Monday, 27 February 2012

The Perfect Brew

I’ve noticed that when I leave a tea-bag in a pot of hot water with some milk, it usually doesn’t release its full flavour or colour. After a couple of minutes, when I remove the tea-cosy, I can see an auburn tinge, appearing like a halo around the bag and the rest of the liquid is unstained. I have to do a dip-dip routine with considerable vigour, even if it is for just a few seconds, to get the desired colour, before I can start drinking my tea.

I do this every morning in a rather routine manner, without really noticing what it is that I do. After years of habit, I am on auto-pilot. Today however, the tea-bag demanded attention. First, it showed reluctance to come out of the paper covering and when I pulled at it, the string came loose. I had pulled too hard and the staple pin, that attached the string to the bag, had been prised open. I was fiddling with it, trying to get the string back into place when Mahipal walked into the room, saw what was going on and said “doosra leke aata hu, isko baad mein dekh loonga.[i] But I fiddled around, slid the string into the now opened staple pin, using my fingers to gently close it. I then pressed the bag – the top part which is kind of pointy, puckering the soft whitish paper, to bring the two points of the staple pin together. I did it! Then tying a gentle knot I placed the tea-bag into the glass, ‘Borosil’ carafe, of hot, milky water, with a sense of achievement.

Having given so much of my time and attention to an otherwise innocuous tea-bag, I was unable to do the dipping ritual in my normal absent-minded, auto-pilot mode. The tea-bag had become more than just a thing. I paid more attention. I observed the bag noiselessly touch the hot liquid, sometimes turning this way and that, doing a strange kind of dance. At one point, it seemed to squirm as I raised it up and then pushed it back in. Its muteness affected me. I felt rather cruel compelling it to shed all its flavour and colour in this way. I mean, would I like to be treated like this - shoved into a pot of boiling water, to open up and reveal my flavour? Be pulled up, barely allowed to breathe the cool breezes and then be unceremoniously dunked right back into the hot stuff, without any say in the matter?

But my feelings of guilt didn’t last long. I thought with a certain self-righteous indignation, that if it hadn’t just sat there like a lump of mass but done what it was meant to, then I wouldn’t have to do any of this. And that was when something opened up in my mind and it occurred to me, what if all of us just did what we were supposed to, without a struggle? Then would living be as simple as being lowered onto the earth, just be there, quietly letting our thoughts and emotions infuse the environment – the world we lived in? I guess that would be an ideal state of ‘being,’ of living without inhibition, without fear, without letting the gamut of emotions that we experience, wrought one’s being, everyday: Being totally at ease with who I was and had become, effortlessly achieving simply by thinking it. I have been working at it and seen how this does indeed work in many ways, especially when healing others, but I had a long way to go yet when it came to things that I wanted for myself. The ‘masters’ as they were called, it is believed, had managed such enormous control over their minds, that nothing caused a ripple of doubt or discontent as life unfolded around them, however chaotic it may be.

The water is hot. It is brought to boiling point over the gas and then poured into the teapot. Who, among lesser mortals can truly sit still and elegantly be one’s self without squirming and cursing the heat? But apparently the evolved human being can and does. And somehow, I had expected it of the inanimate tea-bag too. I suppose, one could write to Twining’s in Calcutta and complain about this tea bag, maybe it was defective.  Maybe it was the case with all of them. They were just lazy sods and had to be prodded to bleed. But I had only myself to blame for when I felt restless, angry or pained and inept. I seemed to need the rigour of living, of facing problems, being hurt and my sense of self diminished to look deeper within and find courage to speak up, through the ups and downs of life, to do what I was born to; realize it through the experience of being.

if only it really were as simple as it sounds. Most of our lives are lived engaging with other people. Dealing with people is a complicated affair because unlike the tea bag, they too have feelings. What I say has a similar effect on them, as what they say, does to upset or uplift me. Taking a gulp of tea I surmise, a tea-bag isn’t something I get myself into a tangled mess about. It’s a thing, its mute, just sits there, quietly doing its stuff, even though I may have to prod and jiggle it up and down a bit. It doesn’t bite my head off for it; nor does it question or challenge any assumptions I may have arrived at about it.  People, on the other hand, can do all of these things and often we say and do things that hurt each other as we speak, defend and assert ourselves and more. Some of us are better or more brutal at this than others. Sometimes, things seem unfair but then, we also like what they do for us at other times and its balancing this that gets me into a twist. How much should one say? When and where, or how? 

Untangling these knots, I suppose, is what makes life both frustrating and fascinating. But the pressing question is how much is one supposed to brew? How do we ascertain when we have arrived at the perfect brew, in any given moment? More often than not, I tend to kept quiet, hoping my silence will do the trick. In principle it should work, because thought is what creates life, but the paradox is that life is lived on the physical plane and that entails a certain amount of doing or saying in this realm and it is only when I am able to sufficiently detach, not worry about the result, do I  succeeded in this way.

The other day, as I did my affirmations and sent energy to the day’s events, I also asked for a special wish to be granted. As the day progressed, I started feeling apprehensive about this desire, could I handle it? Was it what I really wanted? Everything else fell into place effortlessly, but this wish did not come to fruition because clearly, I did not have sufficient control over my emotions, and focussing on negative feelings, I signalled doubt which derailed its manifestation. Yet, in my heart I knew that I did want this to be. It was very confusing and that is what I ended up manifesting. I would create the opportunity and then not be able to take it through. Then I’d regret this and reaffirm, but eventually decided to give up because, at this point, I clearly could not do what was needed.

The perfect brew is an elusive thing. Sometimes one gets it right without much effort and at other times, it just isn’t quite as you would like it to be, no matter how many formulae or recipes you try. Tracing the antecedent of thought and undoing what has happened in the past are daunting, if indeed possible. Faith seems to be the key; being flexible about how things unfold.  If we do not like what happens, we can always change it. No point letting anxiety complicate and delay things.

[i] I’ll get another one and take a look at this problem later