Tag Archives: life lessons

A Kind of Magic

On the bus from Krakow, on the way to Prague, I’m just outside Katowice. Poland has been kind to me. Like all of Central Europe. Rough edges, soft edges, friends, strangers. Hands extended, hands withdrawn, faces of openness, faces forlorn. Showing up in all the right places. And at all the right times.

On the radio, two Polish DJs engage in animated conversation every few minutes, like radio hosts do most everywhere. I don’t understand what they say but I understand what they play. It’s Freddy Mercury singing A Kind of Magic. The first time I heard the song, I was in love. For the very first time in my life. It was more than a thousand years ago. At the time, the lyrics confirmed the youthful state of ecstasy I felt every time I thought of the girl who was equally enamored by me. She introduced me to A Kind of Magic. I still know the song, a thousand years later, but I don’t know what happened to her or where she is. I’ve been in love a few times since. And mostly, I don’t know anymore what happened to them or where they are. It’s all good.

Today, the words of the song reaffirm the feeling I have of being in love again. In love with the road, along an unknown journey that unfolds, one that has been unfolding for a long, long time. Like a lover waiting for me to see that it has always been there. To give me whatever I need when I need it. If I stay open to seeing. Meeting new people and feeling out new places while sometimes feeling out of place. And trying to set aside the blinkers all of us are trained to wear in order to feel “safe” and “happy”. Safe, happy…funny words.

 

On a journey of exploring Central Europe, discovering the modern and historical joys and horrors active in the architecture, languages and cultures that have evolved here. And continue to evolve. On a journey of exploring inner geographies, recent and older “right” and “wrong” turns in the landscape we create and re-shape in every moment, with every step.

Through it all, the road is supreme. There is no greater love for me than seeing things as they are and how they have been, without judgement, instead of through the lens of my own comfort or through the lens of the latest moral fads of the day and how they try to spin what is.

The state of things will always present itself no matter what. Our masks are no match for it, not in the moment and not after tens, hundreds and thousands of years of history being told by the victors.

To be able to see this, it makes life worth living. I have a fortunate life. It’s a good one. It’s A Kind of Magic, it really is.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

O traveler, whither goest thou? What is the nature of your journey?

O traveler, whither goest thou? What is the nature of your journey? What is the journey of your nature?Most days, all that life needs from us, and all we need from life is to observe and appreciate the perfection surrounding us, without trying to improve it.

It is our responsibility to not meddle with that which is already perfect.

And it is our birthright to appreciate the quiet, profoundly healing and empowering gift of that responsibility.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

…and all she puts her attention to

She sits there in the middle of street, apparently oblivious of who’s ahead of her, who’s behind, and who’s waiting to pass. Tiny in size, enormous in pluck, the kitten sits there, waiting, watching. Watching something on the far left side of the street. So completely focused on the object of her attention, ignoring the traffic around her that you think she’s going to run out of luck on this busy Bazaar Road in Bandra’s main market. A rickshaw attempts to maneuver around her, but there’s no way to do it without driving into her – she’s sitting right in the middle of the narrow street. The rickshaw stops, waiting a few seconds for her to get with it.

A cyclist from the other side, a delivery man whose bike is overloaded with grocery supplies, barrels through, seeing the kitten almost too late. She does not move, does not flinch, she does not even turn her head. Her attention is elsewhere. The cyclist swerves to his left to avoid her and crashes into a bhajiwala (vegetable vendor) and his baskets of produce outside D’Costa Bakery.

Abhey, laudu, tujhe cycle chalaane aate hai kya?! – Eh, dickhead, can you even ride a bicycle?” shouts a pedestrian who’s jumped out the way just in time. 

The delivery man’s bicycle is now entangled between baskets of beets, cucumbers, eggplants and other vegetables. The groceries from his cycle are now littered on the dirty, mucky road, bags of dates, dried apricots, figs, cashews and almonds distributed among the fallen veggies.

Yeh kya kiya tune?! What have you done?!” the incredulous bhajiwala asks the delivery man. “Tune mere poore din ke dhande ki maa-behen ek kar di. Kaun lega abhi yeh kharaab bhaji?! – You’ve screwed my entire day’s business. Now who the fuck is going to buy these dirty vegetables?!”

Baba, sorry, yaar, woh billi thi udhar aur main baas…brother, I’m so sorry, that kitten was there and I just …” the cyclist’s voice trails off as he gathers himself and points to the kitten sitting in the middle of the street.

Arre, billi, filli! Yeh billi toh yahaan ki hai. Tu kahan ka hai!? Aankhen hain ya button?! – Kitten, fitten! This kitten is from here, where the fuck did you come from?!” the bhajiwala shouts, eyes popping out of their sockets, his voice strained. “You have eyes or buttons?!”

Saala, bina dekhke, cycle chalata hai – idiot, without looking, he’s riding a bicycle,” the bhajiwala continues with disgust, as he returns his damaged produce to the now rearranged baskets on upturned milk cartons. People gather around the bhajiwala, some others help the cyclist with the fallen groceries, among them a helpful passerby who samples the figs, asking disingenuously of the delivery man, “Wow, are these figs? Delicious. How much are they?” The hapless delivery man shakes his head and indicates to the passerby to leave it alone, he’ll take care of it.

Through all the commotion, the kitten is unmoved, its gaze locked onto something on the left side of the road. Finally, the rickshaw honks, tentatively at first, then a little more assertively. The kitten ignores the first horn, then gets up and without looking at the rickshaw, calmly walks to the side of the road in its own time.

The Queen of her life...

The Queen of her life…

At the side of the road is a scooter, and a footrest onto which the kitten lifts itself. It’s going somewhere with a purpose, its body crouching forward in hunting mode, still focused on the far side of the road, away from the fabric stands.

...and all she surveys

…and all she puts her attention to

There are no chicken shops here and the fish market is quite a distance away. But something on the left side of the road is of utmost importance to the kitten, enough for all of its energy to become one with it. It doesn’t matter in the least that neither you nor I know what that something is. It is enough right now that the kitten knows exactly what it wants. And, as it is wont to do whenever you call its name, the universe has rearranged everything else in response.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

The sounds we make, the stories we share…

The sound carries from the street below in this suburb of Mumbai, all the way to the top of the sports club, to the second-floor men’s locker room where I am. The rhythm of a one-sided conversation traveling upward – something about a car – reveals an aural pattern rich in its display of class and status. Little boys in the locker room, intrigued by the events unfolding outside, head to the window to watch. A woman of high social standing is loudly berating a lower-class man – a parking attendant with the club. His voice can barely be heard , the woman will not let him get a word in. He’s subservient, patient and accommodating. Patience with the rich is the key to his future.

In the locker room above, an older man tells a little boy, “See there? See what’s happening? Women always create tamasha (drama). Always.” His voice gets throttled when he says the word always, as though another part of his anatomy is being throttled. A couple of other men in the locker room laugh and nod in agreement.

The woman’s arms are gesticulating, her right index finger accusing the man. She’s furious that the valet wasn’t able to retrieve her car in less than five minutes. She yells at him in Hindi, “I almost missed my appointment because of you. You know how long I had to wait for this appointment?! I’m telling you for the last time, you keep this up, we’ll see if you have a job tomorrow. Understood?!”

Fifteen minutes later, the public scolding continues. The often hostile, sometimes matter of fact condescension of the upper classes in India does not shock me anymore. Growing up in India, I’d seen it close at hand – in family, extended family and in the well-to-do middle-class society I once believed was the entire world. But the condescension of the upper classes is universal – it’s the same no matter what country I’m in, no matter the races involved, no matter the ethnicities, no matter the religion.

It’s the same in America and the rest of the West, once the much-touted facade of dignity of labor, diversity and inclusiveness are discarded – when no one who really matters is looking. It’s there in New York, that liberal bastion where corporate America and start ups have monetized newly discovered pretend equality. In London, in Paris, in Germany, and also in the foothills of the Himalayas – in the tourist lodges owned by rich Indians and foreigners. And in the villages of India where village elders hold the power. Power and money talk, bullshit and lower standing walks, or so the saying goes.

It’s also quite likely the same in the numerous parts of the world I’ve never been – the rich and the well-to-do talk down to the poor, the poor keep quiet in their silent, resentful contempt of the upper classes, the poor aspire to become rich, the newly rich repeat what they learned when they were poor. While everyone cannot stop talking about inclusiveness and diversity.

As I step out of the building, I see the woman, unrelenting. A doorman looks at me, smiles and says, “Yeh roz ka story hai, saab. Mian hai, aur kya bolega – This is the daily story, sir. She’s a Muslim, what else is there to say?” He grins at the wisdom he’s sharing with me. I’ve seen this kind of grin before.

I calmly correct him in my not-very-proper Hindi, “Yeh mussalman ka baat nahin. Hindu log aisa bhi hai, Christian log aisa bhi hai, Sikh aur Parsi log bhi aisa hai – this has nothing to do with being Muslim. Hindus are also like this, Christians are also like this, Sikhs and Parsis, too.”

It’s not the commiserating response he was expecting. He looks away sheepishly but doesn’t really care for my perspective – there will be someone else who’ll agree with him. This is not new for me, either – I saw this growing up in India, as a little boy and also as a teenager, when the grown ups around me, grown ups of all religions, disparaged other religions with completely malicious lies. All who belonged were special, all others were the cause of the world’s problems.

Today, India, like much of the world, has moved extremely rightward. Over the past fifteen to twenty years, the politics of religion and unwanted people – the other – has become a powerful driver for big corporations that align themselves with the forces of ignorance and hate. And people are poisoned and made to look away from the active role that class plays in controlling it all from behind the scenes, with just a little bit of a nod and a wink.

In America, too, where big corporations and politicians across the political spectrum manipulate people in the name of religion, race and victimhood. And Europe. And Asia. And Africa. And South America. And on, and on. Can’t eliminate it totally, I don’t think, or at all.

I could, however, endeavor to continue to calmly decline to partake in the madness. Just as calmly as the Hindu doorman at the club slandered all the followers of Islam. Just as calmly as a Muslim or Christian or Buddhist or Jewish person in some other situation, some other part of the world might slander the followers of another religion. As calmly as a deeply racist person might make bigoted statements about other races just because he or she can. As calmly as an older man indoctrinates a young, impressionable boy with the belief that women create problems. And as calmly as the parking attendant observes the situation in silence and declines to add fuel to the self-righteous anger of the outraged person talking down to him.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Everyone wants

There’s a pigeon outside my kitchen window this rainy July morning in the monsoon. It’s soaked completely, its feathers striated and streaked by the rainwater that’s still dripping off its body as it sits under the ledge, sitting out there waiting to dry. Sitting and looking out at the darkened sky, wondering perhaps when the rain will stop so it can get on with gathering food – it’s still early in the morning. From inside the comfort of my kitchen, all I see is the pigeon’s back, its pinkish-red claws clutching the top grill of the plant nursery outside the window. There’s no movement from the pigeon, no bobbing this way or that, no sounds, no coo-cooing. Its head is pulled into its body as though it’s defending itself from the elements as it sits there on the grill, waiting to dry. Maybe it’s cold, maybe it’s conserving energy. I really have no idea. So little we know from within the comfort of our homes. On the right, below an air-conditioner casing is another pigeon, relatively drier, curious about its temporary surroundings. Is it inspecting the casing for a potential habitat for when things settle, a place to raise baby pigeons? Are these two a couple? How did they come to be on this parapet together, outside my window? Accidental? Two souls seeking shelter? I have not a clue. So little we know from behind the all knowingness of our human eyes. 

Everyone wants shelter
Everyone wants love
Every one wants peace and happiness
From a lion to a rain soaked dove

Monsoon dove

Everyone wants love

Everyone wants nurturing
Everyone wants love
Every one wants to be cared for
From the worms to the birds above

Everyone wants healing
Everyone wants love
Even the people who say they don’t
No one wants to starve

Everyone has little time
Little time on earth
Every one wants acceptance
Before they turn to dirt

Everyone you see will go
Every one, it’s true
Every one needs acceptance, for
Every one is you.

©2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Refuge

It’s 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) on a sweltering Friday afternoon. Mumbai in May is more intense and humid than any other time of year. The monsoon next month will bring much needed relief. Even the birds in the trees seem to be saying so.

I’m early for my physiotherapy appointment – after years of sitting behind a desk for a living, I’ve recently exuberantly embraced a rather intense level of physical activity. My body is not fond of the enthusiastic embrace. “No thanks, buddy. What’s the hurry?” my body’s been telling me. “After being sedentary for so long, how about we ramp things up a little bit slowly, yes? Then we can get intense, okay?” But I didn’t pay much attention.

After a couple of months of sending fairly clear and polite signals, my body says, “That’s it! Enough.” And with all the clarity in the world, it pulls the slow the f*** down lever. It usually wins this exchange. I’d like to continue to be in a healthy relationship with my body for a long, long time. Rest of my life is what I’m thinking. So, here I am at the front door of the physiotherapy department at Holy Family Hospital in Bandra, Mumbai.

Just outside the front door, a dog is taking shelter in the shade provided by an overhanging construction canopy. I’ve seen this dog before on the hospital grounds – in the evenings, I’ve seen it hanging out in the parking lot. During the day, it takes refuge from the heat under a canopy like this, or below the trees near the main gate. It’s calmly asleep amidst the noise and bustle from the hospital grounds. Feet kicking slowly in a dream, peacefully asleep.

Unlike me, this dog will not be going through those doors for a physiotherapy session – it has already learned to listen to its body when it speaks. But I don’t feel hopeless. I’m actually feeling quite fortunate – here’s this dog showing me how to be long after I’ll be done with physiotherapy. It’s a very good day.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

It’s raining outside. Can you guess where I am?

I couldn’t wait for the monsoon to arrive in Mumbai. So I’ve headed down to Kerala, God’s Own Country, all the way in the south of India. It’s been an exciting and delightful first day, heat, warmth, smells, sights. But I’ll cover that another time. For now, enjoy the sounds of my first taste of the monsoon here in Kerala, outside the window of my homestay in Fort Kochi.

© 2019 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.

Invest wisely

invest wisely.JPG

Invest your time and energy in people you can count on and in whom you can bring out the best. Leave those who don’t care to grow. Preserve your loyalty for those who value you and your time.

Invest your time and energy in colleagues and employers you can count on to bring out the best in you. Leave those not committed to your growth. Preserve your loyalty for those who value you and your time.

Invest your time and energy personally and professionally in relationships where you grow and others grow, too. Lip service is costly. Don’t fool yourself, or another.

Invest your life in pursuits that will help you grow personally and professionally materially and intangibly with wealth that cannot be quantified and wealth that can.

So that later in life when you take stock and hold yourself to account for what then is and what was, you’ll know that you gave your best in all that you did, you didn’t let anyone hold you back, not friend, not foe, not lover, not family, not colleague, not employer, not fear, and not you

Invest wisely

Copyright 2018 Marlon de Souza. All rights reserved.