Saturday, 8 December 2012

The God Delusion: Review

This is a must read book. Interesting from the very beginning, there are parts where a person might get bored but it gets totally gripping especially in its later half and one will be I am sure unable to put it down. This book is a liberation from the creepy constantly 'being watched over' feeling by a supernatural being who keeps track of your activities and pronounces judgement and sentences like an absolute despot.

Baptized as a Roman Catholic, my upbringing had been in a typical Catholic way following the four main truths, the precepts of the church and obviously the ten-commandments complete with Catechism classes, tests, exams to pass and not to forget the compulsory attendance in church for mass and rosaries. It all looked beautiful in the beginning, the hymns still move and touch a deep part of me, the wait for Advent, fasting in Lent and I enjoy Christmas (even more so than Easter, despite Easter being the festival of a more significance to the Christian Faith) for the sparkle of love and festivity it joyously brings into our lives. There is so much more to this religion and I love it mostly, rather ONLY because of Christ, His teachings and his sense of justice and spirit of doing Good that took precedence over all old, outdated and illogical beliefs reverently followed from the time of Moses and perhaps even before that by the Pharisees and all the people of those times. For me even if Jesus is no God, it does not matter. He certainly was a Man who tried his best to preach common sense and gave lovely ways to live a peaceful life to the people. And I certainly admire Him for that.

For a 'Staunch Believer' reading a book like ‘The God Delusion’ or any other book of such a type which tells you about the non- existence of a God, whom we have been from the very childhood reared and made to believe in 'Deeply and Painfully Hurts a person's sentimentality.' Naturellement! It is like Someone has made you to look and realize that your favourite and most cherished dream was after all a Dream, just a figment of your mind's eye or a bubble that will burst with the slightest prick of Rationality; it is like that moment when someone tells you that your ‘Best Friend’ had been cheating on you all this time and despite the very convincing proofs this well-wisher is showing you and doing his best to make you see the truth of the matter instead of ‘making you simply believe in a belief’ your first instinct still is a complete disbelief in the overwhelming evidence. It’s a terribly frightening moment because a part of your brain actually registers and perhaps accepts the Truth but there’s another part that shouts how listening to this ‘well-wisher’ will make you lose your Best Friend and how you will have no comfort, no confidant/confidante, no friend and guide to go to and tell you that you're loved, that your prayers are heard, will be fulfilled and mayhap you will not rot in the eternal fires of Hell. 

God has over eons assumed such a natural place in our life’s fabric that when we are told about his non-existence and pointed out the flaws of a religion and its story one cannot help but feel kind of let down and ashamed to have been so foolish, short sighted and unthinking to have never questioned it’s authenticity and validity because man is primarily a ‘thinking being’.  To not use our brain is an insult to our person. There are two ways in which I think one can deal with this crisis. Either one can act aggrieved, aggravated, and become a religious fanatic ready to go to war and kill millions in the name of so called "Peace", or graciously accept the logical and scientifically proven FACTS and live his/her life worthy of being called ‘Human’.

Like Rickard Dawkins so clearly proved in this book, Morality is already in us, it is the ‘selfish consciousness’ that has kept us alive and has aided us to survive this far. So I’d suggest we make use of our rational faculties and easily skip the middleman that is 'God'.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Know Thyself and Fear Not

“All men dream- but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” 
                         -T.E. Lawrence

It is true when they say that there is nothing faster than the flight of one’s imagination. And so I make most use of it during times whenever I get into my writing mode. Many times I even forget the original thought; just that in the ever changing present moment I enjoy sensing everything I come in contact with; I become this creature that finds pure delight in physical sensations, in the pleasure of the five senses which unite in explosion in my mind. This feeling of the oneness of mind, body and spirit is a moment of stillness, where we realize that we are a freely flowing spirit of energy moving through this life shaping, creating, transforming things and filling this world by our magical intelligence. It is only during such moments of utter calm that we can begin to understand the forces at work all around us. 

You would acknowledge what was there in the recesses of your mind for what was latent would surface and reveal to you its holy face and you would finally see who you are.

 Like a password it unlocks for us the wonders that were hidden in the potential of our Being. Things click into place and a glow of complete satisfaction manifests itself on our countenance. But this contentment is transitory or ephemeral if you will and is always half or perhaps even less than half of its own capacity, reason being that dreams are figments of our fancy and will always remain their own untouchable self until backed by work because “Work is Real and Work is the Effort and Fruit made Tangible.”

The transient nature of the serenity provided to us by the vision of our naked spirit is because the warmth filled cold fingers of Reality brush it aside the moment we open our eyes. The second our eyes behold the current state of affairs and the mind grasps what we have done about it in our present reality of the life given to us, the unsettling sensation of fear sits inside our guts.

In two ways this fear can be dealt with. Two kinds of people deal with it in their two ways. The Brave and the Weak overcome and succumb respectively. The Brave wake up on feeling the cold fingertips and work, and that is how they feel the eventual warmth seeping in and filling their lives with prosperity.

The weak procrastinate and live forever in the hope of the Dream yet to be realized.

When I thought about how we procrastinate due to fear of the inevitable unknown, these thoughts came to me:

"'Fear' is deep inside us-
A rein controlled by our very own selves 
to halt In mid-stride or even before the first step is taken towards the vision
 We have yet to turn into reality.
A foe in the guise of a friend, 
patiently biding its time to withhold us from moving forward
'Fear' should never be feared.
Those who befriend it, bask in the illusion of a luxury that offers you countless moments at your disposal-
‘Pearls lost never to be found again’
Those are the ones who actually fear ‘Fear’ and feign its absence by giving in to the inhibitions it produces.”

Shalom :)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Prophet: Kahlil Gibran

I believe that 'The greatest gift a Man can give to his fellow beings is the unadulterated joy that his work is.' 11 years it took the Lebanese American Gibran to craft 'The Prophet'. To string together such beautiful pearls out of the sea of our consciousness requires a conscientious spirit working in God's realm. This book is just as a teacher who guides one to the threshold of his own mind. Though words are needed to communicate they can never perhaps give expression to the delights of a liberated soul for a spirit that knows how to soar needs not the crutches words are which only render it bound, contained and defined; yet my heart feels a gladness that these very words gave wings to my own thoughts which rose in the bond of fraternity and natural humble acknowledgement of the elegant design, simple truth and beauty of life.                                

On Love

"Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that melts and sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart
and a song of praise upon your lips.

On Marriage 

"Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of Love. Let it be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow."
- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, 
and He bends you with His might 
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, 
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Every word was a joy and every sentence a knowledge that was always there.

"And what is word knowledge but a shadow of wordless knowledge?
Your thoughts and my words are waves from a sealed memory that keeps records of our yesterdays,
And of the ancient days when the Earth knew not us nor herself,
And of nights when Earth was upwrought with confusion."

A poetic message, these essays are a journey in themselves because they cover every aspect and facet of Life from Love, marriage, children, beauty, work, religion, joy and sorrow, giving, crime and punishment, self knowledge and laws to freedom, houses, clothes, pain, teaching, friendship, prayer, pleasure, eating and drinking, buying and selling, reason and passion, talking, time, good and evil and death. This work of pure love is a way of life and though it teaches one many things, the most important fact it makes us realize is:

"Your daily Life is your Temple and your Religion.
When you enter into it, take with you your all."

Shalom :)

Friday, 24 August 2012

The Satanic Verses: A short review

It was 14th February, 1989 when the Tehran Radio blasted:

"The author of the 'Satanic Verses' book, which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content are sentenced to death," said Ayatollah Khomeini, whose word was considered as law by those millions of Shiite Muslims. "If someone knows them but is unable to kill them, he should hand them over to the people for punishment."

Salman-rushdie, the-satanic-verses,

It was the whole "Rushdie Fatwa Affair" which triggered my curiosity to read this novel which contrary to what you might think (considering the ban, bombings and death threats) was the proud recipient of the 1988 Whitbread Award besides being the finalist for the Booker of the very same year. The Fatwa was issued on February 14, 1989 by the Grand Ayatollah 'Ruhollah Khomeini' (the supreme religious and political leader of Iran during that time) because of the publication of this book which contained certain derogatory and sacrilegious passages about the life of Prophet Muhammad. The book was classified as a blasphemy to Islam and Khomeini issued the fatwa declaring that it was the "moral duty of every God fearing and self-respecting Muslim to kill Rushdie." 

'The Satanic Verses' is not just a novel about two men and their transmogrification into the very fantastic and classical versions of the Angel and the Devil; this book interspersed with the magical realism the master craftsman is so fond of is both a vehement cry of the migrants against the discrimination and the helpless sense of belonging to a nowhere land (as migrants feel the stark differences between their and the English culture) and an appeal to the thinking mind of the common man to break the age old chains that religion binds one with and realize that nothing and nobody is above reproach and everything can be questioned

The story basically deals with two Indian Muslims, a superstar Gibreel Farishta, and a voice-over expatriate artist Saladin Chamcha who has a deep love for the English and all things anglicized. The novel begins with the miraculous fall of the two from a hijacked plane, and it is while they are experiencing the law of gravity that they both undergo a kind of mutation. While Saladin Chamcha literally becomes a "Devil" with horns, Gibreel Farishta becomes an "Angel". Anglophile Spoono with a big burly body and tail undergoes humiliation at the hands of the British police, and people from his own community. This degradation reaches its peak when his English wife Pamela (thinking Saladin to be dead in the airplane bomb-blast) fucks his friend Jumpy Joshi. This episode acts as the precursor of their eventual divorce. Gibreel who has come to this foreign land to meet his beloved Alleluia Cone (the "Everest" or "Ice queen" as she has been called in the novel) like his namesake mutates into a haloed angel. He develops some sort of schizophrenia. In the highly disturbed dream sequences which ensue, Gibreel starts thinking of himself as the archangel Gibreel who revealed to Prophet Muhammad (called as Mahound in the book) the Qur'an. 

Besides the stories of these two protagonists, the fabric of the tale is composed of several parallel short-stories narrating the lives of people at the Shandaar Cafe (who support and keep Saladin during his transmutation into the Devil and back to human), and Ayeesha - the woman who commands the people of Titlipur to gather en masse so as to make their pilgrimage to Mecca. Ayeesha (named after the Prophet's beloved wife) leads the people of Titlipur to their eventual demise (because the waters of the Arabian Sea do not part as had been promised by the angel Gibreel). 

The Satanic Verses are not fictional lines or ideas propounded by Salman Rushdie but refer to these specific verses in Surah an-Najm (Star) 53:19-22:

"Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-‘Uzzá

and Manāt, the third, the other?
These are the exalted gharāniq, whose intercession is hoped for."

There was a time when Muhammad and his followers went through a rough phase in their lives. They were thoroughly shunned and persecuted by the pagan Meccans. It is suspected that Muhammad succumbed to their pressure during this time and
declared the above revelation from angel Gibreel. According to this revelation Muhammad acknowledged the existence of the three Goddesses (Al Lat, Al Uzza, and Manat) along with Allah, and diverted from his monotheistic worship of the Allah. Hearing Muhammad's acknowledgement of their deities, the pagans immediately accepted Muhammad and his followers into their fold. 

However, Muhammad realized his folly and reverted to his sole worship of Allah. The so called "Satanic verses" were later removed from the Qur'an and replaced with the following:

Surat an-Najm (Star) 53:19-22 in Qur'an:

"Now tell me about Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat,

The third one, another goddess.
What! For you the males and for him the females!
That indeed is an unfair division."

أَفَرَأَيْتُمُ اللَّاتَ وَالْعُزَّى

وَمَنَاةَ الثَّالِثَةَ الْأُخْرَى
أَلَكُمُ الذَّكَرُ وَلَهُ الْأُنثَى
تِلْكَ إِذًا قِسْمَةٌ ضِيزَى. سورة النجم - سورة ‏٥٣: ١٩-٢٢‏

It is said that Angel Gibreel came to the Prophet that evening and told him:

Hajj (Pilgrimage) 22:52-53 in Qur'an:

"Never did We send a messenger or a prophet before thee, but, when he framed a desire, Satan threw some (vanity) into his desire: but Allah will cancel anything (vain) that Satan throws in, and Allah will confirm (and establish) His Signs: for Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom:

That He may make the suggestions thrown in by Satan, but a trial for those in whose hearts is a disease and who are hardened of heart: verily the wrong-doers are in a schism far (from the Truth)."

The controversy about 'The Satanic Verses' issue is this: 

If Prophet Muhammad himself was unable to distinguish Satan's voice from God's voice, then could there be more verses in the Qur'an which Muhammad assumed were of "divine "origin but in reality were demonic inspirations or figments of his own imagination.

The book definitely is controversial because it speaks boldly what one might only conjecture but never speak aloud. The Satanic Verses is a tale that charts with brutal honesty the character development of its two protagonists. From the moment they fall from the hijacked aircraft, Rushdie paints in detail the transition of their mind, body, and spirit, highlights their fears and insecurities, and shows how both the characters handle their new lives and situations all the while trying to seek love and acceptance. 

Needless to say that it has been written brilliantly, the dialogues and language so par excellence that you feel you're watching a motion picture replete with grand images of the ordinary and the extraordinary. The book begins at a good pace, slows down in the middle, but picks up speed and moves fast towards the end. Yes, it might hurt one's sensibilities at times because of the unexpected attack of a person who calls a spade a spade. If you decide to give this book a read, be patient with it. Despite the intertwined stories, it must be said that Rushdie tied every loose end with finesse. Savour the stories for they have been written with a realistic approach and show the human fears and frailties, hidden and underhanded motives, the petty jealousies, selfishness, infidelity, discrimination, rebellion, rejection, and the need to seek acceptance, approval, love, and forgiveness with a crystal clarity. Do not rush with this novel and to be frank you can't (There are a quarter million words here!). This novel does make for a tedious reading at times, but all in all the book will give you so much to think about. It's a great book but only for the liberal of mind. 
The book is not for those who do not think, do not question, and keep themselves forever attached to orthodox religious roots which sow discord and dissension.

Remember it is "The Satanic Verses" and not "Satanic Verses." 

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Summer, Music and Love

“In Music the passions enjoy themselves.”
                                                          -Friedrich Nietzsche

Music is magic indeed. They say it is the food for life. It pervades the universe and like an ethereal celestial phenomenon encompasses the very dimension of our existence. And so it did come to me one day.

There was nothing extra ordinary about that day yet it was the most extra ordinary day of my Life. Oh Yes! The weather was pleasant, the wind/breeze or whatever there was of it was a caress on the skin and the fragrance of summer was definitely in the air but the only thing that weighed rather preyed on my mind was the feeling of breaking free, of running away and losing myself.

Hah! Big words!

All I wanted to do was take a walk, a leisurely stroll to my favourite secluded nature spot and sit under a tree with a book in hand. Still, there was something. It was just a feeling- a feeling that gnawed somewhere at the periphery of my awareness. So, instead of thinking deep and hard about it, I let myself be. Walking always soothed my nerves. So I walked and after a cursory glance, located my place and sat down. Leaning against the trunk I took a deep breath and started to read. The more I read the more I became lost in the story world, of which I’d by then become a part. It was a beautiful story really-about Music and love, about passion, vision and the struggle that comes along with your work. And then I heard it. 

The Sound of Music!

Notes flew high and low on fluttering wings to reach me. It was an absolute joy. I closed my eyes and in one of those rare moments gave myself in to the sheer bliss of that smooth voice and the stringed notes that accompanied it.

What is the magic that you can hear?
The magic that you can feel?
The magic that fills you up and yet you can’t see?
Deep in the being abides a song; with perhaps a tune forgotten,
But when the magic plays on; the spell is cast and rules forgotten,
When lost in rhythm you will be,
Your song will surface and You shall see,
You shall see and remember your wordless song.
As the half formed words start to come along; your song will sing to you,
It will sing and tell you your story and the purpose you were born,
In its dulcet tones it will light that first spark,
The spark that’ll last till the ‘MUSIC’ plays on.

And if you have what it takes Mortal,
The fire will consume you and You will be Your Song. 

And just as the music had risen, in the same way it slid to a gentle close- so natural a part of Nature that I didn't even open my eyes to see that I was not alone. I had not realized that my body had arched, that my nails dug into the earth and that every single cell that made me, Felt and was Aware. It just happened- My surrender to the music. Spellbound, I became aware of my mind and the lifting up of my spirit yet so primitive. It was like being reborn- like, for the first time I was aware of my body, could feel the weight of the dress and the way it clung to me. I could feel the cloth as the breeze stroked and brushed the fabric against my skin. To say that I was overwhelmed would be an understatement because it was a moment of Epiphany.

As I opened my eyes, the sun shone directly into them and for a moment I was blinded. My reflexes made me close them. But then, I opened them and this time for good. I faced the sun and faced my own self. I accepted who and what I was. And in that moment of being in absolute communion with nature, I realized that I was not alone but a part of the whole universe. In that instant I learnt that Life can either happen to you making you move in that surging crowd where you are constantly shifted by a force not your own Or you can be its very manifestation driving on determinedly into the unknown realm of this vast universe full of light, spreading good will and most importantly exploring your Self with the voice of age old wisdom guiding us to the path of self awareness and salvation.

As I walked home that day with music in my heart, I hugged myself and accepting my being with all its characteristics- good and bad, learnt to Love and respect myself. That was the day I fell in Love, fell in Love with the first person I should Love- Me. 

Friday, 22 June 2012

The House of Bast (Part II)

“I think you got confused with the name Miss. Did you say you had already booked your stay there?”

“Yes! I’d called up at the local hotel to reserve my stay. A lady receptionist had answered the phone. 
She booked my stay for two nights. I do travelling on a regular basis Mr. Peter and I make sure I inquire about the place and plan carefully all details beforehand. It is just beyond my understanding to come here all the way from another country only to find that the place I was looking for specifically has now vanished from my map. This doesn't make sense. I must be sounding crazy to     you… Hmm … Well, are you sure there is no town called the ‘House of Bast’ nearby?”

“Absolutely positive”

“I hope you don’t mind Peter but I will go and enquire from somewhere else and see if I find any good news. Hmm…”

“It’s totally okay Miss. You can ask about this place but it is next to impossible that you will find anyone who’ll tell you that the place exists.”

“I gotta go give it a try anyways. Good bye.”

The drizzling had stopped only to be followed by a cool breeze. This cheered up my spirits somewhat and  I decided that the best course of action for me to take now would be to spend a couple of hours searching for that elusive town and then head back to my hotel if I don't find the House of Bast. As my engine purred to life, I drove straight ahead out of the village.

Looking back at sudden turn of events of the past two days, it was the sunlight streaming through the windows that had done it- cast a spell. Hmm … It wasn't so much so all the sunshine as that single ray of sparkling sun which like a pointer had concentrated my attention on the only name (so out of place) on the brochure! Two days ago, it had seemed incredulous to me to find in Europe a town with links to religious practices and beliefs followed by the ancient Egyptians!
Oh yes! This was the idea- the idea that took shape at my little apartment in the suburban condo. To search for such unique locations which would prove that Egyptians had left not mere traces but abundant proofs of their mighty civilization at different strategic points on Earth. I pulled an all-nighter and came across some very interesting facts!

In the early 1900s, just 100 kilometers north of Sydney, Australia at the National Park Forest of Hunter Valley were discovered 250 ancient hieroglyphs of archaic style particular to the old ruling dynasties of Egypt. These rock carvings sketch the voyage and grievous tale of some ancient explorers who were marooned here after their ship wreck. The rocks show the engraved name of the ‘Pharaoh Ra Djedef’ (son of ‘Khufu’ – the ruler of the fourth Dynasty of Egypt, Builder of the Great Pyramid and Founder of the Giza Plateau) and a certain Lord Djes-eb who was supposedly the royal leader whose death due to the twice biting of the snake has been clearly chronicled on the rock walls (It is said that this royal leader was the son of Pharaoh Ra Djedef)

According to the statement issued by Mr. G.E. Kinkaid (an explorer) in the service of Smithsonian Institute which appeared on 5th April, 1909 in the Arizona Gazette, archaeologists under the directions of Prof. S. A. Jordan (also of the Smithsonian Institute) discovered a great citadel located high above the Colorado River in the Grand Canyons. G. E. Kinkaid reported that they found scores of passageways radiating as if from a wheel, a shrine, crypt and hieroglyphs. Another interesting fact is that the Hopi Indians (a group of Pueblo people of the northeastern Arizona) hold the belief that their ancestors lived underground in the Grand Canyons! However, the twist in the story comes when we find that the Smithsonian refused to acknowledge any such research and exploration funded by them. Also there are no records of any G.E. Kinkaid and Prof. Jordon!  

Hoax or no hoax, I was thrilled enough to keep on reading till my eyes closed on their own volition and I slipped into a dreamless stupor. With so many connections leading to Australia, America, Crete, New Ireland and whatnot, I now had something to work upon.

A flash of light from the oncoming car took me by surprise. As I maneuvered to my left skidding to a halt, I couldn't help but steal a look at the black Alfa Romeo. The young driver probably drunk as well looked both apologetic and gleeful (if that's possible!) as he stuck his head out of the car window. And there it was! It appeared out of nowhere- a fusty old signboard with the letters ‘pr-bȝstt’ carved on it. It had begun to grow dark and the lane beside the signboard looked too narrow for a car. It was 6 pm and that meant I’d have an hour or two at max to explore the city. So, leaving my car parked, I walked with trepidation with just the flash light and my cell phone for emergency. Yes, I should have been excited and happy to have found the mysterious 'House of Bast', somehow that wasn't the case. I took a closer look at the signpost, it was so old as if from another age altogether. The pathway was narrow indeed and from the looks of it, had seldom been trod upon. No wonder the people at Enniskerry had never heard about it! I walked till the trees his the main road from my view. Instinctively I switched on the flash light. And then two things struck me as strange. 

No! Not strange, simply 'Wrong'!

One, it should have been dark. It wasn't dark. In fact, the whole city that stood stretched before me for miles and miles around was absolutely bathed in brilliant sunlight. Two, I was standing in a ‘Desert’!

I looked back instinctively and all I saw was the desert. I don’t know what took hold of me. Stunned, I just knew that I had stopped breathing. And then broke the dam of a myriad emotions- one after the other at so great a speed, as if my neurotransmitters had impulsively taken to working overtime. Shock, Panic, Denial, Reason apportion; in my case- Hallucination due to tiredness, a soothing deep breath and all helpful meditation tips I had learnt over the years to calm my frayed nerves were deployed into action, sadly to no good effect. I tightly shut my eyes and stood there caught in the vortex of this chimera or whatever it was! 

“… to Bubastis” was all I heard until I acknowledged the speaker- a bronze skinned man through the haze of the heat. Poker-faced he gestured and I knew he was here to escort me. Strange, he seemed familiar somehow. A short walk took me to the base of a huge temple with stone steps flanked on both sides by colossal monolithic cat statutes. Hieroglyphs were etched on every brick, stone and pillar. They were beautiful and even in such primeval surroundings, looked new. 

The only thing I knew about the cult of the Egyptian Goddess Bastet was that the people believed she was the daughter of the Sun God Ra and aided his journey to the underworld every night by capturing its fire. A vibrant energy suffused and radiated from this temple. It flowed and swirled around me like a breath of rain drenched air soothing and filling me up with memories long suppressed. As I climbed the last step, I was instantaneously struck by the beauty of the olive skinned woman who stood there waiting. She had been waiting for Ra knows how long! 

“Welcome to the House of Bastet, Daughter”, she smiled and spoke with a musical lilt in her voice. 
It took me a complete two minute silence to say “Mother!”  We hugged as my monosyllable conveyed those years of separation, longing, and want of the warmth I’d been missing all these 21 years of my life. 

“It is Time. Let us go “Wadjet Bast". My name! Oh! How I had missed hearing the sound of it. Thrilled, we went inside the temple which was just a rectangular hall rendered Spartan due to its lack of adornments. The focus was the altar built in the center. I knew the ritual and was ready.  Burning wax candles we wrote the name of ‘Apophis’ (the enemy of the Sun) in green ink, chanted prayers and spells to ward off the evil spirits and cast a hex on the Serpent God who posed a danger for the whole Earth. If Apophis was successful in killing Ra during the night time when it travels to the underworld (to rise again the next day), there will be no more daylight and no Life. And that is why the priestesses of Bastet, once in every 66 years invoked her, to open our sacred eye ‘Utchat’ from which would release the power to manifest the ‘Eye of Ra’ to be worn by the next priestess in line. My mother’s term had ended today and now the responsibility was mine. It looked pure magic, a brilliant divine vision when the ‘third eye’ manifested on my mother’s forehead in breath taking flash of sunlight. As she touched it with her fingertips, it slid onto her palm. 

It was a beauty alright. An opal doublet set in silver and gold accent snake chains. She clasped it around my neck and then we went outside down the steps to the back of the temple where flowed a river so sparkling blue that it put to shame all the sapphires. The boat ride was the most peaceful time I spent with my mother. And then when I looked into her eyes, she smiled- a dazzling smile that lit up her black dramatic eyes. I closed my eyes to capture it, to capture her Fire in mine.

A sharp pain hit my forehead when I opened my eyes. My forehead was bleeding. Horns were blasting somewhere. The sound of the sharp rapping on the car window made me look at the police officer who was leaning and demanding my attention. With slow movements I pulled down the window.

“Ma'am, you okay? Please open the door. The medical van is right here, the paramedics will take good care of you." 

"Where am I?"

“You’re just outside Enniskerry, Ma’am. You had a minor accident." 

“Oh my God! The pain, I feel so much pain in my head." Those were the last words before I passed out. When I opened my eyes, I found myself in a hospital ward. The only coherent thought I had was of my mother. My mother! Where is she after all? I tried to get up. My head still felt a little woozy from all the pain killers and medicines. The nurse realizing that I was finally awake hovered over me and checked my pulse, head injury and inquired after my health. 

"Miss Astrid, how are you feeling now?" I answered her with a weak smile. “There’s one Mr. Menkhaf who has come to see you. Will you meet him?”

“Who did you say?”

"Mr. Menkhaf. You had an accident today, remember? Your car hit a black Alfa Romeo around six pm. He was the one driving it."

"What time did you say?"

"Sometime around 6 pm." 

"I don't know what you're talking about. I was in the House of Bast with my mother that time. I was with her till sunset. Where's my mother? Please call her.”  

"No, Miss Astrid you were quite alone when the accident occurred. We never found your mother in the car. ”

Irritated I replied, “I will repeat. I was in the Temple of Bast, in the desert land. I was there with my mother and not on any damn road during that time. I was there for like a whole day.” At this the nurse became quiet and looked at me as if I was crazy. “I’ll call the doctor.” With a smile, she went out the doors. She had not even gone for thirty seconds when a big beautiful man entered my room.

Of course I remembered him! My escort! Without wasting my breath, I said, "Good that you came. Please tell that nurse..." I was interrupted when the nurse returned just that moment with the doctor and gladly announced, “Oh good, Mr. Menkhaf is also here.” I stared hard at him and I indeed sensed some vague resemblance.

“I thought I’d bring some flowers for the lady.” All smiles Mr. Menkhaf placed the flower basket with a get well soon card at the bedside table and went away. Speechless, I nodded and waited patiently while the doctor finished examining me and went to check on the others. 

The more I thought, the more confusing it became. Within a span of two hours I had met with an accident, admitted to a hospital and taken rest for an hour (according to the nurse). Then was that time in the desert some figment of my imagination? Surely I had spent a whole day with my mother. When I looked at her I had known. Was I dreaming then? Because two kinds of such significantly different events aren't possible! And this guy, whoever he was, was part of the puzzle too. Was my injured head playing tricks?

Anyways, as the doctor had predicted I got well and after a week flew back to my condo. As the days passed by, the probability of my strange time in the House of Bast got reduced to an almost zero. Maybe a concussed head was after all capable of producing such brilliant life like hallucinations. Sometimes the memories of that time would come to me unbidden but I had by now come to realize that sometimes in some state of unconsciousness, our subconscious mind takes control and shows us what we had either repressed or wished for ardently. Work and its demands took all of my time and I put the whole episode behind me. Life went on absolutely fine until one day when my doorbell rang at dusk. 

I opened the door and saw there was no one. I closed it and started going back to work. Something stopped me. It was the sound of the doorbell ringing again. And this time I saw my visitor. I knew it the moment I saw her. It was the eyes. My visitor was actually a furry white Mau kitten. She had brought my Eye of Ra along with a note: 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The House of Bast (Part I)

One of the greatest delights in pursuing a career you really enjoy is that the inevitable eventual success gives you a certain fiscal freedom. This monetary autonomy is especially of immense value to those people who have no family ties or relatives and have to fend for themselves at every turn in life. Growing up in a city so rich in history, music, arts and architecture instilled in me- Astrid Alvintzi, a sense of awe and respect not only for the Art but also filled me with a thirst to someday go out and venture beyond the walls of this famous city. So, becoming a professional guide was quite the natural choice for a footloose orphan girl who always seemed to know the safest short cuts, the best packaged deal offers for tourists, those little places which are cozy (giving you a home away from home experience!) and exquisite too, yet not mentioned on the tourist maps and most importantly the who’s who of the tourism industry of one of the world’s most enchanting cities- Vienna.

Life, despite its harsh beginning definitely took a turn for the better when a chance meeting with a couple whom I was giving a personal tour of the ‘Basilica Mariazell’ proffered me an offer of a lifetime. 

It was with great aplomb and a million thanks to God that I held on to this prospect of hosting a new travel show. The proposal suited my interest and the money was good. I worked hard and cashed in on my Middle Eastern looks. Somehow I was in a country where in most likelihood I had not been born and so it intrigued people when I told them romantic and thrilling tales about my lineage- of how a Syrian girl happened to be in Austria or how my Palestinian or Moroccan mother had to leave her ‘love child’ at the orphanage or die a gruesome death at the hands of her royal family (obviously my tales were all cooked up.) Anyways, coming back to ‘Venture’- yes, that was the name of my travel show; it happened that within a year it acquired a steady viewership and became a popular show watched every weekend. 

Life had taught me the value of a good financial backup. So, I started saving and soon this security became a plump cushion. However, "success much like an avaricious mistress despises frugality and requires high maintenance. Invest in her and she’ll make you the happiest man and if you didn't, then, she’d simply desert you for someone who did." And so it happened that while my show was much liked, it had nothing new because there emerged a lot of other travel shows which made the competition very tough. Before long the ratings began to fall and I knew that I had to think of something fresh and untried to give the new season of my program a boost. Now the trouble I faced was that every idea and concept I came up with had either been taken to be worked upon or was already in the works.  Finding myself in desperate need of help and inspiration, I didn’t know where to go and where to look. For the first time I felt alone. Ever since a young child, I had learnt the importance of making contacts in my struggle to live. I realized that that’s what I made all my life, no Friends, no Companions but Contacts: People serving as nothing but resources for my survival. I had never been bothered before but it pricked me to be alone today.

Half the events of our life lose their value when we haven’t the warmth of camaraderie to share it with. In fact I didn't even know where I belonged because the people at the orphanage had always been a little shaky and sketchy about my ‘roots’.
As I pondered on this word ‘roots’ my eyes fell on a travel brochure of an Irish village peeping out of the magazine holder. Something about it caught my attention. After a brief perusal, the result was that my footloose soul prevailed and packing my bags I set out for ‘The House of Bast’.

Green- It was all I could think of when I spotted Ireland from up in the air. 

As the flight touched the Dublin airport, I felt as if I was coming back to my home after a long time. Instead of checking into the more convenient hotels built inside the Dublin airport complex, I checked into the ‘Rathsallagh Country House Hotel’ (which took less than an hour’s drive from the airport) for the quiet romantic ambiance it provided. Tomorrow was going to be another hectic day. Taking a light dinner I went to my room and slept like a log.

The next day after a quick breakfast I took a look at my schedule. It was a full day self drive tour which would take me from Calary Bog, the Roundwood Church, the Reservoir to the Glendalough - a must see tourist attraction with a history spanning centuries, to Glenmacnass waterfall, the Lough Bray lakes, Glencree and then winding up at the small town called the ‘House of Bast’ near Enniskerry. Driving through the countryside over bog roads, through valleys and mountainsides, just stopping to admire hundreds of years of concrete history, (some well preserved and some a little ruined by the Viking invasions and years of neglect) taught me humility and made me realize the significance of Nature as the best teacher.

It was afternoon when I entered the picturesque village of Enniskerry. Stopping at Poppies Country Cooking, I treated myself to classic cream scones and washed them down with Irish coffee. 

Courtesy: Poppies Country Cooking

It had started to drizzle so I watched the scene outside with the coffee mug warming my hands. Life seemed just perfect at times like this. A flower seller stood across the road with his cart loaded with pots and pots of geraniums, poppies, tulips, roses along with towering lily stalks of pure white in the corner of the cart. I ordered another coffee and while I waited I thought it best to inquire about the directions to the House of Bast from the owner himself. Peter turned out to be a very pleasant man who told me much about the village, the local gossip and some of the ever enchanting folk- lore of the Irish.

To my surprise he said that he had never heard of such a place before. Amazed that he did not have knowledge of an Egyptian styled town, so near to this village, (as the brochure had proclaimed) I went to my car to get that booklet. To my dismay neither did I find the brochure in my bag nor did my map show any town in the vicinity named ‘House of Bast’. Surely it was a mistake! I checked the map again to see if I had missed something but it was as if the place had never existed. But that wasn't possible right?!

To Be Continued...

Monday, 2 April 2012

A Day

Courtesy: Erwyn Van Der Meer/Flickr

The breaking of a gold'n dawn,
Shrouds all in its loveliness,
Happiness mirrored in those amber irises,
a poignant sentiment unseen in crisis.

       The golden arrows dispelling the darkened meadows
       and light chasing away the shadows;
       Like this morn comes in its glory,
       just leaving us staring in awe.

The morning gives way to Even,
The evening finally gives way to the Lady Dark,
And the blazing orb which once was giving us its warmth,
Now hangs all cool condensed, like a silvery medallion,
On Night's beautiful throat.

        Such is the transition, such is the beauty
        Ephemeral, Eloquent and Elusive.
        It happens everyday yet seldom do we see,
        Or wait to admire nature reigning supreme, 
        The image is capricious,
        Don't try to capture it,
        And one more day is over,
        Have you ever realized it!?

Best quotes on Love

If you open your heart, love opens your mind. So here’s a collection of my personal favourite quotes on Love by greatest of all writers and thinkers. I do hope you all enjoy and relish this selection and make more and more room for Love in your lives. 

I Love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I Love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so I love you because I knew no other way than this, where ‘I’ does not exist nor ‘You’. 
So close that your hand on my chest is my hand, 
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
~Pablo Neruda

Absence diminishes small loves and increases great ones, as the wind blows out the candle and fans the bonfire.
~Francois Duc De La Rochefaucauld

Just as the wind dances in my hair, as the ocean massages my thoughts, as the sun blankets me in happiness, and as the earth travels with me across universal challenges, so all the elements of your love fill my life.

Love is the emblem of eternity; it confounds all notion of time; effaces all memory of a beginning, all fear of an end.
~Germaine De Stael

Love is that enviable state that knows no envy or vanity, only empathy and a longing to be greater than oneself.
~Joe McMahon

True Love is eternal, infinite and always like itself. It is equal and pure, without violent demonstrations: it is seen with white hairs and is always young in the heart.
~Honore De Balzac

Courtesy:Dennis Skley/Creative Commons/Flickr

The most wonderful of all things in life is the discovery of another human being with whom one’s relationship has a growing depth, beauty and joy as the years increase. This inner progressiveness of love between two human beings is a most marvelous thing; it cannot be found by looking for it or by passionately wishing for it. It is a sort of Divine accident, and the most wonderful of all things in life.
~Sir Hugh Walpole

Love is not having to say anything, but to look into another’s eyes and be completely content.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
~1 John 4:18

If we don’t tell them we love them, the ones we fall in love with are usually gone before we had the chance to lose them ourselves.

Love has no desire but to fulfill itself. 
But if you Love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: 
 To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. 
To know the pain of too much tenderness,
    To be wounded by your own understanding of love,
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude; 
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved and a song of praise upon your lips.
~Khalil Gibran

Courtesy: Eleazer/Creative Commons/Flickr

If you begin your day with Love in your heart, 
Peace in your nerves and Truth in your mind, 
You not only benefit from their presence but also bring them to the others, 
to your family and friends, 
and to all those whose destiny draws across your path that day.

True Love begins when nothing is looked for in return.
~Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Since Love grows within you, so beauty grows. For Love is the beauty of the soul.
~Saint Aurelius Augustine

The greatest gift you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.
~Brian Tracy

But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
~Khalil Gibran

I see my fated stars in your eyes. They melt me like the sun does snow.
~From the movie Dangerous Beauty

To Love another person is to see the face of God.
~Victor Hugo

From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to Heaven, and when two souls that are destined to be together find each other, the streams of light flow together and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being.
~Ba al Shem Tov

Your task is not to seek love but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

There’s this place in me where your fingerprints still rest, your kisses still linger, and your whispers softly echo. It’s the place where a part of you will forever be a part of me.
~Gretchen Kemp

Dwell not on the past. Use it to illustrate a point then leave it behind. Nothing really matters except what you do now in this instant of time. From this moment onwards you can be an entirely different person, filled with love and understanding, ready with an outstretched hand, uplifted and positive in every thought and deed.
~Eileen Caddy

Sometimes your nearness takes my breath away; and all the things I want to say can find no voice. Then, in silence, I can only hope my eyes will speak my heart.
~Robert Sexton