Karthik Pasupathy (aka KP)

Waves and Still Water

It was almost six when I parked my car near the road that faced the iconic French building painted in yellow and white. The one that you see in most Tamil movies. The one that screams Pondicherry.

Why was I there? No reason. This is kinda my routine whenever I visit my in-laws in Pondicherry. I wake up early in the morning, drive to the beach, sit there, and look at the sun coming up over the shores of the Rock beach.

I was doing the same that day. Except it was colder than usual. But nothing stopped the uncles and aunties from wearing their first copy Nike T-shirts and the Adibas shoes and walk the length of the beach road playing suprapatham and kandha sashti kavasam on their mobile speakers.

I walked along the giant rocky shore of the beach and found myself a spot a few meters from Le cafe to witness the sunrise.

I stopped the music that was blasting through my earphones and looked at the waves crashing into the rocks. It looked like they will never get tired or back off. They did their best to reach past the man-made barrier, but the rocks didn’t budge. For a minute I felt invincible. Because as a race we’ve stopped the ocean.  What a stupid thought!

I guess moments like these gave humans the idea that we can do anything. We can control nature the way we want.

As my mind wandered in all directions, I noticed something.

Amidst all the waves there was a rock a few feet away from me with a puddle of water on it. The water was still and reflected a piece of the dull, morning sky.

When I saw it, it struck me. The sea and the puddle of water on the rock were made of the same elements. How come one exerts so much force whereas the other one is still?

The scene reminded me of a Zen saying

“We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see.”

For a moment, the waves resembled our current state of mind and the puddle of water reminded me of our ideal state of mind.

We were constantly bombarded with information from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. We never have time to be with ourselves and reflect on our day, year, and life. We’re always connected with the world that is slowly robbing our ability to spend time with ourselves.

I recently went to the park early in the morning, but I forgot to take my phone. I was a bit pissed about not having my phone to listen to music. I walked around for a bit and then went and sat on a bench. Since I had nothing else to do, I started looking around. The people, the grass, the sky, the sound of crickets, and everything around me. I realized that after several months, I was being part of the world around me instead of living in a virtual one. I sat there enjoying my own company. It was the best thirty minutes of ‘me’ time I had in a long time.

With COVID-19 and working from home, we lost the small moments of ‘me’ time we used to get when we go out. It could be the short walk around the office building after lunch, the bike ride to and from the office. The evening walk to a nearby tea shop and a peaceful lunch in a corner of a crowded lunch hall and so on.

And, we’ve been thinking we didn’t miss a lot as technology offered us everything and kept us from getting bored. But, with all those series, podcasts, audiobooks, videos, and ebooks, we didn’t have time to process what we’ve been consuming all this while. Sometimes, we’ll have to take a step back from all the noise and spend some time with ourselves like the puddle of still water that was only a few feet away from the waves. Do this and you’ll be surprised what the reflection shows you.