Just a smile

Sometimes along life’s winding road you meet people who change your life forever, change how you perceive life, change the way you act and even challenge your power of reasoning. It could be someone you have known your entire life, it could be someone you just met or even someone you just pass on the road.  A life changing encounter can happen anywhere at any moment, it’s just a matter of whether your heart is open to accepting it.

This is the tale of how a fellow human changed how I look at life in a matter of seconds, how a Hijra lady changed my outlook on how I should live and how she inspired me to be a better version of me, a better human being.

For those who don’t know about the Hijra community, they are the third gender of India. If you are a traveler in India there is a good chance you will come across them on a train. There are small clans of ladies who get on trains at random stops and swipe through the train asking for money in return for blessings, and when you don’t they tend get a bit aggressive. Even though they have been legally identified as the third gender and has been granted many rights (legally), till date they do have to face a lot of discrimination and ill treatment from the society they live in.

The first time I met a Hijra lady was when I was 7 years old, on a train form Chennai to Agra. At that age I shamefully admit that I was scared of her, simply based on the fact that,  for a girl of 7 who lived a life filled with unicorns, butterflies and parental problems I found her to be a little too aggressive for my comfort. Thereafter for the next 3 years during which I traveled constantly up and down the great Indian railway, I got accustomed to the presence of Hijra ladies but I was still scared and intimidated by them.

When I came back to India in my teens, again I had numerous encounters whether it was on the train, road or at a shop. I realized that the younger me was slightly wrong, most of them were not aggressive just a bit pushy to the normal liking, and most of them are displaying these traits because of the image and situation that the society itself has created for them.

I would see them all dressed up, laughing, singing, doing all the normal thing we all do but with a flair of confidence that was just a dream for me. I was intrigued, curious, so as the “Curious me” would always do I started reading about the community in hope to better understand them. And I was fascinated by the history they are linked to, but at the same time devastated to learn how much discrimination these fellow humans have to bear on a daily basis.

That’s when I started to observe them more closely out of curiosity, and what I saw in real life was even more heart breaking. I saw how people would treat them in trains (way to go 7 yr old me!) or on the road. I listen to people talk about them with a tone of fear in their voice, saw how people would ignore them in the most brutal way possible, I listen to people telling me not to engage, I listen to people telling me how they can grant blessings and curses and why I should keep my distance, I saw people twitching when they walked by.. I saw the discrimination, I saw the labeling, I saw it firsthand. The treatment most of them got in public was one such that no human should ever go through. I wondered how they bear all this, I wondered how they go by their day with all this negativity following them.

All my questions were about to be answered on another ordinary train ride..

I remember the moment I saw her on the train, she was beautiful in her own way. Her ways demanded attention. She was but another passenger but she had such a vibrant air to herself, the way she carried herself with so much proudness. She had this smile on her face that showed how happy she was with herself, she looked content, she was happy on her own feet..

At one point she got up to go towards the door, and on her way she bumped in to another Indian lady accidentally (The jolting and bolting of the train was the culprit). Everything happened in a matter of second, how the other lady looked at her with eyes filled with anger, disgust and fear and how she pushed the lady away in an inhuman way, so much hate and anger displayed in such a short time. In all the chaos what registered in my mind most was the fact that the Hijra lady didn’t lose her smile ever for a second. She had that smile plastered on her face as if to give a silent answer to the ignorant humans around her.

Her simple smile was a statement of courage, love for self and her ability to mute the ignorant around her. A lesson that most of us need a 101 class on. Its not easy to learn how to stand your ground when your swarmed with ignorance nor is it easy to love yourself and keep that smile alive when you’re judged each passing moment, but she knew how to and she showed me that it’s possible. And in that moment I learned that I have the power to resist reacting to everything that happens around me – A simple lesson that changed my perception of life for the better in an instance!

 

Advertisements

It’s okay to “Not Belong” ?

Humans are by definition, a group of social creatures. We thrive with human interactions, we crave for the conversations, the bonds and the feeling of “I belong”.

This feeling of wanting to belong, to be a part of and to be liked is embedded in our genes. However much one may say otherwise this is a fundamental fact that no one can deny. This feeling is one crucial feature that makes us human. It is the base on which many mighty civilizations were built and which has propelled us to where we are today.

But once in awhile along the path of life we may be thrown head first in to situations where we simply don’t belong. whether it is in society, at school, at work or among a group of friends we just might not feel like we are a part. This is one of the most complex of human emotions. The feeling of not belonging aids in the manifestation of the need to belong.  Intense yet sensitive, a craving that comes from within.

But the truth is that in some instances, even when all factor point towards the need to belong its okay to not  belong, especially if belonging means the demise of ourselves and who we are. Then it’s okay to stand alone.

I know its easily said than done, i know the feeling of wanting to be a part of a group, of a internal joke, or a simple conversation is difficult, the feeling of being left out is not a pleasant one in any form. This thread of human emotions are a scary thing to experience irrespective of your gender, age or any social factors. In fear of facing these demons so to say,  we tend to grasp for every straw of chance to entertain these bonds without realizing that every bond is not healthy for us.

It’s funny how we always focus our energy on the things we don’t have rather than what we do. We might have strong and stable bonds with others but still only focus and attract a heap of negative energy from the bonds we don’t have. We exercise so much energy to mend these so called “important relationships” in hopes that we will belong, that we get blinded to the outcome. In the process of “mending”, we  constantly surrounded ourselves  by souls that hinder us from being who we truly are, from reaching our highest potential, or simply break the calmness of our mind making it easy to fall pray to loosing small yet important parts of you.

some rather toxic relationships can change us drastically, drift us far away from our true self to the point of no return.  Especially when the intense feeling of not belong hits you, the intensity of it drives you to act against you will. You will be pushed, even without your knowledge to act against the things you believe in, push you to second judge your self and your values, makes you in to a slave of  pleasing others and in turn loose your self value.

As I’ve said before “it’s easily said than done”. But if you try to see it clearly you will realize that its okay to not belong. That letting go of those strings you tightly weave around your heart suffocating it emotionally is okay. And that being alone is far better than loosing small yet important parts of you.

If you do open your heart you will realize that at the end of the day what matters the most is that you remain true to yourself and whether you feel content with how you turned out to be.

So it is okay not to belong, when “belong” means loosing you…

Thanthirimale

Hidden in the outskirts of Anuradhapura, is the ancient Buddhist temple complex of Thanthirimale. Considered as one of the oldest settlements of Sri Lanka, this area is not just home to a temple complex but also acts as a window in to the glorious past, even beyond the written history of Sri Lanka.

Even though this location holds high significance both in terms of Buddhism and also the history of this island, not many are aware of its existence or whereabouts.

Getting there:- There are two well known routes to reach Thanthirimale

  1. Through Anuradhapura-Mahawilachchiya road.
  2. Through Madawachchiya- Mannar road.

Thanthirimale Rajamaha Vihara is thought to have been built in the third century BC. Following many years of neglect and countless invasions and changes in Kingdoms, it was hidden from the eye of man until the 19th century when archaeologist rediscovered this magnificent complex and the surrounding ruins.

When you enter the compound you will first come across the much modern temple and then a museum which is home to many of the artifacts that were found on site.

DSCN2823

Once you pass the museum you will come to a wide opening with huge rock boulders and small natural ponds of many sizes scattered around the area, nature at its best.

From there onward there are five main points of interest that you should make sure to visit.

  • Ashta pala boo tree

Once you climb up a stone cut stairway you will come to the much worshiped “Ashtapala Boo tree”. Considered as one of the most important religious boo trees found in Sri Lanka, it is thought to have comes from one of the 8 saplings that grew from the original boo tree brought to Sri Lanka by Arhat Sangamitta Theri.

DSCN2830

  • The next most important land mark would be the  Buddha statue carved in to a rock, located just off the Boo tree.

DSCN2835

Following the great Buddha statue, the most noteworthy of  rock carvings are the two statues on ether side of the Buddha which has been only partly completed along with a half done section of the staircase. It is believed that due to a foreign invasion that happened on the Kingdom during the end of the Anuradhapura era the artist was not able to finish his masterpiece leaving it incomplete.

 

  • Towering the raised natural rock formation located at the end of the beautiful pond is a square shaped building which was used as the pothgula or a safe heaven for puskola poth (Religious script written on the leaf of Palmyrah).

DSCN2841

At the base of this boulder a man made cave like structure, complete with Kataram can be found which is believed to have housed meditating monks.

DSCN2847

 

  • Rock caves and prehistoric drawings

DSCN2849

Once you pass the pothgula and walk along a trail going deep in to the forest you will come across two natural caves on whose wall you will be able to see many prehistoric drawings depicting animals, sun, moon and humans. According to the renown historian Prof. Senarath Paranawitharana these drawing may date back 4000 years.

 

Just across these caves you will find a few more natural ponds and a huge rock bolder which you can climb to see a 360 view of the area around.

  • The reclining Buddha stute

This Buddha state has many similarities to the world famous Polonnaruwa Buddha statue. Some parts of the statue has been damaged by time and treasure hunters

DSCN2919

 

Thanthirimale temple complex has survived through invasions by Chola, Pandya and Magha dynasties and had been in ruins encroached by the jungle up till the 1960’s, when it was rediscovered and renovated to what it is today. Even thought many people are not familiar with the history and stories surrounding this masterpiece, it is one of the most important relics of the old world and should be preserved  for generations to come.

So if you do find yourself in Anuradhapura don’t forget to go off the much known touristy route and explore the wonders of this hidden historical site.

Until next time,

Safe travels