Sunday, 6 May 2012

Silent roads

It strikes me as strange that you can be in multiple places at the same time.

Not physically of course (at least not to my knowledge - though I would be happy to be corrected).

But in the alleys and byways of the mind.

Here I am in Thane.  There are tons of things going on all around me.  We have a woman - our dear Nalini - dying in our centre.  We have interns - tons of them - with us.  We have the stresses and strains of working with our team.  We have the VBS just around the corner.  10 days from now the blissful thought of a vacation in Mussoorie looms...

But while I am here I am also in a number of other places.

In 1840s frontier United States for one.  Reading the memoirs of Samuel Austin Cravath (my great, great, grand uncle) has taken me there - and I find myself thinking about his life and measuring it along side mine.  I know so little about the past - but having read through SA Cravath's life, I feel that I have been taken back and given a look into another world.  Time-travel of sorts.  While also wrestling with the structure of how he presents his life.  The tapestry of a life stands out as something especially worthy of exploring.  I am hoping to do some delving into my parent's life-stories later this month!

The rough and tumble of what it takes to run our country is another place I inhabit in my mind.  I get my small dose of this in the form of articles in the Indian Express which arrive every morning in a crisp, unread paper, causing my hands to itch to unfold it and have my eyes skimming through 'what's happening.'  Sadly, things in Bharat - at least as served up by the Indian Express each day - seem to be so way out of kilter.  Our brightest and best appear busy with other things - private advancement but little for society.  Which leaves the worst to do what we seem to have been doing since the crows started flying - a steady stream of shoddy nonsense - punctuated with the occasional 'scandal' which leaves barely a ripple in the on-going stream of sludge we are wading through.  Reading about Chief Ministers of Bengal arresting people because of cartoons - and the latest govt. official to be kidnapped by the Maoists makes dreary reading.  Of late .I find my eyes spend more time looking at the sports pages and the international news.  One blessing of the venerable Express is that there is a page of the "Economist" everyday which gives an always well-written picture on the world out there.

Yet another place where my mind travels is the heroic journey of the company of the Ring.  It has been a long time coming for us to read this as a family - and now we are finally doing it in nibbles.  But we are almost through 3 of the 6 books - and have come to the gates of Isengard and Saruman's downfall - where two of the hobbits meet up with most of the other members of the party.  I have read this book at least 4 times over the past 30 years - and still the sheer nobility of the motley crew whose acts of bravery take place in a darkening world moves me deeply.  The largeness of the canvas - and the many different tales woven in and out of the story allows my mind to wander down many a lonely way in the company of old friends in arms.

Strangely the most important book for me - the Holy Bible - is one which I have often found hardest to read.  The words of the Bible become more and more my own as the years of reading and trying to apply move on.  But I find that the soft sound of the paper being laid on the other side of the front-door will almost always break my concentration and have my hands itch to open the unread broadsheet.  My tiredness does not seem to show up when I am reading The Lord of the Rings (or when I am typing a blog entry late at night - like now) - but when I get up to read the words that have been inspired by the Holy Spirit I find my eyelids happily obeying gravity.  One of the saving graces for me is that so much of our work, family and worship is centered on this book - and so each day I usually get a goodly dose - for my good.

And over the years it has been the Book of books that remains the standard.  As I read through LOTR I come across images of the soon and coming King Jesus.  I see the ring-bearer taking a heavy burden and struggling but refusing to give into the temptation to wield it for himself.  As I look out across the pretty bleak political picture in Bharat-land my heart yearns for the truth, forgiveness and righteousness to sweep across this amazing country.  And looking back at SA Cravath's life  (and my own so far at least) I have to keep thinking and testing to see what makes sense in the light of eternity.

These conversations that reading allows me to participate weave their way into the more mundane parts of my life too.  They provide strands of meaning and must be counted as some of my closest friends.  Long may this conversation continue!

And oh that there would be more time to simply read - with a cuppa of coffee in one hand and the crispness of a cool morning bathing the room with light.

I guess that this dream will have to wait for our annual pilgrimmage to my parent's home at Shanti Kunj in Mussoorie to become a reality (only 11 days and counting down as of today 5.5.2012!).

In the mean-time these strands will continue to be woven together in the silent roads of the mind - which continue to be trodden even if the body continues its mono-spatial existence!

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