Monday, 27 August 2012


Last night we were all twittering away friends from across the globe, when I decided it was time to retire. One of them for whom it must have been early evening said goodnight and with a promise to meet again tomorrow. In levity I told her that we would definitely meet provided I was alive until then. Said jokingly but taken very seriously by a few people.. the instant response was "SHUBH SHUBH BOLO" of auspicious things. The talk of death or dying instantly elicits this response. I have heard it time and time again and have been quite bemused by this statement....being a person who constantly questions and tries to find reasonable explanations for any belief I encounter, I have come to some conclusions that may not be to all but seem utterly reasonable to me. What I have seen and come to believe is that we are so conditioned by our beliefs which are learned as we grow, that we do not ever stop to think if they are right or not, we just continue to believe. Superstitions, behavior patterns thought processes are all the conditioned by the particular historic patterns of our species.

When my mother once told me that homes should never be swept in the night after sundown because for some odd reason Lakshmi would run away. I asked her where THAT came did not need a degree in rocket science to understand that it must have been from the time when there was no electricity and sweeping the homes may have led to a clean sweep for the one sweeping. Or that Friday the 13th is inauspicious, we all know the basis of that belief, the Sunday after that was very auspicious and to say that all Friday 13ths after that day are not good would be carrying it a bit too far.There are many superstitions which can decried if thought about with logic and reason. Many may have been apt at some point of time but cannot hold true for generations to come.

To get back to where I started from( pardon me, I have been accused of digressing needlessly once I get started), the twitter interaction made me think of this issue of why we our concept of death is anything but auspicious. The one certain truth of life is that it must end. Everything does, nothing which is born can stay alive forever, whether it is a blade of grass, a snowflake an animal. Why,then must we consider it to be inauspicious, if we consider living not so. We celebrate life in its myriad forms, are we then so fearful of its end that we cannot think about it and shut our minds to it. We are not afraid to live are we, with all the uncertainties we face? On the other hand we take up the challenge of living, many a times not giving up when defeat is imminent.

In my personal opinion and many may not agree, what we are afraid of is not the fact that we will not last until eternity for we well know that this shall not be. Our emotions which connect us to all who we know,is what makes us afraid, for the person who goes has gone, we mourn really not for them, they are not there... we mourn for our associations, our memories of them and perhaps when we bury or cremate the body of the one we love, some of them take flight with the soul which is no more(memories have a habit of becoming dim with time). It is natural to miss a person one has lost to time, and remember them but it is also natural there has to be an end to any beginning. Then should we rejoice the living and call the end of what we have rejoiced inauspicious? Do these words really have any meaning other than what we make them out to be?

We have descended from the apes and we have kept up the descent, not really

ascended into thinking beings.Animals are slaves to their instincts,we on the other hand apart from our intellect we are governed by emotion. We distinguish right from wrong, good from bad, beautiful from ugly, but then is anything really right or wrong, bad or good? It is our perception of anything which makes it so, perhaps which makes us unique too, but if we look beyond perception there is no element of good or bad or right or wrong of the just and unjust.

We are and have always been sentimental, we hold on to memories, we keep little things which remind us of our loved ones, why we even display our own pictures proudly by our bedside.... which is perfectly justified, but when we get perfectly attached to these things that make up our world is when our vision falters.We cease to look beyond our world and become embroiled in the pettiness of emotive thought.

When every religion talks about eternal life why are we so concerned about dying? Perhaps if we leave aside perceptive emotion and perceive without judgement, see rather than watch, listen more than we hear, be quiet rather than be heard,we may start taking small steps to that life eternal. The cacophony of life prevents this.

Diwali will be here soon, I MUST remember not to give clothes or any gift to the Dhobhi,the poor man has been happy to live with this burden since Ramrajya.. must follow tradition.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Independence day has come and gone.It was a few days before the 15th August that I remembered him again. I wanted to write this on that august day, the feelings were too strong to write objectively. Now that the day has gone,the feelings a trifle dulled and thoughts more objective, but can one divorce feelings from thoughts when one thinks of a super hero who gave his all for his country. It is difficult to be objective when that hero is your own uncle.

I first saw Mamu in Delhi on our holiday at Chahchji's house. Television broadcasting had just begun here, watching tv was a novelty, we were watching a movie in a language which we did not understand, Mamu and us kids on chairs and all the other children sitting cross legged, all of us enraptured by the images on the screen, without understanding a word of what was happening. At some point in the film there was a funny scene and Mamu made it even more by his comment and action. I was floored by this tall man with his humor who had all of us rolling with laughter at a film which was gibberish.

The second time I met him was in Bundi,a small town in Rajasthan where my much older cousin was to be married and all the family had gathered for the occasion. A familiar face when we arrived and who told his daughters, my cousins to accompany us to where we were to stay across the road. Instant friendship ensued,with just a years difference between me and the younger one. One morning we went to inspect the place where the baratis were to stay.... it was a palace not very far away, the baraat was to arrive the next day and we had to see that all the arrangements were in order and be ready to receive them the next evening. Normally when the baraat arrives they are greeted by some of the people from the bride's family with a daawat which is called amad ki daawat or the greeting on the arrival. We were waiting for them to arrive for quite a while when Mamu declared ... HERE THEY COME... all of us ran out to the porch and there was nothing...HERE THEY ARE..THE SAMOSAS HAVE COME!!! Laughter all around before we got down to more serious business.
For children weddings are a twenty four hour party . No responsibilities, just try and find the coca cola crates and guzzle as many as possible, watch the festivities enjoy the moments of fun with adults, look at the peacocks which came very close,walk down the shaded roads when there is a lull, dress up during the functions,an idyllic holiday.Mamu was there with us,sometimes, as a playmate in some of our silly games.

We came to the then Bombay in 1971 and I soon joined my new school.It was the start of the new school year and my first day there. My parents had told me to come back home by the school bus. It was a half day at school which I was not expecting, all the girls seemed to know where to go... I too went towards the bus but there were so many of them, I did not know which one to get on to, so I decided to walk home. I was vaguely familiar with the route, asked people on the road for directions and reached home at two thirty in the afternoon much to Mom's surprise and later horror when I told her that I had walked home. That evening Mamu and Mami came over to meet us, my father still a bit upset with my 'bold' behaviour, told him what I had done and Mamu looked at me and said... she's a lioness.. SHERNI HAI!I loved this tall uncle of mine with my life. My cousins were in boarding school and Mamu and Mami would come often.. I would wait for his Renault to arrive with anticipation, he would often join my brother and me in our games.

This idyll lasted but seven months. In December of that year a war broke out with a neighboring country. One night the sirens rang out loud and tracer bullets went streaming through the sky, I thought we were being attacked and the tracers were bullets going in the direction of the harbor. I screamed with fright thinking of my uncle.He left soon for battle soon after that day,set sail to protect our territory. He did not return. The call came on one dark night.. the ship had sunk, torpedoed by an enemy submarine and we knew that this was the end.

The newspapers were full of the stories the next day and for many days after, in all languages talking about the brave captain who went down with his ship. The sailors who were rescued told my aunt about how he had saved some of them, one who was afraid to jump in the waters was given a peremptory kick on his behind, another who could not find his life jacket was given the one which Mamu himself was wearing, while roaring out orders for all to leave the ship into the safer waters. Many saw him then go back, this brave man sat on his captain's chair calmly and went down with the ship. In the best tradition of the navy, with honor and pride.

He left behind a young beautiful widow and two daughters shattered but as strong as him in their bereavement.
My mother went to see films over again just to see the documentary film which was made about him and the event which led to his sacrifice.
I mourned quietly for my beloved uncle who had made me once feel brave.
A life well lived.

On days like these I remember my special super hero, with his small smile and large heart, his humor and bonhomie.When the flag flies high I think of him with pride. We take our safety for granted, conduct our businesses with ease, do we ever think of all those whose job is our security. Their valour is exemplary.


Saturday, 18 August 2012

A Revisit

The rose garden had vanished, the wicker gate lost to time. There were no snapdragons by the side of the driveway. The tall bamboo trees next to the gate had turned into baskets. Where was the lush green hedge and the greener than green garden, the fruit trees?

An older woman looked at the young girl child playing on the lush lawn as the sprinkler watered the grass.They stared at each other for a moment,the child turned,calling her brother and his friends to join her play,running away into the lawn at the back as the woman watched them. She looked at the house again, her home for a few years, the better part of her childhood, now running into the lawn away from her. The structure itself had changed, nothing of the original home was left, the garage was in the same place but not much else. Through the open gate she saw the desolate garden, without the border of colorful flowers or the trees which bore luscious mangoes, plums and peaches. The grape vine behind the kitchen which her mother had lovingly nurtured with the gardener's help must have long gone.

The unkempt garden and the silent walls of the house smiled slightly at the grey hair and wrinkled skin, akin in their destiny. Their childhood left behind, their youth striding into a mature adulthood slowing down to the almost placid middle age where the grey and the patchy grass merged.

She glanced back, the child came running out followed by two bounding cats. The child stopped short and they looked at each other for for a long moment, the child at her future, the woman her past.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Janam Ashtami

There is the sound of revelry all around. Last night precisely at 12am we brought in the birth of Krishna our beloved God. Krishna the playful boy, the innocent baby teasing his mother, the boy-child playing with the gopis and his friends while taking his cows for grazing.Krishna a loyal friend, kind of heart, brave warrior, the knowledgeable and knowing, whose words ring true even today in the form of the 'Bhagvad Geeta'. Krishna my beloved, who has kept me alive spiritually, whose words have meaning above and beyond any other.

There is revelry all around, joy at his birth and men are breaking the pot tied at the top of a rope, forming pyramids to reach it and share the goodies in it, imitating you when you as a child stole the butter hanging in the pot above you. An image which is so innocent and sweet.

Come soon Shri Krishna so that the joy is real and so that all that is wrong is once again made right. This is my fervent prayer to you.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

To take up from where I left , we are always rushing nowadays, and while I do the same I stop and question it sometimes. We were never in a hurry or saw any of our elders in a hurry in the days gone by. People worked then, they do now, what had changed is the pace perhaps because of the innovations and discoveries in the last few decades, or maybe people actually believe that the world will end soon. The former should hold true , the pace at which technology, for example has grown and keeps growing is one such example. As children there were no washing machines, no televisions, no computers and no cellular phones. We did very well without them and perhaps because of them we had a much happier childhood full of innocent joys.As technology came into our space to make our lives easier, we accepted it and with our growing years, so that the first ever TV program to be viewed at age nine was wondrous but when it became a daily activity (closely monitored by parents) it was not such a big deal. Nowadays children will not know the wonder of watching a black and white screen for the first time. They will not know how watching Edwin Aldrin landing on the moon, screened on a cloth screen in a square in the market place looked so awesome, because now there are so many space endeavors that it is just another piece of news to be discussed for a while and then move on to the next.

Technology has made so many changes in our lives. It has made living easier but has cost mankind dearly. We are careening at a heady pace on some path, a path which has no end, the turns and the twists of which we ourselves do not know but we want to get THERE and in our hurry we have lost a lot. We have degraded nature, have become selfish as now what matters is ourselves and not those who matter to us.

We watch news stories which upset us, but they are just another piece of news.Discussions ensue but they remain just that and never proceed to action. While children keep falling into open manholes, one such is just five paces from where I live next to a school. No action will ever be taken, unless there is an accident. Cynics all, selfish and inert.

I have traveled out of the country but thrice, the difference is stark, there is commerce there too,but along with that there is a civic sense which shows that people care about the other and their community. Why do we lack this? My personal view is(it is open to debate) that the inhabitants of this largely agrarian country have the attitude of a person residing in a village..... we may have become city dwellers but have not left our rural background behind, so small cities and bigger ones too where the influx of people continues become large unkempt villages in the shape of towns.

We call ourselves the human race but in the race to be the best we are losing what is most the most essential part of us, the human being.

We hear stories of violence,we watch wars on television we see happiness of victories the instant they happen, we are concerned about the changing climate, we connect with people like never before, the world has shrunk before our eyes,in this shrinking world somehow we have lost our very concern for that which sustains us. We pray to trees but cut them without blinking an eye. We pray to Gods and Goddesses who are accompanied by animals as their 'vahan' (mode of transport for lack of any other phrase),and we mistreat those very animals. We pray to Mother Goddesses but we have don't want girls as children. In a land where there in ancient times learning was venerated, the uneducated population is shameful in the extreme.

While we assert ourselves and strive for excellence in all fields, let us just step back and think about what it has cost us.

This shall continue... as the picture is not so bad, there have been social and political changes which have made for a more confident population.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The last time I posted whatever came into my mind was not what was meant to be posted. I actually wanted to write about how times have changed in the last half a century but it became something other than what it was meant to be. I shall make another attempt. So help me God.

Unfortunately one sees with ones own eyes most of the time, to perceive through the others is not easy. Thus whatever I or anyone else writes most certainly or at the best of times have a personal element even when written with respect of a larger canvas. Fiction poetry plays et all. The author will always emerge somewhere.

There is a obvious change from childhood to adolescence until adulthood and then old age. I have seen such around me not in people but in the larger social, economic and political scenario. Seen how people change with times, how aspirations become larger, and how scientific progress is so fast that to keep pace with it one has to per force adjust to the climate of change. When I was young ( personal anecdote begins!) we used to just drop in at someone's place unannounced or they would at ours, and if it was close to a meal time, all would eat together, share the luck of the pot, things were easy, life was simple, commodities of course were always expensive and everyone complained about the rising prices.... one thing which has not changed one bit.If now a milk carton is Rs 63/- compared to Rs 50/- a few months ago we cringe, then if it went up from RS 4/- to RS 6/- we cringed too. All in all the days gone by were easier and the happiness quotient was more. This is not to say that now people walk about without smiling or that life is so difficult that everyone ponders about their state of being but by far things have become a bit more trying.

Difficult to continue now as I have to rush to work... will do so in a few hours, bear with me....