To learn, to comprehend, to understand, to sense, interpret, regard, intuit, deduce, discover – The word has as many definitions as the number of people coming across it.
As a personal understanding, I relate perceiving best with ‘feeling.’
To perceive is to feel something, to sense it from the innermost trenches of your mind and the deepest craters of your heart. While the conscious rejects to ‘perceive’, the subconscious mind only thrives by perceiving. From the traditional methods of calming one’s mind through meditation to the peaceful breaths during yoga, everything is about tranquility through perceiving – through feeling everything deeply.
The most beautiful things in life are not what we see, or what we hear or what we create but what we ‘perceive.’ Look at the Mona Lisa. For some she smiles an unknown smile, for some she is clearly expressionless while for most her face features a mystery unsolved. Look at the Eiffel Tower. For some, it is a marvel of architecture, for some it is the symbol of love while actually it marked the centennial of the French Revolution at the World’s Fair, 1889.
Absolutely nothing concrete has ever been produced without an in depth study of the subject in focus. This ‘in depth study’ is nothing but the power of perceiving. All of us see and hear things but rarely do we go beyond seeing and hearing. And that’s why the class of tarot readers, fortune tellers and psychiatrists are better at knowing things I thought.
My Experience of Perceiving
My parents were out of town and I had just finished my semester, which wasn’t good this time. Every single thought I just shared was a product of my preoccupied mind. I was missing my parents, longing to meet my school friends, confused whether my results would be worse or the worst. An empty mind is a real workshop.
Too much to think about, I gave in. I tried to divert my mind by remembering I hadn’t had my lunch that day. I wasn’t even hungry. Without further thoughts, I walked on.
Walking in the dimly lit wide street that early winter evening I found darkness clothing the entire expanse which during New Year rocks with the revelry of high-spirited youngsters making resolutions and promises for the coming year. This is the same street that enduringly bears the multitude of merry-makers and tourists during the day, round the year: Park Street, in the City of Joy — Calcutta.
Almost like any other wintry evening, I’ve experienced the same cold breeze in the air but the chill was missing. Wrapped around carefully in a grey cardigan and my deep black Hijaab I was quite confident the coldness wouldn’t bother me today. Engaged in my thought process, I snailed down the street.
A flash of headlight dilated my pupils and I was at once distracted from my train of thoughts by the loud bang.
The source of noise was on the other side of the pavement. A little boy of about seven had fallen belly-to-the-ground as the zooming Pulsar 220 motorcycle sped off. No one around except the tired trudging band of waiters and hotel workers of the various eateries in the area. It was too dark and chilly for people to be walking down the alley. Shops were shut down due to heavy breeze and forecasts of torrential winter rain. Distracted, I went up to the kid, gave a hand, helped him get up and settle down. Overburdened by a load of broken tin-cans, disfigured toys and other metal ware, as if returning from a day’s work, the little kid picked up all of it carefully. In rags, the boy smiled and uttered, “Thank you didi.”
My lips voluntarily, as my hands had moved towards him, replied, “Mention not little kido.”
“But what are you doing here so late?” I asked.
“Waiting for my maa to send me dinner,” came the answer.
“Dinner? Here?” I became inquisitive.
“Yes. Every day she sends me my dinner here on the street because she knows I’m waiting.”
“Aah! That’s sweet of her. But why does she send you dinner? Don’t you go home and have it with your maa?”
“This — is — my home didi.”
The chill in the winter air was missing until now. No longer was my Hijaab or my cardigan immune to the cruel chill in the air. My lips shivered, “And where is your maa?”
“There,” he said pointing at the brightest star high up in the sky.
The chill now bothered me. I felt a dry throat and an ache in the heart.
“Didi, I am going now. Tata, thank you for helping.”
Grabbing him by my desperate hands I cried, “Wait! Listen!”
“I feel hungry, I have to go or the street dogs will eat away the dinner maa sent for me.”
The chill just got stronger with every word this little boy said. Now, I ‘felt’ cold.
Unpocketing a ten rupee note and digging out packets of toffees, biscuits and chocolate bars from my bag I handed all of it to him. A smile beamed on the face of my lone audience and his twinkling eyes lit by the faint moonlight grew brighter.
“Didi, you are so nice,” he said.
Smiling back at him, I carried on walking while the cruel breeze continued hitting glass panes of shop windows and cracking metal ware of the motor repair shops on the street. I was alone again, walking home, occupied with thoughts again.
The little kido’s belief that his maa sends him dinner every night made me feel happy and thoughtful all at once. I was troubled to think about such unfortunate starving kids waiting for food everyday in ransacked homes, battered tin-houses or coarse rugs on the floor in such cold winters in God knows how many countless homes across the world.
I realized, little joys are hidden in the many vicissitudes of life but the simplest ones can be enjoyed just by feeling for people around, by the simple acts of kindness, of sharing and by caring.