Saturday, May 2, 2009

The River Within- 2

In my travels, I had been to countries both east and west. I have seen rivers flowing from time immemorial through their vast lands and I have witnessed rivers being considered as flowing masses of water - useful for transportation, irrigation and to feed humanity with the blood of life, water. Yet, nowhere did I find, a river being reverred as a mother with innumerous wombs, giving birth to humanity on her banks, cradling civilisations and nurturing a spiritual and psychic umbilical cord of the human beings to the earth and nature, from where we sprang and from where the rivers themselves had sprung.

Perhaps, it is so since the west sees the rivers materialistically and if not for a river, their limited number of populace would have settled, irrigated, drank and transported through other means.

But life, procreation and death in my country are intertwined with the rivers and this relationship, the one with the river and her people, I must say, is difficult to classify as that of a leader-followers or mother-children, God-devotees or merely as that of a provider-receivers.


In one of my visits to Kerala during a glorious Vishu season, I went to Kaaladi, the birthplace of Jagathguru Adhi Shankarar. I reached a small sleepy town called Angaamali in the dusk and stayed there for the rest of the night. Travel weary still, I reached the Adhi Shankarar's temple, a big complex with a Shiva temple, early in the morning.

It was dawn. Breeze was soft, cold and wispering. I reached the banks of Periyaar, which literally translates in English to 'Big River'. As I had the first sight of the river, the vedic mantras being heard in a distance, blending with the shivering cold breeze, I just froze by the beauty and enormity of the river.

The river lay in front of me, a vast expanse of shallow waters flowing, as a mother would wait for her long lost son to come to her bosom. At that unmistakeable point of time I shed, involuntarily should I say, all my materialistic relations to the world, my education, my qualifications, my bonds to this world as a husband, a son, a father, a brother, my wealth, my inadequacies, my strengths and my weaknesses...

The masks I wore for the world fell apart and I became one with the engulfing river and her ambience.

What are we!

There stood I, in absolute Nirvana, in front of the sky now getting tinged with various hues of colours, the sprawling river below the sky and the wind...

I was alone in the bank, or so I imagined, and till today I thank her, the river and her creator for those moments which enveloped me and made me speechless.

I did not know for how long I stood there with folded hands in utter reverence and submission, watching the river slowly turn herself into gold. I saw the surface of the river being intricately laced with minute wavelets, all etched in gold. Wavelets after wavelates lapped at my feet sending fine shivers down my body.

I slowly entered the water and found to my surprise that the water was pleasantly warm in contrast to the coldness just over the surface. She, being the mother with surprises hidden and revealed only to enthuse her son, embraced me with her watery hands, thousands of them, pulled me to her ever warm, soft and kind bosom.


Fine sand below my feet stood still at the bed. The water was now waist deep and was not swift but flowing mellifluously, just enough for me to sit cross-legged inside the water. Water covered my chest and was flowing below my chin. I wanted to chant mantras or pray to my God and realised that they were all meaningless.

My mind became empty; nothingness. Absolute nothingness. No thoughts.

I sat there for an eternity allowing the river to go through me, rinse me and soothe me with her love, flowing for millions of years, symbolizing the life and the exuberance of its youthfulness. I felt one with her. I dared not open my eyes, in the fear of losing the oneness. As if I was afraid of her getting upset about me not caring for her love and not reciprocating her attention towards me by being one with her...

The time and river flowed around me; over me...


I woke up from the trance webbed around me by her and left for the shores, still feeling the warmth of her embrace. Sun has now come to lit the entire ambience and I could now witness her beauty and enormity.

I was thanking her, she the mother and provider, for considering me, a speck in the humanity with no permanance and a mortal who will leave behind nothing. I thanked her for accepting me as I was, comforting me and letting me go when I wanted to.

I left her shores without turning back, hearing the vedic mantras more clearer now...

The River Within- 1




I stand in front of the river...

On those dilapidated steps, which could have been built by a king at the height of his reign...

There are many voluminous trees all around me, equally old, may not be as old as the river herself, spreading their far reaching but not very impervious shade on the steps, on me and on part of the flowing river...

I move slowly towards the river, one step at a time, careful not to tread on the withering leaves. I reach the last step which just about touches the water; or was it the water that is touching the stone step?

Sitting down, with my feet in water and gaze fixed at the horizon where surface of the river blends with the sky, I slowly lose myself to the swirling current. Is it only on the surface that I see these swirls and swifts and lappings? Will they not be beneath?

As is the mystery of anything which has a living surface and a living sub-surface. As about a human. As about a sea. Where does the line start and end, the line which separates this river's gurgling surface and its calmer depth? Will the line dissolve itself sometimes and the depth erupts into the surface and the surface submerges to the abyss? Why should it do so, if it does? What happens when the depth's surreptitious activity suddenly supercedes the ever so evolving but predictable surface?

Questions poured over.

Just then, I saw an earthen pot, some bangles and threaded flowers floating remorsefully disentangled from the water and though weaving through it. I realised immediately what they were. They are the remnants of a religious ritual, a remembrance for the dead, performed by their beloved ones. To say to those who are dead and watching from above, that those who are left behind are caring indeed.

My string of thoughts, I could see, was getting me somehow twined together with what is happening in front of my eyes.

The river's behavioural differences through its sub-textual layers, as complicated as a human's, as mine, are pulling me towards the transience of life. The continual metamorphosis of forms, one changing into the other, evolving from the previous, taking all the constituents from its parent and yet resolving into a new being which is fully remnant of its own characteristics. Not one moment to be lost, it morphs into its off-spring, wholly colourful and reverberating with a new life.

All intricately innate. From what, I wonder, the first speck of life's impermanent beauty came into being; I also wonder, how does it quickly disappear itself into the cruelty loathing around us. And to know, or not to know, that from where these alternating extreme forms of life were contained, is wonderful and excruciating at the same time.

Do I control my inner thoughts? Or do they happen by themselves within me? Like a river's innards? Does a river control its movements of currents in it’s under belly? Do I have a demarcated line between my external presentations which are read by others, of course with my knowledge and intention, and my internal ramifications, which I hide and hence are oblivious to others?

More questions pour over...

Like a perennial river fed by the melting glaciers, my mind resonates continually, generating more and more queries about itself, in itself.