Let’s meet AaB
“People often ask me who Aab is and how I know him.
Look around, he’s there amongst you
He does not want publicity
He observes everyone else, I observe him”
Aab looks around and finds so many spiritual people – religious, into rituals, looking for and claiming to have found a deeper meaning and purpose to life. He sees people preaching The Ultimate Truth, showing the path to moksha and salvation. He observes closely those who claim to have gone beyond the mundane pursuits of material rewards, those who have attained self-actualization, and those who can meditate for hours, chant mantras, read scriptures, practice mindfulness and can remain detached and unaffected by whatever is happening around them.
In the hundreds of years that he has lived on this earth, he has not been able to understand the difference between soul and sole. He lives so close to mother earth that he just cannot look up at the skies and perceive the supernatural, or guess what or who resides in the heavens. He admires and respects people who have gone up the Maslov pyramid and claim to have reached self-actualization. But he never aspires to follow their path. In fact, since he has no path to tread on, he is happy sitting by the corner and watching innumerable people rushing towards their goals and their destinations.
Aab only knows that life is a journey, and there is no destination except death. So he enjoys every day to the fullest.
A very successful gentleman was telling Aab about all his achievements and talents. He pulled out a five-page CV describing his academic qualifications, his awards and medals, his work experience in some of the most prestigious organizations, his rise in the corporate ladder, his financial success and the recognitions he received from international bodies. He also showed him a variety of other accomplishments beyond his domain specialization and how he has been a winner in anything that he set out to do.
Aab of course listened to him intently, nodded his head and showed his appreciation, and made suitable noises to express how impressed he is. The man then went on to say that he considers it only the beginning, and he is very confident that he will achieve much more in the years to come. Aab acknowledged that also and wished him all the best.
When the gentleman had gone away, Aab sat down to think about his own achievements. He wanted to make a list of what he has attained or succeeded in – and the list would just not begin at all! However much he thought about his past, Aab could not really think of one accomplishment of his which qualifies as a great success in the eyes of the world. Aab was always a bystander, a very mediocre person, and one who had nothing to show for all the years and years he spent on this planet.
But, Aab reflected, he was still a contented and satisfied person. He had no regrets, no frustrations, and no unfulfilled ambitions. Life was going very smoothly for him, he mused – unlike most ‘successful people.’
Aab likes to talk to buildings and structures.
When no one is watching, he goes close to a bungalow, a hut or an old ruin and opens a conversation. Some of them are shy, but others are thrilled and open out because he is the only human being who actually pays attention to them and wants to interact with them, not just use them for their benefit.
The small huts, cottages and old bungalows are quite forthcoming in talking about themselves, giving him insights into their history and how they were constructed, maintained and used. But the huge multi-storeyed buildings are quite arrogant and proud of their height and glory – they do not care much for people like Aab. They think they are immortal, though they are the first ones to collapse in earthquakes. Aab is an eternal optimist, so he does make attempts now and then, craning his neck to see the tall ones and asking about their well-being, but is often brushed off.
Thatched roofs are soft and loving, they give shade. Giant glass buildings frown and brush off with their reflected heat. Verandahs invite people into them like giving hugs, and Aab praises them for their warmth.
Since Aab is centuries old himself, he finds greatest connection with structures who also belong to the earlier centuries. Many of them are in ruins, some may not even have a roof over the crumbling walls. Some are gigantic, like the great forts, but many more are small, neglected and dilapidated half-structures ravaged by nature and human beings in succession. Yet each one of them has its own life experiences to talk about – and Aab is more than willing to listen.
He would like to share his learning with human beings, but he is apprehensive that if he admits that he talks to structures, he may be declared insane and put away in an asylum. So as usual Aab keeps his joyful learning to himself.
Aab is happiest when he is away from the concrete jungle….
He does not manage to get away very often. Not because he is busy or has a job or business, but he has a certain sense of loyalty and responsibility to the few people who keep catching up with him on whichever road corner he is hanging around, and ask for his advice or guidance.
Aab is not an expert in anything. There are so many much more knowledgeable and wise people around. But Aab is different because he “talks the talk”. He has no vested interest, he is not looking for appreciation, and he does not mind going against the tide. Those who come to him feel empowered.
Anyway, given a choice Aab would run away to the hills and valleys, the greenery and solitude, amidst unpolluted air, watching the almost extinct sparrows – and of course enjoying a hot cup of tea.
Child in the Man
Aab likes people. He likes children, and he sees a Child in every adult — the Child who has not been given sufficient love, pampering; the Child craving to be hugged and held. Aab would love to hug everyone, child or adult, man or woman. He wants to give his body warmth to those who are shivering with the cold of loneliness and fear. But Aab is not a saint. He is a common man living in the twenty first century. He has to follow decorum, etiquette. He watches with fascination how stray dogs pile on each other for warmth, regardless of age and gender. Then he turns around and looks at heavily dressed mean and women with their plastic smiles, their false courtesies. He observes in abject despair a grown up grandchild bending down to touch his grandmother’s feet, instead of giving her the warm bear hug her body and soul craves for. He knows that the Child in Man craves for love, but the Man in the man has been battered, molded, indoctrinated and at times permanently burnt into a wretched creature who himself does not know what he wants. Aab knows what Man wants, but he also knows that Man is not ready to listen to him. So he keeps walking on, watching the caravan of the world unfold before his eyes, watching the joy and sorrow that often intermingle till they lose their identity ….
Did Aab Really Exist?
Historians are human too, and they select who to write about, depending on what they perceive is the importance of the person. Since Aab never had, or acquired, any importance, historians did not record his coming or going. Aab probably came into this world, long, long ago, unsung and un-celebrated. There was no guiding star in the sky, no outbursts of joy, and no predictions of a great future for the new born. Because nature has ordained it that way, and because basic nutrition was available, Aab probably grew up like any other human being. But though his body grew like any other, his mind did not grow like others. Like a plant that has been deprived vertical growth, his mind branched off haphazardly. Some branches even came down to earth again, while others kept extending without direction till they reached nowhere.
Probably Aab was like an unkempt and unwanted weed in a nicely organized garden – the garden of society where gardeners and owners meticulously lay down rules of which plant should grow where, how and when. Aab’s throne was the curb stone. His job was to sit and watch when everyone was rushing around, and to get up and walk when everyone went back to their nests. He did not manage to acquire any titles or status, not even an identity. In fact he lived amidst civilized society like a stray dog that is tolerated, at times pitied, and at times shooed away. Aab contributed nothing to the society around him. He did not build monuments or missions. He could not create organizations or assets. He could give nothing, because he had nothing to give amongst the things that the world wanted. And yet, like the perennial pie dog that gets hurt, bleeds, starves and cringes in the rainstorms, Aab continued to survive. Perhaps for centuries – no one really knows, or cares. Aab’s greatest failure was to get people to love each other. He tried, he tried relentlessly and for a long time.
But he not only did not succeed, he managed to do the reverse. Aab’s presence was such a thorn that people who would have otherwise lived harmoniously, started doubting each other. Aab raked up issues and thoughts that are not supposed to disturb a peaceful society. He raised up questions that not only people did not have answers for, but hated the very questions. And hence they started looking at each other suspiciously – particularly those who were seen in his company. Aab cringed at the thought of the damage he was causing –but being illiterate and an ignoramus, he did not know how to change. All he knew was that his existence amongst people was causing immense damage. He knew that this damage would end only with his end. But for a person who had no beginning, when and how would the end be? He continued to exist for a long time, much longer than he should have – and left behind him so many scars that would take a very long time to heal.
Loneliness and being alone
Aab knows what loneliness is. He has not only experienced it, he has seen it written in bold capital letters on people’s faces – people who laugh, dress up well, mix freely, and communicate with ease. Because when he looks at faces, he does not stop at the surface. His eyes go deeper into the mind, and there he sees a completely different picture. Aab knows that people are like the theater stage, Under the bright spotlights, with full make-up and rehearsed lines, there is glamor, attraction, thrills and laughter. Look just a little behind the edge of the stage and there is the ugly side of unkempt faces and irregular material, coupled with minds that show anxiety and maybe even frustration. Yet, it is these minds that make the show entertaining for others.
So are the lonely people. They are the ones who make life better for others to enjoy the show called life. But then, Aab is disturbed that anyone in this world should actually be lonely. There are people suffering from Living Together Loneliness, having relatives, family and friends all around them, but mentally cut-off. There are those who are more lonely in crowds than they are when they are alone.
Great spiritual leaders talk about overcoming loneliness. They show the path to merge with the Creator, thus surrendering your very being and becoming one with the Universe. Aab is a very small, ordinary and unenlightened person. He can feel one with a astray dog, with a row of ants, with a paper boat flowing with rain water – but not beyond that. The funny thing is that these very beings, according to Aab, can take away loneliness. But some of us doggedly hang on to our individuality, isolating ourselves from so many wonderful things around us. He wants to help them. Some listen to him, some don’t. Some listen and forget; some do change and enjoy their newfound, warmth.
Aab can never become an orator
Aab knows he can never become an orator. He cannot shout, he cannot scream in the frenzy of artificial passions. He can only speak from the heart, whether he is speaking to one person or one thousand. He speaks only what is necessary, only that which can benefit the listener. He values the time of others, not his own. He believes that the time of the common man is as important as that of a governor.
He finds it very difficult to talk about himself. Not because he is too proud. Ironically, it is for the very opposite reason-he suffers form low self-esteem. He truly believes that no one is interested in him,. his life or his experiences. And he has reason to believe so-everyone talks to him about themselves, hardly anyone asks him is known. They feel a strong invisible barrier between them and him.
No one knows why, least of all Aab. At times when he has tired to share something very personal about himself, he has found the listener either disbelieving, thinking it is a joke, or just ignoring due to intense discomfort of not knowing how to respond.
The stage has come when Aab himself is forgetting his biography. His past has become a blurred hazy picture, his experiences seem as though they are of someone else, and his life seems devoid of any history. He is not unhappy with this development. For him, the present is sufficient, this moment is eternity.
Aab thinks he is an aberration; an anachronism and an imposter. He wonders whether he was born in the wrong place or at the wrong time – or both. When he sees people going about their tasks and duties so seriously, when he sees the intense belief and purpose with which individuals lead their lives, he knows there is something missing in him. But he has no regrets. While he knows, even teaches the youngsters who at times gather around him, that one needs to have goals and aim in life, he himself does not have one. Perhaps that is the reason why Aab never had the privilege of receiving a wage in his entire life. He has never been employed and has never known what it means to look forward to remuneration for work. He is a drifter, a rolling stone who gathers no moss. In one such rolling he found himself sitting in a gathering of highly religious and high status people. For some unknown reason, he was catapulted onto the stage, and was asked to address the gathering. In fact such occasions happen quite often with him, but he never ceases to be amazed by the “why” of his being chosen. This occasion was on a pleasant evening, in a massive hall that was already brightly lit with expensive chandeliers and floodlights, even though the sun outside was happily providing free light to the entire countryside. Aab finished what he had to say in a short time, as he usually does, and sat down to listen to the wiser souls. But he could not help being fascinated by the fall of the evening outside the illustrious hall — the shadows lengthening, the trees and leaves changing color, the slowly stirring breeze and the branches dancing in rhythm – and the inevitable setting in of the dusk. For quite some time Aab felt compelled to run out and welcome the end of the day and the beginning of the night, amidst nature. But etiquette and norms held him back. He had to force himself to sit for an hour and listen to sage discourse on Eternity, knowing that the beautiful moment is passing by. When the function ended, he stepped out and breathed the cool breeze of the first hour of the night, and stepped right into the shadows to merge with them.
Between birth and death
Aab does not know the date when he was born – nobody does. He may not have been very welcome in this world, or maybe people were just too busy to keep track of mundane things like an insignificant baby’s birth. He does have an idea how many calendar years he has spent on this earth, but he actually feels that he has spent at least double that time experiencing life. For he has experienced life in double-shifts, often leading a Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde type of life. Not that he went around murdering people, but he has seen the brightness of the rich and powerful days, and hobnobbed with the murky and diseased nights. Even today Aab lives a life that denies definition. He never had, and does not have even now, a profession. He has never known what it is to receive a salary. He has built castles in the air, and donated them to others. He has nurtured others’ dreams, and packaged them in dainty bubbles to give to those who look forward to life. Aab does not look forward to life. Not that he is suicidal or desperate, he just does not have any desires or aspirations. It is not even as though he is an ascetic or a sanyasi. He lives very much in the material world, partakes of all worldly activities (selectively of course), and has no knowledge of anything spiritual. Yet he feels more curious to know about his death date than his birth date. At the same time, he is knowledgeable enough to know that he will not know his death date, till the date has arrived – and then of course that knowledge will be of no use. It is just that he could start celebrating the anniversary of his death in advance if he were to come to know, by any chance. Aab knows that he could not in any way be in the good books of God. He does not even know where God lives, whether it is a he or a she, and – he often wonders why the omnipotent and all-powerful God requires people to worship him. If he does get an opportunity, Aab would rather meet up with God and share a cup of tea on a street corner. But that is blasphemy, so Aab does not talk about this desire of his to anyone.
Religion of love
Because of his unusual name, and since he does not have a surname, people often ask Aab what religion he belongs to. And as usual, Aab is stumped. He would himself like to know what faith he belongs to, if any. Everyone seems to have a religion, a community, a caste and a series of rituals. The only ritual Aab indulges in is – wandering on the roads and watching people closely. He wonders whether they can be a religion called “Life”. What a fool Aab is. He does not know that a religion needs to have a guru, a scripture, a long hierarchy of sub-gurus, and an elaborate system of do’s and don’ts. Every one seems to know that except Aab. He hears learned and pious men thundering from high platforms about God’s wrath. They sound so convincing, as though they have just come from a personal conference with the Almighty in His sanctum sanctorum. Aab even hears the common man quoting the pious ones, dead and alive, seen or unseen, with such conviction. At times Aab wonders if he is the only one who is illiterate in matters of religion, while others seem to be graduates and post-graduates. No, Aab is not an Atheist. He has enough intelligence to know that this Universe cannot be spinning away in abandon without certain forces controlling, directing and moderating it. He know enough to understand that the tiniest and most helpless creatures would not have survived on this earth for thousands of years side by side with predators, unless there was a law of balance of nature. But he is not intelligent enough to give a name to this cosmic source of energy that binds us all together. What he sees and has to acknowledge very sadly is that religion divides humanity, and any division goes against the laws of the Universe, which all stand for Unity.
Comfort in not belonging
“Where do you belong to ?” People often ask this question to new persons they meet. Whenever someone asks this to Aab, he is puzzled. He would perhaps be able to answer the “where” if he knew the meaning of “belong”. On the one side, he firmly believes that everyone and everything in this universe is connected. On the other, he wonders who belongs to who. When we cannot even own the air we breathe, how can places own us ? Aab sits on a patch of ground and wonders whether he can belong to it. He walks on a road and muses whether he belongs to it. He walks on a road and muses whether he belongs to the path. He looks up at the sky and clouds and refuses to believe that he can belong even to a tiny patch in it. And as if to prove his point, the clouds move away, change shape, disintegrate – and disappear. He listens with amusement when people talk proudly about their ancestry, their roots, their “native” place, and their possessiveness over it. There is such a strong need to belong as though by ourselves we are incomplete. We need to reassure our fickle minds and appease our insecurity by the reassurance that we are not alone and we need not fend for ourselves. But Aab finds a strange relief in not belonging. He has no home town, no mother tongue, no family tree. Every moment that he is with any friend or stranger, he feels belonged to that person. When someone reaches out to him, he holds the hand, when someone moves back, he moves on.
The road does not go anywhere
Aab used to love traveling. He would explore cities, but would revel in the countryside. He would blossom out seeing the rain rejuvenating the perched earth. He would walk miles in the jungle, or sit back and watch in fascination the fields and rivulets whizzing past a train or car window. Then age and tiredness caught up with him. Also he found that humans are as humans anywhere – so there was no need to explore humanity and being humane anywhere was the same. So now Aab likes to sit by the wayside and watch the world go by. He has realized the motion is relative to two objects. One can be stationary and see the other move in and out of views. He remembers the old adage “If Mohammed does not go to the mountain, the mountain will come to Mohammed.” He remembers with a chuckle how he was sitting on the kerb when a harried traveler asked him “does this road go to ___Nagar?” Aab had replied much to the irritation of the impatient traveler, “No, the road stays right here,” and before the latter could get more angry, had added softly “but you can travel on this road and reach ___Nagar if you want to.” Obviously the person-in-a-hurry had neither appreciated the sense of humour nor the wisdom in Aab’s words. But Aab has learnt the hard way that roads do not go anywhere. He knows that men move on, they have to, while the path the destinations the whole world remains where it is. He has seen with his own eyes how kings and landlords have fought for acres of land, for control over vast territories, for supremacy over land and sea – and finally have been interred in two square yards of land known as a grave, with even the grave dissolving their bones into nothingness.
Relating to Relatives
Aab has no relatives. In fact to him “relatives” is a very relative term. He prefers to relate rather than to have relatives. He watches people who seek the comfort and security of their clans, and wonder whether they would be better off without them. He sees brother fighting brother over pieces of land, and finally watches when both are eventually lowered into six feet pits for their graves. He sees relatives who are close to each other, sometimes so close that it can become suffocating. Aab very much lives in the present, but at times reflects over the future. He wonders how relatively different life would be if humans are cloned. Since cloning is still far away, he knows that everyone has to make do with relatives – blood relatives, in-laws, distant cousins, et al. Everyone has relatives – except Aab. When Aab sees relatives relating relatively well, he is happy. But when he sees so many families where the relationships with relatives are strained, and at times, hypocritical — he wonders whether community, relatives, and even family, are on their way out. He would certainly be happy with it – but only if the entire population of the world converts itself into one big family – Vasudaiva Kutumbam. He knows that is only wishful thinking. Right now people do not know how to relate to themselves, and are living as lonely islands emotionally separated by a vast ocean of turmoil, selfishness, misunderstandings. “Will we wake up before it is too late?” he wonders.
The Love Affair
Aab has a girlfriend. She loves him immensely, and is never hesitant in expressive her love. She also expresses her anger freely on him, sometimes pummeling him with her wrists, at other times hurting the choicest abuses on him. Aab smiles serenely regardless of how she treats him. He is not embarrassed when she kisses him or slaps him in public. Because ….. everyone knows that she is “mad”. Only Aab knows she is saner than most people. Only he can see her heart, feel her pulse, and sense her innermost feelings. Aab’s girl friend was a stunning beauty years and years ago. She was ambitious, charming and vivacious. Few know when, and none care why, she was repeatedly raped by a bunch of goons who promised her a film career. Her body survived the onslaught, her mind did not. Society forsook her. Friends disappeared. Having no wealth left, she was reduced to wandering the streets. Some roadside eateries would give her leftovers. A few neighbourhood ladies would give her their discarded garments, more because of their own embarrassment to see her half naked in public. Periodically she would be raped again. Now it neither affected her mind nor her body. She would laugh at the men who raped her, the women who shunned her, and the urchins who teased her. Until she met Aab. The first time she looked deep into his eyes, she saw her past, present and future rolled together. She saw time standing still, and eternity rolling by. And she fell in love. Aab did not need to fall in love. He was always in love with her, as he was in love with all women scorned by society. He had no desires from her, but he had so much love to give. To her it made no difference how often he met her. She would greet him depending on what mood she was in. He would accept. The love affair goes on. There are moments when they sit under the shelter of a closed shop, share a bun dipped in hot tea, share the warmth of their bodies, and ignore the scandalized stares of passers-by. When the rain stops they get up and walk off – Aab to his homestead, and his girlfriend to find a dry footpath to sleep on.
Fascinated with authority
Aab is fascinated with authority. He watches with fascination how human beings don the garb of their power and glory, and forget their individuality. He marvels at Creation that has made humans so equal that even the King and the Dictator have to visit the toilet as often as the commoner, that even golden plates and spoons cannot take away hunger but for a specified period. At times he wonders whether he is jealous of those who command awe and respectful fear from others. But he could not be, because he spurned every effort to acquire status, whenever it came his way. And it did come his way many a time. Aab has been nothing more than Aab. He never held a title, never moved in the regalia of the powerful. But he has rubbed shoulders with them, and has smelt them from close range. The odour is intoxicating, far more powerful than the best of wine. He has often visualized the high and mighty in their utterly naked form – shorn of their finery and ornaments. He has seen many of them being lowered into their graves, leaving behind everything that they owned, powerless to even prevent people from mixing them with dust, from lofty thrones all the way down six feet into the earth. Aab has also seen, in many decades of his existence, how the meek rise up to become mighty and forget their meekness; he has seen the mighty bite the dust and yet not learn a lesson from it. Aab often looks at dust and looks at man, and fails to notice any difference between them, except in their deeds.
Love in the city
Once upon a time Aab used to live in the biggest city of the country …. and the busiest. He used to work hard, but not too hard. Towards the end of the day, he would sit quietly at a roadside corner (space on corners is also limited in big cities – you have to pay for it) and watch everyone rushing by. He would see people getting angry when traffic comes to a standstill, he would see human beings literally bumping into each other and pushing their way through. “They are all in a hurry”, he would muse “obviously they have greater purpose of life than I do”. For Aab hardly every seemed to be in a hurry. He would always adjust to time, but would never expect time to adjust to him. Aab loves all creatures, because he believes there is something inherently nice about each and every living being. He has a soft corner for human beings, partly because he is one (though many a time he still doubts whether he genuinely is, for he never seems to fit into the mold others expect him to). Yet sadly (or happily?) he has never loved human beings so much that he could get pulled down by their behavior, nor can he feel the ecstasy of being loved and adored. For deep down he has learnt the hard way that humans don’t really love other humans – they love the desire to love, they love the fulfillment of being in love, and they love possessing (even mentally) the object of their love. The clock tells Aab that it is time to get up from the corner and move on. His body knows where to go, but his heart does not.
Love is in short supply
Aab feels very sorry for poor people. Not those whose pockets are empty, but those whose hearts are empty. For, the poverty of the pocket touches the skin, and at best the stomach – but the poverty of hearts encompasses the whole being. The poverty of the pocket can be alleviated very easily, the poverty of the heart requires a great deal of love for removal. And Aab knows, love is in short supply in this world.
All about Love
People think that Aab has never loved anyone and has never had the pleasure of being in a loving relationship. If only they could analyze him deeper they would realize that he does love and has been in a loving relationship all his life. It is just that he does not believe in rationing his love to one human being to the exclusion of everyone else. He finds it funny when someone says, “I have fallen in love. I have found my soul-mate. Now I cannot love anyone else in my entire life.” Aab wonders whether these people are astrologers who can predict the future with so much confidence. He also wonders whether love is like a gold ornament to be hidden and kept safely enclosed till you decide to hand it over to someone, and then you don’t have it to give to anyone else.
He has also learnt long ago that it is better to love than to be loved. Hence he gives his silent love to many, but never expects or asks for it. Despite that he has received so much love from so many that he is overwhelmed. It does not matter to him whether the same people love him today or not, and not even whether they are still living or have passed away. He does not need the presence of his loved ones, he does not yearn for their expressions of love, and he does not expect to receive continued gestures of love.
He considers love as a fragrance that lingers on and on….
I am a Listener
Aab does not meet too many people – only those who want to meet him. Some want to meet him to get some help, advice, or guidance. Others meet him out of curiosity since he is such an unusual and different person who should ideally have been in some museum. They come to find out what sort of character he is, and why he does not conform to any of the accepted norms of society. They are curious how he survives without asking for anything from anyone and without striving for any wealth.
The interesting aspect is that people come to find out about him, and within minutes they are pouring out about themselves. He deftly diverts the conversation towards their life, and soon they are telling him everything about themselves – at times things they have not shared with anyone else. Aab has the time and patience to listen endlessly. There is no business, commitment or even leisure activity that is waiting for him. People talk and talk, some seek guidance, others want emotional support, and many just want him to listen.
Listening is something that comes so natural to him that he has to make no effort. He is always genuinely interested in people – be they celebrities or paupers. He does not differentiate. To him every person is as valuable as anyone else. He goes deep into understanding what goes on in the mind of the person talking to him. He listens to what is being said and what is not being said. Anyone who interacts with him just opens up and pours out without even realizing what he is doing. Many feel light-hearted after telling him everything about themselves. He has no curiosity, he does not probe, he just listens. And people just talk.
Aab has lived through the centuries and seen how people communicate with each other. Man’s desire to reach out and interact made him use horses and pigeons, parchment and camel skin, smoke signals and cave paintings. And then came the era of the telegraph, the locomotive, the automobile and the phone. The efforts to reach farther and farther continued – there came the aeroplane, the satellites and the mobile phones.
All through the need of people was the same, Aab believes. The desire to be heard, to be acknowledged, to be cared for and to be loved. But as communication became easier and easier, the emotional connect seems to have been diluted. The pleasures of delayed gratification are gone, and instant connectivity increased expectations. Aab watches all around, on the streets, in offices, in homes, in parks, in public places – everyone is glued to their “smart” phone. Phones have certainly become very smart, Aab acknowledges – but are they replacing the basic smartness or common sense of the living being? Such questions very few people ask, and when a person like Aab does ask, no one wants to give anything but a cursory reply, and then get back to their mobiles.
Aab likes the sound of a human voice in the vicinity, the touch of a human hand, the feel of paper with personal notes written exclusively to someone who you like. He feels that one good person to interact with at a time, with undivided attention, matters much more than dozens of people on WhatsApp groups or hundreds of “likes” to your messages. But people have become so caught up in the world of technology that sometimes Aab finds it difficult to get even that one individual to spend quality time with him. So he moves on, making friends with the street dogs, the flowering plants, the lazy clouds in the sky, and the squirrels scampering around.
Aab has heard that the entire country, in fact the whole world, is under a lock-down. Since Aab has never had anything to do with locks, he finds it difficult to understand what is going on. He never had the need to lock anything and when the authorities started threatening citizens to “Stay at home” he was very confused, because he does not have a home. He stays put where he always was, but he never considered it a home – since Aab is a wanderer and a Banjara at heart and can end his day anywhere.
What he does understand very well is “social distancing” because that is what he has done his whole life. He has kept away from everyone, very content sitting on the curb stone alone (sometimes with a street dog for company) or just lurking around in the shadows watching the crowds of people rushing all the time.
Aab has understood that being alone and enjoying solitude is the opposite of loneliness. He observes with compassion those who cannot be in their own company and perpetually complain of loneliness because their friends or relatives have let them down. Aab wonders whether this huge lock-down will teach a lesson at least to a few people who will start reviewing what they gained by socializing, chasing good contacts, buttering up the influential, and impressing others to gain stature.
Being forced to stay at home, people find that they are looking at their parents, spouse, children or siblings all the time. Aab wonders whether they truly recognize each other and value each other, or whether they are just biding their time till the locks are opened. They would have lost the opportunity to build stronger relations and will again go back to complain about loneliness. Aab will carry on at the end of the day to look for solitude, serenity and sleep.
Aab’s Musings-34 –Child’s Play
Aab is fascinated with children. He can sit and watch them for hours. He enjoys the company of children most when they are given freedom to do whatever they wish, and when there is no adult breathing down their neck. Their creativity, capacity to adapt and enjoy, their resilience and ability to bounce back from a setback, their desire to explore and learn anything out-of-the-box is absolutely enthralling to him.
Aab does not intrude into the world of children unless they invite him to do so. Most times he is perfectly happy observing them minutely, admiring their innocence and charm, and their habit of being contented with whatever comes their way. A rich parent buys his child a very expensive toy, and within minutes the child has converted the cardboard box in which the toy was packed into a house, tank, fort or whatever his imagination leads him to, and forgets the toy.
Aab goes by the tenet that if you like a flower you pluck it, but if you love a flower you nurture it on the plant itself. He practices the same with children – watch and enjoy them in their own environment, in their own unique world which is not tainted with ‘adult’ cunningness. He is very happy if a child asks him a question – because that is an affirmation that the child had reposed her faith in him. He answers gently and with his limited knowledge – or admits that he does not know the answer. He is thrilled if the child comes out with the answer. For Aab is a child at heart, and is more than willing to learn true lessons of life from a child, which he knows no adult can ever teach him.
Future is Tomorrow
Aab cannot perceive or predict the future. And he is in awe of those who can. He encounters many people who talk with great confidence about how the future is going to be, who is going to win elections, how sinners will burn in hell, how the weather will change, and who is going to get into trouble. They seem to have uncanny wisdom and insights into the unseen.
Aab prefers to wait and watch. Of course he doesn’t get to see who burns in hell, but he does see that elections are won by those who were not supposed to, and people who were going to get into trouble are actually enjoying life! He even relishes unexpected changes in weather since they bring variety into life. Over decades and centuries he has learnt the simple lesson of ‘que sera sera, whatever will be will be…” And he realizes that this simple mantra can make life so much more peaceful, relaxed and enjoyable.
He remembers the wise man who said, “Even if you win the rat race, you are still a rat.” Yet so many worthy humans desire to become rats. Actually Aab likes rats, the real ones. They are not into corporate race, and they know how to find their cheese even if someone moves it. He only watches the human rats who knowingly make life more complicated, try to change their fate or karma, and desire instant gratification. He cannot predict what will happen to them, and he does not wish to.
Wanderer at heart
Aab sat on the hillock and was enjoying the view. The hillock was definitely not Himalayas, and he was not there to meditate or seek enlightenment. Poor Aab! What does he know what is enlightenment, and how to seek it? He was there to enjoy the view, the breeze, and the solitude.
Aab lives in the twenty first century, but he does not belong to it. He is from a different era, transplanted here like an anachronism. At times he feels like a cactus in a blooming rose garden, sometimes he realizes that he is like the last guest in a party when the hosts are waiting to wind up.
Aab also knows that there are no hosts in this world. Everyone wants to be a guest. Each one wants to be served, not to serve. Every person wants to move on when the party is over. Only Aab knows that there was no party.
Aab was looking for loneliness. Yes, what you read is true – he was looking for loneliness. Not solitude, mind you. Solitude one can get by just walking away from others, hiding in one’s physical or mental cave. Aab in fact did not like solitude, except once in a while. In fact, people sought him out. Not like disciples seek a Guru, but more like those who crave to find themselves in and through him.
Aab’s Musings-31 -“Who are you?”
People who meet Aab for the first time ask, “Who are you?” Aab smiles. At times he remains silent knowing that the questioner is more interested in forming his own opinion rather than getting an answer from Aab. At other times Aab looks at the questioner and decides what answer would please or satisfy him.
There is a proverb that six blind men touched an elephant at six different places and gave their varied descriptions of what an elephant looks like. Aabcloses his eyes and thinks of all the blind people whose eyesight is perfect – for they don’t even want to touch a human being before forming an opinion about that person.
People who have been seeing or meeting Aab for a long time ask “Who are you?” Aab smiles again. He knows that they are only looking to see if he will confirm what opinion they have already formed long ago about him. He usually obliges them. He knows that it makes them happy that they know more about him than he knows about himself.
Aab has never asked himself the question “Who am I?” He knows he will never get an answer to such a question. For Aab is not Aab. He is you and me. He has no existence of his own. He lives in people’s heartbeats. His existence is only from one heartbeat to another.
No Time for Stories
There are at least a few sensitive and deep thinking people who like Aab’s company. These are those who can look beyond the mundane, the routine and the activities that lead to “conforming” within society. But unfortunately even these people find Aab very difficult to interact with if they try to get closer to him. For Aab does not know how to make close friends. He lives in an abstract world, a rebel, a wanderer, a Qalandar who has no objective and goal in life – in fact no reason to live at all. Perhaps if Aab was born a couple of centuries ago when the mystics and the mendicants roamed the countryside, he could have become one more enigmatic story-teller. In today’s world of TV, Internet and mobile phones, there is no place for a story-teller like him. Some do ask Aab to tell his stories, and he hesitatingly opens out to them. He has so many stories to tell, not from books, but from what he has seen and experienced. He does not know which story to choose and how long to talk – for he is always aware that people have their responsibilities, their desires and their own world to pursue. He would hate to be an intruder into such a world. So, after these brief and rare recounts of the days gone by, Aab moves on to pursuing his best hobby – silently sitting and observing people. It could be in a posh party in a star hotel, it could be on the roadside, or even in someone’s drawing room. He watches, listens, assimilates, feels happy or sad for the dramatis personae, and picks up his jhola to move on to the next auditorium where life-drama is being played out.
Loveless Life of Material Success
Once in a while Aab wanders into the glamorous world of business and corporate affairs. The world of massive glass-fronted air-conditioned offices, of ruthless competition, of never-ending targets and stressors. While Aab has no attraction to this world, he understands why it attracts in droves people who feel that is the only way of life. The corporate world offers money, overt and covert sex, and the glamour of luxurious 5-star lifestyle. For those who cannot look beyond the floodlights, it is the only way of life. If you do not fit in, you are a discard, a failure. Aab at times talks to budding managers and executives. In their starched collars and silk ties, they have already started getting the feel of the world of power and wealth. A world symbolized by laptops, jet travel and central air conditioning. Aab knows that they are not only the citizens, but also the leaders, of tomorrow. He can see their skills being sharpened to a killer instinct, and knows that they can fight corporate battles the way the Samurai fought battles of honour. But what pains him is that they are not being taught how to cope with failure, nor being trained to stop periodically and catch their breath. They are not being informed that love cannot be bought, and a loveless life of material success can be not only painful, but without direction. Aab is not qualified, nor welcome in B-schools where leaders are groomed. He can only interact with them once in a blue moon – but he does try on those occasions to make them stop and think whether they are running so fast that they are leaving their hearts behind.
Dried Up Tears
Aab does not cry often. He does not cry for himself, ever. But at times he cannot help crying when he sees the innocence of childhood or victimization, when he watches the vulnerable being manipulated by the crafty. He knows he cannot be a savior, not that he wants to be one. He knows that the humble and meek will continue to suffer long after he has gone from this world. He know that tears will flow as long as human exist. At times he just hopes he would be able to wipe someone’s tears. And when he cannot even do that, he sheds a silent tear of empathy for those who are made to weep for no fault of theirs. Aab is even more worried about those whose tears have dried up. For crying is a relief, and those who are denied even that small outlet suffer even more. He sees around him people who wear masks with smiles plastered on them. For at times the cruel world denies some victims even the right to grieve. In this world of injustice and victimization lives the silent spectator Aab — an outcast, an anachronism, a floating leaf who will be swept away by the wind, or buried with the dust. Maybe only the skies will cry for him, by letting down a torrent of tears in the form of rain – a shower that will obliterate the withering leaves and usher in a new form of life
On Death and Dying
Aab has seen many deaths. In fact, he has more friends on the other side of the twilight horizon than in this world. Friends with whom he walked for miles and miles, and friends who just encountered him briefly but left a deep imprint in his mind. He misses many of them, but does not feel bad for them. He does not know where they are, whether they exist in some form or the other at all or not. Yet he is actually jealous of them. For, when Aab turns around and sees the world he lives in, he has a strong gut feeling that wherever his dead friends are, it is likely to be a much better place than this. Aab is humored when someone says that he is crying for a departed soul. For, Aab knows that no one cries for the dead – they only cry for themselves when they come face to face with death. They cry for their own imminent death, not knowing when, how and with what agony it may come. He understands the strong need in a human to cling on to dear life, whatever may be its quality. He has seen the very old, the terminally ill, those ripped apart in ghastly accidents – all pleading for life in their last moments. He respects their desire to live, but cannot join hands with them. On the other hand, Aab often makes plans for the ultimate vacation that will take him back to the company of all his departed friends. He has so many of them, and some of them are very special. He knows that if they exist, they will welcome him with open arms. And if they do not exist, then Aab knows that he too shall cease to exist. His body will disintegrate back into nature, and he will become part of the air that no one can see, feel, taste or touch. What a bliss !
Aab Does Not Know How To Make a Deal
Aab does not know how to sell. Neither can he sell products/services, nor can he sell himself. He realizes that the whole world is a marketplace where every passer-by becomes a buyer or seller, and many a time gets bought or sold in the process. There are so many people who love trading and thrive on commercial transactions – of people, of relationships, and of emotions. There are many who make losing deals, but cannot resist going back for another round. Aab acknowledges the strong need in humans to get a better deal out of life. Regardless of how much they have of anything, they crave for more – and feel very dejected if they have to give away without getting back anything “better”. At the same time, he mourns along with those who keep losing, or even getting back something in a deal which gives them back something that turns out to be worse or lesser than what they gave away. For, he knows that their wants are more than their needs, and their dreams go far beyond their wants. He mourns because he cannot do anything to help them. Because Aab cannot sell. Since Aab has never been able to sell, he has no value in the marketplace called the world. He has to stand by the wayside as the commercial caravan moves on choking him in its dust. And very few understand that Aab does NOT want to sell, or be sold. They think he is incapable. Some people use him as a free commodity, “use and throw”, or even “no need to buy one, just get one free.” He does not mind. In fact he enjoys the anonymity it brings. For, being worthless gives him the opportunity to do what he loves to do – observe and study people striving, struggling, succeeding, failing, thinking they have failed, or thinking they have succeeded when they have actually failed.
No house to live in
Aab has no house to live in. The whole world is his haven and refuge. And he does not lament not having a house of his own – for he knows that a house, however strong, large and grand it is, does not become a home, unless a lot of effort and love is poured into it. He continues walking around, shamelessly peeping through windows looking for the rare “home” in the urban jungle.
Living together in loneliness
At nights sometimes Aab wanders on the roads. He enjoys chill winter nights, wet roads just after a heavy night shower, and the warm summer nights, equally. As he walks around, he gets glimpses into people’s houses. From one room tenements where half a dozen occupants occupy every square foot of space, to palatial drawing rooms where a lone occupant can be seen relaxing in luxury. Of course, the common factor in all these houses is inevitably the TV, blaring away its sound and holding humans captive by its fast changing visuals. Humans who have come to the end of a tiring day, willingly surrender themselves to the anonymity of the idiot box, with thoughts dulled, emotions regressed and initiative put on hold. Aab looks around and is over-awed by how “houses” have grown in opulence and style. And yet he is numbed by how “homes” have shrunk to mediocrity and have become so impersonal where every human lives in a shell, pierced only by the TV, Internet or the mobile phone. There is no common family activity, minimal interaction, and an emotional distancing – leading to what a writer aptly described as “Living Together Loneliness.”
Break from routine
The hour of dusk. When solid shapes slowly start merging with the abstract shadows. When bright and harsh daylight meekly surrenders to the all-enveloping carpet of darkness. This is the hour of the day that Aab relishes the most. He loves to break off from the routine of fast paced urban life, and look up at the sky. He sees the branches of a tree silhouetted against the soft grey of the gingerly spreading night. He catches a glimpse of the late birds hurrying to their nests, sometimes in V-formation, sometimes in one’s and two’s. He feels the stirring of the gentle breeze, which seems to have gathered courage to sway out only after the harsh sun has crossed beyond the horizon. And after scouring the endless skies and far-off horizon, Aab’s eyes return to the immediate surroundings. In the madly competitive world, the urban man does not return home in the hour of cowdust. He switches on bright and glaring lights in a desperate bid to take over from the sun. People become more active – shops and offices become busier, traffic becomes heavier, and people compete not only to move faster and farther, but to push others back. Aab steps aside. He wants the world to get that little space that he is occupying. He is happy on his kerb-stone watching the exhaust pollution and deafening sounds that have taken over from the cowdust and the tinkle of bells.
Finding it hard to give away
Aab sat on the sea shore. The sun was setting on the horizon far beyond the vast expanse of the Arabian sea, gently lowering itself into a haze, shedding its scorching heat and blinding light, and willfully surrendering itself to becoming a mere spectacle for others to gaze at. Giving up its power and glory was so easy for the mighty sun. Aab was wondering why this puny creature called man, made of clay and bones, finds it so difficult to hand over his wealth and assets, which never were his in the first place. The sun does not stake any claim over the sky or the ocean, it does not cling to its position of glory that it held at noon. It seems to actually enjoy abdicating its power and fading away into oblivion – not even jealous of the tiny moon that takes up pride of place in the sky at night. Perhaps man considers himself more powerful and indispensable than the sun. Aab does not think so. He knows that he is like the shifting sand on the beach, like the grass that grows, is cut, and gives way to barren earth – which again erupts with greenery in the next rains. For generations men have watched the sunset, felt the high and low tides, left their footprints in the shifting sands – only to fade away. Perhaps some have left behind some freshness, like the evening sea breeze – Aab gets up and walks away from the sunset, the sea ….. into the sea of humanity.
Ask to receive
Aab has learnt the hard way that when a person keeps giving freely, not only does he not get back anything, people want more and more out of him. This is true whether the person is giving out material gifts or giving of himself. In fact when a person gives emotionally, people presume he has a sort of reservoir of feelings, hence will never require emotional support himself. He remembers the adage “even a mother does not give milk till the baby cries out for it”, and thinks of the poor souls who have never learnt to ask, leave alone cry out. He watches sadly when any such person (thankfully there are not too many of them around) on rare occasions do cry out, and people around look upon with disbelief. Many even declare, “How can you say you have a need when you keep giving to so many others ?” People who give consistently and unconditionally, often land up in loneliness. People neither believe that such persons have needs, nor do they consider themselves competent to provide it to “such a capable person”. Hence Aab wants to teach the givers to ask for and learn to receive love. But they are bad students, they often do not learn. They continue to suffer their isolation, their loneliness in crowds – and Aab suffers silently watching their misery.
Aab looks up at the sky and wonders what lies beyond. Space is finite, but only because man has created his own limitations. Water can be stopped by a dam, but no human can stop it from evaporating or seeping into the ground. Man shuts out the breeze to insulate his AC room — but he still needs to breathe the same air. Humans build fences to enclose and protect their property – and are in turn interred into six feet of ground where even the tiniest of insect can nibble at his remains. Aab has a lot of time to think. And he thinks of time. He knows that man has never mastered time and never will — for man is too busy putting walls around time, while time roams free of all fetters. Man creates his own misery of perpetually running short of time- until time abandons him and moves on in gay merriment while the most active human turns to dust and ashes. The architect of the universe, when he designed man on his drawing board (He does not use Autocad), gave man total mastery over one wonderful asset – his emotions. But man does not know how to use this valuable legacy. He is so busy chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, that he has missed out on the worth of the rainbow itself. Aab wishes we would spend more time understanding our feelings and gain mastery over them. That, Aab knows is the final conquest man can achieve.
Aab has never worked in his life. He has never had a boss, and he has consciously avoided bossing over others. He sees people working hard. At times they get their due awards, but many a time they feel they are not getting justice. From housewives to CEOs, he sees so many stressing themselves out in fulfilling thankless jobs. And he sees many headed for a burnout- bitter, angry, frustrated and dejected. It is not that he does not understand stress. At times he senses it in others even when they themselves are not aware of it. He even tries to absorb some people’s pain and anguish, but knows that each man has to carry his own cross. He also knows that sharing others’ emotions with others. He is willing to pay that price… But sadly Aab is also a vulnerable human being, and at times his tolerance is tested to the limit. What does he do when that happens? A few times he tried to empty out his strong emotions- and failed miserably. Even now there are days when he feels his nerves bursting. He is scared he may explode at the wrong time. But he controls himself and walks on. Is Aab doing the right thing ?
Professor of love
Since Aab is a wanderer and a drifter, most people think he has no ambition in life. But surprisingly they are wrong. Aab has an ambition – he wants to become a professor of love. He is willing to work hard for it… but deep down inside he knows that he may never succeed. There is no such job available. No one wants to learn how to love. They are either too busy looking for someone to love or busier still looking for someone to love them. Some people behave as though they already have a Ph.D. in Love, while others laugh and ridicule it, as though it is meant only for soft and sentimental fools. Aab believes that love is an enlightening skill that each human can acquire – but only if he or she strives to learn the nuances of it. Aab is willing to teach anyone who is interested. He does not pride himself that he has the final word on it. He wants to share what he learns on a day to day basis just by observing others. He wants to expand on what he has come to understand is not love — thus paving the way to defining it appropriately. He wants to clarify the difference between “love, the feeling” and “to love, the action”. He knows that anyone who learns to love will never have a shortage of persons to love — or of people who love him. But, no one wants to learn. So Aab will never get his dream job. People like Aab are destined to be unemployed, but in a way it is good. As long as he is unemployed, he will have all the time in the world to observe, learn and imbibe love. And maybe, just maybe, people may learn by emulating his example. Aab is a wanderer and drifter. He still goes around leaving little bits of love on the trail as he walks into the sunset.