Defiantly Complacent

Defiantly Complacent

Defiantly Complacent

Recently,  I went for a training program  where I happened to be the only Indian amongst all Irish abhyasis. They were curious or keen to know about my country and countrymen. The sheer diversity of the largest democracy and how we Indians could be best described. Their main query was how we experienced and stayed in sync  with all such diverse cultures, languages, cuisines, religion. While I was trying to tell them about my country and what made us the way we are today, the above title sprung to my mind. I feel, these two words best describes us….’’Defiantly Complacent” I think those two words describe my Indian mindset! They were appreciating the fact that Indian husbands are so accommodative and understanding (my husband took me to the venue which is almost 180kms away, spent the day with our daughter, returned to pick me up in the evening). Had it been an Irish male he would have refused to budge out of the bed on a Saturday morning. I had a very complacent look on my face, but my mind had many defiant reasons to counter their appreciation. I complacently accepted the gesture that he drove me all the way, back and forth. My mind defiantly countered, ‘These foreigners! they want to be independent about everything and yet want an accommodating partner too! It takes two to tango. Whenever,  we wave the independence flag, then we end up having to do everything independently! What do we need anyone else for!’ I did not know how to drive and my understanding husband had graciously done his duty. I was defiant that he had to be specially appreciated for doing something he should have done spontaneously! Am I making sense? I was defiantly complacent at the same time. This emotional tug of war is akin to my country folks. As a country reflects the sum of individual faces and philosophies, isn’t it? I think I have already cited few examples of inconsequential or not so relevant issues where we have been profusely vocal and defiant (the ones that play ‘Dangal’ with my mind!). Then a few issues which I thought had merit and concerned us. The people of the country and we accepted those decisions without a demur, very complacently.   Another recent episode that comes to my mind and takes me on my thinking mode  is Amma’s demise. Half of Tamil Nadu went into mourning and the other half was keeping a hawk eye on who would be the heir to her abundant wealth. She left no apparent heir and has wealth enough to buy the whole nation. As she was the leader of a state, her wealth belonged to the state and not to any one person or successor of her political party. Neither it belonged to her ‘so called’ illegitimate daughter whose pictures were all over the internet. But, the funny thing was, we whole heartedly were shedding tears and mourning our sad loss. Her despicable wealth was such a big issue. We all knew in our heart of hearts what kind of a person she was, yet we cried our heart out and very complacently did nothing about which way her amassed wealth finally goes. It may very well have landed into the wrong hands yet again, and we would very humbly accepted it. Not a whisper about any of this amidst all the teary blogs, twitters and media posts.   The other instance that sprung to mind concerns the very popular show ‘Koffee with Karan’.  One of the guests (it is always a cine world person) said, ‘this is all we talk on the sets, in between shoot break, in the make-up vans and the buzz is all about who said what about who on this show’. Now, this made sense to me. They belong to that world and it is their life and they wish to keep themselves updated.  What puzzled me was the ensuing posts that popped up from everywhere else! We seem to have no life of our own, we have too much time on our hands. We are clueless about how to put this abundant free time to some constructive and productive use. Thus, we idolize these movie stars, emulate them, judge them, for their deeds or misdeeds. Their life somehow seems to add sparkle to our otherwise drab lives and makes it more purposeful.  It somehow gives me a feeling that we thrive on other people’s affairs; the more distant and disconnected the person the more is our curiosity to pry and be aware. After all, they lead a happy, rich and fulfilled life, and we squabble about them and miss out on our life. The fact that we don’t even argue about worthy stuff, is my other concern.  When Sania Mirza married the Pakistani cricketer, we had nothing to say. She happily got on with her life and keeps coming on the cover pages of glossy magazines, not sure how popular she is in Pakistan, she is a big role model in our country. Even our beauty pageants make a beeline for acting as if it is the  only career option for them. Their behavior affirms that “Beauty is skin deep” and young minds get convoluted with all the glamour and show. Why no one ever puts a ban on these beauty queens from taking up acting as their career choice is beyond me. With all the mindful  and meaningful interviews they give and all  the brand endorsements they would have signed, they should prove their point doing something more worthwhile than run of the mill acting! Yet, we have no say on this either.   We get very angry that people from other states have encroached and robbed the original residents of good jobs. We go on endless strikes trying to stop Karnataka from giving water to Tamil Nadu. We have divided our states for whatever political reasons. We stage dharana’s trying to put an end to the influx of people from Bihar and Jharkhand to Mumbai, Maharashtra. Within our own country, we are unable to share our resources, give umbrage, we become defiant. The gross truth is that we are not very tolerant, we are not as secular as we pretend to be, either. Yet, almost the whole state of Andhra Pradesh has gone and set camp in America; we are very complacent. We are entitled to go abroad, we encourage this move and are very defiantly too.  What sort of a logic is this? How can one explain this is beyond my understanding?  Are we not a very contradictory lot? Hypocritical too, if I may add.  We turn a blind eye, become defiantly complacent and take everything for granted in all the aspects pertaining us. And very defiant when things don’t affect us at all, how bizarre are we?

Game of Life

Game of Life

Game of Life

The most controversial game I have ever played in my life is Snakes and Ladders. It was never simply a game for me; it was a play of human emotions. It commenced on a cheerful, friendly banter note; one sibling teasing the other, and culminated into a raging emotional outburst! One of us would be livid or cry, leave the room in a huff; sulk. This was the only game where every player had a fervent prayer; either for their own victory or for the opponents’ loss. We have played Carrom, Chess, Chinese Checkers, Cluedo, Monopoly, Business, and many more board games, but Snakes and Ladders evoked something different in all of us. Every other game, we teamed up, helped the other person win; gave a grace chance or bent the rules a bit; it was all sportsmanship and game for fun.  Can’t say for sure why this game evoked none of those feelings of camaraderie and kindred spirit; as if the venom from those snake pictures poisoned us even before we started to play. One fine day, unable to resolve an ongoing dispute, dad threw the culprit (game) out of the house. I am sure he was worried sick of seeing his children ready to kill each other over a silly game.

Many years later, the dreaded game made its re-entry. Our darling daughter, used to love board games. Much to our dismay, she was not an avid television fan; within 10 minutes, she needed a new distraction. Even her favorite shows, she wanted one of us as company; listening to her narration! None of us could endure the torture of ‘Thomas the Engine’, or ‘Oswald’ or ‘Cee-Bee Bees’; thus, a new game every week became imperative; our only escape route. That is how Snakes and Ladders got reintroduced into my life.

She and I used to play for hours; and as a mother I was not competing with her, I was happy if she won. It made her happy too and I had a chance to sneak in a few other quick chores, multi-tasking was a feasible option. Her brother and dad also took my cue and she became the sole monarch of the game! Resultantly, she grew up not knowing how to accept defeat and overconfident that this was her game, none other was entitled to be victorious, ever. Our daughter’s sand castle crumbled, and her victorious spree was throttled when she began playing with her granny. Like her, her granny also, always, plays only to win, be it her grandchild or anyone else, and unlike us, she was putting her life into the game. Watching the intense play of emotions and brazen rivalry; it was deja’vu; I was transported to my childhood. The first time my daughter lost she took it sportingly and hid her shock well in front of her granny; she cried her heart out to me wailing, “Granny cheats! She is not a good person, she does not know that in snakes and Ladders I am the only winner, she won!” It was a string of epithets and wails, uncontrollable tears due to her first ever defeat!

That set me thinking; I definitely did not want to throw the game out of our life, like my dad. There had to be a way to win over this seemingly harmless, yet viciously disruptive board game! How come we all behaved so unpredictably when it came to this game? I could not let the game win over our humane side; that would be a true loss. I could convince and coax the granny to allow her grand kid to win; but that served no purpose.  what after that? How was my daughter ever going to learn to accept defeat?

Another revelation that came was; I had blundered badly; in my lethargy and escapist attitude I had inadvertently affected my daughter’s outlook; for which she may have to suffer for the rest of her life. I was unable to pacify my little one that day, just hugged her and kept thinking what my next course of action should be. She obviously did not go back to playing snakes and ladders with her granny, not in that trip, and I was glad. It gave me a reprieve; and time to introspect.

We sat down to play after a short hiatus; and whilst playing came my moment of epiphany. I had to treat this game as ‘The Game of Life’; win or lose, we have to accept both with equanimity, that was the spirit and attitude I wanted nurture in my daughter. Marshalling my defenses; ever so cautiously, I rolled the dice; and at every turn I spun a yarn.  When her soldier landed on a snake, she immediately looked at me askance; hoping I overlook, give her another turn, like I used to. It broke my heart not to. But I smilingly refused to succumb to those pitiful looks, instead I introduced a new story for every ladder and snake.  A ladder came when she was honest, able to compete, play fair, not feel jealous, and think that this is a game and every game is to learn, enjoy, win some, and lose some too! She lost to granny and she did not like it, and similarly I lose every time I feel sad too and would hate to play and continue to lose! A snake bite was when she was getting angry, ready to cry because I was winning. Demanding an extra turn so she could win or even teasing me if she was on 98 and I was miserably stuck at some stupid 10; not being humble, a snake if she could not cheer my previous win and so on and so forth.

It took time, some very patient, long drawn, exceedingly intense games before it finally dawned on her that she had to learn to play, enjoy the game, win or lose; every game had a lesson and in the end, it was a game, enjoy and have a good time.

She plays all games with the same ease and grit now, to win always, but willing to roll a quarter over to the winning side and congratulate the opponent too! Snakes and Ladders had arrived with a bang in my house, teaching my daughter and myself the game of life.

Dangal

Dangal

Dangal

This is not about the movie friends! This is about the ‘Dangal’ which rages inside my head because of the comments, responses, posts on FB, ludicrous forwards on what’s app and opinions that come for everything and anything that happens or is likely to happen, globally. It makes me realise that we have a lot of free time. We are the ‘know it all’ omniscient lot who have a say in every affair pertaining to anyone other than our own self.

When the Presidential Elections were going on in America, every Indian became an American. People who may never step out of the comfort of their home in India were glued to the television sets watching the Presidential Elections and actively discussing the future of America. I could understand the excitement and furore when Narendra Modi got elected as Prime Minister. This was a natural keenness and well deserving too. He holds the reigns of our country and is at the helm of affairs, every decision he takes affects us, the residents of India.  But being equally or more concerned about American politics, spending the whole day debating their future; that triggers this ‘dangal’ inside me!

If it had been just about America and overly concerned with American politics, it may have been palatable. But, we seem to be putting our head into everything. More bizarre and inconsequential the incident, the more interested we are. We are passionate and fiercely vocal about everything which does not concern us even remotely. The more the remoteness the stronger is our connect and our awareness of that subject.  Saif ali Khan named his kid ‘Taimur’. That’s his personal choice but we have to voice our opinion. We simply cannot let it pass, it is an issue of such immense magnitude, Saif suddenly plays the biggest role in our lives. What he does, who he chooses to marry, divorce, re- marry, when, where and why, all of it very closely affects us, concerns us and we most definitely cannot allow any detail to slip through our fingers! We have to be aware and make India aware of Saif’s life and whereabouts! So, there we are, diligently putting posts, forwarding messages, writing lengthy articles and participating in never ending debates; a ‘dangal’ in the making…

 We are willing to forget Saif; Aamir Khan released his latest movie! So, all the focus now shifts to Aamir Khan.  We are not really concerned or interested in the movie per se. A good movie or bad movie; we all talk more about Aamir Khan and what he does and why he does and a long character assassination program ensues. We appreciate movies like ‘ae-dil hai mushkil’ and give rave reviews. (My honest review of ae-dil… is ‘a boring display of the promiscuous lives the bored elite live!’)  We make no bones and criticise a recreation of a true story! How ludicrous is that? Let’s criticise, that’s our birth right; to opine uninhibitedly.  But, do we stop with that, no! We yet again forward articles, put up posts and drain the storage space on phones! Dangal brews a bigger dangal, eh!

The overnight demonetization drama took our country by storm and brought to fore many mixed reactions. Half of India seemed to resonate with the sentiment of our dear Prime Minister, some were diffident and unsure as to how this would fructify, some others were strongly against this move and marked it a fiasco, a debacle which may well mark the end of the Prime Minister’s reign, even before it could take off properly. Living abroad, all this news was very interesting and refreshing too. Every Indian across the Globe seemed proactive, keen and expectant as to how things would finally turn out for their country. Did the largest Democracy of the world show true signs of progress, or was this really a sham, how would things pan out for our leader? These were the common questions we all were asking each other. This was all very justifiable and deserved pages after pages of information, blogs posts, nothing sufficed. The topic was such, and the person involved is a very integral part of every Indian household.  What perplexed me is that not a quarter of that drama happened when this very dear person acquiesced to a Shivaji statue in the Arabian Sea!  

“The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in Mumbai in the Arabian Sea on Thursday. The rupees 400crore project will be built on a 16-hectare rock, identified at 1.5 km away from Raj Bhawan and 4km from Nariman Point”.

 Personally, I was devastated when I heard this news. We have a Buddha Statue in the middle of Hussainsagar lake, in Hyderabad. After an expenditure of US $ 3 million the statue stood at 58 feet (18 m) and weighed 350 tons, making it the world’s tallest monolithic statue of the Buddha A concrete platform measuring 15 feet (4.6 m), now referred to as the “Rock of Gibraltar” was constructed in the middle of Hussain Sagar to aid in erecting the statue. It has done usmore harm than good. The stench from the lake (till February 2016) is so over powering; I was forced to hold my breath through the whole stretch of Tank Bund road. That statue is beautiful but standing in the centre of the lake, most of the international, national boating races and other events are no longer a possibility. And with the stench and dirt, that whole place is a big breeding ground for mosquitoes. It is said that to clean the lake and the silt accumulated will take 4years!  So, this mammoth amount of money going in to build another breeding ground for things we are trying to get rid of; it deserved some dissenting voice. I kept praying, ‘someone please say something, ask some questions’. The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

The ministry of environment and forests has given clearance for the installation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s statue in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai.

 

 Makes me wonder about us and what really matters to us. American politics, movies, the core issues of our country…  when do we reveal this fiery spirit of ours? What kind of issues pique our interest? For what are we willing to wage this ‘dangal’?

GEN- Y

GEN- Y

My dad’s ideology and what he envisaged of the future forced him to drive us all to become someone more than a ‘mere’ housewife.  Despite this futuristic, modern thinking, he remained doggedly traditional and orthodox in his value systems and his upbringing methodology. His standard ‘caution quote’ for us sisters was, “Always remember, whether the leaf falls on the needle, or the needle falls on the leaf, it is the leaf that gets hurt and torn apart.”  

Back then, I found my dad’s advice very contradictory, frustrating, and hypocritical. If we step out of the house, work, earn money, then invariably we encounter a mixed group. We cannot dictate to the group all the time nor can we live like an island and isolate ourselves from the group. We must keep up with the social demands. When the other girls wear modern clothes, it seemed ridiculous to always show up in traditional attire! Yet, my father’s rigid rules saw us always dressed traditionally! He never yielded, not once. He stoically emphasised that if one really wanted to outshine and get noticed, it better be because of something more permanent than clothes and appearances as fashions come and go.

Today, I am grateful for all those rigidities. They help me remain uncompromising when I set the ground rules for my children. I grew up rebellious, confused and floundered every step of the way! But what I grew up with and inculcated helped me make sense of it all when I stepped into my dad’s shoes. Most of my logic and reasoning stems from my dad’s one liners.  Without his rules I would still be floundering and setting a bad example for my children.

Another memory that has always stayed with me is what my uncle once said to me.  A few years ago, we sisters had a reunion. We were meeting after a decade maybe. Thus, we were meeting our extended circle also after ages and the first question all of them invariably asked was, ‘what do you do?’.  When my turn came, I answered, ‘Housewife, uncle.’

The way he looked at me and added, ‘Just a house wife is it’; drove a dagger deep inside and I felt insulted.  This happened almost a decade ago and is still fresh in my mind. So, imagine the impact this ‘JUST’ had on me then!

Call it fate or God’s own way of keeping me humble, I entered a family through marriage which gave precedence to being at home; raise the kids and work only if imperative. I did work (my streak of rebellion and financial independence agenda) but the situation was never conducive and I was back to home-management; grudgingly. I am reconciled and happy today. When I see today’s woman; their attitude, I am thankful I remained ‘just’ a housewife.

Recently, I saw an interview of Pepsi co CEO, Indra Nooyi.  She is amongst the most successful and accomplished woman of Gen –Y; hats off to her. Addressing a huge audience, she acknowledged that her life is ruled by her work commitments, top 3 priorities she listed were Pepsi co, Pepsi co and Pepsi co, then came her children, followed by parents, in-laws and then somewhere at the bottom of the list was her husband. All this was fine, her priorities, her call. Her husband made this observation that he was always last on the list; to which her laughing repartee was, ‘Be thankful your name is even there on the list!’ She said this in jest and very wittily, the audience laughed and the husband (seated in the front row) also gave a self-conscious smile. That statement, I felt, did not befit her, her stature. She sounded vain and belittling her husband’s  ungrudging contribution to the family. Once again, I was grateful that God did not allow me a career. I don’t know, with my strong-headed and independent streak, a similar statement or something worse was a guaranteed repartee of mine; and I would have felt small, after. 

Family life is all about adjustment, togetherness, compromise, modification, letting-go of the I-ness, focus in a very forced way at the ‘we’. Men have taken it for granted that the wife takes care of the house and family affairs. The women held it all together; played their role to the hilt; and then they decided to step out, and they have in a very big way. Because of this financial independence that woman of today hunger for, the feeling of ‘I-ness’ is more in family life. It is less of ‘we’ do ‘together’ and more of ‘I’ do what I want and you do what you want scenario. Funnily enough, men have adapted to the role of house-husband with less strife. They have kept their ego in their pockets much better than we have been able to keep our arrogance and new found financial independence in check. Financial independence has not only emboldened us, it has made us power crazy and brazen. We could not retain our modest demeanour and humility.  In all this dual working, money making spree, the progeny comes out as the worst loser. Their future and fate is getting nurtured and designed by hired care takers, crèches and gadgets, (add, giving permission to over-ride the partner’s rules, being unnecessarily lenient; over exposure to guilt-gifts from a very vulnerable, impressionable age). 

We women inherently knew how to serve without feeling servile. For Gen –Y, service also needs to be a profitable venture. We have either stepped out of the house and the house has a very desolate, guest-house look, and if we are at home we have converted the house to some business enterprise. Conclusively, today, I am not very pro-women’s liberation and equal rights for women. We have handled financial independence badly and caused more ruin than good. Lastly, I request women again, take a pause, think again, which way are we headed, why and at what cost? I am not saying we should stop, but I definitely feel , it is high time we took a pause, pondered …

“O Women! May you not be disturbed by the crooked and violent men, and ye men! May you not be disturbed by crooked and violent women. Never abandon one another, never cross the limits of respect never hurt the other. This is to be followed by both men and women. This sweet water, food and fruits are available for both of you who should remove the grief of one another.” (Rig Veda 1/183/4)

Chitter -Chatter

Chitter -Chatter

Chitter- Chatter

 

The constant chitter chatter of my brain

Like this ceaseless Dublin rain,

The monkey hopping from tree to tree

My brain flies too, forever breaking free.

Oh! this constant chitter chatter of my brain

Stop wandering, and get on board a single train

It never sleeps and hungers for all it sees

Its lured, knowing all is truly a mere tease.

Because of this constant chitter chatter of my brain

The Self has more to lose and nothing to gain

If only it stayed and focused, it would easily find

The treasure lies in the heart, not in the mind.

The constant chitter chatter of my brain

The hopping monkey I am unable to train…

Women O women

Women O women

My Dad used to be, still is, very ambitious for all his children. He goaded us into picking up subjects which offered bright career prospects (only Maths or Science!). Becoming a ‘mere’ housewife was a forbidden thought not to be entertained ever. According to him, the days of women sitting at home; tending to children, cooking for husband; ended with their generation. Times had become such, that with a single income the family would perennially survive in a state of ‘hand to mouth’. If one aspired for a better life, some comfort and luxury (with pious earning, legal methods); it could be possible only if both the partners worked.  This ideology was drilled into us and this is the verity I see today.

Most probably, every middle – class government employee those days thought alike. That is the only plausible reason I can think of as to how most of our generation women are working women today. Our parents, in search of greener pastures, migrated from their villages and settled in the cities. Today, we encourage our progeny to seek their fortunes abroad.  But, that’s digressing from my main topic. This article is about the Gen Y, women of today.  

 Vishaka Hari, the prominent music vocalist and established exponent of Harikatha, said in one of her talks, “Without fever if you take a paracetamol, it will only cause side effects; when everything is going on smooth. Only if you have a problem, you need a solution. In the West, women were not treated on par with men. They were brutally abused and until very recent years they did not even have voting rights…..Millions of women were burnt, they were treated like dogs. They were used as objects, as amusement articles and therefore there was a need for upsurge of women liberation associations. But in India, right from our Gods, Bramha has Saraswati on His tongue, Narayan has Lakshmi in His bosom, and Shiva, I told you, has Shakti as His other half!  Where is the need for the Women’s Liberation association; if we can follow the Ancient Vedic Indian culture? Only if we want to follow and adopt the western ideals, we always take the worst from all the nations; that’s India’s best. We always want to take, every nation has its own good and bad, we always have that beautiful idea, that concept of taking the worst from all the nations and present the worst of ourselves. When we have everything in ourselves we don’t know how to glorify ourselves, that is the weakness of Indians. We have so much in us, we have so much of treasure in us. We Nava Yuga Stree, present generation women. Gen Y, what we would prefer to be called; we just have our husbands name after our names like vishaka Hari, or Vanita Siddharth or whatever it is. But you know, our Lords had their names after their wife’s name! Gouri Shankar, Lakshmi Narayan, Sita Ram, Janaki Vallabh, just …(she laughs) That is the truth. Uma Maheshwar, you name it; Radha Krishna; you name any God, they went a step further, they had so much of reverence for women, and we are trying to bring it down more and more. So, the problem is not only with the other gender, it is with the women also. So, it calls for a synthesis of both the gender to behave well so that they would respect us well. Real beauty lies in dignity and decorum not in ridicule and derision. It is the present generation society which is treating women as just entertainment parts. you see any ads,…television serials, …journals, any woman would be just featured as an amusement article. And that is not beauty, you think it is beauty? Real beauty does not come from that, it comes from dignity, rights versus reverence. You always lock up Gold in your almirah, you don’t do that to stainless steel. That’s why generally when women ask that they have not been given the equal rights vis-a’-vis men, I tell them; you are Gold, they are stainless steel; that is why you have less rights and they have more. Or whatever you respect more, you lock it up, you carefully preserve it. So, that is not a question of being ill- treated at all. The more you revere a person, the more you respect a person, the right comes down. That’s what happens to you. And that’s why we have taken up a few inspirational stories of women who have brought about positive change throughout the world by their wisdom by their will by their courage by their noble qualities and their nobility has crossed all gender, all caste all creed and all nation.”

Everything is verbatim; considering the length, I did delete a few words and phrases. The sentiment is the same; maybe stronger even. To augment and fan my ill-feeling further, movies like ‘Ki-Ka’ or ‘PINK’ receive acclaim. It makes me wonder if we Indian women are not going a bit over board with our equal rights for women, freedom for women et’ al. Don’t get me wrong, please. I am all for women, women’s lib, our rights and equal share of glory and sunshine. But, when I see the present generation, urban born and brought up women; they seem to have totally lost the plot! On one hand, they are in a mindless, competitive race amongst themselves and on the other hand they are pushing it to extremes to surpass men. Worse is, in this competition they expect special consideration for being a woman (why are they competing with men then?). They want to be judged leniently, treated with kid gloves; take umbrage playing the fairer sex card with impunity.  

What has education done to us? The adage ‘Vidya dadhati vinayam’ is vice-versa with Gen -Y. Women’s vidya seems to have obliterated their vinayam! Resonating Vishaka Hari, we are aping the West for all the wrong reasons. This mindless mimicry is costing us our integrity and innate beauty.  Our strengths have become our weakness and we no longer seem to be sure what this Liberation and equal rights is all about. We have long crossed the bridge of equality, we are racing to the finish line with a killer instinct of winning; with zero consideration for what is being left behind.

Ever wonder why in our Hindu weddings the man and woman always walk one behind the other? Also, in the Saptapadi, why the woman walks behind the man for the first four ‘pheras’ and then leads the husband for the remaining three vows?  We (the couple) can support the floundering partner only if we are one behind the other, not if we are neck to neck and trying to compete.  As for the wife leading the husband; the fifth ‘phera’ is for progeny and their well- being, the sixth signifies control over mind body and soul, to bring longevity to the couple’s relationship and the seventh step, vow, is to remain loyal and true companions for life. Our real duty (Vedic) was always to complement the man, steer him in the right direction so that he never goes astray, stop him from falling by being behind him, willingly. Wonder when this complementing become competing, and at what cost?

Long gone are the days when we used to hear, ‘Behind every successful man there is a woman’! Today the most successful man is the one who is alone or has escaped the clutches of woman.

Probably, it would be the apt time to take a pause; just that, pause awhile; not stop completely, but simply pause, and re-evaluate. Which way are we headed and why? 

PS: Dear Readers, blaming it on Vishaka Hari and her eloquence; Her talk was all this article could accommodate, leaving me with lots more to regurgitate!! With an awful lot still churning inside me; please expect another article on ‘GEN Y’ very soon…

FASTING

FASTING

Amongst all the rituals I have practiced, my longest association as a practitioner and an observer has been with fasting! For as long as I can remember my mother fasted on Friday; ‘Santoshi Ma vrat’. This weekly ritual continues; because of her health and growing years, she has given herself some latitude. Presently, she does not eat anything sour; tomatoes, lime and the like are banned on Fridays, and she has her dinner before sunset. Luckily, for devout Hindus, dieting is a piece of cake.  We have a God assigned for every single day of the week and to appease them we fast on their day. Call it hilarious or illogical or just the whim of a staunch devout (an impressionable child who believed in the power of prayer);  I started fasting when I barely 16years old. Since I did not have a specific favourite God, I fasted on Saturday (the day I am born). This day is said to be ruled by Saturn. So, to appease the devil Himself to keep me out of harm’s way; I opted for this day. I very judiciously continued this ritual till I got married. Apart for the fervent hope that I was guarded from the evil influences of Saturn, fasting helped me stay slim. I was diligent, judicious and had absolute faith in what I was doing. Every Saturday, I woke up earlier than usual, went to the temple to offer my prayers before beginning my day. When in college hostel, my friends very concernedly had something nice and warm waiting for me when it was time to break my fast. Call it fate or that my years of fasting had rendered Saturn effectively powerless; I entered a family where food plays the most pivotal role. Thus, ceased my days of fasting.

Many years later, my colleagues were fasting for ‘Karwa chauth‘; and my reconnect happened. On an impulse, even I fasted that karwa chauth. This is a fast women keep for the longevity of their spouse. I was transported to my childhood days; my mother fasting, sitting in front of our temple singing bhajans, cooking prasad and humming a bhajan to herself, she used to be smiling and engrossed. Despite the empty stomach and extra work her countenance glowed; devoid of stress and zero sign of weakness. She read the ‘katha’, explained the significance to us; she had knowledge of the why of every small ritual. It was a very learning experience for us; and I probably wanted to relive all that, after so many years. But, throughout the day our discussion revolved around how hungry we were, what gift we would receive from our spouse, would our spouse return home early from work, was the spouse also keeping a fast for his wife, whether the moon would rise early (to be able to offer prayers and break the fast) or it would be a long arduous wait. So many discussions, yet none revealed the reason why this fast was so important. It threw no light on the essence nor the significance of this fast. It was about new clothes, jewellery, mehendi, the torture of fasting… To make it even more hilariously meaningless, my dear husband (totally distraught that I had kept a fast for his long life!) bought me a beautiful gold necklace set but could not make it home till past midnight! So, I ‘broke the fast’ sans ‘pati-dev’, happily ate dinner with the kids and was fast asleep by the time he could get away from work. Such was my reunion with fasting.

The next day, my guilt ridden better half made many snide jokes about this ritual, saying it was a big sham, fasting itself is a big sham, as per him. Even though he sounded disrespectful and was very rudely questioning the veracity of a very sacred ritual; his statements were undeniably true. He was voicing what I had experienced yesterday. Where was the faith; the simple honesty with which we practiced such rituals?  None of us seem to dwell on the reason anymore. We superficially follow ‘old traditions’ and grumble about the inconvenience such rituals cause to our daily life.

This lack of knowledge has made a mockery of these rituals. We keep fasts today for krawa chauth, vat savitri, bhai dooj, chhatt… but we all look drained and weary; our heart is not in it. The glow and radiance my mother had on her face; I have not seen it in a long time. Thus, began my journey of trying to figure out the true reason for fasting; the etymology of fasting; if I can call it that.

Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from food, food and drink too (absolute abstinence) for a period of time. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism or Hinduism, every religion has one common denominator for advocating fasting. Fasting is a way of purifying oneself. Abstinence from food, drink and physical proximity is a way cleansing the body, mind and soul.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity says, ‘The purpose of fasting is not to suffer, but according to sacred tradition to guard against gluttony and impure thoughts, deeds and words. Fasting must always be accompanied by increased prayer and almsgiving. To engage in fasting without them is considered useless or even spiritually harmful. To repent for one’s sins and to reach out in love to others is part and parcel of true fasting’.

Islam believes, ‘By fasting, whether during Ramadan or other times, a Muslim draws closer to God by abandoning bodily pleasures, such as food and drink. This makes the sincerity of their faith and their devotion to God (Arabic: Allah) all the more evident.

Jainism states that, Self-starvation by fasting is supposed to help shed karma. Santhara (Self- starvation leading to death), the individual gets ample time to reflect on his or her life. The goal of Santhara is to purify the body and, with this, the individual strives to abandon desire.

Buddhism advocates the Middle Path, asking the followers to avoid extremes of indulgence and self- mortification too.

Sikhism is the rare path which does not promote fasting. ’Human mind requires the wisdom, which can be achieved by contemplating on words and evaluating it, torturing body is of no use’.  If you keep fast, then do it in a way so that you adopt compassion, wellbeing and ask for the good will of everyone: ‘Let your mind be content, and be kind to all beings. In this way, your fast will be successful. (Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 905; 299)

One religion realized how farcical this sacred ritual would become and decided to stay away from it altogether. We stopped contemplating long ago; torturing our body without understanding the wisdom; fasting has become a mere charade.

Sources: wikipedia

Love Divine

Love Divine

When I had newly joined meditation my preceptor (trainer) would always emphasise on knowing the reason; ‘why’ I had joined meditation. This Spiritual path gives exactly that which one seeks, nothing more, nothing less. So, she would always caution me, ‘Be careful what you ask for, and know exactly how and who you aspire to be.’  She would at times pose this query too, ‘Who is your spiritual Master to you?’ Rather, who do you see your Guru as; mother, father, friend, distant relative, God..?’

Why I had joined meditation was a very easy answer for me. But, who the Guru was, that proved to be a very dynamic and tricky query.

Over the last few years I have seen the answer to both the questions change many times.

Initially, my applications or the chits in my begging bowl were seeking redemption, reprieve from my self-constructed hurdles and walls, like anger, irritability, compare and compete attitude, the list goes on. A year or so later I noticed that the nature of my applications had altered. I had begun to seek less for myself and more for others, immediate family and friends. I felt a bit hesitant asking for myself. The mindset was different and my aspiration from myself had also morphed. Moreover, another observation was that I had to be extremely cautious (like my preceptor had warned) about what I was seeking. I did get exactly what I asked for! The more the years of meditation in me, the more discerning and aware I was forced to become. Frivolous pleas and ephemeral demands would be answered even before I could properly articulate the request; more so if that plea was for me.  My earnest please made for others also came to fruition. It was as if every time I put up an application a counter challenge was dangled in front of me; asking, ‘Is this all you can come up with? Is this what you set out to attain on this Path?’

What I was asking and what I should have asked or whether this ‘asking’ was worth it or not seemed to clash perpetually. I was forced to weigh each application and assess its true worth. For every application, I was contemplating to put in the begging bowl, I started asking these two decider questions, ‘will this be the last of its kind?’  The answer was always, ‘No’. The next question that came was, ‘So, can this be resolved without placing it in the begging bowl?’ The answer to this was always in the affirmative! Undoubtedly, it would take time and effort, but no issue seemed extreme or worthy enough to be placed in that bowl. My faith told me that He would give it all without asking, if it was so ordained. Likewise, He would assuredly take away all the pain too, without my having to place anything in the begging bowl. If challenges still cross my path, or anyone’s path, then self – effort to overcome or forbearance to endure them was imperative. Secondly, the faith to surrender the result to Him was also necessary. For any worldly problem, I had no business picking up the begging bowl at all.  This was not why I had joined this path for. Thus, the bowl departed. I am learning and attempting to balance my life between optimum self -effort and absolute surrender.

Coming to the trickier query now.

The day I joined meditation I dutifully placed the photo of my Guru in my temple, alongside my many Gods. After a few months, on this journey of self-realisation, God and Guru on the outside seemed to distance me from my Self. Secondly, Guru as God seemed totally out of bounds, unreachable for me. How could I ever become God! ? I sought a closer connect, a more achievable and palpable one.

 Consider your Guru to be your mother, this is advised in our scriptures. The relationship between a mother and her child is said to be the most unconditional and selflessly giving relationship. This was a bit of problem for me though; I am a mother, and I don’t think I am capable of being selfless or unconditional ( much to my misery). I try to be, but expectations creep in and spoil it all. So, Guru as God and then as mother for a very short period and then it gradually shifted to Guru as my mentor cum friend. Friend cum Mentor was akin to Arjuna and Krishna’s relationship with each other, and I was happy.  Further introspection led me to the next question; was this bond just friendship or much more?  When Arjuna cried out, O lord, help me! Krishna appears and rescues Arjuna. And, when Arjuna wailed, O Friend, guide me!’ Again, Krishna only appears, to show the way. So, whichever role Arjuna sought his Lord in, Krishna adjusted Himself to fit that role. He could be a friend, brother, mother, any person/ object too, who Arjuna identified with.

Then it dawned on me; I was limiting the potential of the limitless with my own limitedness!! (Does it make sense?) He can be everything and everyone to me. His role was dependent on me and my thinking.

The Master’s Presence is an expression of his total love for us. What he gives us, totally, without any reservation, without anything being asked for in return, is Himself.  Lover means, one who loves. And a divine lover is one who loves divinely; that means without reservation, without limitation, without anything to restrict it. ( P.Rajagopalachari)

It has taken me many years to finally come to one final answer to the second question; who is my Master to me? He is… And the one unchanging relationship I aspire to establish with the Divine, is that of Divine Love. 

Busily Lazy!

Busily Lazy!

“Often what we think of as the things ‘wrong’ with us are only expressions of our own individuality…… To try to be like another is to shrivel our soul.”

 

In the last one year, my life has shifted from being overwhelmingly busy to absolute boredom. In India, despite being a housewife, I felt I was the busiest person on the planet. I was actively involved in many things I liked to do and my life felt like it had some purpose. Meditation and my Mission play a pivotal role in my life. Naturally, my whole day simply flew doing something or the other pertaining to my Mission. 

 

In the past, I do not remember complaining once about my husband’s continuing absence and extra devotion to his work at the cost of totally neglecting the family. I juggled all the household duties the best I could, giving total precedence to Mission work. Since I always had some Mission related work waiting for me; I finished the rest of these daily chores with alacrity, rather they seemed to take care of themselves with ease, and I always had time to do what I really loved doing.

 

 I managed free time to devote to my hobbies, like learning music, reading, writing and sketching. In a nutshell, tending to the kids, my volunteer work combined with time spent in my hobbies, I never had room to sit idle. With ease and some magical power that comes from passion, I was able to pursue my hobbies, accomplish my household chores and be an active volunteer too.  I am actually trying to describe is ‘myself’: me and my whole self, my individuality manifested through my activities during the day, all of which vests on one word, Mission.

 

The past year brought a conflicting and discordant change in ‘me – myself’.  The one thing which kept me going, happy and purpose – filled disappeared. This move overseas brought with it changes and new challenges I needed to adapt to. The country and its culture were new to me, so it became more or less like a rebirth. The last one year was a different kind of discovery; more about the place, people, my daughter’s school, her life and routine. Thus, volunteering or working for the Mission was not an option. Every other routine was the same; household chores, tending to my daughter and with zero Mission work I was either writing or sketching or practicing music.  Without wasting any time, I located my Ashram in London (later in Dublin, Ireland which is where I am living presently); started attending Satsangh and put my name down for volunteer work. It was then a matter of time, I was assured; that I would surely get some Mission work and be busy again the way I loved to be. Until then I was determined to keep myself busy and learn to be happy and cheerful like I was back home. This thought process barely worked for about 2months.

 

I am inherently a shy person; and this was not India. I hesitated to repeatedly go and seek ‘work’. Anything I volunteered for, the rules were different here and I needed some clearance or the other. That meant another long wait of maybe 6months or so! I still tried to remain unfazed and kept going with the thought of ‘As long I am busy, I am happy, with or without Mission work’.  Work never came; I stopped asking, I busily kept waiting for them to ask….and ended up becoming busily lazy.  Gradually, my attendance reduced, I was too busy being lazy and conjured some lame excuse to stay home; skip ashram.

 

With this busily-lazy change came to light other changes. My life, with all the busy schedules and never ending chores, seemed very purposeless and devoid of ‘life’. The spark was gone. My complaints about my husband’s absence became incessant. With or without reason, I demanded to be sent back home. I could not see the reason why he brought us across seven seas and dumped us in this ‘hellhole’! (No disrespect to Dublin, it is a beautiful place, but my heart did not belong here and I was tired of being busily-idle!). My husband was perplexed, I had more work here, yet I complained of being free! I was in one of the most developed, clean countries of the world, yet I was unwell, falling sick, and forever complaining. 

 

Back home, with my volunteering work, I had to snatch time to pursue any of my hobbies. Here I could live a calm, planned life, not be disturbed and pursue every hobby, whim and fancy to my heart’s content. Yet, I was unhappy, and most of my household chores were untended to. Some work or the other remained pending. I was forgetful and started to procrastinate. With such a busy schedule in India every chore happened like clockwork. Magically, I found spare time to pursue my hobbies too. Here, I stopped music altogether. I dabbled with writing, a bit of jibber-jabber about everything and very soon it was tedious to write. The last few months my sketching too has come to a standstill. I was so busily – lazy that I never found ‘time’ to accomplish the basic household chores.

 

With my individuality lost, the comparisons began. I compared myself to others, they were all busy working, earning and seemed to enjoy life. I was sitting at home doing nothing which was depressing and very demoralising. I hurriedly started hunting for a job, any job. Work to keep me busy; get me out of this dreadful busily-lazy state. Then I read this:

 

“This is our uniqueness and what is special about us. Nature never repeats itself. …..We are meant to be different. When we can accept this, then there is no competition and no comparison. … We have come to this planet to express who we are.”

 

Thus, the past year has been one roller coaster ride of emotions. A learning year, keeping me busily busy with me- myself!  This new year heralds a new me. I comprehend that Mission work and my eagerness to spread my Master’s word is what is unique to me. How can that be copied from anyone? I am making friends, putting up flyers wherever it is allowed, to spread His word!

 

I have made small break throughs too. I am doing my Mission work again, not as actively as I aspire for, but I am hopeful and success is assuredly within reach. I have resumed writing, because my writings best express who I am. THIS is me, my true identity. And, I am happy again being busily-busy.

 

Note:  Most of my recent articles are self-deprecating, introspective and seriously one track! The whole year I seem to be reminiscing about my poor self, happy self, good self and all the many selves I suddenly seem to have countenanced in my whole persona. This will be my last one friends, this new year I assure you, you will see a new me, a positive me and a focused me. Here is to new beginnings and bidding adieu to the old me…

 

Dublin Diaries-4

Dublin Diaries-4

Labour of Love

Whilst writing about our friendly neighbourhood ‘cabbie’ friends, many other comparisons sprung to mind.  India and Ireland are replete with comparable contradictions (another jumble-word which jumps to mind). Don’t know whether it makes sense or not but I will try to frame the scene and elucidate better. I get all dewy eyed when I think of how much India is losing out on, and how much room for improvement we have and yet… With half the resources and one tenth or even less manpower, this country has emerged as a developed nation. The only difference is in the attitude.

From the moment I wrote that cabbie article, I have been wracking my brain to recollect one such memorable, informative or light hearted incident that I have had the pleasure of being a part of, in all my countless taxi experiences in India. Sadly, I can recall many unsavoury instances! I may have a few good ones too if I try hard and for long; but the point I am trying to make here is; I have not met a single, and I repeat, a single auto-driver who enjoys being an auto driver! A single taxi driver who loves his work and is happy with his job! Not just the taxi drivers, most people in my country seem to be stuck at their jobs. The joy on the faces I see anywhere I go in Dublin is in stark contrast to the harried, frowning expressions I encounter in today’s India. The people here seem to enjoy what they do, be it a menial job (did not dare to write ‘no-brainer’) like managing the cash counter at the local grocers or sitting behind the HR desk in an IT firm.  I can assuredly say that picking dead leaves all day to keep the streets clean cannot be a dream job. Yet, the Irish seem to add wit and joy to it; make it enjoyable for themselves and for the people they encounter.  Till I came to Dublin I never dreamt that being a taxi driver could be a chosen or happy job either. Yet every taxi driver is intelligent, very politically aware, witty and always smiling!

What the Hindu philosophy teaches us, about the Shat Sampatti (Sama:  the ability to control the mind, think objectively. Dama: applying the will to help control the mind, keeping the vices at bay, doing regular sadhana to succeed in this endeavour. Only if Dama is practiced properly, the will power will increase and therefore Sama can be achieved with relative ease.  Uparati: Being able to rise above all the dualities; even relinquish the feeling of ownership. Attain a state of balance and stability. Titiksha: The attitude of forbearance which refuses to be affected or shaken by pain and suffering.  Every situation is accepted with calm and equanimity; not moan with pain, rather endure with a smile.  Shraddha and Samadhana, the six behaviour traits) the Irish apparently live the first 4 Sampattis admirably.

Our Wild Atlantic tour this summer brought to fore many more comparisons. Somehow, our country despite having it all, seems to be lacking in everything. I accede that the natural beauty here is unparalleled but after completing the whole 10day tour I could only pick a handful of distinctively different places! Crag Caves, Hooks’ lighthouse, Skellig Island and then the countless spectacular beaches and mist laden mountains.  India has Himalayan peaks, the greenery in Kerala, beaches of Goa, desert in Rajasthan, the list can go on, each distinctively unique and memorable.  However, the upkeep, maintenance and efforts put in by the Irish government and the Irish themselves, to retain the pristine beauty is laudable, and that is the contrast point. Our monuments; I don’t think I need say anything. The Irish have more to tell with the little they have; the tourist guides kept us enraptured. They spun a yarn about every brick in the wall and leaf on the tree!  We visited the Hooks Lighthouse and were smitten by the guide. We visited the Ferns Castle in Wexford and the yarn spun by the tourist guide had us reeling all week! This fort is not even a fort really, barely a wall remains, the rest of the structure is long gone and yet the guide went on and on and he had more to tell!  The Irish have their own unique brand of dry humour and they brandish it with great panache.  All the places became more beautiful and embedded in our memory because of the guides and their narratives. That brings me to the comparative. I dreaded hiring a guide in India. They lack the enthusiasm and zest, their command over the language is pathetic, they simply rattle off the facts in a well-modulated drone.  In no time, I skitter away from the group and wander onto a personal discovery journey. ‘Athithi devo Bhavah’ (Guest is God) is our belief and the Irish are living it. Could it be the labour of love question again?

Another interesting thing that came to my notice was that we work round the clock, the only country in the world which is a willing beast of burden.  Rest of the world says they work five days a week and diligently work five days only.  We can say anything but the world knows that we are willing donkeys.  Maybe, this lack of work ethic never allows us to imbibe Labour of love attitude?

Like I have mentioned many times before; weather here is dismal, perennially wet, cold, and least propitious for any vegetation or agricultural produce. All they have is different kinds of cheese, meat, liquor of course and potatoes! On the other hand, India is bestowed with all the natural resources, we enjoy every season; each state in India boasts of a different cuisine, integral to its agricultural produce and prevalent culture.  Irish are known world over for their music, liquor, and their carefree nature.  A cabbie said, ‘The Irish smile just because they wish to, it is more for themselves rather than to please others’. Today, what are we known for? It’s the only country in the world which has it all, natural beauty, culture, history, resources, manpower… God’s couldn’t have been kinder and more biased towards my country! Even with everything in our favour we remain a third world, developing nation. Abundance has proved to be detrimental to our progress, individually and as a nation, simply because we lack the attitude. We probably need to learn to love first, give ‘labour of love, a fighting chance; and then the right attitude hopefully comes….?