Poem

Living Tall

The world is locked down. From New York to Madrid. Dubai to Moscow. From Delhi to Brisbane. Everybody is at home. Or at least is supposed to be. There is a real opportunity at living tall if only we look deeper within and farther than what Netflix offers.

Now is a good time to move the mind around while being locked down. We lack the legitimate distractions that provided us routines and structure to our life, like work.  

Have you checked out the new sights all around? Some of them are real pretty. Like the blue skies and quiet all around. The rush of flowers that spring brings?

Some other sights are not as arresting. Like what the mirror shows.  

For, the mirror shows unkempt selves.  The lady who usually touches up the blemish on the bridge of the nose is adhering to the lockdown rules. Result: Unruly hair and the honest wrinkles that are up and about.  

Oh, by the way, that special night cream is out of stock. Sorry. It is not an essential product. The idiots in the office insist on video calls. That’s one more worry induced wrinkle. 

So, what do we do? 

Now that there is less traffic all around, it is a good time to shake the mind a bit and see what all is in there. How about looking into the mirror and see beyond what’s readily visible.

Like the thicket of emotions that were stuffed away last year. Or that lump of guilt swept under the carpet of a busy life. Perhaps the call to say ‘thank you’ to someone. Maybe a text to acknowledge the role that someone one played in your success long back? 

You see, in some time, when we crawl out of this house arrest and sniff the air around through our masks, it is going to be a new way of life. The time to tie a few loose ends together is now. 

Living tall

Living tall is a function of looking deep within. The lockdown does not stop us from doing that. To look into the mirror and to look beyond unkempt hair and peruse the kerfuffle of memories, hopes, aspirations and emotions kept locked away, is a good idea.

Speaking about living tall and memories, have you read “A Guy In The Glass” by Dave Wimbrow?   

It goes like this. 

When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.

For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.

He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.

You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.

Because this is a lockdown and there is no escaping the confines of your house. And because the image the mirror offers to you at first glance has seen better days, the chance to look deep within is now! Perhaps a search for lost loves and forgotten passions are long due. Maybe a set of timeless memories that we haven’t had the chance to relive and relish because, well we didn’t have the time, can be given their due.  

With some curiosity, courage and humility, the mirror can get us to start living tall. Try.   

The cost of victory. #SandpaperGate

Everything comes at a cost. Including victory. Sometimes the cost of ‘victory at all costs’ is so mind-boggling that victory loses meaning. Today Australia (and the rest of the world) woke up to ‘ #SandpaperGate ‘. Just the other day, I was wondering about the ‘cost of victory’.

On that ‘other day’, I landed up at the attic at my mom’s place. I was looking to fill gaps in memory fuelled by gaps from WhatsApp conversations.

A few old cherished medals lay in one corner of a dusty trunk. Amongst other things that kept the medals company: an assortment of parched certificates, a couple of spent manuscripts, a dog-eared atlas, and some dull question papers from a ‘quarterly exam’ that ended decades ago.  Amidst these were some assorted pages from an old English textbook. Remnants of my school going years. I looked at the medals with wistfulness and the books with nostalgia.  And started flipping through the Engish textbook landing at ‘If’, Kipling’s much loved work.

I stayed there for a bit. There are poems that move. And then there are poems that stay with you and get you to move. Every poem is a work of art reaching places in the mind that barely existed. ‘If’ is perhaps ‘The’ poem with the shortest title while having the farthest reach. It has been a personal favourite. And as I tossed a few things around, I realised, that it has shaped my outlook too.

Today, as I was writing this post, I discovered I had a post in  2009 on ‘IF’ . It is something.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Back to the English textbook. It is in that book that I first read that two lines from ‘If’

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same”

stare at players as they walk into Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

 

I remember talking to my dad about it. And he saying that there is no meaning in victory or defeat without learning the lessons of victory and defeat. His clear voice about letting victories and defeats pass by and seek each new day as a new day sought to make their presence. He would say with emphasis often that there is a cost to victory! And if the cost of victory is greater than the victory itself, there is no point to the victory.

As I wistfully examined medals that were in the trunk, I realised that the real victory was not in getting to wear them then. It has been in moving past them, cherishing the experience of winning and later consigning the medals to the attic.

Pursuits of the present day are morphed forms of medals that I had won back then. Medals that now rest in the dark confines of an old trunk in the attic. To experience and cherish every moment, to be of value to someone, to be grateful for all that has happened. These are my aspirations now.

The medal that I seek is perhaps inner quiet, peace, and lightness. That perhaps is real victory while I scurry around looking for medals and podiums. Today there is even further realisation about real victory. Real victory is beyond paper victories. And certainly beyond sandpaper ones!