I have no idea what to write as introduction for Beloo Mehra, honestly. No matter what I write, it would still feel pathetically inadequate.
But I need not really worry, in a way. All readers of Serenely Rapt have surely ‘met’ the wise and compassionate writer who weaves soul-expanding essays and commentaries on her two blogs: Beauty Interprests, Expresses and Manifests the Eternal and Matriwords. All her work, and life, are deeply influenced by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.
The influence of an erudite thinker and true blue Nationalist like Sri Aurobindo is very visible in her writing. I know many who are true patriots, but none as expressive as Beloo is. In a way that surprised me in the initial days when I began reading her. A very, very pleasant surprise. Which in turn surprised me yet again, showing me something I hadn’t seen all my life!
I hadn’t realized how our national narrative had been hijacked by cynics. Indeed there is nothing more effective in wiping out an idea (or its manifestation… a civilization) than to ridicule and belittle it. You need no logic or facts. All you need is a willingness to be ‘not gentlemen (or ladies)’. And, there are plenty of THOSE around. It is funny how I never saw it before!
We have learned to lower the bar on ourselves; we have learned to be ashamed. We’ve been told that everything contemptible and ridiculous… is India. One would think we had nothing to be proud of at all!
The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
~William Arthur Ward
This is what she does. She makes you see things you would never have seen otherwise. To this great, humble and truly humane teacher, one I am proud to call my GURU, I owe an abiding debt of gratitude. To have her bless this space with her words and presence is a deep honor!
Beloo, as I’ve said before, a ‘Thank You’ is too small a phrase to thank you with. Until a better one lends itself to me, this will have to suffice.
Here’s what she has to say about Home- what it means to us and how its meaning changes for us with time.
I feel a sense of gratitude to those fourteen-plus years of my life when I was living between two cultural spaces. What we Indians call as non-resident-Indian (NRI) experience, gave me ample opportunities to reflect on the meaning of home, being at home and being in what many post-modernists call as a state of hybridity or in-between-ness.
I remember today an essay I wrote about thirteen years ago, in which I had pondered over the meaning of home. The essay, published on Sulekha, was based on an analysis of the voices of a few Indians living outside India with whom I had some interactions in an online discussion forum, combined with my own decade-long experience, at that time, of living, studying and working in the United States. In that piece I had come to a tentative conclusion that perhaps home means “a place where we can be really free, free at heart.”
End of this month will mark eight years of my return to India. No more of that NRI experience. However, at different points of time in these last eight years, this question of “what is home” has often surfaced in different ways – personally as well as socially. But it has also become obvious to me that the question has now taken on a more emotional and psychological shade than a mental or intellectual one, which was the case earlier. The experience of this question is also more inwardly grounded than something that is outward and identity-based. And this, I believe, is what makes me feel more ‘at home’ with the question itself. Let me explain.
About two years ago, I found myself going through an intense phase when this question – what is home – became a very real and living struggle for many months. In a way I was spending all those months ‘at home’ (my parental home, to be precise – the home where I grew up) but then it wasn’t really my home anymore. It didn’t feel like that.
The part that felt ‘like home’ was my parents. Especially, my very ill and fragile mother who was the reason why I was spending all those months there, away from my home and in my mother’s home. And yet the longing to go back to my home was very much there despite the mental awareness that I needed to be at my parents’ home.
In time, and with some inward emotional struggle, it became apparent that the longing was not so much for the physical space that I call my home, but more for an inner space which is free from all the outside noise. But where was this noise coming from? I realized even back then (and, more so now because of the advantage of the post-experience-reflection) that the source of noise was none other than the circumstance life had thrown at my loved ones and me. But noise is a noise, until we know how to transcend it. And it stirs up emotions and questions, feelings and reflections that directly or indirectly help us gain greater awareness of our flaws, inadequacies, and imperfections.
The noise which created a longing in me for an inner space, this unease of homesickness for an inner home became an important part of the whole experience of my taking care of my mother in the last few months of her life.
Have I moved beyond those flaws and inadequacies? Will I be able to transcend that type of noise if life threw upon me a similar circumstance again? Will I be able to find a greater harmony within my inner home if I were to spend several months again away from my outer home?
In my egoistic moments I like to believe that I have matured and grown wise enough to know that in the truest sense home is something we carry within, or that home is where we are present – I mean present fully, in the moment, or that home is not an abstract idea but a real, psycho-spiritual state of truly being oneself and at peace with all the parts that make one a manifold being.
But despite this belief of mine, I know for sure that I struggle with living all these truths and oscillate between inner and outer meanings of home. At the same time, I think that it is important to be aware of this struggle – what type of circumstances trigger it, how I deal with it, what I experience on different levels and in different parts within. Because perhaps through this struggle I may be blessed with an opportunity to experience more concretely the deeper and inner meaning of home.
The Great Universe works in mysterious ways indeed!
In the middle of a struggle, sometimes clarity comes.
And that was exactly what happened to me two years ago when I was away from my physical home, had been away for a long time, and was really struggling with an intense pang of homesickness, more so for the deeper inner home. What brought the calming and soothing realization was simply an email with several attached photographs. Of flowers blooming in my garden at home that summer, captured on camera by my husband.
The realization was simple but true – Sometimes Home is simply where the flowers are!
A part of me felt as if the beauty and charm of those flowers carried me back home, my outer home. And somehow that thought itself brought a sense of quietness within, that of being in my inner home.
Two years later, today a different truth reveals itself. Home is not where the flowers are. Perhaps a deeper truth is – To be truly ‘at home’ simply means to be like a flower.
Be like a flower. One must try to become like a flower: open, frank, equal, generous and kind. Do you know what it means?
A flower is open to all that surrounds it: Nature, light, the rays of the sun, the wind, etc. It exerts a spontaneous influence on all that is around it. It radiates a joy and a beauty.
It is frank: it hides nothing of its beauty, and lets it flow frankly out of itself. What is within, what is in its depths, it lets it come out so that everyone can see it.
It is equal: it has no preference. Everyone can enjoy its beauty and its perfume, without rivalry. It is equal and the same for everybody. There is no difference, or anything whatsoever.
Then generous: without reserve or restriction, how it gives the mysterious beauty and the very own perfume of Nature. It sacrifices itself entirely for our pleasure, even its life it sacrifices to express this beauty and the secret of the things gathered within itself.
And then, kind: it has such a tenderness, it is so sweet, so close to us, so loving. Its presence fills us with joy. It is always cheerful and happy.
Happy is he who can exchange his qualities with the real qualities of the flowers. Try to cultivate in yourself their refined qualities.
~ The Mother
Can I be open, frank, equal, generous and kind like a flower? In every context, every circumstance, everywhere, toward everyone? If I can truly be like a flower in this sense, I can truly be at home, everywhere, in every circumstance, every situation. That would be the true inner home.
The seeking to be like a flower, to be truly at home continues. The road is long, the journey arduous, but there is no truer journey than this. Is there?
Enough of words. Now let the pictures say the rest. These pictures are what came to me as email attachments two years ago, helping me come to a realization about the connection between home and flowers.
Two years hence, every time when I see these pictures they take me back to the beginning of that reflective journey and help me find a little deeper truth of that realization, of that connection between home and flowers.
The spiritual significance given to these flowers by the Mother (included with each picture below) will reveal whatever else might be necessary to explore further this connection between home and flowers.
All photos by Suhas Mehra, Summer 2013