Sunday, September 20, 2015

Screwed in Spirituality

I entered their complex for the first time. It is huge. The inner sanctum added further credence to adjectives forming in my head. Beautiful. Serene. Aesthetic.

It was breakfast time when I arrived. My relatives were packed, and ready to leave. The in-house breakfast was approaching its closing time, and moreover, my cousin soon had her flight to catch, so we were in a bit of a rush.

The 'crowd' - or rest of the people - was made of several resident pupils doing their rounds and finishing their morning duties; wayfarers from across the nation - like my relatives - endorsing the to institution's ethos and getting free lodging (transit services) in the process; foreigners who had come to find their inner light; and the institution staff that seemed calmer and lesser occupied than staff anywhere else.
Cultured, peaceful, happy crowd.
Also, sedate and passive.

In the middle of the inner sanctum, is a large circular fountain, that must be operating on special days, but today was sitting dry. Crossing it, I noticed, as everybody else had, a mole in the hole. (छुछुंदर) I imagine it had fallen in by accident at night time, and hadn't been able to get out since. It circled the circular fountain, vainly. The sun was about to flood the planet, and this little thing had grim chances of keeping at its jig, once it got hot. It already looked emaciated, and either starvation or a flying predator (aka bird) would get it eventually.

In a place of spiritual enlightenment, I didn't expect to see such a sight. Compassion should've seen the mole rescued the first thing by the first person who chances to come across the sight. The young band of pupils - who I'm sure were amongst the first to wake up - merrily flitted about, cleaning the floors, washing the sinks, collecting trash.. things small and belittling but regular, that made them fit in, as 'disciplined', 'responsible', 'a good learner'. But none of them bothered about the mole.

The wayfarers, and great men and women of the West, who had come down to India, to seek spirituality, calmly walked to the breakfast hall, just next door. Their curiosity, too, was piqued by the sight of the emaciated mole, then they got around the fountain and proceeded onwards to their morning fill.

The staff in all its peacefulness, seemed least bothered to break their peace.

The mole kept running in circles.

In rush, I myself skirted around that fountain on my way to and back from the lodging. We moved out 65kg of luggage. On insistence, aunt asked one of the pupils to help the mole out. The pupil, a young girl, had a huge basket, that she had just merrily carried trash out with, which could help in the situation. Her reaction, was to promptly recede and merrily tell us on her way out that she'll have the janitor boy do it.

We left for breakfast in our haste. The mole was still running in circles.
We got out from the breakfast hall. The mole was still running in circles.

I found it appalling that the sight of a living thing going around in pointless circles, with death-as-eventuality gaining probability, was not symbolic enough for anyone there.
It wasn't like I hadn't tried. The first time I crossed it, I was puzzled a bit in my decision, thinking that it could slink out the mesh at the far end of the fountain floor by itself. The second time, I threw in a stick that was too weak to climb out on, and tried finding a piece of paper or cardboard in the trash, but found one that was covered in something like goo, that I didn't really want to get my hands around. The third time, this merry girl gave us a merry promise to get help and leave it to them.

This was the fourth time, and having seen the nature of people around I gave up acting 'appropriate'. I took my sandals off and stepped in. The sandals could work as a trap, using which I would haul the mole out. Or so I thought. I tried cordoning off the mole, but a smooth surface and lack of corners defeated my purpose. I chased it around like one would chase wild partridge, with the same effect, of being outwitted every time I got close. It found ways to keep distance from approaching sandal-traps. These small creatures are Thigmotaxic, that is, they will keep to the edges, so a second person could've surely helped.

I stepped out in ignominy, defeated in purpose. Shortly before, somebody had casually commented, while walking by the scene of my compassionate antics, that what I was at wouldn't work. Wise men who had calculated the high probability of all negativities. It felt amazing to be in middle (literally, as the fountain was in the middle of the sanctum) of such people, and receive their wisdom. More amazing, that, seeing somebody take on an active role, the passives will not only dissolve their responsibility, but also step out of their skins and comment on another who is trying. They must teach some contemporary spirituality in this place, which works more towards social acceptance and sedation-till-death, than any behaviors arising from virtues.

These people whom I thought rich in their currency of the spiritual, had none of that. Their spiritual was more like a code. "Thou shalt not fornicate" type of code (which was a rule set by their divine Guru/Mother), that they were expected to follow, and in turn, told that they were good people by other people whom they perceive as 'good people'. Otherwise they were just beggars, poor people with saucers begging for spirituality in a place that claimed to be holding a lot of "spirituality", hoping that they'd get rich quick.

The mole was still running in circles when I left the complex. Asking the receptionist guy, got a response shocking in its callousness, "oh its been there since the morning". If not for the symbolic scare of death, at least get him out for the effect of hygiene, he was told. Hopefully he can really get a janitor with a long broom or a cloth, that could help out the mole, who must be having a different experience of sorts in the middle of a place full of so kind and compassionate people.

He didn't read into my annoyance or overbearing feeling of helplessness as I left. How small things break and shake me. After this episode, I am more lucid about where my heroes are. Or are not.

Landscape With the Fall of Icarus, a panting by Breugel, is a close parallel. Breugel drew the fall of Icarus - a man with wings made of wax that melted and drowned him in the sea - as he imagined it. It connects to today's episode, in that nobody gives a hoot about the drowning Icarus.

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