Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cracked Open [1 of 3]

Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who had a stroke that wiped out the side of her brain that is responsible for the ego. In her book, My Stroke of Insight, she tells us how it would be to live without that part of our brain.


All characters appearing in this work are real. Any resemblance to fictitious persons, living are dead is purely coincidental. 

shaayad ke zamiñ hae wo kisii aur jahaañ kii

tuu jisko samajhtaa hae falak apne jahaañ kaa

by Salman S

What do you think Jill Bolte Tyler, Eckhart Tolle and Ahmad Rafiq Akhtar have in common? For some, perhaps the right question would be, who are these people and why should I care anyway? Let me try to address this with another question. If I ask you, where did your question come from? Perhaps your response would be: “It’s logical, I came up with it using my mind wise guy”. I would then argue that apparently you are considering your “mind” something distinct from “I”; so would you mind explaining who that “I” is, what is it that you are calling “mind” and which one of these suddenly “came up” with “thoughts”? Couple of things can happen from this point onwards. Our communication totally breaks down as you have better things to do with your time; already disillusioned by the onslaught of new age philosophies you take a big yawn and move on to your favourite blog; or perhaps you sense that these three folks may just have some pointers in response to the “thought provoking” question I have posed in our dialog.

I thank all who decided to stick around and yes, all three names mentioned above share something common. To date they are all alive, all went through personal experiences before capturing and sharing their opinions about the nature of process of thinking and all of them provide a unique and insightful window into this fascinating microcosm we call human mind. Please note that the text to follow is not an attempt to belittle the immense body of knowledge and research which already exist on this subject but rather attempts to take a different perspective relating to the life you and I experience on a day to day basis.               

September 2010: 4:55 PM: Downtown Vancouver

South bound trains were frequent and tethering with passenger load on this grey and rainy Tuesday evening on China Town station. After three consecutive unsuccessful attempts in last 10 minutes of jamming my way into any of these, it was time to change strategy. I relocated myself to the farthest corner of the platform, made sure that I am the first person behind yellow line as I planned to produce one big “excuse me” from the bottom of my lungs with my body following the trajectory of laptop carrier right into the train door.

With trains only couple of minutes apart in the rush hour, I could see the destination sign blinking yet again. Seconds later head wind was blowing into the platform to be immediately followed by now very familiar grinding sounds of metallic wheels making contact with short gauge track. What seemed to be a haphazard and apparently bored crowd suddenly woke up and got involved, eye balls started scrutinizing every car entering into the platform with laser sharp focus, hand grips unconsciously tightening on their payloads and steps quickly adjusting to the stance providing the best possible chance to get in. It was going to get tricky and yet again only to be dealt with that strange mix of utter chaos and legendary Western discipline.

All cars were visibly jam-packed and I was not the only one to observe that. Last car halted, with doors sliding open laterally right in front of me as I waited for full 5 seconds, expecting first wave of exits spitted out before launching myself in. I just needed that one person to step out to acquire the left over space. That person never came out. Approaching t+15 seconds I panicked and committed the fatal mistake of leaving my spot and went after the car behind which was being worked upon by only 2 candidates in front. At t+25 those 2 candidates successfully stuffed themselves into the car and joined the rest of the eyes inside; which by now were screaming a big collective “don’t you even dare” look at me. For some inexplicable reason I had to look back to the spot I left. An exiting electric wheel chair had finally made it out and doors were now closing in. Train left at t+30 seconds. Something of this sort has happened before.

(Do you remember the spinning umbrella in 70’s Pakistani movies used for flashbacks?)

August 12, 2001: 11:15 PM:  Lahore Railway Station

The fact that it was deep in the night was not helping at all with that monsoon laden hot and humid mixture of air and legendary Lahore dust. Add to this aroma, smoke originating from those 24x7 kebab shops conveniently located in and around city railway station and I am sure you will get the common gist of the Urdu word “hubbs” and its Latin brother “habeas corpus”.

Task today was not easy. Wagon route 47 was one of the longest in the city, running from city railway station to Township, a southern suburb of Lahore proper and my final destination tonight. The other choice was hiring a rikshaw. While rikshaw may be a familiar entity to most, it’s the legendary Lahore ‘mini-wagon’ which deserves a brief explanatory note for the benefits of those lucky ones who always had an alternative. Let’s start from interior. The seating arrangement is the brain child of someone who has that sharp techno-business savviness perhaps only to be found in passenger airliner designers. Aside from successfully applying serious business concepts like economies of scale on 4 wheels, the ride offers an unmatched experience when it comes to doing away with some nonsensical concepts like comfort, leg room, cleanliness, fresh air and human dignity. Just when you think you have figured out how a 12 passenger vehicle can possibly seat 20, get ready to make room for another four and leave the mechanics of it to that master mind conductor hanging on the outside with the half open door. The very same door which can only be unlocked from outside, primarily to discourage weak hearted passenger who may have seconds thoughts and try to eject mid-flight. To quote Eckhart Tolle: “If you want to check if you are enlightened, spend a week with your parents”. I dare say that the same validation can be achieved in a single wagon trip from Lahore Railway Station to Township. 

I joined the waiting passengers club. Taking stalk of the situation, I could see four possible contenders for seats on the next wagon, possibly the last one of the day. Three of them were young happy lads in their teens and by the haircut and body language were most likely armed forces cadets visiting home for a break. Fourth one was a run of a mill “Lahoree Baba”. Fifty something, of thin frame, medium height, half bearded sun struck face, squatting down in his pale coloured “shalwar-qameez” next to the broken waiting bench. He was thoroughly enjoying the company of his filter-less “Camel” brand cigarette trapped between middle and ring finger of his left hand. He also had a pocket radio clenched close to right cheek but apparently was having some trouble with it. Finding me as the nearest “parrhaa-likhaa bañdaa” he requested me to take a look at it. A well beaten up Sony transistor had his name boldly written in Urdu with a permanent white marker on the tuning band window: “Saabir”.

I was about to give up on the radio when route 47 wagon appeared from nowhere. Conductor was already hanging outside the sliding door. That was not a good sign. It never bothered to come to a complete stop. Cadets and Saabir anticipated the trajectory of the vehicle much better than me and were quickly scooped in by conductor within couple of seconds of running parallel to the wagon. Following the suite I made my dash. Playing mind games, wagon driver (a.k.a pilot as scribed on the door next to an F-16 image) was deliberately trotting with just enough pace to not let gasping passenger loose his heart. Pulling along all 6 and a quarter feet of my body with a 20lb bag as pay load, I got parallel to the open sliding door only to face a coloured wall of “shalwaars” and “qameezes”. With his left arm fully expanded and in between yelling the destinations names in rapid fire sequences, the conductor somehow managed to encourage me to take the plunge in. But I could not see even an inch to put my feet on let alone dare to get inside. Wagon started to pick pace.

What followed next can probably be best imagined as a slow-mo sequence from “Untouchables”. Saabir’s head popped out of open wagon door. High volume interior Lahori slang started to come out from his mouth, eloquently describing intimate family affairs of conductor and driver for the amusement of rest of the passengers. Wagon came to a sudden halt and Saabir’s head being true to Newtonian mechanics disappeared once again into the human blob. Five seconds later Saabir along with his radio was ejected out in one piece. Landing safely on his feet, he continued on with the remaining of the family briefing. Walking away from the wagon he looked up at me for one quick second, smiled wryly and winked in a meaningful way. Wagon started to move again and this time almost mechanically conductor scooped me in.
Continue reading ..Next 
Page 2, 3
Source: Takhtee

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