Her conversations with the Ocean

I am sipping tea, and we’re standing between Mumbai and Vadodara, somewhere on the highway. Everyone’s sleeping in the bus, after all, it’s 3 AM and we’re tired after a long day, an exhaustive performance, so much travel, and a workshop on ‘voice and speech’. We travelled by bus, a team of 10 people, to a festival which was competitive in nature. We came back with a merit and few words of appreciation. An experience to remember.

With 2 nights of constant travel, the driver needed rest. We halted. I stepped out. Behind me came one of my youngest team mates, ‘you know, paranormal activity happens between 3:00 AM and 4:00 AM’ he said. “Is it?” I inquired curfc423c07-032b-4240-bf74-bdedc28957a3iously, with a smile. Another colleague got down and joined me for tea, “It’s 3:30 AM” I smiled, “eerie time to be awake huh?”;  “Perhaps!” said the 15 year old.  “But we have the moon with us! The light will help.” said my colleague, and we looked up to the sky. Interestingly mesmerizing, was the view of the moon. We stood in silence, sipping tea and drawing inferences. I could hear the ocean, distant. I could also hear the winds, in conversation.

Theatre is like an ocean” my colleague had said in the workshop, where the mentor asked us why we do theatre. Theatre is like a ocean. “Why would you say that?” I ask him now, in an afterthought. He says, “It’s beyond the purview of our common sight.”  “You may read a dailogue and simply speak it out, but the depths that lie in each word, need a lot more of reading between the lines, flowing between the lines to really comprehend.” He says, in a matter of fact manner.

I knew, I always knew it is beyond.

In fact, in one of my childhood poems I had a line about my dreams (theatre), it ended on the sentence, ‘I know it calls me far beyond, than where I walk to it.”

In this journey, it called me beyond my limits, my language, my identity, my perspectives, my belief systems, and my spirituality too.

Something like Love.

We begin our journeys in love with a certain belief system. With a certain expectation. With a certain idea. For some it’s traditional, for some it’s free spirit – but ultimately, it is a belief system. And when that doesn’t work, we either feel rejected or we feel dejected. Isn’t it?

For one thing, I have always been liberal, generous, and spontaneous. I have been loving, and caring too. I have centred my life, around love. I have made it a priority too. And still I find myself, disappointed in some ways. Though, happy in some too.

Happy because I centred my life around love, but it wasn’t one love.

Yes! As disturbing, ironical, disgraceful as that may sound – it wasn’t one love. I centred my life around love for my people and love for my work. I centred my life around my romance with a person and with an idea.

In most cases, the ideas survived, the person taught me something more about life and left. The disappointment isn’t so much in leaving, as much as how the goodbyes happen.  This song perfectly defines it, ‘Mana ke hum yaar nahi”, where she says “raaste mein jab milo toh, hath milane ruk jana.” Effectively, yes, we aren’t friends anymore but can we still greet eachother on the crossroads of life? In respect of our past. Let’s begin with believing that we were right people, just different in opinion and expectations; is it possible to achieve this each time we are disappointed in people?

And perhaps that’s where my disappointment lies. In the love that despises, rejects, turns away and disowns. Like you never existed. Like life, goes on, like it never mattered and it never counted. Do we really need to be heartless to be strong? Do we have to be free from emotions to be brave?alia-bhatt_640x480_71478076956

But then, even as these questions persists, the answers lie in the second love. More often than not, I found that these encounters smooth out, that people do come back in one way or the other. It’s rare that someone who mattered too much to you, walked out and you never saw or heard of them again. Even in death, one will certainly walk to the funeral of the other. I especially like that scene in the movie, Dear Zindagi, the last scene, when Kyra makes her film and at the premiere, are each of her past flames. Putting their past behind them and respecting that journey, you seem them cheer her on.alia-bhatt-4

And you can see, what has set her free! It wasn’t another ‘shoulder’; it wasn’t another person, but her romance with life, her love for her work.

Yes, there was a Shahrukh Khan in Dear Zindagi too.

A special friend, a special bond that helped her find her calling, her ‘second love’ (her work), but it didn’t take away anything from her own journey. The interaction helped her define her own ways and routes, and in the end, that’s what we need to strive for.

“It’s 4 AM” says my 15 year old friend, “What are you thinking so much?”

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Applause Vadodara at BHAVAI 2017, Mumbai

“Nothing” I reply, “just about our Play!”  The play, Kundalu by Makarand Musale, was about 3 characters: “A” who is stuck in his circle and strongly believes that life is meant to be lived in limits, “B” who is trying to understand the limits while being curious about the horizons beyond and “C” who has lived a life of explorations, beyond the questions, followed the heart, respected the struggles and cherished the journey.

“Ah! You were thinking about the end right? Which path did B chose? The life of security or the life of discovery!” he asks excitedly.

Our play din’t have an end, and left it to the imagination of the audience, which path to take.

“Whichever way you go, just don’t get stuck in the same circle” adds my colleague, as the three of us walk back to the bus.06068cfb-e9ff-421e-b53c-b597dd75f5e1

I smile on the inference, it’s ultimately about growing, becoming better, stronger, wiser and closer to the  self, and not make the same mistakes.  It’s about breaking the limits – the circles, the loops that twine our thoughts, confuse our actions and end up limiting our journey. Like the performing the play, Kundalu, taught us.

Taking it a little further…

Don’t get into the loops that chain you. Set yourself free.

Continue to love, though you can love differently.

Let there be romances,

Just make sure there are two 😉

One with the person

And one with you!

 

As I get back into the bus, I can hear the ocean call me. They are both my love and my friendship. My passion, my theatre, my romance as well as my companion, my listener and my lyric.

She as1ked the ocean,

“What do you see?”

He said “I see footsteps,

And a long journey”.2

She asked the ocean,

what is sunset?

He smiled, it’s the beginning,

for a new day you must rest.

She asked the ocean, “where do you head?3

Will I see you again or is this an end?”

He returned in response, as a gentle touch, as a wave,

“You can see me when you want, I am right where you left.”

4

She asked the ocean,

“What language do you speak?”

He answered in a riddle,

“Ask your heart what it seeks.”

‘S5he asked the ocean,

“what is love and what is friendship?”

He answered with comfort,

“that my waves merge in deepness is love,

and that is return is friendship”

~ Apsra

And let me leave you with the song that I mentioned earlier, and while you hear it, please pen down your thoughts in the comments or write to me at apsara.iyengar@gmail.com.

Lots of love, always!

Apsara

 

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Let’s Play: Us Against Us

As I stepped out of office and looked at my watch, I realized it was just 6 p.m. Yes, when you run your own work space as well as struggle to keep up with stage, rehearsals and socializing, you realize that 6 p.m. is relatively early.

But as I walked down from my first floor office, I realized that the greatest problem is not that there is “no time” but that I barely – care to – take out that time that I so dearly and desperately desire.

For instance, when was the last time I blogged? I wondered as I got into my car and began to drive.  For months now, it had nagged me. While I wrote for my clients, plays for my theatre group and letters to my associates, I hadn’t written a word on Half a Cup of Tea. It especially hit me when I walked out of a recent meeting where this client needed voice-overs and scripts. As I discussed various samples of my writing and walked out, I realized that I hadn’t even mentioned my blog.

I remembered a conversation with my mother as a child, when I used to write my personal Diary very regularly. She had said, “You write so much now, because you have time. As you grow up, you can’t expect to write down your entire life. You’ll lose touch with this exercise for sure.”

I don’t know in what context that came, but I remember it hit me then and I sort of made a secret resolve that no matter what di, I’ll keep in touch with you! (Di being my Diary) And fast – forward now, 15 years ahead, and my mom’s prediction was coming true.

My first resort in a situation like this, when I am almost low is to call my friends. And after a series of them not being free or answering the phone (like it always happens), I end up calling my best one again. “I am coming to pick you up”, I say. “What? But I am just getting out from office. On the way home!”

“Stay where you ARE!” I order, even as I wonder where that authority comes from.

“Alright, alright!” he says, puzzled at my urgency.

There was urgency. There are sometimes those moments of realization that are best not ignored. Sometimes your heart is trying to tell you something and the clutter of ‘everything else’ hides it away. An honest confession would be that I have been ignoring that voice for very long; seeking that inspiration that is so hard to find. In the search to be inspired ‘that much’ again, I was starting to quieten the voice inside. And hence, the lesser number of blogs, the lesser connection with self.

By the time I reached my friend, I had almost screamed at a guy driving on the wrong side while almost knocking down a woman who was trying to go straight on a U-Turn. I could hear her sreaming on the outside of the window before driving away. The signal turned green.

“What’s the matter he said”, as he got into the car, placing his luggage in the back seat. This friend carries a guitar to office, so he can strum it when he has a moment and steal a second from life.

“I haven’t written for ages,” I begin to grumble. “I am feeling sad that I haven’t spent as much time doing things I love. I mean, I love my business and I love theatre, but still. I feel like there is that extra spark I am lacking. Some vibe. Some inspiration. Something.”

“Hmm.” He said.

“And it’s making me sad. I don’t see inspiration anymore. The way I looked at the world has changed. I feel like I am living a mundane life of a non – working, married woman form the 80s, who spends all her time in family duties. The only difference is, I don’t spend all my time in family duties and I am not married either.”

“Who stops you from what you are doing?” he asks.

“My self.” I reply. “I stop myself.”

And that’s another box in my face. It is Us against Us.

Sometimes I wish I could just go back to school and re-live the youthful aspirations. Where do those aspirations disappear after a time? Or is it just me?

“Can you stop beating yourself so much?” he asked. Men, do have a very short span of attention when it comes to grumbling women after all. I check myself.

“Apsara, everyone grows up.” He says. “We have no responsibilities as children. So, we are bound to have uninhibited aspirations. But as we grow up, we’re bound to have more to do, more to work on, more responsibilities. SO, it’s just fine. Don’t stress so much!”

I am driving silently when I recollect a recent session at the TED talks, that I had had the opportunity to host. Vikram Sridhar, a professional storyteller had said, “ Once upon a time, someone told us stories they want to hear. Everything that you know today Is a story someone told you.” The story about the rabbit and the tortoise, the story of the cunning jackal, the story of the crow and the pot of water….. to story of Prince – and – princess, India and Pakistan, Diwali and Holi, Marriage and Relationships. Everything that we have been told is a story someone wanted to pass on.

And as he closed the session he said, “So please, tell the stories that the future will carry and the stories that will make the world a better place.”

We write the stories that we want to tell the future.

While there are many things that aren’t immediately in our control – like falling in love, perpetual success, immediate fortunes and untroubled relationships; there are some things that are in our control – observing beauty around us, perpetual attempts to rise, perseverance to build and sincerity towards the people in our lives. And most importantly, a little bit of self love.

May be, a little more of self love than we think is required.

And just as the thought crossed my mind, I noticed the winds blowing fast and smooth. The trees were waving and the farms were swaying. I rolled down the glasses and the wind touched us in the car. And just as I turned I noticed a tree on the right a rock – seat right below it, just as though it were out of a children’s story book.

“Sach!” I said. “Check that out! Let’s go.”

I stopped the car and both of us hopped out like little teenagers. The wind was blowing. The evening was just setting in. The air had a fragrance which you just couldn’t miss. The magnificence engulfed.

“Wait” he said, “I have something that will make this moment awesome.” He pulled out the guitar.

And there in the middle of nowhere, an aimless drive on a rare early day from work, had led us to this “Story Tree”. We rushed over to the stones under the tree to see who could get there first.

He won of course, the athlete in him.

And within seconds, he was playing music and it was like nature was singing the chorus. I can’t say definitely what song he played or what lyrics he sang. For me… The tree, the winds, the music … just became a chance romance with the universe. I walked straight past the tree, straight into the fields.  The grass touched my feet. I walked bare foot. And as I turned around, I saw one of the most beautiful instances ever.

Let's write the stories we want to Live.
Let’s write the stories we want to Live.

The moon was up, the sun was setting. A group of young boys were making their ‘play list’ request.

Let's write the stories we want to Live.
Silent moments, when Life brings inspiration.

They watched in awe as my friend played the guitar. They talked cheerfully about their village, their school and the games they played.

And I told myself then, if this could not inspire me to write, what could?

As the kids carried on with their plan to go ‘cycling’, my friend put down the guitar, content that something so beautiful and meaningful had been experienced.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! For kidnapping me and bringing me here Aps.” He said. “Let me get you Tea. That’s the only thing left to make this evening perfect.” As he moved ahead to bring us the cutting – chai, I pulled out my diary and began to write. I began to write, once again.

And in the end, Amen to Us winning against Us, always.

p.s. Please go out and do something you have been longing to do for ages. I am telling you, today is the best day to do it 😉

Love, Apsara

The Story Tree Moment. Living a small story....
The Story Tree Moment. Living a small story….

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