I have often gained reassurance from trees – from the first tender leaves on the trees in February, so beautiful, so vulnerable. From the leaves now deep green under the March sun – so confident in their maturity. From the fiery blossoms of a Gul Mohr tree in May, defiant and triumphant. From the cool shade under a Neem tree in June, a haven in the hot, parched earth, from the Jamun tree laden with fruit, so joyous in its fulfillment, from the bare branches of a tree in December, resigned but confident. This is not the end but the whole purpose of the beginning. Our life cycles, started a very long time ago. We cannot stop the clock; prevent the hand of time from ticking away the passing years. We can only accept nature’s law, the inevitability of it all, that life will unfold the way it always has done, that time will silver that dark hair. If we accepted that, how much more we will enjoy our moments of joy, as fulfillment of nature’s plans that we can have little control over. Living in the moment, enjoying it to the fullest – can that not be a way of life? This was a piece written when I lived in New Delhi – perhaps sometime in the 1970s. My love for trees has continued throughout my life – now in the United States. I try to practice the wisdom of that younger self. It’s not easy but it is certainly worth trying, don’t you think?
Do we appreciate the advantages of our age? The choices that are now available to us? Now that we are released from blind tradition, that we can “choose” the best of each age, each culture.
I value that choice. For then, I can take what I value from each one. For me, America is not just today’s technological whizz kid. It is the pioneer America I wonder about – the spirit that made men and women leave all and try anew in a new land with naught but faith, hope and labor – the brave pioneer. I take from the British their humor and sense of the ridiculous and a certain meticulousness. From China antiquity and moderation, from Japan industry, from French “chic,” from Italians their warmth, from South East Asians their quiet poise.
And what from India? Synthesis and improvisation – there is a process that flows deeply there I can’t quite give it a name but what has kept it alive for millennium. For sheer endurance, one cannot beat India, for persisting despite all she has been put through, and that comes from flexibility; a way of incorporating the incongruous, the alien and the absurd.
What I wish today is just this – let us be open to admire and emulate the best which each culture has to offer. For none have ever known the whole truth; each has found a particular aspect and polished it up – let us take those strengths and see how they face up to today.
And then let us choose and choose well. Choose the kind of life we want and not be carried away by catch phrases such as quality of life. For while all can perhaps agree about the necessities of life no two humans could perhaps define this quality in the same way.
This is a piece I wrote many years ago in India when I was working as an Editorial Assistant for a book agency in New Delhi. It was inspired by the range of books that landed on my desk and which I had to peruse and often write a blurb for, for the dust jacket or other publicity material.
It is not every day one gets to communicate with folks far and near, across the world. The cyber medium has made that possible. Communication is easier and yet more ephemeral. Writing – putting ink on paper was the medium used for personal communication for centuries. The invention of the printing press made it possible for the print medium. That became the way folks communicated in a formal way – in newspapers, magazines and books. These were harder to come by then personal letters but they were tangible. Once produced, the readers were able to hold them in their hands. The tangible feeling of a book is how I remember my hours of reading – lying in a dark room on a hot, summer afternoon at my home in New Delhi, turning the pages of another book – until one’s eyes got sleepy and one dozed off for an afternoon siesta.
But this is the new age – the wonder of the 21st century that has changed all that. First came the computer and word processing. A word, a sentence, a paragraph can be written and rewritten so easily. Just a few taps, back and forth can change and form and blend. Now one can type ones thoughts in no particular order and then arrange them with cut and paste. Then even more wondrous – a few strokes and one can share ones thoughts with anyone over the internet, across the world. Its quick, it’s efficient, it’s immediate. It’s ephemeral.
Nothing tangible to touch or feel. There are other consequences as well. No editor standing between journalist blogger and printed blog. That makes it up to you, the reader to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Is all this cyber material going to survive? Will it be there for posterity? Perhaps no one can answer that. For myself, this I can say. Some of what you may see in this blog came from a younger me – yes written on paper, a couple of journals and a sheaf of paper which I did salvage and brought to this country as an immigrant, a young bride.
Then there are pieces I have written over the past thirty years, here in America. Topics may vary – they may be simple thoughts or something with some bite in it. But I hope I know enough not to underestimate your intelligence. Also I will make sure that I stay within the limits I set for myself. Be honest but be respectful. That will be my motto.