Friday, April 30, 2021

Z is for Zikr #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the last post of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

Today, we wrap up with a reminder.

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti
There's a Peanuts cartoon that shows Snoopy and Charlie Brown from behind, sitting on a jetty beside a lake, having the following conversation:
"Someday, we will all die Snoopy!"
"True, but on all the other days, we will not."

The above extract is from  The Book of Ichigo Ichie.
The authors go on to say:

And "all the other days" are made up of encounters and moments that we either allow to slip away or make unforgettable.

According to Wikipedia, Zikr (Urdu) is the same as Arabic Dhikr. Zikr literally means "remembrance, reminder" or "mention, utterance". They are Islamic devotional acts, in which phrases or prayers are repeated.

What better way to complete a series inspired by Ichiego Ichie than to remember this April of bonhomie we managed to nurture despite the world crises; to mention all those whose paths crossed with mine, to utter words of encouragement and gratitude to those who visited and commented, and above all to remind ourselves that we are all one.*

I once heard a wise person say: the air that you think divides us actually holds us all together as one big family. In a dark and twisted way, Covid-19 has proven without a doubt that we are all one race--the human race. We are all in it together. We all suffer the same. And yet, we refuse to accept this simple truth.

That which binds us also divides us. It has many names, many theories. Some doubt its existence and some are ready to die to prove their interpretation is better than the rest. Some call him God while others see her as the vast Universe. 

Whenever I lean into my kind of belief system: poetry, nature, music and books, I find that all of us are, after all, seeking the same. 

We are all sitting with Snoopy and Charlie Brown on that pier. 

So, let us live and let live. Let us indulge in Zikr and recite any name, sing any song, dance any which way because in the end we are pigments of carbon housing a light that can light us up as brightly as the sun, if we have eyes that see and hearts that are willing to be open and welcoming.

"Sufis believe you must empty yourself of all egocentric tendencies before you can experience the divine. Only once the flute is hollow, can it produce music. The story Rumi tells is of a reed separated from the reed-bed so that it can be formed into a flute. The reed flute bemoans his separation, and cries out."  
says the author of this post: Drunk in Zikr (worshipping through the arts)

I urge you to stop and listen to Rumi's Ney Name before you read on.

How do you feel? Hollow? Full? At peace? Not quite?

No worries, let the hills of Khasi in Eastern India bathe you with their story water for a few moments. You will see that despite different centuries and different continents, the flute and the duitara sing the same song. 
If you want to stay on for a bit, you can click on: Mawphlang: of sacred groves

I'll repeat and repeat and like the Sufis get drunk on this zikr--we are one. We are one. We are one.

But, we have to pay attention. We have to pay attention to each other. 

It's not my intention to preach. Please forgive me if in my excitement I become entangled in the yarn of repetition. 

Those of you who heard the poem, Yesterday is not alive I posted yesterday, know how I feel about phone screens. The Hindi word I used in the poem is called virah which means a longing. My longing for my husband's attention may sound petty and needy but if we are all carrying the Divine light in us, then doesn't paying attention to each other amount to paying attention to the Divine? 

This short film is called Virah. The producer of the film is Raman Iyer, an amazing story teller and mandolin player who has been telling a story every night for the past 387 days on Instagram under 'Midnight Musings with the Mandolin'. 

Zikr can be done in any form. 

I choose to remember the kindness, generosity, knowledge, beauty and love I have felt in this place, in this space with you all this month. I choose to be in Snoopy's camp and live, live, live my moments of breath so fully and fabulously that when the time comes to draw my last, I can say--I lived.

I hope to see you all soon. We shall reflect more fully in May.

Till then, take good care of yourselves and each other. Wishing you all a wonderful, peaceful, restful weekend with my favourite Ramdas's words, "We are all walking each other home." 

*I hope to thank everyone properly in my reflection post in May.

***** 

Last year, I wrote about the Light in Zarraa, Zarraa

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Y is for You and I and Yesterday #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the penultimate post of  the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

Today, I'm sharing a poem about an ordinary, everyday, evanescent moment that got captured in the amber of attention and turned into a delight.

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti
One of the Eight Zen Lessons for an Ichigo Ichie Life, listed in The Book of Ichigo Ichie is:

Savour this moment as if it were your last breath.

You can live only one day at a time, and no one can be certain that they will wake up the next morning. So, let's not postpone happiness. 
The best moment of your life is always this one.

This happened one morning as I lay in bed; in the in-between time of sleep and wakefulness.

When words pitter patter on half-opened eyelids, magic mingles with moments that hang precariously on the edges of that which has been lived and that which is yet to be.

I try to hold on to them in my hands, my mind, capture them in my pen to feed the hungry, empty pages of my notebook lying by the bed. But, they flutter away as gently as they'd arrived into crevices that exist in between wakefulness and dreams.

Yesterday, while I lay in bed looking at my love, the early morning sun reached him and me, rising through paper blinds that hang from our bedroom window beams.

These words appeared or did I see them for the first time?

Perhaps, they've always been planted inside those translucent concertina folds of the paper blinds.

I don't know, but a love poem rose with diamonds of dust and settled on wrinkles of pillow covers, dove blue-pale and soft with washes. 

The poem is called You and I.

I shared it on Instagram--so, it may be familiar to some who read it then.
You and I
You and I
we fit
your breath, my skin
my kiss, your lips
your heart, our beat
gaps between my fingers
your presence fills.

You and I
we fit
like dew on petal
one on one
complete.
A moment such as this
captured in bliss
you and I
we fit.
Just in case you're wondering about the overly romantic tone of today's post, let me shift the blame from my heart and put it squarely in the weather gods' box. It's raining in Doha!

This happens rarely and last year we didn't get much rain at all. So, it's celebration time. I can hear birdsong over the pitter-patter of rainfall, the neem blooms are dancing like drunken souls, all the leaves--big, small, lush, dusty look like they've seen God. They look so happy. The bulbul and the mynah aren't taking refuge. No sir! They're busy gobbling mulberries and dancing on the branches. Pink Oleander blooms are nodding as if to say--these young'uns -- and the blushing bunches of Madhumalti (Rangoon creeper) from the other end of the garden are sighing happily --'Yes, We know!' they whisper to the music of this long-awaited rain.

We are all dancing with joy.

I had to capture this precious, precious moment for who knows when the clouds will get heavy again and when they will want to let go of their burden and when the stars will align for their shedding to happen over Doha sky? Who knows.

The rain is distracting me:)

I almost forgot to mention that if by chance (after reading the poem above) you're imagining the husband to be flawless and that the two of us often sing duets into sunsets, let me stop you right there. He comes with as many faults as I do.

But his biggest obsession that I have the strongest objection to is his phone. Yes, I understand his work demands it--no, seriously, it does. But Covid-19 induced sequestering had taken his obsession to a new galactic level.

There I was--paying attention to dust diamonds and there he was -- paying no attention to what I was saying. All his attention was dedicated to the phone screen. I would've called it murdering Ichigo Ichie if I had known the term then. But I didn't. So what did I do? I wrote a poem, recorded it and shared it on Mirchi Scribbled.

He got the message loud and clear. He was the one who recorded it! He had to listen. I'm glad to report that he makes time to put his phone down and listen, really listen these days. We are both learning to find our way to be more like dewdrops and petals.

If you're wondering what I'm on about, you'll understand after you watch it:

It's called, Yesterday is not alive.
When I saw the video again, just before posting it, I noticed all the faults/mistakes/pauses/ fumbles but after the X post of yesterday, I'm cutting myself some slack and offering you poetry with a grateful heart.
Are you a lover of rain?
Do you live with someone who's too attached to their phone screen or any screen?
Do you write letters or poetry to make your voice heard?
You know I'd love to hear, if you'd like to share.

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

X is for X #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the last week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

Today, we look at a section of the book titled: 'The Cracked Pots."

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti

In The Book of Ichigo Ichie, I came across an old Indian parable that I've heard before.
This illustration of 'A Water Carrier or Bhestie', however, 
is borrowed from www.oldindianarts.in
to help me with the retelling.

According to the parable, a water bearer carried two large pots of water to his master's house every day. One pot was perfect while the other had several cracks. As a result, the amount of water delivered by each pot was unequal. 

The cracked pot was ashamed of its inadequacy and one day decided to speak to the water bearer: 'I'm ashamed of myself. I want to apologise to you. Because of my cracks you can deliver only half my load and get paid only half the money.'

The water bearer smiled and told the pot to notice the path carefully on their way back. The pot noticed many beautiful flowers all along the path. 

"Have you noticed the flowers grow only on your side of the road?" the water bearer pointed out. "I've always known you are cracked...I planted seeds along the route we take, and you have watered them each day without noticing...If you weren't the way you are, with all your cracks, I would still be walking through a desert."
*****
As usual, I picked up the hefty Concise Oxford English dictionary today to look for  a word I'd be able to use in the title. I wanted something that would fit with the thought I had for today's post. 

I find rifling through pages of a dictionary yields more than searching online. A flick of a page and you're burrowing in different galaxies with all the back information on how that word came to be. Nothing can replicate the lost and found feeling of holding and reading a physical dictionary.

Occupying mere two pages of this heavy edition, X looked sparse. Then it didn't.

I had hoped to find something that would fit the idea of exclusion; a word that describes something being discarded because it's not perfect. I didn't find anything.

I was about to turn to E (for ex instead of  x) when this caught my eye and I smiled. I 'd found my X. 

Lying next to each other were these two (among other) uses of a cross-shaped written symbol
¬ to indicate an incorrect answer. ¬to symbolize a kiss 

Entries starting with the 24th letter of the alphabet occupy the least amount of space in the dictionary, but X turned out to be quite extraordinary on its own. Don't you agree? 

As a photography enthusiast, I often find that the pictures I make don't match the image in my head. Nine out of ten times, it's due to my limited technical knowhow. I don't like to read manuals. Doing is the way I learn. It's not the most efficient method but it suits me. Trial and error, they call it.

A lot of the times, a lot of my clicks have to be discarded. But, sometimes, the out of focus, blurry images like the cracked pot, turn out to be more beautiful than the perfect ones.


What do you think? 

So, next time, before you mark a mistake with an X, think about the water bearer's seeds and the kiss that lies right next to it on a page in an old, loved dictionary.

Trust your creative process. Be kind. The electric bulb lit up after many wrong turns. Turn your deserts into gardens with love, grace and forgiveness.

Is there an X you'd like to share?
Has an out of focus picture, a discarded project, an unloved piece of art made you jump with joy because in its incomplete, imperfect state it illuminated your stories and myriad mysteries more perfectly?

You know I'd love to hear, if you'd like to share.

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

W is for The Wedding Album #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the last week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

Today, I'm looking at my wedding album with Ichigo Ichie eyes. 

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti
Story Water

A story is like water
that you heat for your bath.

It takes messages between the fire
and your skin. It lets them meet,
and it cleans you!
...
Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do, are mediums
that hide and show what's hidden.

Study them,
and enjoy this being washed
with a secret we sometimes know,
and then not.
Above is part of a poem borrowed from The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks.


The Wedding Album

Bound in blue, it lives 
inside a bag of cloth lying
at the back of my wardrobe.

I open it rarely but whenever I do,
It pulls me in.

The wardrobe's sliding doors 
don't come in the way
of my entry into Narnia of that one sunny yesterday--
my wedding day.

Snapshots of happy, sad moments are glued on thick snowy pages:
on the verge of showing signs of wear 
and going yellow at the edges.

Smiles, tears, flowers, sindoor
lie frozen behind plastic doors.

I sit on the bedroom floor holding 
Einstein's theory of relativity.

The windows of a train he'd mentioned 
are stuck in an album bound in blue.
Bitter-sweet moments zoom past fast 
escaping the wardrobe through and through.

In a whirlpool of time, like Alice I slide
down 
into my present, future and past.

Marriage seeds sown for new lovers
who'll meet,
And some happily ever-afters that will split.
Children yet to be born.
Parents, grandparents that will soon be gone
leaving behind stories
rippling
in waters of memories to be reflected upon.

Bubbles of things that were left unsaid
and the love that should've been shown
will burst and form again and again
as every page is turned.

Vacant looks in Beji's eyes
will bloom into Alzheimer's plight.
She'll forget me soon after the wedding.
It won't matter if I visit her: I'll justify my busy life for me.
 
Twenty-six years of life
sit caught and bound
in an orange and gold bag of cloth
at the back of my wardrobe.

The pale pink heirloom, his family gave me,
brings me back in time.
I look at it--gota-patti running in fine Punjabi design.
Jasmine, henna, his eyes, his 'you look beautiful,' 
will continue to shine
my everyday, ordinary and that Mr. Einstein
is how I understand
relativity of Time.
The pale pink scarf with gota-patti

Our wedding album has seen more light in the past one year than at any other time in the past two decades. I reckon, the sequestering (at least for me) is making me more nostalgic, not just for the recent past but for the past, past as well.

What about you? Have you picked up an old album recently?
Are you the keeper of a family heirloom?
You know I'd love to hear, if you'd like to share.

Leaving you with this very short video. I think you'll love it as much as I do. It's 'a snapshot of an ancient past captured in time.'

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

Monday, April 26, 2021

V is for Vittels of morels, ferns and rose stems #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the last week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I've put together a collage of such moments which can be seen as chance occurrences, coincidences, pre-destined or random (depending on who you ask) for this month's challenge. 

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti

Number 6 in the list of rules listed in the epilogue of  The Book of Ichigo Ichie is:

Apply mindfulness to your five senses: Train yourself in the art of listening, watching, touching, tasting and smelling to give each moment the richness of human perception.


You may recall my first post, Alex and the Bees, of this year's A to Z Challenge. It described a moment in May 2019 when Alex, Apu and I were sitting in Pradhanji's house in Maunda, the last village of Uttarakhand.

I mentioned in that post that we had been exploring the village and its surrounding forests before we stopped for tea at Pradhanji's house that day.

I was looking for a suitable V to use in the title of this post: verdant, vegetarian, very tasty, when 'vittels' showed up. It's a nonstandard variant of the word 'victuals' meaning food or provisions for human beings. Perfect, I thought and plucked the word out of its archaic, nonstandard usage to use it as the title today.

May 2019: 

As soon as we joined the small group of village-guides on the dirt road outside Guruji's house, our education began. Not a single tree, shrub, leaf, bird, insect we spotted on our walk that morning was left un-named or un-explored.

Wild roses were heavy with pale, pink blooms. Their rebellious vines had carpeted everything in their way. We stopped. Picked a thorny stem. Learnt about the parts that are bitter and the ones that are sweet.   
And then we ate:
Having tasted success and rose sweetness on the first day out, our food foraging plans grew bolder. Alex mentioned morels and wondered if May would be a good time to go morel hunting.

"Of Course!" everyone said. "No harm trying...if weather permits."

So, the next day, fortified with pahadi (mountain) picnic food, Pradhanji, Guruji and Veeru led us deeper and higher in the forests and hills surrounding the village.  Our volunteer guides walked in slippers while the three of us laced up our trekking shoes and tucked our walking sticks in our bag packs. The morning was clear and crisp, not a cloud was visible in the sky.
 
Our first find was fiddle-head ferns or lingda (local name). It's also called German asparagus. It is delicious. 

Recipe: Wash the young stalks, take out the stringy sides, chop them into half inch pieces. Heat some butter/ghee, stir in the lingda for a minute or two. Add salt and eat. Yummy!
The climb up the mountain, covered with deodars and oaks and a thick undergrowth wasn't easy. But, every now and then, food would be spotted, picked, explained and  recipes discussed. Those stops were enough to recharge our lungs.

Pradhanji and Guruji scampered ahead like deer.

Veeru stayed with us: guiding our city feet through forest floors. 'Walk this way, avoid that,' he'd pepper his chatter with helpful instructions. He told us about his dream of making a living as an artist based in the mountains. He  remembered his childhood aloud in the forest--recalling a time when foraging was a way of life, not like today when it was being done to show the visitors a side of their lives they themselves were on the verge of forgetting. 

Pradhanji called from up ahead. We joined him, He showed us the gold he'd gathered. Forest oyster mushrooms are called chhatri or the squeaky sounding chyanoon by the locals.
After this point, I had to tuck my camera under my arm to use both my hands to scramble up the slippery slope where the men were sure they'd find morels. They'd seen some last year, they said, in this part of the slope. It amazes me how their eyes can spot so easily and their memories recall so clearly without maps or a GPS! While someone I live with (not taking any names) can't spot salt in the kitchen cupboard! 

"Aa jao...yahan hain." (Come over, spotted some) called out Pradhanji.
They'll  find better ones growing near this one. And I'll try to use my camera, not the phone.
This was the hardest photo to click. My foot kept slipping. I wouldn't go too far down if  I slipped but getting hurt, twisting an ankle or scraping a knee, would've made the climb down and the trek back to the village pretty onerous.
Notice how all three of us are holding on to branches...photo courtesy: Veeru.
After another half an hour or so, we reached the top. Twigs and dried leaves were collected to roast the steamed cakes (called Sidku) that Julie and her helpful neighbour had prepared and packed for our planned picnic in the forest.

The dough for sidku is prepared with flour mixed with boiled potatoes. Doughnut size dough balls are steamed. They're quite dense. One piece and you don't need to be fed for the rest of the day. Easy food to carry when one is travelling through forests and mountains. We were told these can be filled with poppy seeds, too. Soft sniggers, wicked winks and general hilarity accompanied that piece of extra information. Julie told us that just one of those poopy seed buns was enough to knock you off into happy land for many hours.

The ones we ate that day were prepared simply with potatoes and salt. Sidku was roasted in the fire and eaten with chillies under the shade of tall and wide deodars. Birds were busy singing. Ants were busy working. The six of us munched and absorbed the mountain in silence.

After enough time had passed, we got up and carried our forest loot back to the village. 

Sadly, in their enthusiasm to impress us with their culinary skills, the men used too many spices in the morel dish. Alex, Apu and I would've preferred a simpler preparation. But we thanked them for their hospitality and discussed the 'what if' among the three of us afterwards.

The fiddle head fern or lingda, however, was cooked to perfection: simply and quickly, using ghee, garlic, salt and pepper.

We polished it off with gusto.

You may recall from J is for Julie post that when we had visited the village in October of 2018, Julie had told us she didn't like to cook. It was good to see her feminist ways had found her helpers in the kitchen by the time we went back in May 2019. 

Pradhanji and Julie's  brother-in-law, Kishen, prepared dinner that night.
The fact that this post has more short clips or V for videos makes me smile:) 

Have you ever foraged for food in the wild or outdoors?
Do morels grow where you live?
What's you favourite spring-time vegetable? 

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

U is for Unequal, Unique you #AtoZChallenge

 Dear Readers,

Welcome to the fourth week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I've put together a collage of such moments which can be seen as chance occurrences, coincidences, pre-destined or random (depending on who you ask) for this month's challenge. 

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti
*****
Another Zen Lesson for an Ichigo Ichie Life listed in the The Book of Ichigo Ichie is:

Be your own friend: Rather than comparing yourself to others and worrying about what other people think, assume that you are unique in the world.

As the celloist Pau (Pablo) Casals said in a poem written for children: 
You are a miracle, and there has never been--
nor will there ever be--anyone like you.

It was the first time I'd seen her in my garden. She had enticed me with her rainbow wings in gardens, ponds and fields of my childhood. But, to see her perched on a hibiscus bud: still and contemplating, one day in May last year transported me back to the days when I was convinced I belonged to another planet.

When life raises roadblocks, the mind looks for escapes to cope with the day to day.

I was in grade six. My mother was going through a particularly dark and unsettling period. There was no peace at home. 

At some point in our lives, I reckon, we've all wondered if we were adopted by our families. I'm no exception. Except, my fertile imagination turned me into a long lost princess from another planet who was dropped (by accident) in Dehradun as a baby. My Earth parents found me and raised me. For a few years, I was convinced that I was waiting for the day when my people would find me and zoom me away to my real home.

On days when things were particularly bad at home, I'd day dream about a UFO landing in our school hockey field, where poinsettia trees bloomed red at Christmas, and whisk me away.

Strangely, I always had long flowing hair in those Sci-fi  day dream sequences.

Then, in the middle of the school year, we watched Escape to Witch Mountain, a Walt Disney film, and I was convinced I was another one of the orphan kids who had to find an escape from this cruel world. (The film is about two children from another world who must reach the mountain where their spaceship will hover for a while to take them back to their home planet.)

Her wings, that day in May, took me back to the hockey field, back to the scene when a UFO lands and a disembodied voice booms over my aghast class-mates and says: "We are so sorry Princess, it took us so long!"
According to Wikipediadragonfly is an insect belonging to the order Odanata, infraorder Aniospetra (from Greek anisos "unequal" and pteron, "wing") because the hindwing is broader than the forewing.

She sat still. She posed. Like a ballerina, she held her poses while I adjusted my camera settings.

"Mere ghar aayee ek nanhi pari..." ( A tittle fairy has come home) I hummed lines of a Hindi song after I had finished clicking and she continued to sit on the unopened, red hibiscus bud.

While looking for information on dragonflies, I came across https://animalsake.com. Their page on 'what do dragonflies symbolise' fascinated me. The following findings are from this website.
"In Native American legends, the dragonfly is a symbol of resurrection, and renewal after hardship." 
"In the Japanese culture, the dragonfly was honoured as a symbol of joy and new light, and also strength, courage, and good luck. "
"...if you observe a dragonfly, you’ll find it delightful to watch it fly in every possible direction, and also backwards. It has a very short time to live its adult life, but it seems as if it lives its life with no regrets. It inspires us to make use of every single moment we have, and live as if there’s no tomorrow!"

Do you have a dragonfly legend/memory/story to share?
Did you escape into make believe when you were growing up?
You know I'd love to hear, if you'd like to tell.

Here we are at the end of week four of the A to Z, only five more letters to go. We did it. Yay!

All of us got together this month (thanks to the efforts of the A to Z challenge organisers) to participate in our own unique and unequal ways at an unparalleled time in modern memory to create a unison of reading, writing, commenting, learning, encouraging, laughing, questioning and presenting a post every day despite all the challenges/disruptions and roadblocks in our day to days.

I think we all deserve a big Hurrah! and a pat on our backs for this. Don't you?

Wishing you all a restful, healthy and peaceful  Sunday. See you on Monday with a visual  and tasty treat:)

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com 

Friday, April 23, 2021

T is for Trees Hussain draws #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the fourth week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I've put together a collage of such moments which can be seen as chance occurrences, coincidences, pre-destined or random (depending on who you ask) for this month's challenge. 

I hope you'll enjoy being here.

Thank you.

Arti
*****
One of the Eight Zen Lessons for an Ichigo Ichie Life listed in the The Book of Ichigo Ichie is:

Just sit and see what happens: Our spiritual short-sightedness often causes us to look far away: in space and time -- for what's really right in front of us. 

Zen teaches us to simply sit and embrace the moment, 
with no further ambitions than this. 
If we are with people, we celebrate their company as a gift. 
He is Hussain.

In the summer of 2018, I was roaming the streets of Barcelona alone. 

The husband had work to attend to and I had no agenda tying me down. I did what I love. I walked without a map, without a plan, turning corners that enticed me and exploring lanes that caught my eye. My camera and I, we were grateful for such unencumbered pastures of time to frolic in to our heart's content.

In a lane, I met Hussain.

He was working with tin cans.

We got talking. He told me he hails from Pakistan.

I mentioned my grandfather to him. I told him I used to call him Papaji.
That Papaji had to leave his home in Shinkiari, in the North West Frontier
of what used to be one country
but now lies in his Pakistan.

He looked up from the tree he'd drawn
in an open tin can
and said,
"I can't take money from you then.
tum to humaree beti hui."
(you are like a daughter to me.)

I've written about Hussain before, on my Instagram post. And like that time, even today, when I type and his face emerges before my eyes, all these years later, I can feel the warmth of the love ocean coursing through his generous heart.

We chatted 
for a long time. 
I had no plans, nowhere to go. 
I slipped 
into a squat next to him. 
I remember a ledge that I rested on. It felt good 
after walking all day long. 
He kept creating 
his art treasures from recycled cans: painting 
trees of life, or knowledge or love perhaps.

I asked him if I could click his photos while he worked. He nodded and smiled and pointed to capital letters on white card that read 
'PHOTO FREE'.

He let me capture 
this meeting of our souls with lenses, senses.

With almost all his possessions lying 
next to him in a bag, looking 
into an uncertain future as his paperwork was still being processed, Hussain sat 
by the roadside like a King: kind, radiant, generous and smiling.

I picked a few of his art pieces and thought I'd give them to friends in Doha as remembrances
of the city
I found him in.

The art pieces sit on top of my chest of drawers--stacked 
like dishes--because every time I've taken one out to give, 
I've felt reluctant to part with it.

What is it that makes me so attached 
to art made by a stranger sitting in a busy Barcelona lane who seemed so detached from it all; so content; so at peace with himself? I wonder.

The next day, I went back to the same lane looking for Hussain but he was nowhere to be seen. I walked around for a few hours in the hope that I might see him. 

But I didn't.

He must be lighting up whichever corner of the world he's in.

Yes, he is truly Hussain. 

Hussain, I hope you're well and healthy.



Hussain in Urdu means good, beautiful, handsome.

Do you strike up conversations with strangers? Have you met any Hussains on your travels?
You know I'd love to hear, If you'd like to share.

Last year, I shared this song sung by our daughter, Arshia: Toxic Weather

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by theblogchatter.com