Another of my cousins was sacrificed at the altar of engineering studies in India nearly four years ago. He feels now, at the end of his term, just as I did a year ago. That four whole years, the time of ripe youth, romance and vigour, have been poured into unnecessary, irrelevant work at books, ploughing through pages that are easily forgotten and uninteresting, preparing for a life that will bear no connection to all the slogging and will bring challenge of an entirely different nature.
We know we are making mistakes, and what baffles me is that instead of learning from them, we persist in repeating them. Bruise, burn, more bruising, more burning, no learning. We condemn society for having set standards and norms that do not in the least matter, for giving undue importance to educational degrees and what you’ve read rather than what you know, conveniently forgetting that we are that society, those ‘practical’ people who nod their heads in wise agreement to what society, the ’sane’ people, think.
And notwithstanding the ranting, I’m still sitting back in passive discontentment, doing nothing. Ugh! Courage. Where is it gone?
On a Sunday afternoon, when you’ve managed to drag yourself out of bed, made the customary telephone calls and think of indolence as the most beautiful-sounding word in the dictionary, would you really want to change out of comfortable home clothes (you know what I mean) and get out among the crowds? Particularly when the people with you are girls who intend to go shopping? Walk to the station, take a train, end up among people and vendors in Chinatown.
To be fair, I am writing this in a fit of grumpiness. Exploring is something I ought to do while I have the chance. This is the perfect opportunity; with the Chinese New Year just a couple of weeks ago, the whole of Chinatown is bustling and sparkling, as the driver who drove us to the Botanical Gardens yesterday told us.
A Walk in the Park:
Last evening, we headed out to the Chinese Garden, but having had some sense knocked into our heads by the cab driver who told us of its surprisingly early closing time, we turned to the Botanical Gardens instead. (That we were destined to spend the evening in the midst of nature is indisputable; I am so glad.)
Tall, grand trees, comfortably rooted in the earth, looked down in magnificent benevolence from amazing heights; flowers and buds appeared from nowhere among the green foliage. The weeds, unduly despised in manicured, doctored lawns, looked at home, and genuinely pretty. The sprawling park spread out so you couldn’t walk through all of it at once; there were nooks to be explored, steps that appeared suddenly where you expected none, little gurgling brooks that wended their way through stones and over pebbles. A lake- Swan Lake, to be precise- stands in the park, murky and green, tortoises and swans living in perfect harmony, unfazed by human attention. I must admit that I was rather disappointed by the state of the lake. The name sure had inspired in me visions of a serene, sparkling pool of clear water, the music of nature wafting gently through the breeze stirred up over its ripples, swans gliding gracefully through the water. There were swans (real and artificial), and fish, and other aquatic creatures, but it wasn’t quite what I’d expected. Oh well! Just one of those things to be ignored and forgotten in a place of several attractions. Statues exquisitely crafted popped out from among branches, darkly silhouetted in the fading evening light. The grass on the undulating slopes within the park looked very inviting; notwithstanding the red ants, it seemed like a perfect place to spend a sun-warmed winter morning at. Oh, for a book, some decent music and plenty of time! I would love to go exploring amidst the inviting thickets, so dark and mysterious, full of promise. You could just look at the trees for a long time and not get bored.
The bandstand rather interested me. It is the kind of structure you would have expected Liz Bennet to spend an evening reading in, primly gloved, bonneted and veiled. Now, it is being invaded by couples in love, families with kids running loose, young women who have no idea of how usefully to spend a Saturday evening. From music to noise and irrelevant human prattle- what degradation!
The park, again, reminded me of the Presence. The Thing that is at work in the universe and keeps it in motion, unknown to us, carefully guarding its secrets. I felt that intense peace that arises from cleansing your head of unwanted thoughts and exuberant emotions, of thoughts that besiege you despite your attempts at resistance and drive you to desperation. This feeling yesterday was exhilaration of a different kind- subtle, in control and measured. Fleeting. So that you would look forward to it again with a sense of awe and eagerness, never knowing when it would take hold of you.
It appears in the unlikeliest of places. You happen to be walking through the most commonplace area, where probably everybody wants to go, yet feel sublime and superior. Or atleast, like you are as good as the person next to you. That is the best thing about Nature. She tells you what you are. She tells you the truth, and not what you want to listen to. She is a good friend.
PS to Sloth: I did manage to go to Chinatown today, and I actually enjoyed the trip. I got a few delightful things at the bazaar there, all red and gold and New Year cheer. Explicit details later.