•   Muse

My journey in search of home in this country of mine has kept me living on the very edge of a fringe.

There are innumerable memories and images that constantly haunt me. Events, which for me, were so powerful and potent that I often found myself living in no-man’s land, where reality merged with fantasy, as a tool to block out the pain and noise. And, to remain sane in the midst of all insanity I unendingly moved into the forests and was ever so often prolific in keeping notes.

From the forests into the concrete jungle with its specialised networking animals, I have a transient need to share some of my thoughts – times of yore and on-going. For someone who still refuses to be part of the now customary social online-communities, the opening of this blog-space itself is a very uncomfortable feeling. Why am I doing this? Is it because the system is slowing down and moving towards an eventual shut-down and I want to – what? I question myself each time I decide to post something…and delay the posting! How long will I be able to maintain this exposition is a query that does not have an answer yet.

So where do I start from? Innumerable things have happened in my life that have been extremely turbulent – emotionally, physically, professionally and of course, financially.

Allow me to meander as it could be therapeutic. Not so for you, dear reader!

Over the years many intellectual types have asked me what I do and/or if I have a formula/secret that I use for my work. I have never been able to respond adequately and the questions have left me more perturbed. How to simplify and come back with something that would satisfy people, make them shut-up and spare me the anguish of constantly trying to make others understand and attempt to carve a personal space within the given Indian society. I didn’t really give a hoot then and don’t give a damn now! But, there were days when I wished I had a satisfactory social image of a ‘recognised and respected’ profession.

As someone who does not believe in the concept of God, I can’t even say, “It is God’s grace.” I guess I was born with a special sensitivity towards young people and I worked by instinctively tuning in to individual minds. This particular linking process cannot be explained by me and the same progression has kept me actively involved with wildlife. www.sacredfig.wordpress.com

My parents sent me to a school (Shiv Niketan), which was different from the other educational institutions. I thrived and that experience laid the foundation to what I am doing today. Unfortunately, aunty Gauba’s Shiv Niketan was not even a middle school then and I had to leave that haven and move to the so-called ‘normal’ schools. It was traumatic and I hated every living moment till my 12th standard. On those occasions, when I bunked regular school and walked miles just to be able to stand weeping in front of Shiv Niketan, it was she who used to come down, cross the road and hold me.

I strive, through my work, to give children and young people, the same positive inputs that Shiv Niketan gave me.

There are many pictures in my mind that haunt me and I try to come to terms with them through my work.

Random Picture #1 Watching a hungry child lick the dry vomit off the side of a bus.

Random Picture #2 Kachchh earthquake – not being able to dig any further to reach the buried person. Holding the delicate hand till life slipped away.

Random Picture #3 Spotting my first tiger at the age of six.

Random Picture #4 Being thrashed by a teacher for asking a question.

Random Picture #5 Parents of two different communities teaching their children how to make cement spike-balls to kill each other.

Random Picture #6 In the cold upper regions of Uttarakhand, just below the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve; peering into the shy and tearful eyes of Bhutia girls returning from PWD road repair work – their fingers and palms lacerated and bleeding.

Many years ago, when I started The Playhouse the idea was to give the young people of this country an opportunity to channelize their energies positively; to give them an environment of learning that was not threatening; an atmosphere where they had the courage to take their minds for a walk and ask questions; a place where they learned to respect each other; a comfort zone where they could think and relax; an interactive area where they learnt to apply a self-imposed discipline; a meeting ground of minds where they realised that aesthetics was a process of thinking; where they learnt about Freedom – that there was a condition to it. That to achieve freedom to do something they had to know what it was they wanted to achieve – a theme! A place where they came to terms with the concept that it took discipline to achieve freedom BUT also that discipline did not mean regimentation. It just happened to be the power over the mind.

The Playhouse nurtured the Intelligences of the young people because these were the individuals – boys and girls – who hopefully would bring about a change in our society. The tasks became tougher but we continued to look beyond the various rigid frames.

All this meant that there was never enough money to fill the household kitty and my idealism did not really impress the people who I thought cared. I found it difficult to explain to explain to them that

hoping to give
before the feeling
i conceived a still-born
idea and
kept it alive
by my soul’s
umbilical cord;
i painted
colours and fed
the foetus
phantasmal pictures
without frames or
so that the spirit
would soar and
in the
eventual sublimity
i shall merge
my breathing.

My work took me across Europe, Asia, parts of Africa and Australasia…and each time I returned to my country rejuvenated and with strength to continue. I travelled through the lands of India and worked with people of all ages. The process of learning took a greater dimension with wildlife and conservation issues running hand-in-hand with other concerns.

That is the way the cookie has been crumbling, ever since and today

Like an empty sponge
I move from
person to person
situation to situation,
retaining nothing
I sense so much
but feel
no more.
My demon is private;
and as I slowly
empty out and exhibit the
skeletons, I
from the stirring of a long
forgotten memory
that the cupboard
will soon be bare, and then
maybe I will
fill it again and tie
the demon with my tears,
so that I can

For further reading: www.bichhubooti.wordpress.com