Monday, February 11, 2013

Response to stimulus

I came back from Allahabad late last evening after taking a dip in the Sangam (confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical river Saraswati) on the Mauni Amavasya day of Mahakumbh. I am told there were anywhere between 20 to 30 million people there yesterday. I am yet to figure out why I went there.

Anyone who has returned from the Kumbh Mela has a bundle full of dirty clothes and a heart full of feelings that are unnamed yet. One has felt a lot. An entangled mesh of darting emotions which very well fit the random Brownian movement pattern between the heart and the mind.

Acute sense of awareness and a deluge of unresolved impressions make you feel like you have gained pounds of weight. The weighing scale might still be a friend who shows you the same number but you feel fat and heavy. The amount of intake is something you cannot measure hence the difficulty in being able to manage and classify it.

'All living beings respond to stimuli', we were taught in school. An important feature to identify living from the non-living.

Here I was. Waiting to respond. Having just experienced an exponential overdose of stimulus after stimulus. Surprisingly, very little assault on my olfactory senses though (the waste management by the administration has been outstanding). Apart from the unusually strong upheaval and surge of emotions, I wasn't able to pin point exactly what were my experiences. Hopefully they will sort themselves out in the coming days.

I started downloading and editing the photographs. After cropping the following photograph as I pressed ctrl + 0, I felt a sting. A punch that hit me somewhere in the solar plexus. This picture was now full frame and I could see fine details of the crooked spine of an old lady in it. Right next to it was another photo of a different old lady who was alone. She walked without any family member.

I need good shoes.
My legs hurt if I walk much.
I am getting old, I need to see the world fast.
I want a good travel bag, warm clothes.
I need a new phone.
I cannot travel without a camera.

Those were a few of the points I remember harping so much about that they were as good as sugar-coated complaints. The bent spines of these ladies made my nags seem so flimsy and spineless.

Looking at these two photographs reminded me of yesterday's incident. The railway railing collapse at Allahabad Junction. I opened the photograph which I had asked a fellow passenger to take on the 8th. I wanted to wipe away my smile in the picture. But I can't. It belonged to a time when the time was good and the railway station stood there welcoming one and all. I was the one who arrived. I held those rails and climbed up.

At Allahabad Junction on 8th Feb 2013 
What I feel right now belongs to a time when the same railway station (and probably the same platform) is the cause of death of so many. The ones who departed. They held those rails and plunged.

We belong to different places, as different people in different times. To try and remain sane in all those planes is a herculean task. To figure out how you felt and behaved there and carry the same thread forward is even tougher.

I am sure I will settle down and so will the whole 'Kumbh' experience. I have seen amazing things. Some funny. Some inspiring. Some scary. Some repulsive. Some surprising. It was a collection of so many 'some's'. I will write about them all. But for the moment, I am simply thankful to be back home.

The school books were right. All living beings do respond to stimuli, albeit a bit late in this case. I started crying. And suddenly I was crying for many things. Some in sorrow. Some in gratitude. Some for the loss of lives. Some for the loss of conviction.

I cannot crib with conviction anymore, you see.

(The Reason - I reached Allahabad by Purushottan Express on the 8th of Feb. I was to take the same train back on 10th Feb at 7:45 pm. But I was invited to attend a friend's marriage reception on the same night in Delhi. So I took the evening flight out on 10th, instead of the train. I shudder to think that if it wasn't for the reception, I would have been at Allahabad Junction at 7:00 pm yesterday, at the time of the tragedy that claimed 37 lives).


  1. Vandu! You see, think and write as beautiful as you are! I'm absolutely amazed at your courage to attend that over populated Mela and take a dip in that freezing cold water. But have high respect in your beliefs and doing things with so much conviction. Love your post and the clicks. Keep going girl! Love Zen xx

  2. You remember that old song 'pyar kiya nahi jata, ho jata hai'?? I feel isi tarah kai cheezein kee nahi jaati, bas ho jaati hain. The Kumbh was one of those. I am not sure why I went. It wasn't 100% for religious reasons. I think I like to live in as many worlds as possible and experience them, even if it is just for a little while. That could be the reason.

  3. vandana di wod love to see more of pictures u clicked in mela..

  4. yes I will put them up real soon

  5. Great craft. Very well written. The Feb. 10 incident is a proof that you are definitely a special person because First of all you survived cancer, then Partha (Lord Krishna) descended in your life to steer you clear off the pains and sufferings and this time Gods saved you again!

  6. Vandana, Not only a gifted writer, you definitely are a special person too. First you survived cancer, second Partha (Lord Krishna) descended into your life to save you from the pains and suffering and make you fuller and now Feb. 10, he saved you from the almost inevitable disaster.

  7. That is such a wonderful way of looking at it. Thank you :)

  8. Take a bow....proud of u...God Bless u!!


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