Being a Speck of Dust

I am a droplet in the ocean. I am a speck of dust. I am one among 7 billion. And yet nature holds me in her arms. She caresses me like her only child. She adores me like the only moon that the Earth has. She makes me feel at home in a crowd.

Oh wait, aren’t we following social distancing norms?

Image of me in the lower center, with vast sky covering the rest of the space.
Knowing the vastness does not diminish your value.

We have been seeing days that we may have never seen in our lives. This has forced us to adapt to a new way of living. Some of us found comforting hands, while some lost touch with reality. Some of us discovered our heart’s calling, while some created art with their hands. For some of us, family provided a safe space, while for some, members of the house were draining out every drop of energy. We faced new reality. We encountered new challenges. We saw the different faces of humans.

But nature, she showed us what she was forced to hide all these years. Wondering what forced nature? Everything that we call ‘development’. We pushed nature to the periphery. We forgot that we ourselves are creations of nature and share a bond that is stronger than any relationship primarily with nature.

The months we were holed up in the house, we noticed nature. Be it the increasing sound of pigeons or some bird which you have never spotted before. For some, it was seeing a flower bloom for the first time ever or in many years, while for some, noticing a rainbow in the unexpected summer showers.

Image with two tiny white flowers that has yellow center, with a background of ground that has grass and other plants
Don’t have any flowering plant? That’s ok. Here’s a picture for you from my archives.

Countries are opening up, economic activities are limping back. I wonder how many are, again, going to be conscious of nature that is around them or maybe within them?

This period helped me grow inward and recognize my connection with nature. It has been an experience of connecting with something larger than the self. Existentialists would call this a spiritual experience. The spiritual dimension is one that focuses on meaning, faith, and a connection of humans in a cosmic context. It involves looking at this larger than human feature by being human.

That’s too wordy, isn’t it?

Basically I understood that being a speck in the galaxy is important, because nature is embodying herself through me; that as much as I am a part of a system called nature, I also make an important component through which the system (nature) can be seen.

And that’s why, however tiny you are, you are never insignificant.

My Best Friend Taught Me The Core Conditions Of Counselling

I had a friend who taught me the meaning of the term “best friend”. I found her at a time when I was vulnerable. It was at that stage in life where I was searching and asking myself, “Who am I?” (Not that I have found the answer today; I am still searching.) I felt lost. I did not know how to define who I am. I felt incompetent. I thought that I was not good enough. Reasons to believe that I was insignificant was more than believing that I was important or significant to someone.

It was then that she entered my life. Not a dramatic entry, but a slow, insidious one which I did not notice. Before long, I knew that she was my “best friend”.

She was someone who listened to me, asked me questions, made me think, and laughed with me on my silly jokes. She recognised when I wasn’t feeling okay, and also when I was joyous, and she asked about it. She shared her worries and happiness with me. My interactions with her always had a strong layer of trust and understanding underneath. With her, what I felt inside was what I expressed.
This taught me the first core condition of Humanism given by Carl Rogers, Congruence or Genuineness. An effective therapist is genuine in her interaction with clients and does not put on a mask while interacting. This helps in building trust and allows the clients to be comfortable with the therapist.

My “best friend” recognised me for who I am and motivated me to take up tasks that I would have otherwise shunned away from. She told me that I had the potential to do xyz. She pushed me just enough beyond my comfort space to make me realize the capacity that I have was not limited to what I was aware of at that time. Through all of it, she took care that I didn’t feel overwhelmed. And if I did she was there to support me.
This is the second Rogerian condition, Unconditional Positive Regard. A therapist recognises the client for who they are and values them, and attaches no moralistic or judgmental value to their thoughts or beliefs. The role of a therapist is to help the client achieve growth and realize their potential.

This piece wouldn’t be complete if I did not talk about how she stood in others’ shoes more often than in her own. She could see things from others’ perspectives, and she was sensitive to their needs. She knew when someone needed some time alone, and when they needed someone to talk to, to be heard. She was there, always, to understand how I thought of something, and therefore how it must be for me.
And this is the core condition of Empathy. It is the ability of the therapist to enter the private world of the client and understand life through their eyes. The therapist experiences the world of the client as if it were their own, but without forgetting the “as-if” quality.

These three conditions- congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy (and concreteness, as the fourth condition) make a therapist effective in her interaction with a client.

These three core conditions of counselling were shown by my best friend. She embodied these conditions in her everyday interactions.

But all wasn’t so well, as I recognised these in my best friend only when we ceased to be friends. Losing her friendship changed me as a person. I went ahead and pursued Psychology and learnt in-depth about counselling. The process of learning to be a counsellor made me reflect on my relationships and I realised that while my best friend showed these conditions, I showed these conditions on a superficial level or none of it when it really mattered in those years of friendship.

I moved away from that person whom I called my “best friend”. But I learnt what it is to be a Counsellor or a Therapist, thanks to my “best friend”.

Sunset over the sea, at Marine Drive
Sunsets are proof that even your bad days have a silver lining

PS: She loves sunsets. And even I do.

PPS: I am a trained Mental Health Professional. If you want professional help, you can reach out to me.

You can know more about me here.

Mumbai and its love

Today, I woke up to the petrichor of the first rain in the city. It was 7 in the morning. As the earthy scent entered my nose, my body felt alert and like a bird, I flew to the window and perched myself atop the window sill. With a smile of my face, I looked around. It was a slight drizzle, but enough to make my heart cry with joy.

Rain droplets on leaves
Petrichor

Only last evening had I said longingly (or complained) that I wanted it to rain here, as my friends shared about rains in their cities. It had been two years since I had witnessed Mumbai rains. As cliché as it sounds, there is nothing like Mumbai rains!

Though I know that the drizzle that I witnessed today is part of a looming storm and not the onset of monsoon, it still fills me with happiness.

Through the years, I have had a love-hate relationship with rains. Like many from Mumbai who share the sentiments, it isn’t a lovely sight to travel in buses or trains when it rains as the tiny space smells and there are mud trails and slush everywhere making it difficult to take one step without stepping into another puddle. Yet, one glance or one evening at any of the sea-facing location, accompanied by rains, would make one forget the ordeals of the rains. The lashing waves with the winds hitting your face, makes you forget the bitterness of all the travel experiences. I have sat at Marine Drive through rains and have had no regrets being drenched all the way back home (35 minutes of travel in a crammed local!) Maybe someone sitting beside me had regrets choosing the seat next to me!

Sketch showing a person drenched with another lady who seems to be expressionless, holding an umbrella in her hand; both sitting in a local train.

Year after year, the monsoon has gotten erratic. Floods have become a common sight.

Come rain, and the (in)efficiency of the governing body to be prepared for any disaster comes in focus. These changes in the pattern of rains each year are indicators of climate change. As a city, as a nation, are we taking steps to do our bit to slow down these changes?

I am still thinking…

A no-stopping sign submerged in water, with text reading "Climate Change is real."
Can we be serious about climate change? (Img Src: 1)

As I think of local trains, the harsh reality of the COVID-19 outbreak comes before my eyes. It will be a long time before I start travelling in a local again; because I have the privilege to stay at home and enjoy my chai as I watch the rains. My heart goes out to every single COVID warrior who has been relentlessly serving people over the last three months. From the first case in March until today, it has been the police personnel, healthcare workers, sanitation staff, the governing body, hundreds of volunteers, NGOs and so many others who have kept the place running. The rains are setting in. The challenges that the city is facing are only going to rise.

These thoughts leave me feeling heavy. I can only imagine the difficulties that people will continue to face.

Image of the universe with stars
The universe is listening. (Img Src: 2)

I am doing my bit by sending a silent prayer into the universe to take care of every person on this planet, irrespective of their caste, creed or race. (and by staying home)

Like the sunshine after three days of heavy rains, I am hopeful that we will be back smiling, enjoying the little drizzles and may be, spot a rainbow in the sky.

P.S. Today, I learnt that someone who loves rains is called a pluviophile. Am I a pluviophile? Naah, I am a bird!

Image source: 1. https://pixabay.com/photos/water-flood-high-water-4944009/

Image source: 2. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/universe-sky-space-cosmos-galaxy-4260760/

Unbound

On a cloudy December morning, I stood by the sea. Wind gushing onto my face, waves rushing into my feet. A thousand thoughts ran across my mind in a moment, but the next moment, there was silence.
I was unbound, like the waves. I was the sea, I was the wind. I was time. I was direction. Unbound, I followed no rules, except the rule of constancy.

Losing Your Home

The heart fluttered hard, felt wrung out of life,
Shattered of the shield,
Homeless.

Roof above changed,
Roof within clamoured without support.
Housed, yet homeless.

Love gushed, without a receiver.
Concern remained, never acknowledged.
Care needed, but ignored.

Sacrifices forgotten,
Promises broken,
Trust lost.

At 20 and at 70, life didn’t change much. The perspective had.

Love: Divided?

Moments
Here and now
Overwriting the past.
I am replaced
In your mind
With memories of your love.

Who am I? Who am I?
I am no one.
Who am I? Who am I?
I am who taught you to love.
Who am I? Who am I?
I am the one you chose to forget.


I see there are conflicts within thee,
You stand below the open sky
Staring into infinity.
As I see you from a distance
Near the dark Oak tree,
Your eyes shine
as they wander through your dreams.
A smile surfaces on your face
that leaves a natural blush on your cheeks.

Then, your thoughts of uncertainty cloud in,
They snatch that smile away.
But here I am besides you
To cheer you up
The same way you always have been for me.

(This is in collaboration with Soham Dighe. Read more of his writing by clicking on his name.)

The Sailing Train of Thoughts

Sitting in a train
Looking at the world passing by,
Thoughts fill my mind.

I attempt to silence them,
With words, with pictures.
“Let us out,” they screamed.
“Let us blossom,” they screeched.
Constricted. Restrained.
I couldn’t let them out.
I couldn’t let myself break.
I couldn’t let myself bow to them.
I hold myself tight.
I wait for them to pass.

Like the passing scenery that I witness through my window,
I see my thoughts grow,
And sail away from my mind,
But not before leaving a mark,
To remind me of the dark.
Also to remind me of my spark.

See You Again

I wake up to my alarm. 

“Another day!” I sigh. 

My motivation to wake up has hit a level lower. I check my phone and there I notice a reminder. 

“Oh how could I forget that it was today!” I exclaim. 

I had been forgetting a number of things. I didn’t want this to be one. My daily planner smiles at me. This time, I couldn’t resist smiling. I am meeting him, again. After a long gap of five years. 

I had missed appointments and dates with my college mates. More often than not, I cancelled the plan of meeting them the last moment. Fear and apprehension would set in, as to what do I speak to them. 

But that wasn’t the case with him. Nothing would stop me from meeting him. Even the last call that we had, we spoke about things as if we had just met the other day. Nothing had changed, except geographical proximity. 

He was that person in my life who knew what was going on, though we didn’t speak everyday. He was that person who gauged the meaning of every unspoken emotion that filled my heart. He was the one who picked me up when I was at my lowest. He has been the one I first share every news and major event to happen in my life. He has been the one with whom I plan my travel and sojourn. 

“See you again.” 

These were his words when we last met. That was the last time we traveled together. Nothing more was said about what, when, where and how. Practicalities of life prevented us from getting entangled in failed or broken promises. 

Today, I’d meet him once again. I am keeping my only promise to him: to travel the world with him. This time, he’d be coming to the city I live in, for that’s the little world we’d traverse and create memories.

As thoughts fill me with excitement, I, secretly, start hoping that I get transferred to another city soon, so that he’d come visiting again and our promise to travel together once every few years is kept. Emotions bound us together. Emotions that we discover within ourselves when we discover places. 

And there, I begin preparing for the day, that’d be awash with emotions. 

(A work of fiction.)

Silent Cries 

Those silent cries are muffled.

Don’t show your emotions. They won’t help you.” 

I keep going on. 

  • Things checked off my daily planner.
  • Met people concerned with the projects I’m responsible for.
  • Laughed at all times that were socially appropriate.
  • Spoke to those who have been wondering where I have been so long.

Things done right. Right

No, nothing was right. Not one of these activities made me feel satisfied. Not one of these made me happy. Not one of these activities made me feel a sense of excitement. What did I feel then? 

Despair. Rising unsatisfaction of the life I’m leading. Frustration with people around me. Tiredness. Helplessness. Sadness. Mounting sadness. 

I want to scream my lungs out. Shout at those doing wrong. Stop associating myself with things that do me no good. 
 
But I keep going on. 

“Don’t show your emotions. They won’t help you.”
 
Those silent cries are muffled. 

Under the Shining Sky

In your embrace,
I find the world
Staring back at us.
Should I say, through us?
‘Cause we are invisible.
We are within one another
Showing each other the world
The world that resides within us.

Every rise and fall of your breath is like waves that hit the shore and go back. I know they’d come back and enchant me like they did the first instance.

As you trace the skin over my body, I feel the passion that engulfs you. You immerse yourself in me like I were the mountains and deserts you traversed.

All through, I look into your eyes. They reflect back the extraneous treks you have taken to scale the tallest of the mountains. In them, I see the waterfalls, pouring itself into the abyss. The abyss within your eyes show me the pristine water that is home to hundreds of little lives. The memories we had created years ago lay there untouched but preserved.

And now, this moment, we lay on a bed of grass creating memories under the shining sky, rekindling the burning spirit that keep us going strong. This moment will stay, like million others, each unique in its way.

Musings of a Traveler
And beyond mountains and rivers lies my heart immersed within you…

Photo Credits: Ajinkya Bhonde

Follow his work on Instagram (@xtermist). This person is a lovely photographer and an even more amazing friend. 🙂