The Circle of Life

Kahin To Yeh Dil Kabhi Mil Nahin Paate
Kahin Pe Nikal Aaye Janmon Ke Naate
Ghani Thi Uljhan Bairi Apna Man
Apna Hi Hoke Sahe Dard Paraye

Kabhi Yun Hi Jab Hui Bojhal Saansen
Bhar Aai Baithe Baithe Jab Yoon Hi Aankhen
Kabhi Machal Ke Pyaar Se Chal Ke
Chhuye Koi Mujhe Par Nazar Na Aaye

Kahin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaye
Sanjh Ki Dulhan Badan Churaye, Chupke Se Aaye
Mere Khayalon Ke Aangan Mein
Koi Sapnon Ke Deep Jalaye

The bridge glows like a jewel in the dark in front of me. Many a time I had crossed it earlier without knowing what a spectacular view it provided to the casual onlooker from a distance against the dark sky and the wide expanse of the bay spread out like a black satin sheet at this time of the night.

When you’re on a bridge you rarely know what crossings overs look like.

Yet, jewel the bridge is not. The hard, glittering, diamond-like effect against the night sky is not static. The light is softened by a dynamism that makes it come alive.

The bridge is like a living thing. Now, a million LED’s on it illuminate a light sculpture of the solar system which rolls around the arches for a few moments throwing the vast spectacle of night-time humanity and nature around it into insignificance. Far away and down below, a vast array of lighted windows of apartment buildings line coiled roads full of beady cars spread out like giant ropes strewn carelessly as on a tapestry of heavy threads of yellow headlights and red brake lights as far as the eye can see.

In the face of such a cosmic spectacle both planetary and human, each beady glow whether LED or brake light fades into insignificance except as it completes the whole picture.

The sweeping by of huge ringed Saturn against the black sky and the lighted roads and buildings makes the mind numb to the fate of little people either attached to each of those car lights down below or to the array of lighted windows of the condominiums. Each dot in each window represents at least one discrete human being blissfully unaware of the presence of another in his cubby hole yet continuous in his function in completing the picture.

The lights are all moving though and prevent the mind from reaching a passive state of aesthetic somnambulism.  The scale changes as the cosmos on the bridge changes to giant shadowy fish which swim around the arches of the bridge returning again and again making the small aquatic lives very large. The insignificant becomes significant, the microcosm of tiny lives loom large in this city of undulating roads and fates as the vagaries of the macrocosm that make and break lives return as showering rain of water droplets of light.

For me, for the first time in many months, there is silence. The silence is smooth, the silence is soft, like a soft feather that swishes against my ears after a long period of a lot of noise. For the first time in many months, I feel like I am home, thanks to the kindness and magic touch of a friend. The touch is subtle, the support invisible, a presence barely there.

The silence envelops me as I look out across the balcony at the vast array of windows on one side. The lamps and fixtures are all crisp and sharp, this being a rather upmarket part of town. In one, a girl works at her computer. In another, two men talk gesticulating animatedly, each set unaware of the presence of the other, yet all visible and rather inconsequential to me, lives that I can look at with detachment, almost as I can look at my own. Below, the huge crisscross of roads and cars continue their orderly show while cars zoom by on the bridge at a level with my own. A few shadowy figures move around the pavements down below dwarfed by structures on a much grander and incandescent scale all around.

Humanity is present, yet too far to connect with and disturb this magic silence. That thought is somehow comforting. The simultaneous distance and proximity to people puts the mind in suspension of empathy and yet allows perusal and observation of petty lives with detachment.

Soon though, voices call from inside. Each voice is different.

There is the voice of faith, of confidence, the voice that eggs you on, the voice that is kind and firm without sounding like either. There is the voice of warmth, of hope, of faith, of one that is undeterred by life’s harshness, always cheering on (for who has seen tomorrow, she says). There is the voice that rationalizes the irrational, the one that theorizes, quite the insightful one and yet the one that is left wondering always. Then there is the voice of intelligent, warm empathy, as warm as the glowing lights put up for the season, a voice that reminds of home and hearth.

Each, for me, completes the circle of regeneration, of re-growth. Each for me completes the magic circle of life.

And then there is the strange, mesmerizing, hypnotic voice that goes on and on and on, talking of things far away, of sizes, shapes, colours, of changing forms and moving lights, of worlds that exist and yet that don’t, of molecules that travel and materials that challenge the mind and art that finds completion in ephemerality and experience. It talks of enlarging each discrete part of experience and yet seems distanced from the attachments of the regular experiences of life. Strangely, for me, it carries a message of detachment and yet attachment to the most fundamentals of human experience. For me, all that humdrum complexity of facts and learning bring about the affirmation of  child-like simplicity in this complexity of the circle of life.

As the voice goes on, I sit on the ledge that overlooks the bridge, at once distanced from the sea of humanity in front of me and yet close to the warmth inside. Everything is in suspension. Everything can wait. Everything is like the distant rumble of life in the distance. Time has slowed and sensation heightens as each car moving along the bridge achieves significance yet becomes insignificant as it takes its place in the coil of things moving forward to their fixed fate within the tapestry as far as I can see, free of any responsibility of my willful interference for I am too petty for life on this scale.

I am just an onlooker, about to move on soon.  Yet, within this warm space, the other voices pull me back. Other voices that are different with other perspectives, other ways of life. Hopeful, warm, firm, skeptical, decisive, directional, all hiding confusion, pain, doubt, and testaments of loss, yet capable of connecting and being involved in this circle of life.

I get off the ledge, soak up the warmth, know there is no other way. To grow shoots when one has achieved detachment is painful knowing that they will have to be broken soon, but new tendrils reach out to other tentative shoots, braving the pains of living life amidst a myriad other lives, moving towards we know not what, yet creating this circle knowing that all experience is ephemeral, even this moment in this glowing room of lights.

I know the circle won’t last forever, as each moves to their own destiny, of fortunes big and small, of uprootedness that comes with new beginnings or vast geographical shifts, of distance that comes with the making and breaking of home, heart and health.

But I do know that this festive season truly lighted the darkest corners of my heart in a way that I had never imagined possible and that the beginning of other stories happy or sad will never mean the end of this unusual but quite unconventionally homey one that helped me find myself.

For it is no longer a cliche to me that home is where the heart is for no matter how short a time.

Thank you for this and others.
Thank you for this and others that could and could not be photographed.
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14 thoughts on “The Circle of Life”

  1. Very moving. Reading while listening to “Kahin To Yeh Dil” on youtube. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pLyijjHKio). Those non-intrusive voices sustain us, no matter how far away they are, but oh, when they come together for a while, no matter how briefly! And yes, the pain sending out new “shoots” again after a period of quiet and blissful detachment; but it’s worth it, and it’s what makes us human. Happy New Year!

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