An Equal Music….


“…….no noise nor silence, but one equal music; 
no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; 
no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity….”

                                           
   – John Donne, English Poet and Preacher, 17th Century

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My earliest memories of Shanti kaku is of him slowly limping back home with a bag carrying some basic groceries.

 Since the time I could remember Shanti kaku had always been around, doing odd errands for all and sundry. He was the youngest of seven surviving children of my paternal grand parents. It was rumoured that his birth had been complicated because of a forceps delivery process gone horribly wrong. It led to him coming into the world challenged, both mentally and physically.

 Shanti kaku survived. Only to suffer the ignominy and arrows of being unequal, different, even retarded. I have sometimes wondered how this unfortunate uncle of mine made peace with these demons. Or did he really need to? Could it just be that what he saw of the world and people around him was normal to him, what he had experienced from the time he could remember? Without the consciousness of ‘what could have been’, he had nothing to compare his experience with, nothing to feel bad about.

  All the other aunts and uncles went to school, some then to college. My grand parents tried to send Shanti kaku to school but faced rejection. Not having the benefit of psychiatric support nor any special needs school in those days, there remained no other option but for Shanti kaku to  continue  his frugal education at home. Sitting, lying beside his mother, listening to her relating the grand tales of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

 Slowly but surely, Shanti kaku started to fathom what my grandmother really wanted. In his own special way, in a way quite different from his siblings who were growing up with their own dreams and destinies. He instinctively knew that what his mother desired, beyond most things, was to see him happy. Was this a primal connection driven back to the womb?

Time passed and brought change, as it inevitably does. Change in the situation of my father and the “normal” aunts and uncles who settled down into their own lives and families. Change in the feelings and attitude towards their youngest sibling which shifted from being “different” to being a “burden.” Come to think of it, burden is such an interesting word. A word loaded with different meanings allowing the user to at once demean the other person and highlight one’s own inability towards taking responsibility. What remained changeless was Shanti kaku’s situation and his connection to my grandmother. Shanti kaku remained what he was, where he was. As he continued to do the menial chores which he was asked to.

 It was my final school leaving year. In fact, it was during my Board examinations when my Grandmother, then in her eighties and staying with us, became seriously ill, destined not to recover. For sometime her health had been failing, that time honoured twinkle in her eyes fading. But as she lay dying, one could but hardly avoid noticing how she held on and lingered as her last remaining purpose in life, that “different” child, sat beside her.

 After all these decades, I can still recall that early morning when my grandmother passed away. Amongst all the sound of preparations to take the body for cremation and folks coming to pay their last respects, there remained that low pitched moan from the room of the deceased. It emanated from Shanti kaku as he alone held onto his mother’s hand.

It seemed disturbingly like music of a past trying to equal and come to terms with that of an uncertain future. Full of sadness, tiredness and the irrelevance of it all To my teenage mind however, obsessed as it was with success in examinations and the promise of a hopeful tomorrow, it evoked intolerance and impatience.

 Today, decades later, as I stand in that tomorrow I have created, and look back, what do I see? What I see are moments of happiness I have enjoyed, moments of energy as I followed my passion, moments of the relevance I have had in the world. Why then does the music of my actions and words search for its equal in a future that continues to be elusive? I wonder.

 

In Learning………………………                                                    Shakti Ghosal

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47 thoughts on “An Equal Music….

  1. Oh the power of a mother’s love for her kids. I can relate a tiny bit with this mother. Just a tiny bit though. My 7 year old son has Asperger’s syndrome and it’s been a bit of a rough journey. He isn’t in a school that is for special needs. In fact, there are no specialized schools or professionals where I live. Thankfully, the school he’s in is very open to adapting lessons for him in a way that he would be willing to participate and learn. At home I do my best to help him, and essentially I am his second teacher.
    Blessings Shakti=)
    Staci

    • Dear Staci,

      Thank you for bringing in your experience and thoughts about what a mother stands for. As a child starts to confront life’s challenges, he seeks his mother’s support and acceptance in myriad different ways. For in every child, there remains that special need that he senses only a mother can fulfil.

      I do appreciate your presence and comment here.

      Shakti

  2. Beautiful reflection again, Shakti. Love how you write. Your style is easy reading and descriptive.

    Hey – Merry Christmas 🙂

  3. WOW! What a beautiful yet heart wrenching story Shakti. It made me cry, the pain of your grandmother, your uncle’s plight and the indifference of people around him. Yes this post is a catharsis from my point of view and a tribute to your uncle at the same time. It must have lifted an emotional burden from your heart and mind once you put your feelings in the story. Take care and thanks for sharing this touching story with us.

    • Dear Samina,

      I agree. The sheer act of putting into words our meandering and ever-circling thoughts does alleviate the emotional burden we tend to accumulate and carry.It also supports us to put how situations occur to us in a context. And we get to decipher meanings and possibilities.

      Thank you for your kind words. I greatly appreciate.

      Shakti

  4. Do say hello to Kaku from my end and I request you hear a song on youtube, you’ll find “Chandni re jhoom” No reason, just..your writing here makes me want to go to sleep but a lullaby would help.

    • Hi Arjun.

      Shanti Kaku passed away more than a decade and a half back. The last years of his life were spent in a old age home.Comfortable yet lonely.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting .

      Shakti

  5. Your comment on my blog was in my SPAM box. I always check to make sure that it is not SPAM. You’re blog is not. It is far from it. I have signed up to receive more of your posts.

    You’re writing in this story is touching. It touches memories I carry of my brother who was born mentally and, in some ways, physically challenged, as well. It was a struggle for my parents who never grew outside of their denial. I grew up with mixed feelings too. I see that I was not odd in the way I felt. This post echo’s heartbreaking feelings. GREAT write …
    Isadora

    • Hi Isodora,

      I can very well empathise with your parents. I can also see how this post would have occurred to you, how it would have allowed old memories to stream through your mind. Indeed ,for me the post is a kind of catharsis.

      Thank you for taking the time to pass by and comment.

      Shakti

  6. A beautiful, raw piece of writing, I feel your pain and regret. I was taught from an early age by my parents that all people with mental challenges or disabilities were sent to us to be cared for and loved, they are angels walking this planet and a gift. Then I had my own child with challenges and my world was turned upside down and inside out. I knew my challenge was patience, I am still learning. Thank you for sharing a precious memory with us, we are all learning still.

    • Thank you.

      I can see how this post would have occurred for you. How it would have opened up that box of memories that you carry of your own personal experience of “Equal Music…”

      Indeed we continue to ‘learn’ as we wrestle with our own gremlins. Gremlins which are always there and trying to dissuade us from the path of patience and considered response. And every time we fall, as we react in line with our gremlin’s desires, we need to get up and hold firm to our chosen path.

      Shakti

  7. Oh my, Shakti, what a wonderful tribute to your uncle! Is he still alive? The keening upon his mother’s death is especially poignant.

    This, however, really jumped out at me: ‘Come to think of it, burden is such an interesting word. A word loaded with different meanings allowing the user to at once demean the other person and highlight one’s own inability towards taking responsibility.”

    Another big WoW. Demeaning the other while justifiably abdicating responsibility. We humans are so clever. With our five (six? more?) senses, we are able to utilize language and thinking to create endless possibilities, both beneficial to the world and detrimental to the whole. No other species does this.

    Sentience and consciousness are such amazing gifts. We do well to remember them as that. It seems your uncle spent most of his life in the moment, as sentient as he could be, given his condition, and imprinted upon you some lasting wisdom. Perhaps that is the answer to your query posed at the end of this lovely post.

    Aloha.

    • Dear Bela,

      So the post occurred to you as a tribute to my uncle. That comes as a relief as to me it seemed to be a kind of a catharsis and the sheer act of unburdening what had resided deep down bringing lightness.

      Yes, as humans, we hold this fabulous gift of language. It is here and the conversation networks that we create out of this that can actually shift how specific situations occur for us, the possibilities that we create and the actions that we contemplate.

      I have never thought of it this way but you may be right when you say that my uncle may have been living in the moment.And yes, as I think now, what I have earlier thought to be a memory replete with pain and guilt, under the surface contained a certain wisdom for me. Could that be the reason why the memory has remained for so long?

      Shakti

  8. I will come back to read other comments, Shakti, but I quickly wanted to say we have a number of mentally and learning challenged adults who primarily run a very presentable clothing store. They know they are accepted and respected. In fact, I’ve come across a couple of sources who claim these beautiful souls are here for purposes of teaching us unconditional love. I believe it! Even when they are protesting something they don’t like, their love shines through without missing a beat.

    As we age, these concepts do waft! I shared a story with my Walk Buddy and found I had a completely different attitude about it that ever before. I feel good about it, too.

    • Hi Amy,

      That is a fascinating input about how these ‘equal music’ people hold the capacity to teach us aspects of ourselves which we have trampled over and forgotten. I suppose the world has progressed in terms of acceptance and understanding of these challenged folks. It was not so seventy years back when the fear of societal non-acceptance led to labelling them as retarded and keeping them in closets.At least that is how it occurred in a country like India.

      Once again thank you for bringing in this refreshing perspective here Amy. I appreciate.

      Shakti

      • As a child of 3 or 4, living in a rural part of the Alberta prairie, I used to get hugs from a Downs Syndrome child who lived in the countryside. Every time there was a country event, Pearl Wosnick would be there and she’d head straight for me. She’d hug me so hard that I end up needing rescuing. Even at that young age, I intuitively knew she was all about Love. Therefore, I’d “sit in” the hug for as long as I could breathe without protesting. Perhaps that’s why Pearl always made a straight bee-line for me. She wanted so much to take care of me – but just hadn’t quite caught on to the strength and power of her pure and uninhibited Love.

        Yes, we too had horrid institutions. In my experience, the families who chose to keep the children at home were often “set apart”. People were generally so uninformed, but somehow the message was loud and clear in my home turf – we were an inclusive lot. You helped me realize how proud I am of our rural neighbours. Pearl AND her family were readily welcomed at our gatherings.

  9. Your Shanti Kaku touched a chord – as I had one of mine too….. He too ran errands for ‘normal’ Bowdis, aunts and nieces….. He regaled us – young kids then – with his inane jokes and play acting……I think [as you say] he too found the world around him as ‘normal’ and was not afflicted – like most of us – with any ‘forethought of grief’…..But it was amazing how enormously happy he looked just with small [and perhaps patronising] gestures like somebody asking how he was doing or, if he has eaten….. flashing a smile when passing by him or just a hand on his shoulder briefly….. Then, as I got caught up in my pursuit of education/career/’making a life’ [!], Kaku receded completely from my mind space………It was only decades later that I began to sense the true import of his life outlook……That it takes really very very little to be happy and there is already a lot to be truly thankful for……

    As for the ‘future’, I wonder what its construct really is…… Is it always something ‘grand’ that we envision, or is it – often – just the little ‘missing pieces’ in our past and present that we seek to have in place in that future?….. If it is a bit of both, then what is higher in the order?

    • Dada,

      For something to touch us, there needs to be that acknowledged chord of an ‘equal music’ playing within us. That is when aspects resonate, jump out as we read about it in the language. I can visualise how this post occurs for you having gone through a similar experience.

      You ask what really is the construct of the future. Whether this be the missing ‘pieces’ from the past as you say or the ability to envision a brand new future from bottom up becomes individual and situation specific. As you rightly conclude, the chances are that it is a bit of both. To me the pertinent issue is not which is higher in order but what is it we can sustain and be at peace with.

      As always, I appreciate your presence here and taking the time to comment.

      Regards

      Shakti

    • Hi Judy,

      Interesting that this occurs to you as a tribute. I never thought of it that way. Somehow, I have always felt this pang of guilt whenever confronted with the memory. Maybe arising from the thoughts I held at that point.That “Me-Self” selfishness streak that guided me then……… I remain unsure.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate.

      Shakti

      • Your grandmother’s love for her son was unconditional and beautiful. His also was in return. That’s what I loved about what you wrote. Regrets. We’ve all had a few. We cannot undo what was done. But we can take those memories and put them to positive use. That’s what you did – for me – when you helped create awareness about how we view and treat others who are not like us. Beautifully stated, Shakti.

      • Hi Judy,

        Could it also be that the love and concern my grandmother felt for her ‘unequal’child arose from a sense of guilt? Somehow she saw herself responsible for the situation. Could it also be that this belief of hers got reinforced every time she perceived discrimination and heartless behaviour by others?

        I at a young and impressionable age would have got sucked in as I might have learnt to mimic the behaviour of the majority of the elders around me. Though I do not seem to recall much thoughts regarding this, could this have been at the core of my reaction when my grandmother passed away? I wonder……

        Blessings

        Shakti

  10. I think perhaps you are a modern man with a very old soul. That can be confusing to one. This piece was beautiful, just beautiful. It seems to me that your grandmother and her son both lived the lives they were meant to live. And how blessed were you to be privy to those lives? They had significant impact upon you – helping you to live the life that you were meant to live.

    • Hi Liz,

      Loved your comment.

      ‘..modern man with a very old soul’ is one of the most wonderful acknowledgements I have received. To me this implies a seamless bridge between making peace with my past as I envision an empowering, if uncertain, future. And yes, somewhere deep down my perceptions of my grandmother and uncle, behaviour of others as also my thoughts and reactions as a young boy, did have an impact on how I have gone through life.

      Thank you for your kind presence and taking the time to write this comment. I truly appreciate.

      Shakti

  11. Okay my friend, yes you got my mind twitching yet again 🙂 Beautiful piece Shakti. As I was reading I couldn’t help but think of that saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, it’s not what you accomplish in your life, it is how you lived it. Your Grandmother lived it well by giving herself to someone who needed her acceptance and love because he was not like all the others. Both of them were equals to one another. I think the more we give to others and the less we think about our own plight in life the closer we come to finding our equal….Loved this piece you wrote. I always enjoy seeing you pop up in my inbox. I know I am always in for a journey…Thanks Shakti! Sending much love and light your way…VK

    • Hi VK,

      That’s a great take-away and worthy of being framed and put up right there!
      I quote:
      …the more we give to others and the less we think about our own plight in life the closer we come to finding our equal….

      What is it we need to enhance this practice of “giving more of oneself”? What is it that we need to let go, what do we need to embrace?

      And yes, the more we look within, we realise that life’s purpose is the quality of the journey itself.All else remains a manifestation of this journey.

      As always VK, thank you for the love you send my way and the time you give here. I truly appreciate.

      Blessings

      Shakti

      • I need to heed my words more sincerely Shakti….With the sudden passing of Anil I was immediately engulfed with feelings of not having been there enough for him. I allowed my own egoistic issues to get between us in small ways and now he is gone! My latest post was about this and my thoughts on it. I know you stopped by there as well. I am so saddened for his wife Aarti and her only son now. How much Creator has taken away from them over these last few years. Lessons to be learned I guess. Ego dashes our practice of loving others and reaching out to them. Time to stomp the ego into dust once and for all. It has done enough damage to life as we know it. Blessings to you my friend….VK

      • That’s a great perspective you have brought in about the ego. That, for me, has been a tough fight. The ego has this knack of raising its head at inopportune moments and queering the pitch for me. I declare that would not happen again …. till the next time. How I too wish I could stomp it into the dust once and for all as you say.

        Thank you VK, I appreciate.

        Shakti

  12. My goodness but this was a beautiful memoir. The memory of your uncle sitting at the side of your grandmother, pouring out his grief, is so moving. Sometimes life just unfolds and we need to move with it. There are so many unanswered questions that it’s impossible to answer, but I think it is a good thing to reflect and learn from what comes to us. Your words certainly demonstrate exhibit deep, deep reflection. ox

    • Thank you.

      Indeed we need to look inwards and notice those aspects of our past with which we have not been able to make peace with. It is these that continue to colour and impact our path into the future. We need to put that past back into where it belongs, in the past itself. That is when we have a clean slate future and gain the ability to make it compelling and inspiring.

      I appreciate your kind acknowledgement and taking the time to comment.

      Blessings

      Shakti

  13. What a poignant piece of writing Shakti, its hard looking at the past, our lives, our pathway, and that of others, as we see maybe our fortune or struggles as we compare it with the struggles and achievements of others ..
    Working as I do with those who have learning disabilities, I see the simplicity of what makes them happy… And for many its the fact they live only in the Now… so what makes them happy or sad in the moment is what counts, They often do not spend time like us, on regrets, or the what if’s in life…
    We however think we can work to achieve happiness, either by our achievements or efforts or possessions.. we strive daily, working harder and harder to climb higher within the ladders of success. Success in the sense of what we have been taught to attain…

    We spend little time listening to the Music of the Soul to what really makes us Happy… We spend far to much time trying to make others happy… We follow paths within our careers expected of us by our parents perhaps, or elders who want what is best for us.. But never ask what we want which is best for US.. So we settle perhaps for less… never really following our own hearts..

    Your uncle it seemed to me, followed his heart.. and your Grandmother was rewarded with Unconditional love

    Blessings
    Sue xox

    • Dear Sue,

      Greetings!

      As always, you make a profound comment and I needed time to reflect before I reply back. Your experience of working with those with learning abilities brings up one of the fundamental aspects of happiness. The ability to live and immerse ourselves in the ‘here and now’. But as you say, we are conditioned to carry our experiential baggage of the past into our future. We believe this would allow us to respond more effectively to the challenges on the way. Is it not ironic therefore that most of the time, this belief in fact leads us to react emotionally rather than respond objectively?

      To me it seems that, and I repeat what I have said in another of my replies, we need to put our past, and the beliefs and perspectives associated with that, back where it belongs, the past.This is the only way to free our minds and souls to embrace an empowering future. True happiness can only flow out of such an endeavour.

      Thank you for your presence here Sue. You know how much I appreciate that.

      Shakti

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