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Friday, August 26, 2005

Perplexed? And about what?

It often happens that a person goes through life wondering. Wondering? Yeah, just walking around, looking up at the trees and the birds, and glancing down at the ground as it passes beneath me. I step on a twig. Crack! But I walk on, taking long strides, as I normally do. I keep going, and I come up on a vendor of snacks. An old man, he is, but he gives me a toothy grin. I eye his wares, and mutter what I want. He nods his head most vigorously and gets underway preparing what I've asked for. He hands it to me with the most gentle care. I thank him, pay him, and walk with my paper plate to a spot under the peepul tree near by.

I make myself comfortable...but I begin to think about that twig. With a loud crack did I destroy it. Yet, as I looked down at it with a passing backward glance, I couldn't help but notice how at peace it was. Whole one second, shattered the next, yet still at peace. I thoughtfully chew on the snack before me, relishing it more and more with every bite that I take. And I ponder the twig some more. There is a lesson to be learnt I feel, but I can't quite make it out. I finish snacking, get up, dispose of the paper vessel which only a moment ago held such an edible delicacy, and smile at the old man. He waves back and says thank you. His smile seems to widen with each passing second. Sweet old man. Maybe I'll see him if I ever come back this way.

Where did the twig come from? Was it a member of a happy branch upon a tree? What would life have been like for this twig? Maybe it was one of a family of twigs that formed a branch of the tree; a happy branch. All of its brother, sister, uncle and aunty twigs would have loved this twig very much. Oh what it would have been like to gather at the family events and celebrate...twigs, leaves, branches, everyone.

But then it fell, for that's where I chanced upon it. Why would it have fallen? Had it committed a deed so heinous that is was cast out from its kith and kin; torn out and discarded from its womb of safety and security? Or did it choose to leave and seek out life on its own; try and douse the undying fire of curiousity with the fountain of ever-youthful naivete? What brought it down from the place it had so loved to be in? Was it choice or fate?

And why did it just sit there and wait for me to decimate it? Did it not see me coming? Was it too fed up with life to want to live anymore? Or was it helplessly asking me to spare its life in a voice so feeble that the very ground that it lay on could not feel its falling breath? What must it have been thinking as it saw the bottom of my sandal, as it came down swiftly and mercilessly? Poor poor twig. As I think about these things there is a sadness that tugs at my heart. What was my role in the life of this twig? What part do I play?

Crrrrack! That was the sound I heard. I quickly lifted my foot, but it was too late. The damage had been done. The twig was no more. No, it was there, but it was a fragment of its former self. Several smaller bits and pieces filtered through the mud to depths below. But the twig, well, the twig was still there. It hadn't changed at all. It was whole before, and now it was strewn across the ground. But the twig, that glorious twig was still a twig, nothing less, nothing more. And I can't help but think there's a lesson to be learnt. What is its lesson?

And then I look at my own life, and my wandering ways. Am I like the twig? Or, am I more like myself; a person, a human being, a member of society, a loving son, an able worker, a loyal citizen... But wasn't the twig a part of something too? The tree of life, the branch of family, with roots that reached far into the Earth. So how was it able to stay untouched even after I touched it? Does it know something that I don't? Is that the secret to life? How does one stay the same, from being whole one instant, to being shattered and displaced across a distance...yet still, somehow, serenely peaceful and fundamentally untouched?
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