Saturday, April 13, 2019

MATERIALISM AND NOBLE PROFESSIONS

An infant looks up to its mother for the gospel truth. Years pass by and as a tiny tot on being corrected by a parent, pat comes the reply, "My teacher has taught like this only." Later we look at a peer group for worldly wisdom. The search for a mentor would mean that we still admit learning is a process where the taught requires a teacher. As a nation we place "Guru" over God. In fact in one of the devotional poems, Kabir rests the balance in favour of the teacher, thus

                                   गुरू गोविन्द दोऊ खड़े, काके लागूं पांय।
                                   बलिहारी गुरू अपने गोविन्द दियो बताय।।

In short, he says that if the teacher and God appear together, he would choose to prostrate before the teacher first as it was he who led him to God. Then what makes a Guru materialistic?

The story of Drona of Mahabharata portrays this quintessential aspect. In the court of Drupada, Drona is insulted but none comes to his rescue even though he is the son of the fabled Rishi Bharadwaja who is one of the saptarishis. Rishi Bharadwaja also played host to Shri Ramachandra when the meeting with Bharata takes place. Thus, society at that stage also had made it clear that the Guru needs to fend for himself and his family. The Gurudakshina had to be fixed by him to protect his status. Compare this to the Gurukula system where  Guru Sandipani taught Krishna and Sudama. They revered the Guru and gave him their utmost so he did not need to seek.

If necessity is the mother of invention so is it the mother of many other children like materialism.

The other way to look at it is the convenience of expecting others to be having exemplary morals while we lack it ourselves. A teacher ought not to be materialistic. A doctor or a nurse should not bother about personal needs. A leader needs to sacrifice his needs for the public good. This reminds me of an essay in Hindi wherein the people put some others on a pedestal so as to avoid following the principles. Gandhi is conferred title of Mahatma. Jesus is eulogised as Son of God. Mohammed is turned Prophet. Nanak Dev is turned into a Guru. There is no dispute in conferring these titles but we reduce ourselves to common men and say that we are beyond such achievements or even an attempt to do the same. The matter does not stop there we also start questioning several such persons who attempt on why they do not lead a frugal life, sacrifice more or even prescribe standards which is nothing but an abashed display of our own base intentions.

Repeated onslaughts on these noble professions have led to the day when they have come to state that theirs too is a commercial profession. Who is to blame?

Let us mend our ways to facilitate them to regain their glory.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A LESSON IN BEREAVEMENT

Yours truly had the occasion to visit a nearby hospital and be greeted by a coffin making its exit with a score of wailing humans. The hospital was making its best efforts to console the bereaved and assuage the feelings of the other attendants. The scene was one which was common to most bereavements and our hearts went out to the unknown bereaved.

Couple of days later, yours truly was making his way down the home stretch. Barely a couple of lamp posts away from the beloved home, the sight of the mighty dog army raised the hackles and made one wonder whether it was wise to take the next step forward. At that point under the protective gaze of the adults, three pups made a ramp walk across the road. Fluffy white pups with brown patches altered the feeling from fear to endearment.

The pedestrians waited for the event to conclude. A two wheeler steered by a young lady swept past us and within seconds a crack was heard. The second pup lay motionless and bleeding profusely. Couple of men gestured to the lady to speed away which she obliged. Another told us to pick nearby stones as the dogs would now get aggressive.

The motionless crowd was given a lesson of their lives by the stray dogs!!!

The dogs moved in single file smelt the pup and in a disciplined manner moved to the sidewalk again. The mother (just cannot use the word bitch for the noble bereaved animal) shed a tear and moved the remaining pup to safety. No whimper! No bark!! No attack!!!

Pedestrians moved as the dogs held a silent conclave. A man picked the corpse and buried it as the dogs paid a tribute from a distance. 

Next morning, none of the stray dogs were found. They had moved in search of a safer haven. The mother returns once in a while to inspect the blood stain on the road from a distance.

Dignity in bereavement was in full display.

 A lesson to the mortal human - 

Nothing will change the me first attitude in the human, 
while the rest follow live and let live as a rule.


Sunday, March 3, 2019

TERRORISM- WAY FORWARD

Bullying, intimidating, instilling fear, creating a mob frenzy, harming physically and/ or mentally, causing injuries and if possible death - does this spell terror? Let us reflect upon our own actions. As adults we preach empathy, sensitivity, non violence et al but in reality we admire a bully and heap praises on his ability to create a space for himself. The victim is laughed at and ridiculed under the garb of making them macho. The result is that as a society we admire brute strength over most other qualities. The sports are made competitive with less of sportsmanship as the winner is admired and the loser loses sheen. At a latter stage a person who rides roughshod over others' sentiments is admired over a person who displays compassion. The former becomes a leader while the latter is not even deemed fit to be a follower.

Move over to entertainment, the physical prowess is bestowed with so much importance that the inevitable pummeling by the hero or the wielding of weapons is recognised as the trademark of gallantry. If life is such, in death we glorify people who die for a cause, confer martyrdom, celebrate such deaths with least sensitivity to the near and dear ones of the departed. We turn poetic in glorifying such deaths to the extent that one poet states that a flower would rather lie on the feet of a martyr rather than any other place including on a deity. How far can we go in this act of hypocrisy?

It is not that we never meet deaths of near and dear ones. At any given point of time there are thousands who are placed on ventilators when doctors have given up hope. Would there be a single case wherein the person on the bed is glorified to have made a valiant choice to exit? Every penny is scrambled to save the mortal. Hence, the moral is as a society we love to goad someone to sacrifice his life for our own safety or achievement of goals.

However, if the goal is averse to our own goals then the other person  inflicting such pain is a terrorist. In case he pursues our own goals then he is a warrior. 

Thus, the first step to eliminate terror is to eliminate this hypocrisy from each of our own selves and then attempt to inculcate the same in others. Would it be a more difficult task to admire a person who rides a bike on a footpath or jump a signal or to admire one who is able to provide timely assistance to a victim of such an accident? When will the society move from celebrating martyrdom to celebrating compassion. Will we ever return to felicitating a Florence Nightingale or a Dr. Kotnis or lesser souls who show their sensitivity to the needs of the others? Can we imagine felicitating a soldier of the Armed Forces who is able to bring home a terrorist alive or reform him? Will we confer on his the Mahavir Chakra?

The direction we have to move in is that while individual goals could clash, the explanation of a position would be better. This in no way means to belittle the valour of the Armed Forces but only is a desperate attempt to request the society to recognise them as human beings whose sentiments need respect and praise even when they do not die or face a hazard. 

The move needs to start at a tender age when a bully is set on the course of compassion. The victim is strengthened and steeled with living up to the laws of survival. Are there any takers for starting a movement on these lines? Can we eliminate terror by making it clear that the one who wants his life secure wants the other to lay his life down for his goals? 

Let us highlight the fact that Hitler went into a bunker while his soldiers died in battle for his Fatherland. Did not the cadre of Khalistanis shed their blood and lives for Bhindranwale who holed himself in the Golden Temple? Did not the cadre of Tamil Eelam not consume cyanide or become suicide bombers for Prabhakaran's goals while he entrenched himself in Jaffna? Was not the cadre of Taliban not deluding itself for the fancies of Osama Bin Laden who lived a royal life? Closer still is the case of Masood Azhar or the leadership of Naxals or the Maoists. This constant discourse could pave way for the reduction in terror cadres leading to ultimate elimination of terrorism as a political tool.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

TRADITION, RITUALS- ARE THEY MEANINGLESS?

At the crack of dawn one wakes up to a prayer, rubs his palms and soothes one's eyes - a tradition or a ritual handed down over generations. One can be dismissive about their utility or can glorify it. The question is where does the truth lie? (pun intended).

Even before the official dawn of science all living beings have explored various methods of upliftment. They also pass the learnings from such experiments to the generations later. However, not everything can be explained and understood as some things need to be experienced. It was this realization that made the great teacher in Vishnu Sharma to classify students as one who can grasp by hearing, another who can grasp by reciting, a third who can grasp by writing, a fourth who can grasp by performing and a fifth who will have to be taught through stories. It is for the last two categories that traditions were created as handed down as beliefs.

We use salt extensively. It is a preservative for humans while a destroyer for many other living forms. A bath in sea water was considered to be cleansing and today pranic healers tell us that the easiest health tip is to have a salt water bath. It was said salt should be minimized for consumption while can be taken on the skin level- the logic being to safeguard the good bacteria within while acting as a deterrent to others which seeks to make inroads.

Similarly, an early riser who finished his daily chores early was considered healthy. Performing of daily chores involved physical exertion which was an exercise for which we visit a gym at a cost. Drawing water, chopping wood, tilling the farm, cleaning the house or milking the cows or fetching milk - all involved the exertion physically with an emotional satisfaction.

The spreading of cowdung which is an accepted disinfectant on the floor which also acted as a room freshener and air conditioner was a tradition handed down and after a few generations people lost sight of its values and held on to it as a belief or ritual. It was not the fault of the person who handed it down but the lack of understanding of the person who picked it.

The tropical invite to the early sunshine and the need to keep out the evening heat probably was the reason which designed a east facing residence. The winds blowing north east and south west directions paved way for the natural ventilation. This design may not be universal in acceptance but suited the Indian topography. The lack of appreciation of the experienced wisdom behind this led to it being classified as dubious.

Moving forward to the designs made out of flours around the houses and within ensured the live and let live policy whereby the insects were given enough so as to not aspire for the human share. The vermilion and turmeric in the doorways were in fact insect repellants. Instead of smearing them, some aesthetic persons had innovatively placed designs which formed the basis for another belief.

Prostration, kneeling or touching another's feet was a combination of exercise and the cultivation of a sense of humility in people.

The turbans of the Sikh community was necessitated to keep their flowing hair under control. The need to cover the heads while entering a shrine was to prevent the hairfall in the common area. 

The needs to be distinct as a group also made religions adopt different symbols. In ancient civilizations it was not proper etiquette to question someone on certain status. The symbols indicated them. A bachelor would wear a two line thread and a married man a four line thread. A spinster would not sport a mangalsutra. On the arrival of an elder as a mark of respect the younger one would remove his angavastra and place it as a waistband. This is similar to the act of doffing the hat.

The tradition of fasting which unites all religions is meant to clean the digestive system at a physical level while it teaches one the value of food at a philosophical level. The tradition of having an alumni meet or a fest for a reunion is also replete with its emotional values.

Should one be charitable to the traditional readers of a blog by giving them a respite as charity is also a tradition? Of course, the broad hint taken till a further post on some more tradtions!!!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

WHAT WINS MORE HEARTS

Irony struck India hard. On a day commemorating St Valentine and celebrating love, a set of humans were brainwashed to carry a load of explosives to ram into a convoy to snuff lives of other men along with their own. Panelists mushroomed predictably to seek revenge while tributes were showered on the martyrdom of the lost souls. On the day of celebration of love hatred was preached without realising that media needs to hold emotions as it could sway emotions from one end to the other. The media need not rabblerouse for the Government to act but everyone wished to wear the patriotism on the sleeve as the hysteria whipped to ensure that anyone who did not tow this line was only a traitor.

Does not action speak louder than words? Is it necessary to mouth inanities as a preamble to action? Did the terrorist bellow that he would decimate two scores in one shot? What made the surgical strikes effective?

A single word of promise of retribution followed by an act which was unprecedented sent the message. But can anyone discount the fact that the message of love which was conveyed on an unscheduled stopover to greet the political leadership on a domestic affair or the condolences offered and the aid proferred when terror struck Pakistan made the task that much more difficult for them to combat us 

Was it not the Lahore bus trip which made the Kargil war easier for India? Was it not the Agra summit which exposed the real design of the neighbour? Love undoubtedly is a weapon which sharpens the shrapnels of an assault rifle. 

Let us move down to a more personal level. When does it hurt most? When an enemy strikes you or a friend or lover strikes you? The universal answer makes it clear that flexibility on opinions makes life easier for all.

But....

Adhering to this preaching is an art comparable to meditation. It is neither easy to forget or forgive. It is not easy for one to embrace a person who has hurt you. No wonder the Bushes, Stalins, Hitlers et al are overshadowed by the diminutive figures of Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr.

Can the Frontier Gandhi return to instil a sense of peace in the disturbed minds of the terrorists and the terror stricken? These men lived through more difficult times but could heal physical and emotional wounds. Can we just follow them- a multibillion dollar question of the American defence equipment industry to be answered.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

BY(E) GEORGE

Inspiring a tiny tot of less than four feet high and age in single digits to follow the current affairs is not a mean task. This was the ability of the man who signed as George Fernandes. Etched in memory is the lithe figure running up the stairs to mount a commercial building to address a crowd gathered and on finishing the address gliding away into the safety of the mob. Newspaper reading of the printed matter with gaping blank spaces and darkened sentences became a habit.

The historic strike era of the seventies wherein the siblings struck a chord with the labour forces is legendary as they became the darling of the masses. His brother Michael was famous amongst the PSU workers while the other Lawrence lived out the word of loyalty which is popularly filmed in British era movies. 

It is said the first impression is the best impression. This was probably the reason the later controversies surrounding him did not deter yours truly from admiring this man. As the offspring of a PSU worker the passions of the strikes and the poverty associated with it was experienced first hand but one must give it to these brothers in arms that they delivered what probably no other union leader delivered. The symphony of these brothers ended with the liberalisation era and one had to exclaim " How George morphed!"

Whether it was Samata or Jaya or any other controversy who can forget the galling decision of booting the multinationals out or embracing them in a latter version did not matter to the mind that was impressed at an impressionable age. The Alzheimer's disease or the unionists steering clear of him did not matter. The railwaymen forgetting the man who got them justice or the mute reaction of an administration which benefitted from his vision also was brushed aside as yours truly rose to say "By(e) George"

Sunday, January 27, 2019

TWIN DILEMMA

A visit by one of the twins named Ram and Lakshman sent us into childhood days, the envious collection of Amar Chitra Katha, the obsessive possession over toys and many other things. As yours truly and others mirthfully drowned ourselves in nostalgia, it was time to pull out the Ramayana. The quick read of Ramayana revived our memories and stoked new queries. Undisputedly Ram Lakhan is a common name for masculine twins in India, is it not strange to know that only Lakshman and Shatrughna are the twins while Lakshman is only a devoted younger brother of Rama and not his twin brother.

So, the most read epic also leads to revelations. Probably the movies and the natural feeling to name the twins as such which has recrafted the most "together" brothers as twins led to another mission. Who are the actual mythical twin brothers?

Lakshman and Shatrughna of Ramayana
Lav and Kush according to certain versions of Uttara Ramayana
Nakula and Sahadeva of the Mahabharata
Jaya and Vijaya of Vaikunta
Nasatya and Dasra - popularly known as Aswinikumaras

These names are not used for any of the twin brothers. In case of a male female twin could we consider names such as 

Draupadi and Dhrishtadyumna - none would prefer considering the tough lives they led
Kripa and Kripi- again not a very fond set for people who have even delved into the Mahabharata
Satyavati and Matsya - would never be a choice again due to the reason of she being the cause of Bhishma pratigya
Yama and Yami - never to be preferred by the mortals

But the most fascinating is that no twin sisters have been attracted to the names of Riddi and Siddhi. Is it that the father does not want to be Ganesh?

The illuminating lesson that emerges is that if the facts are twisted to suit one's needs too it will not attract any revulsion but if the powers that be desire that there needs to be an issue then a fiat would be issued on issues such as who could pray where to whom and when or whether Khilji could dream about Padmini or not. We could have an issue on whether it could be even feasible for Akbar and Jodha could have a song sequence or not. We could have panel discussions on whether someone has the right to speak or not as his forefathers had committed certain sins. IT IS A HONEST DILEMMA!!!

Another thought struck yours truly which could also invite the wrath of many, why do we not consider naming twin siblings as Surya and Pruthvi, if we wanted one to revolve around the other. May be a combative set of panelists would demolish this blog and consign it to the irretrievable recycle bin!!!