Dashavatara – Ten forms of God

Note – These stories are in the context of Hindu Religion and Mythology stories from there.

Lord Vishnu is the caretaker of the entire world. Occasionally he takes a mortal form and lives amongst his followers (and occasional foes). Basically, whenever there comes a big danger for the people of the world, Lord Vishnu takes a form that is best suited to handle the situation. Now he doesn’t come for each and every problem. Basic problems are sorted by humans themselves – be it by brave Kings or Warriors or someone with a more humble background. When humans are not able to handle the situation, they pray to the relevant gods. Like in case of a famine, we pray to the rain god (Indra Dev). There are dedicated gods for every natural phenomenon. However, sometimes the threats are much greater and stronger powers are required. In such cases, the matters are escalated to the higher authority. Most of these requests go to Lord Vishnu (although some are taken up by Lord Shiva as well).

Over the course of time, Lord Vishnu has saved the world several times. Dashavatar stories are about ten avatars of Lord Vishnu during different periods of time. I love these stories and I love connecting them to human evolution as described by Darwin. In both systems, life starts from the water. Over time aquatic life forms give way to amphibian (who live on both land and water). Then comes land animals followed by biped animals. Then comes the early man with a lot of physical strength. This is followed by rule following man. Strategy forming men came next and then spiritual awakening. Humans are still evolving and Dashavatar has an avatar for future as well.

As life form evolved so did the struggles. Initially, the struggles came in the form of natural calamities like floods. Then the fight was with other species inhabiting our world. As civilization formed the fights were with other tribes and rulers. With intelligence came vices like ego and that became our next foe. After fighting from external enemies, the fight then turns to one’s family. Then came fight from within us – our own beliefs. Lord Vishnu took an avatar and helped us in each of these fights. At every stage of evolution and every enemy we had to fight, and the avatar was there to guide us.

Each avatar has a beautiful story. Below is a quick summary of all the avatars.

AvatarEvolutionEnemy
MatsyaAquatic life formNatural forces
KurmaAmphbianNatural forces
VarahaAnimalNatural forces
NarasimbhaHuman-animalKing/Ruler
VamanEarly humanKing/Ruler
ParshuramaEarly humanKing/Ruler
RamRule following ideal manKing/Ruler
KrishnaStrategic thinkingFamily
BuddhaSpiritual enlightenmentInternal values
KalkiFuture avatarFuture avatar

Priority and NaNoWriMo

This week I had taken leave from work to celebrate a festival and spend some time with my fiance. I had a lot of plans, long list of things to do – crushing NaNoWriMo word count everyday being one of them.

However, I managed to write maybe 3k words in total so far. The task list got lost on Tuesday as soon as I fell down and sprained my ankle. The week just flew by after that.

But it was a little different this time. Every time I fail any of my so well planned goals, guilt would swallow me. Reliving every failure and hating myself for it would take up rest of my time.

But this time, I just enjoyed the moment. While I was on bed rest with my swollen ankle, I enjoyed watching movies, reading books, talking – basically everything. Then when my fiance came and I got to spend time with him, I wasn’t even thinking about any other task I was supposed to do. I had absolutely the best time this week.

I finally understood the meaning of the word PRIORITY. I mean it’s a simple word, we all know the dictionary meaning but I never understood the essence of it. At any given time, only one thing can be a priority. If we are hungry, food is our priority, if tired, then sleep. As long as we are able to identify the current priority and align our actions accordingly, we are at peace. Stress creeps in when we are doing one thing but thinking about another.

I know I am way behind my word count for NaNoWriMo. I thought I would write more if I don’t have to spend entire day in office. But as it turns out, I wrote those 3k words on the days I had to go to work. So, my excuse that I’ll write when I have more time goes straight out the window. If I don’t write then it’s because I am not making it a priority.

It’s the same logic for any other aspiration I am neglecting. But the good news is – if I understand it, I can control it.

  1. First step would be to identify my current priorities. It will change with current day/week/month. I mean on the day of my wedding, I am sure writing will never be a priority for me.
  2. Second step will consist of ranking the priorities and selecting the top one to focus on. Here it’s important that I don’t mix up my priority and my to do list. For instance, finishing my book is a priority but paying a bill is a task. I can do multiple tasks on a day but my priority list should never exceed three items.
  3. Third and last step is simply working my ass off. Making sure that my actions are aligned with the priorities is very important for my mental peace.

The most important thing is to remember that life may have it’s own plans for us and we may not be able to chose our priorities. Like if we are sick, doing everything we can to get healthy again is the top priority. We may not have chosen it willingly but we have to align our actions accordingly. Fighting it will just slow us down and just add to the stress.

Success – Failure and NaNoWriMo

Today is 1st November – beginning of yet another NaNoWriMo.

For the last three years I have been trying to finish NaNoWriMo (i.e. write 50k words in the month of November). The story that I am working on has been in my head for more than six years now. But even then I can not write more than 10k. And this is not due to my laziness. I analyzed my failures and realized that I stop at exactly the same point every time I start this project. Mainly because I don’t know how the story moves forward from this point. I mean I have a very clear idea of how the story begins and what happens at the end. But it’s the middle portion that I am struggling with. I don’t know how to take my story from starting point to end point.

I needed to plot my story. And not just plot but I also need to have a clear idea about my characters, and about the world this story takes place. In short, I need to prepare well before I start writing my story. Now, to prepare well, I first needed to learn how to do all this. Thus I worked on plotting courses online. There are so many good ones provided by great writers.

Now, I know many of you may feel differently but this is what I needed to do this time. There is no guarantee that I will finish my story this month. But at least right now I know where my story is headed and which journey my characters are about to take.

You know, we hear so much about failures and how failing is actually important to succeed. But all these advice comes from people who have overcome their failures and are successful when they are narrating their stories. Since most of the narratives come after the fact (rather long after the actual failure occurred), the image becomes distorted. Most successful people glamorize failure. No one talks about the ugly side of it. No one talks about how painful it can get in the moment or how the distress can keep on increasing with time as we pile on guilt on ourselves. No one talks about the fact that only a small fraction of people actually overcome their failure and get their definition of success.

I am not an expert at either success or failure. But I can summarize what I learned from my failures –

  1. We remember failures more than success and that’s why the lessons learned from failure stays with us more than lessons learned from success.
  2. Success and failure are subjective definitions. Others may find you super successful but for you, this success doesn’t measure up and you keep focusing on what you feel is your biggest failure
  3. This too shall pass – Nothing lasts forever, neither success nor failure. We have control over only the present moment.

Today is the first day of November. And I am done plotting, naming my characters and locations (up to last year, I didn’t even name all the places and people). I have deleted everything I wrote up till now on this project since I want to start with a clean slate. I have some holidays coming up in this month which I am planning to utilize well.

I have failed at NaNoWriMo so many times but I have never given up. I am counting on this resilience to help me write consistently. I have noticed that every writing session, I struggle for the first 500 words or so. I struggle to focus, I feel tired, I get distracted and want to do anything but write. But once I am over that initial resistance, I can actually write over 2K words in one sitting. this just feels like the inertia of rest and inertia of motion. a body in rest will stay in rest until an external force is applied. Now, since I no longer live with my parents who constantly apply external force, nor am I a student with assignment deadlines and professors bugging us every single day, I have to apply the required force myself.

Let’s see how I do over the next 30 days. Either I will write 50K words or I won’t. Either case, I know I will learn something new.

 

Why this shy novice writer decided to journal online

Today started well. I went for a walk, then came back and meditated, wrote in my journal, had breakfast and even managed to wash my hair – which is a big deal for me. I need to confess that I don’t do any of these things regularly so it’s kind of a big deal for me to actually achieve all this before going to the office.

But even as I was going through the actions, instead of feeling happy or accomplished, I was feeling empty. Like a dark cloud permanently clouding my mind.

Writing while feeling such despair is a Herculean task. But writing is the only thing that can actually clear my head. A perfect catch 22.

My mind keeps on generating fictional stories and scenarios and I do not know how to tell them. I want to be a better storyteller. But every time I attempt to tell a story, the magic simply disappears. The scenes the characters, the dialogues which are so lively inside my head, turn really crappy as soon as it takes forms of words.

I read somewhere that first million words we write are bound to be crappy. This statement gives me hope. Because I have barely begun my writing journey. A million words is a long destination for me.

But it’s not an impossible task. If I write 500 words every day, I’ll reach my target in 5.5 years. If I practice a skill every day for more than 5 years, I doubt there is anything I can not learn.

I am not so regular in writing in my physical journal as well. Mostly I write once or twice a month, depending on what’s happening in my life. But then that’s the thing. I can barely remember what happened in my life. Sometimes it just feels like I get up, get ready, go to the office, come back, binge-watch and then sleep. Next day, the same cycle repeats. Days, weeks, months pass by and it becomes difficult to distinguish one day from another.

Like a zombie I keep moving, without a purpose, without knowing what I want.

I read a lot. Books, articles, anything at all. And these days any self-help or productivity book/article/YouTube-video keeps telling us how beneficial journalling is. Be it morning pages or journaling prompts, it is bound to change our lives. The only caveat is that we actually have to take the action. Actually, move our fingers over the keys or hold the pen in our hands. Otherwise, all the well-intentioned advise means nothing at all.

We can write in any manner. It can be in a notebook or on the back of a receipt. The medium doesn’t matter. Bleeding ink matters, flowing words matters. In fact, spelling and grammar too play a very limited role. So, I need to take action. Let the words get out of my mind’s prison.

I always used to wait for the perfect time or place to sit and write. I’ll write once I reach home. I’ll write when my laptop is charged. I am too tired to sit on my desk and you get the picture. Too many excuses.

If it’s important to you, you’ll make the time, else you’ll make an excuse.

I am not putting off writing anymore. I know it’s good for my mind and this is a dream I am not letting go. So, right now I am typing this on my phone. There are a lot of typos and I do not have spell checker tools like I have on my laptop. But you know what, it really doesn’t matter. I know I need to improve my spelling and grammar (after all English is my second language). But the only way I can improve my skills is by writing consistently.

I am feeling easy and relaxed about writing this journal entry describing my day because of the following reasons:

  1. I have maybe 2 readers – so no one is actually going to read this and the shy part of me will get the perfect opportunity to grow without getting overwhelmed in relative solitude.
  2. If I write at least 500 words daily, my writing is bound to improve.
  3. In order to write about my day, I will have to actually do something worth writing. I mean writing about my Netflix binge-watching sessions will get too embarrassing pretty soon.

So, to summarize my day, I had a productive morning then I reached office. I managed to finish most of my tasks and evening was spent taking work calls with various teams around the world. Then I had a nice homey dinner before I spent some time talking to my fiance who lives far far away from me.

Overall it was a good day.

Memories Forgotten

Memories Forgotten

I dimmed the table light so that it won’t disturb his sleep but the table kept making weird noises with every movement my hands made over the cheap notebook I found in the bedside drawer. I was being so careful. Maybe too careful and maybe that’s why my hands were shaking so much. Or maybe it was because it was the first time I was sitting with a pen and paper ready to pour my heart.

How long has it been – four months or five. Maybe it was longer than that. I don’t remember exactly how long we had been on the road. I bet he remembers. I suddenly had a strange urge to wake him up and ask him. I am sure he would not only tell how many days but how many hours it had been since we packed up our basic essentials in our car and drove away. Drove away from our home of the last five years.

We moved into that house right after we got married. And furnishing it turned out to be a nightmare. We had our first fight as a married couple over the color of the couch. And we had our first make-up sex on the mattress on the bedroom floor. It took us longest to find a bed we both liked. Initial few months of living together, it seemed we could not agree on anything. I started to imagine that he was deliberately refuting everything I am saying. But those fights full of passion brought us closer. Maybe we needed some fiction to rub off our rough edges and then settle into a more comfortable existence.

He learned to cook. I learned to drive. We both learned not to sleep without resolving a fight. We were happy. We were in love and we were happy. “And they lived happily ever after” – that happens in just fairy tales. We didn’t get our ever after. We were happy but it was not for long.

Everything changed in just a couple of hours. Or maybe it wasn’t even that long. I don’t remember how long they were inside our home. I don’t remember a lot about that incident. If I told him that I don’t remember, he would say that I am intentionally blocking out the memories. And maybe I am. But what’s wrong in that. All I can forget is the details. The pain doesn’t go away. I wish I could forget the pain as well. I wish we both could forget what happened to us. It wasn’t our fault. We were in our house. We were not walking alone at night in a dangerous neighborhood. We were inside our home in a safe neighborhood. The neighborhood we selected so that we could raise our future kids there. But now, even we were not safe.

After the police went away and the cleaning crew hired by them had cleaned the blood, we both sat in the home all alone. He was not looking at me. He didn’t look at me for the next three days. I remember that. I also remember when he looked at me next.

We were not speaking at that time. Not just to each other but to anyone. Neither of us was going to our work. We were just sitting in the apartment not talking to each other. Then on the third night, I found him sitting on the bathroom floor with a blade in his hand. And I didn’t feel anything. Nothing at all. It was like my mind did not know the correct response. Maybe there wasn’t one. So, I just found another blade and sat down next to him.

That’s when he saw me. That when he actually made eye contact. He kept looking at me for a long time. Or maybe it was just for a few minutes. I don’t remember the details. I just remember that his hands felt warm when he took the blade from me. I remember his hands shaking when he threw away the blade in his hand too. And I remember what he said next – “Let’s leave. Let’s go away from this place.”

And so we did. We resigned from our work. Sold our first home along with all the furniture. We just packed our clothes in one bag each and loaded our car. We left my car since it never worked properly anyway. His car was more comfortable. I didn’t say anything when he went back and brought our photo album. He didn’t say anything when I slipped on his jacket for warmth.

And off we went. We didn’t say anything and just kept driving. When he would get tired, I would take over. At nights we would find any motel or sometimes sleep in the car itself. Nothing mattered. We just kept driving. I don’t remember how much distance we covered from our home. I don’t remember if we kept moving in the same direction or if we changed our course. Maybe we crossed the same town more than once. Who cares. I didn’t. I know he didn’t. All that mattered was just driving.

He loved his music and was proud of the collection he kept in his car. The same collection was traveling with us. I had heard those songs so many times. Each song was cataloged as a specific emotion for me. Like there was a song that was playing when he kissed me for the first time. Then there was the song which was playing when I saw him crying for the first time two days after our wedding (he didn’t want me to see him crying and was hiding in his car). Each song represented something. There were our grocery songs, our going to office song, our fighting song, there was a song for every moment we spent together.

But we didn’t have any song for this. There was no song for being in pain separately and together. For hurting for ourselves and hurting for the one we loved more than ourselves. No song for the silence between us.

I could feel his pain and he could feel mine. We both were hurt by the same people in the same manner. And we both didn’t know what to do next. We didn’t know how to handle our own grief or how to help the other to handle their grief.

We were not speaking because we didn’t know what to say. There no words but we were communicating. Sometimes he would hold my hand when driven. Sometimes he would curl up in his seat and put his head on my lap when I drove. He used to love it when I would play with his hair. Now all I could do was wipe his tears while I drove.

But we were healing. It was slow, but we were healing. He would stop the car if he saw any beautiful scenery. Then we would sit in one place for long and keep staring at the sky or the river or the forest or whatever had made him stop. Watching sunsets soon became a routine. Wherever we were, whoever was driving, we would stop and enjoy the sunset before moving forward.

Sometimes if the night was clear, he would keep driving through the night. He would never let me drive after dark. I don’t know what was his logic but I never objected. We barely talked. I didn’t want to waste any words in arguing.

Then one night he played the song which he played at our wedding. He kept it in a loop and we kept absorbing the music. After a third or fourth time, he stopped the car and got out. I thought maybe he just wanted to stretch his legs. But he came over to my side, opened the door, held my hand and asked me to dance. And there we danced. In the middle of the night. In the middle of nowhere. Under the stars just two people dancing to a song. We would have made a strange scene had anyone been there to look at us.

It was the first time after that incident that I saw him smile. From now on this song would be categorized under ‘his smile song’.

We slept in the back seat of our car that night. He held me in his arms that night. We started a new journey towards happiness that night.

We started speaking again. At first, we would say which song we wanted to play next. Then what we wanted to eat. Then one day, during our sunset ritual, he spoke about that night about that incident that we never talked about. He told me how he was hurting, what he was feeling. He was patient when I told him what the pain was doing to me. We sat there in the same spot talking from sunset to sunrise. Then we found a room in a motel and made love.

We kept talking over the next several days or maybe even weeks. Details were still not registering in my mind. But he was with me now. We were traveling together now.

We found a beautiful bed and breakfast in some small town and decided to stay for a few days. It started to feel like our second honeymoon.

The room was nice but some of the furniture was not very stable. The desk in the corner was threatening to wake him up. But I wanted to pour out these words before he woke up. I needed to record this day. I had missed my periods for the last two months. When I told him, he held me so gently like I was a china doll which could break from his touch itself.

We went to the town doctor together. We received the news together. We were together when my doubts threatened to rob our happiness. Logically I knew this would be his child and not a result of that incident. It had been too long and I did get my periods in the months after that. But my mind was too busy being swallowed by fear to process logical arguments. I was glad that he was with me to guide me out of that fog of fear and doubt.

He said that we need a home now. We couldn’t keep on driving with a baby on the way. Neither of us wanted to go back so we decided to go forward.

Tomorrow we will go on the road again but this time with a purpose. We need to find a town, we need to find a job, and we need to build a home again. And in all of this, we need to stay strong and not let fear control us.

Tonight I need to write this down to remember. I forgot many things but I don’t want to forget this. I don’t want to forget any details now. I need to write before he wakes up.