Battlefield body

Two nights ago, I sat in bed sniffing, sick of my allergies, seeking an answer and relief from it all. “What is an allergy essentially,” I mused out loud to a skeptical husband. “It’s the body on overdrive, hyper-alert, always fighting invisible monsters in the environment. I sleep so light that even a whisper wakes me up and then I toss and turn all night, adding to my body’s immunity dysfunction. What does all this essentially mean?”

“That you need to take some medication?” he offered.

“No, it means I am a highly stressed personality, always sensing danger in the environment though there is none really. The body is merely obeying my mind’s signals to be crazily alert. But it’s been going on too long and it’s killing me.”

“So how do you give your body different signals?” he asked, humouring me.

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “I don’t know how to change my pattern of thinking. I need to connect with God. There’s too much noise in the head, I am disconnected from the stillness. How do I stop fighting?” We slept.

The next morning, God replied by email as I sat sipping a coffee on the sofa, the house still quiet. It was a quote by Eckhart Tolle: “When you lose touch with inner stillness, you lose touch with yourself. When you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world. Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness. This is the I Am that is deeper than name and form.”

A voice in my head said: The key to stop fighting is to surrender. I sighed.

To make sure I had heard correctly, God sent me an angel in the form of a beautician at the local salon the same afternoon. I had never met her before. She looked young, calm, ethereally composed as she went about the business of waxing my arms. As I gazed dreamily at the jar of wax, she asked, softly, “What are you thinking?”

Just to put it in context, no one ever asks anyone this, not in Delhi where everyone is always in a rush, not in salons where time is of essence and a quick turnover of customers is key to profit, not in today’s day and age when everyone too self-obsessed to make meaningful conversation.

“Nothing,” I said, taken aback, then adding, “I was wondering where wax comes from. Nature or chemicals?”

She gave me a lesson in wax-making (sugar-based or jaggery-based, depending on the season), and we got talking. She was careful around a small fresh burn on my hand, sharing tales of the indoor and outdoor accidents she’d had in the past, stoic even about major ones. She spoke slowly, a constant smile on her face as she told me about her son who had just turned 20 and wanted a bike. “Wow,” I said, “you look 25 yourself.” She then added in that gentle way of hers, “I have two more sons. The second one is 15, the third is 8.”

“That’s a sensible gap between kids,” I marvelled.

“And it’s all natural (kudrati),” she replied.

“What? You guys didn’t use contraception?”

“No,” she said, laughing modestly. “It was all natural. Everyone would ask me, what do you eat?”

I gazed at her unlined face, this woman whose name I still don’t know, and sought out the depth of her eyes. A warm, humorous, wise old soul twinkled back at me. Krishna? I thought to myself.

Of course it was natural. She was the kind of personality that had surrendered. The kind who could take both sadness and joy with similar equanimity. The kind who wore a gentle smile on her face all the time, and who didn’t age. The kind who stayed calm and whose immune system worked in harmony with the universe. The kind who had no battles to fight.

Time passed very slowly, silently, in the little cubicle when I was with her; I was sure we’d been in there a couple of hours at least, but my watch insisted it had only been one. I stepped out feeling very blessed, as if I had just been touched by a great presence.

Surrender, I said to myself the rest of the day. The battle isn’t with the external environment; it is with my own tendency of creating monsters where there are none. Krishna says life is a balance of stillness and movement. Be still and flow.

Surrender to the process of life. Surrender, and win.


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