“Let me check your temperature, ma’am,” I got a pistol thermometer pointed at my forehead, as I was entering the airport. “Have you got your 72 hour Covid report done,” A question I would have not imagined to hear as late as a year back.

Nine months have gone by, and I am about to hit the space again on an intercontinental flight. It has probably been the longest span in many years that I had my two feet on the ground for a full nine months straight, unmoved.

“Make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened,” I heard one last announcement before the plane finally took off.  And here I am, in full surrender to God. I am no more in charge. Being in the air is one of the most beautiful times for me, when everything comes to a pause and I can just be… Be with myself. Looking at my own mirror. Unmasked, albeit with a mask on my face (pun intended:)). Reflecting, projecting and just being.

Nine months might seem like very little or a lot, depending on what they have been filled with. When you think about it, it’s the amount of time that separates a unionized ‘sperm and an egg’ from a fully ‘developed’ human being, who will in numerous ways be mutually affecting many people’s lives in this complex Universal Matrix. Who can deny it is not a small affair!

For me, these past nine months seemed like nine years! No, it was not a drag at all; quite the opposite—so much has happened that I find it hard to believe it could all fit within the former time frame.  So many internal flights, for some of which providence was kind enough to provide me with a parachute for safe landing. I witnessed the fragility of life, like no other time. Fragility in many forms, on many levels.

“Your uncle did not make it,” my mom knocked on my door at almost midnight to pass me the sad news. I held my arms in the air looking up for some answers from God. ‘Why? Have You not heard my intense  prayers? And not only mine but also those of my friends spread across the world?” I organized global collective prayers at the same allotted timings for my uncle’s recovery, once he was moved to ICU. Why?

The infamous ‘bug’ has shaken the world inside out. But it does not really ‘hit’ you, until it happens to you or to your near and dear ones. My whole family (including me) experienced its bites, but my uncle became the “chosen” one. It took me weeks to fully accept this. Everything happened too fast. I’ve realised that nature does not warn or really prepare you, it just keeps on dancing on Her own rhythm. One day you are here, the next day you are gone (from this body). Well, you continue to be, but no more in the same ‘clothes’. Such a fragile existence!

Once the condition of my uncle in the hospital deteriorated, my cousin solicited some clairvoyant lady to get some condolence, some hope. “Light the candle tonight at 10:00pm. His soul is going to make an exit” — my cousin heard on the other end of the phone, but refused to believe this. However, this is exactly what happened. The hospital called my aunt a few minutes after 10:00pm to convey about the departure of her husband. My uncle left his body and us.

So what is this life all about? The exquisite dance between the two doors of birth and death. We think we are some big shot players, writing the script, yet the Universe has her own Big Book (of Destiny), by which She abides. We just don’t know when our time is up. The next moment is never guaranteed.

“The captain has put the seatbelt sign on. Please fasten your seatbelt as we are experiencing some turbulence,” a flight attendant rushes to make an announcement. Oh, these air bumps, they feel way less painful than those bumps of life!

It was a late summer morning. The sun beaming in all its glory. I was about to finish tending the strawberry bushes in the garden, when I received a call from my mom:

“The deputy committee has voted against me. I will clear the office [for good] and be back home in a couple of hours. Please don’t worry, life goes on, my precious daughter.”

I was shell-shocked. My mom has just got removed from the City Hall by corrupt officials for her honesty, for trying to clean up the stinking system, for closing down corruption taps. In an emotional disbelief, I seated myself in between the strawberry isles and buried my hands fully beneath the soil, as to get some answers from Mother Earth. ‘Is this fair? Where is justice? Why?’ No, I couldn’t hear any answers, my mind was drowning in an emotional fog. I kneeled down on my bare knees and dug my hands even deeper inside the soil, squeezing it in my palms in order to discharge myself of a sudden shock and gain some strength.

The Mother Earth has opened the doors of compassion once again. She started taking away my emotional toxins and plugging me into Her infinite energy source. She has always been my most beautiful companion, pulsating with pure unconditional love, time and again removing the muck and incessantly providing me with the strength needed to face life in all its colours, keeping me sane, grounded and safe.

“In the big picture of life, this is immaterial, mom,” I was trying to console my mother, while giving her a foot massage, after she came back from the office, “I’ve seen you stand tall against a waterfall of dark forces in your job, you had no support, and I’ve been worried about your health. Maybe what happened today is a blessing in disguise. Probably Nature has Her own plan, but we just don’t know about it yet, mom.”

And, boy, my intuition proved to be right! Three months later she got elected as a member of parliament by a huge margin, supported by common people.

Life is so delicate. It can toss you down one day and can lift you up the next. It can pamper you one moment and can crush you the next. There are no guarantees about anything. Nature has provided my mom with three spare months to prepare for her new “flight”. The time she would have never had otherwise.

“Ma’am, there are many empty seats to your right if you would like to stretch yourself,” a passing by air hostess told me. I pulled myself over, laid across and got even more lost in my cyber-space of thoughts.

I was recapping, how the recent happenings have also exposed the cavities of my own personhood, and how my sadhana path has undergone some very serious tests. The qualities (or lack thereof) cultivated during my meditations were very much brought to light in the transactional space. How I carried myself off the meditation rug, in relation to the world, has always been my meditation benchmark. And these past few months have provided me with a perfect terrain for self-examination.

Vicariously filtering my mom’s poisonous political terrain [what else could politics be] on a daily basis has been one of the toughest things I had to do. I thought I was strong and full of cosmic love:), but actually, I realized how fragile I was. How difficult it was for me to develop compassion towards persons who were casting lies on my near and dear ones, who kept pouring trash and throwing arrows from all directions.

It was not easy to stay unmoved and equanimous towards this all. Truth be told, I failed quite a few times in the process. The latter moments made me realise that my mom was actually a much bigger yogin than myself. Never complaining, always forgiving, carrying no decayed grudges against anyone, never looking for any acknowledgement from anyone, remaining calm and composed under the harshest of circumstances. I’ve never met a more dignified, more hard working woman in my entire life. And more. But this is for some other time…

The plane slowly started to make its descent, and I could not but remember one beautiful poem written by William Stafford, that touched my soul deeply years ago:

It could happen any time, tornado,
Earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That’s why we wake
And look out — no guarantees
In this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
Like right now, like noon,
Like evening.

I wasn’t sure if I would make it through at times. Mother’s grace and Swamiji’s blessings helped me stay afloat many a time. The overflowing feeling of gratitude often makes my eyes well up…

The plane has touched the ground, and I am back in charge (or so I think), exercising my choices, that life presents me with every moment. I am back on the chess board, playing the game… Naively (or maybe not) hoping that my moves will rearrange the board accordingly, presenting me with a new set of possible outcomes.