Monday, July 07, 2014

The walk

I went for a walk day this weekend.

This line and pause is for those of you who started laughing at the end of the previous line... to help you catch up. And yes, I admit I should take walks more often. *sigh*

This post is going to be less about the aimless paths my feet took, and more about the journey of my mind.

As I walked along the highway, I noticed a line of idols of Lord Ganesha, each about one and a half times my height. I noticed that most of them were yet unfinished. What caught my attention most though, is that the hands of the idols were left hollow. I stepped closer to one of them, and noticed, through the hole, that there were cobwebs being built inside. I was struck by the contrast of the two varieties of artwork in progress. I let that thought linger while I moved on.

Soon, I came across what I thought looked like a series of finished idols of Lord Ganesha, with one hand up, and one hand down - the symbol of protection and blessing. I observed the curves of these completed idols, and how they looked so identical from a distance, but perhaps differed in very small measurements. Each of these quite likely had some quirk that made the piece like no other next to it. I also thought again about the spiders that would perhaps not survive in these finished and sealed idols. Each piece of artwork made, quite likely, by clearing out many more pieces of artwork that had formed within it as it made its progress.

There seemed to be something very subtle about that thought, though I couldn't yet start to describe it. So I walked on, past the many slums of the artists who had probably spent ages making each of those idols.

Presently, I chanced upon an artist working on one of those idols in progress. She appeared to be sitting in roughly the same pose as the idol she was drawing - legs crossed, on a stool of some sort, only with the raised hand holding a tool which she was either carving or painting with, and the other hand, down in her lap, her eyes focused in concentration on the job at hand. It made me wonder for a while who was the creator and who the created. Or, really, was there any distinction? Or perhaps such labels only helped us in forming some abstract concepts for the relationships between the things we see, for the purpose of the perspective we choose to assume in the present.

I decided to change my subjects, and let my eyes wander, my mind still stuck on the juxtapositions. Soon, my attention was drawn to the beautiful bridge-like structure under construction for the new MetroRail of Hyderabad, hovering over the highway. A man put on his hard-top hat, chatted with a coworker, and picked up his welding machine to make some changes. As I turned my eyes away to avoid staring into the bright splinters from the welding, I realized it was just about time for sunset. And lo and behold, on the other side of the road, the clouds had become a soft orange. A bird flew through the sky, through the fading sunset, and right over the concrete of the bridge, and past it. I wondered if it was headed back to its nest.

Now, with the sunset over, I attempted to cross the road, and turn back, to be homeward bound myself. Yet, my thoughts were still jittery, and I stood still under the bridge, hesitating to cross till I had enough attention to avoid being run over.

Then, slowly, the pieces appeared to come together. Here was nature on one side - the bird, the sky, the clouds, the spiders and their cobwebs. And on the other side were the bridge, the construction worker, the artist, the idols of Lord Ganesha. It often feels like an Us versus Them. Man versus Nature. Artificial versus Natural. And, yet, in that moment, they didn't seem all that disparate at all. It appeared as if the patterns were just repeating themselves. It seemed as if the spider's cobwebs were really no different at all from Man's idols, roads, buildings and bridges. They were no different from the honeycombs made by the bees, or the nests made by the birds, or the anthills made by the ants. Man is just another organism on Planet Earth, with a different manner of artwork than the other organisms out there, changing his home to suit how he pleases - sometimes dislodging other organisms, sometimes remembering them and providing for their coexistence.

I smiled to myself and thought... at the end of the day, everything Man has learned, he has learned from nature. And that complex learning itself, is perhaps, just his nature.

And now, I was finally ready to finish crossing that highway and head home.