Intrepid; Adroit. These short qualifying descriptions perhaps are apt for the thought-trains with innocuous beginnings, valiantly relentless at one instant, wisely guileful at another, that in time, in the right environment, and tweaked by biases of the congenital kind, fashion either entangling webs of confusion or well-ordered grids of clarity, with their ephemeral trails. The principal propeller of the trains in question, in the context of the material platform that birth and foster them, is the need to attain and maintain equilibrium between components of the material platform as a consequence of this process, which in common parlance would be called the feeling of satisfaction.
Indulgence in this course of happenings might well be the one that is practiced most by members of the subspecies homo sapiens-sapiens, regardless of the variations that set apart the vast number of its constituents from one another. This may also figure as the indulgence that sports the best return-over-effort ratio among recorded human pursuits, but their effectiveness being confined to a domain accessible only to the pursuer. A good part of this ratio is attributable to the extraordinary traits that thoughts possess. They can mutate into hitherto unknown avatars, blend with utterly unlike confederates, vanish from uncomfortable situations, or pop up conveniently in lucrative ones. Occasionally, a few of them pack sufficient potential to puncture the fabric of their confines and manifest as grand material structures, incidentally and even more sporadically conferring upon such human thought-promoters, doubtful glory, which in some extreme instances, may further impel their transformation into legends in real-life.
My thought-trains too have strictly adhered to the norms set by the combination of my genetic landscape, environmental variations, and point of traversal of the inevitable life-cycle. They had no choice, though there have always been (and will be), surreptitious yet futile attempts keeping with universal tendencies, to attribute the direction and route, and the supposed accruals of doing so, to one's ostensibly growing wisdom and alleged superior inherent capabilities. This is a matter-of-fact acknowledgement; neither forced nor voluntary. If there can be a one-word description of the purpose and significance of all forms of human expression - externalized, as in the myriad ways that we communicate with the surroundings, and internalized, as in imagining stuff - it is acknowledgment; we constantly assert our current understanding of our being, from our standpoint. And even if purportedly pointed outwards, they are all aimed essentially inwards.
If I look back at my life today, it appears to be an incessant series of such acknowledgments that extends to the present - this manuscript being the latest in it. My initiation into Vedic chanting and other every-day religious rituals on the banks of the river Ganges as a boy of seven was an acknowledgment; so was the introduction to science at a Christian missionary school and later through graduation at college, imbibing their disclosures; analyzing processes as a systems analyst and coding them as a programmer were acknowledgments during the period of employment; reflections on the ways of life it is now. There was that affirmation too, stipulated by propagational compulsions, manifesting materially as progeny. If it were possible for one word to explain activities across a lifetime, there must be a common thread that traverses through all of them. The essence of the perspective exhibited by both the Gayatri mantra and Schrödinger's wave equation must be similar. In my view, they are more than that. Both acknowledge the state of existence as it has always been and as it is. With a galore of avowals scheduled without respite, there is hardly any time available for anything else in life. Ditto will be the grievance from all beings ever born.
Bird king Jataayu was my favorite character in the story of Ramayana, which was a regular read during my formative years. I liked the narrative on my own, while my mother ensured that it stayed that way. Often have I wondered why I was biased towards a bird when there were innumerable human characters in the tale. Perhaps it was due to the blend of inborn likes and dislikes that included a hearty love for wild life and a healthy abhorrence for social interaction. A soft corner would well up for any entity that connected even remotely to an eagle, the dimensions of such a corner corresponding to the prominence of the connection. This attribute made others assign my personality to the domain between those of eccentricity and lunacy. I preferred the exact middle as it enabled a claim to the best of both adjacent domains. Being there, I was also privy to a secret which was not one at all. It was that everyone belonged to this domain. Jataayu represented ultimate freedom in absolute solitude and provided a literally perfect bird's eye-view of existence, in addition to his other exemplary qualities as a character in the Ramayana. The innocent passion of the boy, withstood the process of mutation into a seasoned adult. And one day finally, the urge casually surfaced to impel me to acknowledge this idea in a manner that was more concrete than spoken words or written sentences.
The objective was to construct a representation of Garuda - Jataayu's paternal uncle from one of mythology's innumerable genealogical lists, as depicted in some texts, and make it a permanent display at home. Pictures ranging from the sacred one that had adorned the wall of my mother's prayer room, to those available in books and on the internet, were inspected and a combination appropriate for the task at hand was identified, with particular emphasis upon an imposing wing spread. Pictures of eagles in the wild were also sourced to provide details of wing structures, feather textures, body proportions. Then followed a search for materials and fabricating techniques to fashion the blueprint (in red) into a substantive form. And finally it was time for the process itself.
Except for amendments to the system of recording intervals between events, it was like any other day. But time, both elapsed and absolute, was henceforth recorded in terms of completed feathers, feather-lings, and feather-lets. On a rough estimate, there were about six hundred feathers to be made - two hundreds in number of a larger dimension for the wings, and the rest smaller and comparatively less detailed for the torso, arms and legs. The larger feathers were serrated along the periphery to mimic the feel of real ones, strengthened with multiple layers, then sewed on to the wing base, which was fabricated from steel wire to provide a firm frame with the required contour. The smaller feathers formed a mosaic that wrapped around a hollow framework and held together by an army of two thousand metal pins. It was almost a year by the general standard of timekeeping, to attain the state of completion.
The latest avatar of Garuda lay suspended in mid-air (at least he appeared to be) upon his pedestal in immobile glory. The moment was opportune to launch many more thought-trains or rather they got launched themselves. Only that this time riding the carriages were images or imaginations that affirmed recent perusal of the nature of the Higgs field, along with an assertive theme from one of the mythological narratives on Garuda, as a co-passenger. While the latter theorized that Vishnu pervades everything in the universe riding upon Garuda, the standard model of particle physics propounded that the Higgs field pervades the universe and its effects of transferring energy to other subatomic particles is accomplished by its associated particle christened the Higgs boson. The displacement of the boson is akin to a wave progression, which among many other similes, resembles the flapping of wings. Here were two themes from entirely different eras and distinctive sensibilities, pointing to a similar acknowledgment of the mechanism of the universe. Time seemed to stop for a brief moment to confer upon onlookers the privilege to revel and wonder at this apparent, and perhaps real concord. The next moment the thought trains sped forward on their exciting journeys into eternity with a noiseless blare of their whistles declaring right of way.