Cry for Nature

It had been quite some time since I had read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. So when I came across another title by the Lebanese poet, at a friend’s place, I asked if I could borrow it. The Storm turned out to be a modern translation of Gibran’s prose poems as well as a couple of short stories. Narrated in his distinct style – soaked in mysticism and lyricism – so many of his central themes reached out to me : like the essential isolation of the human condition, the shackles of organized religion, the hollow materialism of the world and so on. The one theme however that spoke to me with the greatest urgency was the beauty of Nature and its inevitable degradation by humans.

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Aurore, ‘The Dawn’ by Kahlil Gibran

‘ ” Sweet Brook,” I asked, “why do you mourn?”

“Because I go unwillingly toward the City”, it answered, “where Man will spurn me. Instead of me, he will drink the juice of the grape and use me to carry away his filth. How shall I not weep when soon my purity become foul?” ‘

– From ‘A Lamentation in the Field’

Recently back from a trek through the Niligiris, I could not but help obsessing over the muck and mess human habitation spawns all around it. Towns looking like an ugly heap of tin roofs, sewage drains spilling on roads, traffic forced to a stand-still by reckless parking, vehicles belching out black fumes despite ban on unclean fuel – I could go on…

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concrete jungles

As we climbed higher into the hills, the air became purer and the surroundings cleaner. But then, we hardly saw any people around – slopes of tea plantations eventually gave way to forests and then to steep slippery narrow paths to the summit, known here as the Bakasura-malai. Why should one have to compromise on human company if one wishes to live amidst beautiful natural surroundings? How do other countries, societies manage to retain picture-postcard appearances despite having thriving communities?

I am aware these questions lead me deeper into issues of population, poverty, exploitation, corruption and many deeply inextricable civic matters. At this moment, however, I rue my limited time in this corner of paradise here and dread going back down to the madding crowds!

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Bakasura-malai peak
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When does a house become a …Home?

As I settle down with my family in this shady corner of the Nilgiri Hills – having moved house yet another time – I wonder what is it that transforms a physical shelter into a ‘home’.

  • when you start cooking meals at a place for yourself and your family
  • when your dog finds its corner and curls up comfortably
  • when you hang up paintings and family photos on its walls
  • when you plant flowers and sow seeds on the adjoining patch of earth

So many ways to fashion, mould and remake a dwelling into one’s own.

Ah…another difficult word! Do I actually ‘own’ all this – the brick, wood, earth – with which I put together a home. It is a predicament familiar to those living in rented places, staff quarters, company bungalows and so on.

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What then makes up my home, why then should I care, how then can I put down roots..!!

 

As I ponder over these questions, I find a vague comfort in a section of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet:

“…Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast.

It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye.

…For that which is boundless in you abides in the mansion of the sky,

Whose door is the morning mist,

and whose windows are the songs and the silences of the night”.

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