‘N then came the flowers, and reconciliation

I moved into this home of mine in the October 2007, with three dogs- Ginger, Nikki and Raga. In October this year it will be a decade- except for the quarter of this time that we all lived in Goa. I remember when we came first how dry, desolate and barren it all seemed. If I only had a record of things I would have shared- but at least the mental record is still intact. We lived here till March 2014 and pushed off to Goa…letting the house come to a similar state as when we had first come. I was certain about selling off this house.

Life has its own mysteries,which we can never foresee. Little did I know in verdant Goa that my heart would not find the peace I had already found in my little home here. So the heart pushed me back to the comfort of my own space and familiarity of a city that I knew. I did not grow up in Faridabad, so it did not have the association or fascination we tend to establish with places we feel connected to. It is also people and places. Living alone in a town, you do not really get to meet or connect with many as the act of survival itself becomes a challenge- negotiating all the roles of family that one person has to play themselves, with naturally enough no work sharing. In India one is not really accustomed to that- for living in family is the done thing.

But I suppose we all have to rise up to the challenge, as the mysteries of life are only to be unraveled to be lived- if you know everything already, what is the mystery and where lies the charm? Upon our (me and the dogs) return I was very sad in truth, and determined to go back as soon as I could. Of course it is part of my temperament- that adjustment takes me some time usually, even in a known space.

However, there was no comfort or time allotted to me to adjust. It was one thing after another. I fell ill, followed by extremely debilitating body aches, then Raga became disabled, and that became a responsibility to be taken care of in new ways. The Phd work started midst an extremely non-supportive university scenario, the book on music got stalled…it all seems so negative in general.

But the little pleasures of living- come not from our official or professional engagements always, they can also come from family dsc00210 occasionally dropping by (notwithstanding what they make of your home), the birds that come to accept what you offer and the flowers that come alive in every season.

This year was a beginner’s year once again as I had to revive the home and garden from the beginning, more of the latter naturally. From the time I returned in early July until October I had to change the gardener at least three times. If it was four I cannot recall now. Finally I settled with the known devil, who also works in the next but one neighbour’s; and has worked with me briefly in the past as well. His labour, my imagination, our discussions, my efforts at watering the garden in the cold winter, keeping an eye on everything, as also the money that went in finally started producing outcomes towards the end of November.

No, but wait, this first outcome of the chrysanthemums dsc00193 was not his effort or mine- but that of Kaushal gardener, who had worked here in my absence.

In this picture Andre is sitting with Ginger and Dash, and there is a whole bed of yellow and white chrysanthemums growing behind him. They were very beautiful when they came. But by December it was time for them to bid goodbye!

I was a little unhappy with their short stint but we decided to throw them out, as the plants had grown very old and bring in new plants next season; while we utilized the same bed for another set of flowers, whose photographs I am not sure I have here. These were daisies. I saw them for the first time this year in the nursery and instantly decided to grow them. I did- some 20 plants in all, and the whole bed was covered, but the flowers were a little disappointing, or may be I grew them at a late stage when their vegetative growth was all over, and only the flowers remained to come. The plant is small and flowers are beautiful, but it does not flower profusely. It was a learning.

Daisies and the little birds

Daisies

So now it is March and the gardens on three sides of the house is blooming. There have been some losses, some gains, lot of learning, and new experiments- successful and otherwise. But everyday I feel the satisfaction of my labour and efforts, and it is great to wake up to such beauty and colour, chirping of birds and barking of dogs. Life is not altogether bad, and one derives courage from the simpler joys of one’s labour of  the past.

Out here are a few picture of the back lawn. first of all- the petunias outside my bedroom door, where in this dsc00268picture my sister is standing with her son, and papa is sitting reading a book. They were all visiting yesterday, while we all clicked photos of flowers and people.

The back lawn is behind all these folks. I am sharing two pictures of two extremes of it- one is the Northern side and one the southern. The grass in this lawn is very sparse and over time I have a mind to make this purely a kitchen garden. But before that I must write about our kitchen gardening, which happened all in the back lawn only.

This year on an experimental level we grew a few things to eat. This is not the first time though- I have had a bigger crop of lettuce in the past, but this time we grew many things together. The picture is from December or late November. In two rows of leafy greens here, where the naughty Dachschund is looking for garden lizards or other suitable prey one can see a profusion of lettuce and sdsc00241pinach leaves in two beds above one another.

I had a lot of lettuce here- and many rounds of spinach. I was just thinking of cutting it now for some pakoras, but decided against it. Overall we made a good amount of palak paneer, pakoras twice or thrice and palak chicken as well. I was toying with making spinach soup but then let it be out of laziness.

The lettuce has been a treat not only to see for its beauty but equally as much to eat- just pluck a bit of it to make a fresh, crisp, beautiful salad. Tony commented upon eating one such salad, I feel like I am eating oxygen- it is so refreshing. Coriander also grew in the same bed as spinach on one side of it, but it is not showing in the picture here. Of course my satisfaction at learning that lettuce was selling at Rs.160/kg at Spencer’s only heightened my respect and valuation of lettuce even more so!

The same corner in which I had the lettuce/spinach growing in the back lawn is looking like this now. The tiny plantdsc00275s that look like grasses in the lowest row, on the step lower than where Dash is standing in the above picture, is now having these purple, red and magenta Verbena flowers.

The hedge below that has been outgrown by the dog flowers that are growing in stalks of white, pink, yellow and purple colours. From somewhere, two tomato plants have sprung up. I do not think any of us put any seeds. I am not expecting to reap any real harvest from them, because likely the monkeys will spot them before we do. In this photograph above, one can see four varieties of flowers- Verbena, dog flowers (scientific description here), Clerodendrum creeper (also called Flaming glorybower) and Salvia in red colour. I have not counted bougainvilla here, and another purple flowering creeper.

The other side of the garden is looking like this at present, minus the human beings of course. On the sides we have marigold as hedge plant and the petunias of the single variety. At the far end, where mummy is standing in this picture- there is a bed of Cinereria.

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In this picture Raga, the German Shepherd propels herself on her front legs- her adjustment to her disabled condition

All my life until now, at the time of writing this post, I did not know at least a few of these plant names properly and spoke them the way gardeners do- colloquially. Only due to this writing I have checked for their proper and often scientific names and figured out the proper sounds now! ha ha ha- what a joke.

The front lawn is another view altogether, and several plants there are growing for the first time in this house. Of course the first among that were the daisies, whose photos I do not have. There is phlox- which I had never seen until this year as well as double petunias, variegated petunias and multicoloured petunia flowers. In fact come to think of it I have at least six-eight different colours of petunia flowers growing at the moment.

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I know I am making a strange face in the photo above, but don’t bother about me- look at the petunias instead- single ones in deep pink and multicoloured red ones, and the double variety has light pink and white ones. These are growing in five big pots- three or four plants per pot.

All in all, when I counted yesterday I have/had about 20 different kinds of flowers in my garden this winter. These are chrysanthemums, dahlia (fared very poorly indeed), daisies, Petunias, Alyssum, Calendula, Dianthus, bishops candles, Cinereria, Phlox, Verbena, Chlerodendrum creeper which flowers only in December-January, marigold in two varieties, sweet williams, Gazania (I have no pictures of this though it is still growing), pansies, Salvia, Geraniums, dog flowers also called snapdragons, ice plant. I cannot recall one name, of the red permanent plant, which grows throughout the year yet flowers only now.

What I did really miss this time was poppy flowers, which when I saw them later growing abundantly everywhere, I felt a great loss of! Greedy me. And then of course my favourite Nasturtium, which I repeatedly kept telling the gardener to plant, but he shied away for some unknown reason. So these two may be next year. I do hope to have a bigger component of hanging baskets next year- this year there were none, at least not flowering ones.

So the long and short of it is that this is my garden, this year. This garden is a homecoming for me and I am now at peace about Faridabad- for this is home, and this is where the world flowers for me, my labour bears fruit, and my garden blooms in its multihued variety, profusion and colours. I have finally reconciled about life in Faridabad- a place which never felt like home, now feels as though there cannot be another home!

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Pains, plans, and gains

I never thought chikungunya was something to worry about till I got it. And today after more than a month of contracting it, I went online to check what it is all about. What I read and figured was not comforting in the least. So that leaves me with the lurking suspicion that this nuisance is here to stay. My joints are in utter pain and I am quite low on energy. By joints I meant ALL joints in my arms and legs, including the multiple joints on my fingers and the wrists and shoulders and you name it! I cannot lift my arm if I try- so I have to hold my right hand with my left one to lift the arm! Wow- never thought life could come to that. Naturally enough I cannot drive- so I have hired a driver. But wasting money on driving seems like a luxury.

HansFon Logo

So while I was (NO, am) dealing with the pains without respite (and crying out in the night due to an excess of it) and all my writing/research is completely stalled, I thought let me be a bit useful and go offer my counseling services- let health catch up. Of course one of the reasons for return from Goa was to get the non profit (Hansadhwani) off its feet, now that we are both around for long enough. So the first thing which I have been building on is the counseling or mental health arm of it.

To concretise the work further I decided to work with juveniles in observation homes and women who have faced violent crimes or in general are experiencing some domestic issues that they need resolution for. I went and met the two people who head these two different organizations- one was the superintendent of the home for the boys and the other was a police inspector at the women’s police station, in Faridabad. Among women I hope to focus on trauma, in particular rape victims and among boys there would be all sorts of issues. On the first day of meeting the two people, they pushed me to counsel two sets of people each in their respective facilities- one in the boys’ home and the police station. How much work is needed in society- if only we step out of our little cocoons we will know. For every little thing one can offer, there are so many takers. So last week I ended up talking to four different sets of people, and what a glimpse of life it was- from murder charges, to elopement, marital conflict and petty crimes.

The best way to take one’s mind off one’s own suffering is to look at the struggles of others. It offers us courage to bear our own. Of course bodily pain is a different thing than a crime- whether you are a victim or perpetrator. But the common factor lies in the suffering that is an outcome in every case. So I hope that by listening to the stories of others I would also broaden my horizons further and who knows what outcomes emerge with the dialogues that I facilitate- am certain there would be a social value addition, even if no reduction of personal anguish. But then the personal will always kill us, while the social will give us meaning. That is my hope always.

Shivmat Bhairav

From the start this has been a difficult year in terms of health. First it was the ‘breakdown’, then came the Phd admission, then the spinal problems and now the chikungunya. Wow! talking of living in a ‘poor’ country, one cannot but worry about how the average person lives here. Everyone seems to be sick in the city of Delhi/Faridabad. The government is giving out its own statistics, but the reality of life seems so different. In every family I am fiDSC00940nding people having fever, and body aches. I myself was suffering from immense body ache at present, and it seems as though the body has been hollowed out- without life in it.

Notwithstanding that I have been chipping away at my writing- the book on music, that is, and today I also plucked the courage to  start singing once again with my guru- Madhuriji. It must have been in March or April I did some learning with her. And after that long a gap- now. It always takes awhile to pick up a new raga with aunty, because she dislikes certain and then does not think all ragas need to be sung elaborately. I wanted to pick up either Anand Bhairava or Jogiya. But she said Anand Bhairava was only sung by Jitendra Abhisheki and nobody else! and Jogiya is a a raga for thumri, nothing else! So that made my choices somewhat limited. In any case eliminating made choosing easier as well. So between a number of ragas, since I wanted to learn something new, we settled for Shivmat Bhairav.  It belongs to the Bhairav family, having both gandhar , both nishad notes. It resembles Jogkauns somewhat. (That reminds me that I have to go over Jogkauns all over again as my illness seems to have obliterated the memory of that raga in my mind for now).

The world of Hindustani ragas is so vast and colourful it seems endless- there is so much to learn, to teach, to share, to write about, to create and whatnot. And here I am grappling with chikungunya- sleeping with body ache and lifelessly so- in my bed. The book is going around in my mind at most times. Yesterday I was writing about the folk songs of women of Garhwal and thinking about the role of folk music in the life of people. It is so deeply entrenched, yet so overshadowed by the popular reign of film music and other forms of music from the cities. There is a reason to be worried. I am writing this down in the book, because if a country does not preserve its folk art and music, it is sure to be lose its voice and identity.

What is diversity if not difference from the dominant prevalent culture which is handed down by civilizational leaders? Currently the leadership comes from the West to the rest. That leadership permeates every field- including artistic and musical traditions. Foolishly enough people in third world countries think they can and ought to follow the trail of the (Western) leaders because they are markers of civilization, advancement and development. In that self doubt and self conscious assessment, they marginalize their indigenous knowledge and traditions. It is happening all over the world and India is no exception. Even Indian music is not immune to such self conscious assessment. In part one has to hold the planning around art and culture responsible for this lack of self confidence and need to be accepted by the Westerner before we can accept ourselves.

And though I am delving into the deeper end of the current, in search of newer ragas and compositions, my heart is in pain to think of how the average person is so far removed from the immensity of experience that our music brings. In talking to many people for the writing, many points of view emerged- especially on the issue of whether our classical music is our real music or should it be some folk form of music. Ramakant-ji told me that this is a classical tussle in all traditional forms of knowledge, particularly in language and mathematics. So I do not have to dig the well again, but understand the work done by linguistics and mathematicians in the realm of finding a compromise between folk and classical traditions, rather than depriving the average child in the country of both!

The book is half way done. I mean I have written just over 20k words and I need to write equally as many. It is not the easiest of books to write, though when I had sent the proposal it did not look so confounding. It is a great learning and covers a big range of topics, yet the learning has come from most unexpected quarters for me- the fact that writing a book proposal is so different from executing it! Sometimes it is so easy to nail down a broad outline, but try filling up the outline and you know what a tough challenge it can be. I have only learnt this now. Of course writing the first book was a different sort of challenge- something that I am about to embark on once again! Of course, nobody needs to do that if you find a publisher at the outset. But since I want to change the entire book, it is asking me for that sort of effort.

The PhD does not budge

If anyone asks me how my phd research is going, I feel annoyed, because honestly speaking what are they thinking? Do they think it can get over in a day? The truth is that apart from reading and outlining a few preliminary articles, I have not really embarked upon the road in any earnest manner. Shifting home 2000 kilometers, setting up a new home, falling sick and all sorts of adjustment issues that I have had to deal with these past few months do not make research the easiest things to start. SO I am staggering under the various burdens- but slowly gravitating towards an equilibrium- one part of which includes counseling with my clients.

So life goes on thus…(will write later as someone is at the door)

Open the path…here comes the peace

Open the path

For here the armies come

The armies of the SAVIOR

Me at its helm…the swan, the song and the songstress

But for today, I leave you with songs of others.

Wishing you calm yuletide bliss and tranquil joyous tides

The way I experience it from moonlit Goan Raia.

This wonderment for you from some difficult sources…full of youthful verve and verse. Love the energy. May it spread.

This by a friend by amateur Indians from Dubai…just to share that calm is all we seek, and all we are. So let us look at the soul, not the body.

un-expectations

Un-expectations

follow or lead the path, every bit of the way

So in Delhi still, struck up as I am

More of these un-expectations seem to show up despite the planned

And tell me there is so much more

Of my dreams that I could not think up in finer detail, But

someone else could or does

And an eye watches over me, from somewhere to guide me

Anyhow to stick to the path chosen

So that the non-expectation

From the realm of dreams may emerge

As the un-expectation

Another Zen…

Website Hope Image

Life beginning on wasteland

 

 

Birthday matters, birthdays matter

I have woken up a little disturbed- for many reasons. Yes, one of them is the severe pain, which is also sciatica now, and of course the lower backache for which I got treated two months back. It seems the treatment did not have a lasting effect. I am trying various ways to deal with it- so now some ayurvedic painkillers, called Shalaki.

Anyways some strange things that have been happening around me have stirred me deeply and I am really saddened to see how inhuman humans have become, as though forgetting that our time in the world is limited and let us spend it wisely, gently, without hurting others and embracing their truth as a valid part of their reality, which does not require your validation.

Yesterday was the birthday of someone known to me. For the sake of this post, I will call him, Alex. Purposefully I do not disclose who it is, because it will be clear if I say just the mere word of our relationship (he is a family connection). He lives alone by himself and never shares about his life with others. So one does not know if he is happy, sad, needs anything and how he spends his life and day. I always remain concerned about him, though I never meddle or ask too many questions, because a single person is always more defensive and easily threatened, than someone who is emotionally ensconced in a family.

I always want to do a little extra for someone’s birthday, because I feel everyone’s birthday is special. I feel it more for those who live alone, for how scary festivals and birthdays can be, only those who live alone can really tell you. These are occasions one associates with sharing, family ties, food, presents and in general bonhomie, camaraderie and togetherness. For those who are alone, these days are really very lonely and never seem to end. I have been there on so many occasions, not birthday though.

In the same spirit, I invited Alex to have breakfast with me. We ate and then we parted. We had decided that he would cut his cake in my house in the evening and I would make the dinner. None of us wanted to go out (by us I mean us in the family)- I due to my pain and general irritability and Andre due to his own fatigue, due to house repairs and everyone else had their other reasons.

I did not know, but he bought two cakes- full with white chocolate icing, truffle cakes. Anyways it is not my business to ask anyone how many birthday cakes they are buying on their birthday, for who would ever do that?

Later in the day, after dinner, when we were having the cake, I told Andre to take the remaining cake with him to our village home, as my fridge is small and  usually remains full. Andre said he already had a cake with him, so he would not take the one I had.

I was surprised to hear that. I said, ” where did you get a cake from and for what?”

He told me that Alex sent it to him.

So I looked at Alex, the birthday boy, in askance.

It turned out that Alex had brought two identical cakes (no, I did not take a picture of the cake and the foto above is of a different cake, not Alex’s birthday cake). He brought one for us, and the other he took for a family that he identifies as ‘friends’.

He has never introduced his ‘friends’ to anyone, as if they were some sacred treasure that he needs to guard, or as though we, his extended family, should not know who he connects with. Naturally, it is not decent of us to demand anything about wanting to know who he moves around with or how. Whatever else has happened as a result, we have stopped showing any concern for him at least visibly, because we want to tell ourselves that he can manage on his own.

The truth is that in this vast ocean of humanity nobody can manage it alone. We all need other human beings, to live and contribute to our lives in infinite number of ways everyday. Every act of our’s is steeped in the outcomes of labours of hundreds of people. The very food we eat or the cup of tea we pick up to drink is  a testimony of our sacred connection to life around. Some people can live in ignorance of it or others can live in recognition- it does not matter. We touch and we are touched by life around everyday.

The picture that emerged was that when Alex took his second birthday cake (the first belonged to us, the family) to his ‘friends’ house, they simply told him that they were not interested in having the cake! I have never heard something so bizzare. Or unkind. First of all, a man having his birthday brings over his birthday cake, because he wants to observe his birthday with someone who he thinks are his friends…but what do the friends do?

They simply declined it! I have never thought anyone could ever do that.

Their reason was that they are no longer into eating cakes and more into a diet mode, possibly to deal with their health issues.

I became quiet, and looked at Andre. The sheer unkindness of the act did not escape either of us.

He too looked a bit stunned and trying to divert the issue said,

“Cakes are always welcome in our home.”

Cakes are welcome in our home, because people are welcome in our homes and we love to embrace life wholly, soulfully and in recognition of people’s humanity and need. We always welcome Alex, despite our strange communications with him, at times. I want to sometimes engage him in more serious conversations about his life, but he runs away at the prospect. So I never pester him or poke him with unnecessary, curious queries. I am not curious, but concerned. He is not younger to me by any standard, yet unwilling to see the writing on the wall- of his emotional marooning.

But I felt a strange eerie sadness descend upon me this morning, while I was still in bed, contemplating getting up, while from the dark hill in front, a cool autumnal breeze blew into my bedroom. Suddenly a whole lot of jackals or some other animals started to howl in the wilderness outside. I got out of bed and wore my glasses to peep out, they seemed so close.

They were not so close after all. It was pitch dark and the street lights were on. The clock showed 5:30 am. Pain shot through the sacral region and then the sciatica nerve told me of its presence. I lay down for a little longer.

The unkindness of human actions has echoes that ring into time.

Come to think of it, there is no calamity in someone declining someone’s birthday cake. May be people routinely do so, assuming that ‘birthday-people’ like to celebrate their birthdays with others.

What stands out however is the deep trust and respect one person (Alex) had for his ‘friends’ and how they showed the opposite picture – of no trust, no respect for his feelings and no recognition of his need to be loved, accepted and celebrated.

Birthdays matter to everyone.

We took birth, therefore we are here to watch the dramas of life. Can we not be part of another’s drama in kinder ways?

From morning I have been trying to think, how to think of this dilemma. Have human beings just become living beings, bereft of emotions and inclusion? Who is responsible for the millions in the world who are alone- will anyone ever love and accept them? Do they belong anywhere, or no?

Alex just sent me this message on phone- Thanks so much for everything yesterday, followed by two smilies.

I did not know what to say. But I just sent this message in return- “Live life by spreading sweetness. You sweetened our evening yesterday. Thanks for letting us be part of your birthday.”

Of course, he had brought another cake for me, a banana cake, especially because he had been wanting to share it with me for long. So he had really made the day sweet, and done so much running around. I hope, so did I- make his day nice in my little way.

Of course, I did not leave the neighbours out- I gave them a big portion of biryani, that I had made and it turned out quite nice finally, without telling them it was Alex’s birthday, so no cakes for them. And of course, I offered a piece of the same nice, too sweet truffle cake, to Haseena, who works in my home.

Better to spread sweetness, even of a cake, than to carry the sweetness within yourself and exit the stage/drama of life- cold, aloof, full of yourself, impermeable.

When age gets to you faster than your time

I have been meaning to write this post for awhile now, but due to extreme pain in my spine the time I am spending on my computer is extremely curtailed. But when I saw ideas piling up in my mind, I thought I might as well, put this down, lest…I lose it completely or all the others that seem to be wafting in my mind, of late.

I recently had to go through spinal x-rays, IMG_20150719_105931388_HDR (1) as my back has been in a lot of pain. If I would sit on the computer, I would get up and walk crooked for the next several seconds, before it would un-stiffen. The orthopedic I went to in a government hospital nearby told me it was all well, i should take some pain killers and go for physiotherapy. I know so much yogasana, but thanks to a lack of inner discipline about this one aspect of my life I have suffered irreparable loss.

Next I went to an ayurvedacharya – he recommended this treatment Churna Pinda Sweda (PODI KIZHI)- Fomentation massage by bolus of medicinal powders in hot medicIMG_20150813_121054917ated oil. Right now that is what I am getting nowadays and then sit in a bath of steam for at least ten minutes!!!

The experience is so painful, because the effort is to apply heat to my calcified vertebrae and then make the calcified portions become softer. I was a bit saddened to hear from the doctor that at age 43,  “What appears at age 50, is what you are showing already.” He wondered how it happened. I then told him that due to long illness of bipolar, I was in deep depressions for long periods of time, and remained mostly confined to my home and had a very sedentary life. I look back at those years wistfully now- how much they took away from me; a full time career in music, possibly as a performer, introversion for years of solitude with no friends to fall back on, and no networks who would one day support my music, if at all I would be able to sing someday, or have any other form of career. And now this. I am not mentioning here, the liver damage, the other bone issues or the thyroid that happened as a result of medication.

But just when you think the worst is behind, it really is not the case. So now this oil therapy and all the other ayurvedic pills I have to consume for a few more days. Right now the pain is extreme, even while sleeping I find myself in agony. I am really hoping this treatment, by increasing the pain is getting them out. What if it does not and makes it a part of my daily experience?

As it is sitting continuously is difficult, also for riyaaz. Tragically today my guru, Madhuri aunty told me that there is no way I should not become a performer. I have a throat, weight in the voice and strength that if I apply myself I will most certainly be a performer again. My heart winced in pain- if only she had said that long years ago, I would not have bothered in any other direction, trying to find a toehold. At 43, it seems late to begin. The only courage I have is to remind myself of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, who started his training at 39. I, of course, started young but to be a performer, is a different ballgame. So having done the long road of bhajan and ghazal, if there is one thing I want to now do it khayal, and that is all the current effort invested in.

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This is a view of the greenery in our village home. The slopes are part of the space of the house- a great number of trees have been grown by Andre and yet many comes down from generations ago.

What comes ahead is a mystery, but it is a great thing that I have a partner who loves my music, who is always happy to hear my tanpura playing, who demands that I do my riyaaz, even if he does not understand Hindustani music, who is creating so many kinds of spaces in a rustic village home for me to sing and work on musical ideas, that nearly all that I could have asked from a life of extreme pain seems redeemed. And yet, not really so. how can your pain be over, when humanity suffers?