़ी

और फिर हवा चली ज़ोर से, एक तूफान सा उठा पड़ा
गुंजित हुआ शंखनाद, मंदिर का घंटा बज पड़ा

फूलों की हुई वर्षा, वातावरण हुआ स्वर्ग सा सज्जित
रौशनी हुई दिव्य, धूल का बवंडर हुआ प्रज्ज्वलित

और जैसे ही धूल का बवंडर साफ हुआ
गुप्ता जी ने अपनी ऐनक संभाली

और सामने सफेद दाढ़ी में झाड़ू लिए ब्रम्हा जी खड़े थे !

A Frozen Conscience

A tree is felled

The Earth shakes,

The man with the axe, Unmoved

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