Last evening, the orange-coloured masoor dal boiled in water with turmeric and salt. I seasoned it with garlic, curry leaves, green chilly, mustard and cumin seeds, in ghee. All of this cooked in an terracotta vessel that my friends gifted on my wedding. The dal was a simple fare, but it had the elements of connectedness and rootedness, two elements that I have been desperately searching in my life.
Cooking dal in the middle of fever and body ache was quintessential because of the desire for stillness – awareness and calm in the process of movement.
I have been seeking stillness since Droidcon got over. Organizing events can be highly consuming. Usually, there is subtle stress – both happy and anxiety-laden. You are always striving to put things together, get people to work together, and complete tasks within a limited time frame. Often, you have to deal with limitations, move some steps forward before others are completed, and fix things that ought to have been done earlier in the linear scheme of organizing events. The process of moving forward when organizing events is demanding in this respect. The demanding nature is accelerated by the fact that you also have to manage relationships and people, with all their limitations and possibilities.
At the end of the day, an event is also the by-product of the organizer and his/her drives, motivations, personality. For me, it is essential to organize an event in the spirit of curiosity, questioning, enterprise and fun.
But that does not mean I am light-hearted all through the process of organizing the event. I wish I could be (and that’d mean I have attained the ultimate state of Vipassana). There are times when I am frustrated because I don’t understand every aspect of technology to be able to piece together coherent meaning into the event, let alone its content. There are times when I don’t know what is the research question I am asking when I am putting together a JSFoo or a Droidcon – what is the intersection between technology and society that is being revealed to me that I don’t know. And it is more frustrating after an event when it is not clear what is it I have gathered that I did not know before.
The search for stillness is driven by my mind’s constant strivings, fears, aspirations and frustrations. How do I respond to each of these thousand questions and aspirations that are in my mind without being frustrated by the hiddenness of the apparent? How do I keep moving forward in the face of what appears to be a slow process of learning? How do I not get bogged down by the fact that each event is a further revelation about relationships and processes, and not necessarily about technology and it’s implications on practice, structures and economy?
Stillness is about calm in the face of seeming frustrations, limitations and slowness. Last night, when the orange masoor dal transformed from it’s raw state into something that was as simple and heartwarming as a meal, it was a process of stillness combined with movement. In music, notes and rhythm are actually stillness, where there is movement without the sense of being ruffled or frustrated. In the act of running, there is stillness when the legs are bobbing up and down despite the aches and pains and without the fear of making it to the finish line within a certain time period. Stillness is about movement and the calm to work with time, not against time. Stillness is about movement despite the mind and its machinations. Stillness is the ability and courage to keep moving forward, perhaps with the faith and patience that the hidden will become manifest and that movement is the journey towards discovering the manifest in the hidden.
Stillness is like the process of combining elements when baking bread – knowing and yet not knowing what outcome will become manifest with all the ingredients worked together with the hands, elements of the self, and the alchemy of nature and technology … … …
Dedicated to myself, and Santhosh Padmanabhan