habits

London Journal

London Journal

My London days have just begun and so bear with me, readers, all my writings will now be the hues of London. To be candid, I came here with many prejudices and misgivings. England had ruled my country for 200 years, looted, plundered and left it with a begging bowl. Today we are a third world nation and London is the land of developed rich. Thus, England never featured in my good books and I have a very cynical view of anyone who settles here. Probably why God decided to send me here, to be able to wash away all this idiocy and be realistic, live in the present and enjoy what is, rather broods about what was.

I settled in with great enthusiasm and gusto, new country and living up to his reputation my husband chose a very beautiful locality to reside. We are very close to The Thames River and the Greenwich Meridian, the 0 longitude – Latitude line is a place we pass by everyday!  This is very historically rich and every road has a story to tell kind of a place. And, lucky for us, we could come in the summer months, where the weather is at its best behavior.  The first month flew by speedily. My daughter and I were at our adventurous best and managed to visit the important landmarks. We downloaded the app for bus routes and found our way.

This sightseeing month we did manage exemplarily well because we had the app on us. The timings of the bus, the directions, the next stop, route everything is marked and comes up immediately on this app ‘City Mapper’. All we used to do was type the place we had picked for the day and press ‘search’. In a flash, viola! All the options come up with  beginning with how long it takes to walk, then the bus- train routes available, then in case we wish to hire a cab what would that cost us.  A rain safe route also is given and that was our biggest thrill; discovering this ‘city mapper’.  This is the fun of a developed country.  Within a month though we had exhausted most of the routes and the city mapper has worn its charm. This is a vice of a developed country! Boredom sets in even before the enthusiasm can bid adieu properly.

We now knew which bus to board, where to alight and what time the next bus came and so on and so forth.  So, we had shifted to our next interesting task on hand, observing the other passengers.  A very interesting observation was: ‘people here rarely smile’. Most of the faces look hassled or brooding.  Everyone had their noses buried into a book or the damn phone. Everyone had earphones plugged in as if it was a part of the ear itself.  Phone and earphones are ubiquitous and people talking to each other are like the appearance of ‘Hailey’s comet’! Babies had the pacifier stuck into their mouth; so the most crowded bus also is usually eerily silent. So, apart for an occasional ‘sorry’ (when someone is asked to make way) and ‘thank you’ (when someone vacates a sit for an elderly person) our 50 minute bus ride was in absolute silence and stiff boredom.  “Nobody looks at anybody anymore, even if they do; they have suspicion written all over their faces.” (This was a co –passenger mumbling to himself; I was totally in agreement with his disgruntled mumbling)

 

In India, asking for directions and making friends on a journey is like second nature to everyone. By the time we left our house and reached the destination we would have made friends with the taxi driver, the security guard, and asked directions after every 5-7 minutes and made friends with all of them too. I am not that social a person to begin with and I definitely do not ask every second person for directions either. But this sharp contrast of totally relying on the phones and never ever asking anyone for help had me stumped. I spontaneously would look up and smile or try to strike a simple conversation and the response is very akin to London weather; cold and windy (not forthcoming to say the least). They have people from all over the world and maybe that makes them very hesitant too, the lack of awareness of culture and rules of the place is a handicap. And when the technology is so advanced and omniscient they may wonder why this harried looking silly – smiling woman is trying to chat up with them. What could they possibly know which the phone in my hand could not answer?  Funnily, the bus drivers also are strictly aware of their routes and their stops only, ask them about any other route or if this bus is close to some area, they look blank and clueless.

Now, my present test is, by the time head back to India, will this place rob me off my smile or will I succeed in making a few friends and pass the smile on. Will keep you all posted as it goes; latest is I am kind of blending with the place or adapting to London ways. My daughter has earphones glued to her ears and I have started to read on the bus. Let’s see when the weather changes and I can dazzle this place with my sunny smile. Wish me luck.

Disclaimer: The picture is a download! but I have many answers for that question:)

The lamp we light

The lamp we light

All Hindus light the lamp in front of the deity, without which our prayers and worship remain incomplete. This is a ritual we have followed since time immemorial. We all do so with utmost devotion and dedication. The meaning of these rituals has never been asked or questioned either. Apart for the simple meaning our folks gave us, ‘you should not, and must not keep the prayer room in dark! A light must burn always.’  Which is explanation enough for us and we stick to it with complete faith. When we run out of oil or clarified butter we become creative and improvise with the small bed light. We are all following instructions and trying to be as true to them as possible. Most of us do not delve deep and try to understand or ascertain why we need to light the lamp in the first place and when we are lighting the lamp, then which lamp should it be? What significance does an oil lamp have and why the effect is nullified the minute we switch on the night light to replace the oil lamp? In the hustle-bustle of our work-home-work routine we barely manage to spare a few minutes to light the lamp every day without fail, that itself is like a big accomplishment for us.

Swami Tattvavidananda, here talks about the lamp, the oil lamp; its’ significance and meaning which clears the soot of our minds and lights up the lamp of understanding explaining ‘why only oil lamp’. ‘In the inner shrine of the temple, the darkness unremittingly tries to envelope the lamp, and the latter in return is struggling to dispel that darkness. Such struggle is constantly going on in the devotee’s heart too between the ignorance and the desire for the knowledge. This is the symbolism of the tiny lamp in a corner of the inner shrine.

The lamp in the shrine is necessarily an oil lamp. It cannot be substituted with an electric lamp, though of similar appearance, for every aspect of the oil lamp has significance. Typically, an oil lamp is lit inside the shrine. The word ‘sneha’ means the oil and also love and affection. When the aspirant settles into devotion to the Lord, he acquires equipoise of the mind. In the metaphor, that devotional state of mind serves as oil for the lamp of knowledge. Oil has two characteristics: it is very sticky, and it flow is continuous and unbroken. The devotee should acquire these two characteristics in the heart in his devotion to the Lord.’

‘The symbolism continues further. There is a varti, wick made up of cotton, that sustains the flame. It stands for proper value system in the devotee’s life, e.g. discipline in the eating habits and speech, right attitude towards others and so on.’ Even after years of worship and temple going, keeping a light burning in the temple room also change is not visible and some of us wonder why so. Our prayers are a distracted mutli -tasking duty juggling between the kitchen getting our kids ready for school and mentally worrying whether the maid is going to come or do we have to do the dishes also before leaving for work. Can we honestly remember a day when we can say that ‘yes, today we only prayed’. Without any other thought sneaking in we are barely able to light the lamp every day, praying is very farfetched.

Oil – lamp has a wide base serving as a receptacle. It holds all the oil required to fuel the flame, and also provides stability to the lamp. The mind filled with vairagya or dispassion is the base. To summarize, the seers have incorporated the entire teachings of the Upanishads and the Gita in the temple worship. Once we understand correctly the symbolism of temple worship, the temple emerges from a seat of worship to a seat of learning.’

The base, the oil, the wick and the eternally burning flame, all have their own meaning and significance and definitely cannot be replaced with anything else. The minute we start replacing anything, we are filtering or diluting the process and the essence diminishes accordingly. We on our own can put ourselves to a test and decide why after all these years of praying and temple visiting, we are yet to really get there, find peace or see a change in ourselves. One among the above steps, maybe more than one will be missing or adulterated, hence the result, or the lack of it. Maybe the change is yet to come because a few steps are wrong or bereft of the essence of worship.

Hindu religion is a highly evolved and scientifically structured religion. The Brahmins used to perform the Pooja and all the rituals because they were given this education since childhood. The Gurukul system was so prevalent and compulsory for every child because only by living with the guru, watching the guru, learning from the expert in person is the only way you can assure yourself that you have learnt it all correctly, the method, the meaning and its significance. How else can anyone replicate it and achieve the same heights that the guru attained? This may be the reason why today’s India is lacking in true realized souls, even though we have an ever increasing number of devotees and Temples. We need to be with the guru or listen to the guru with all our heart to really know, learn and imbibe. It is strange that we eagerly accept a teacher when we need to learn any subjects, like English, Math or Science but when it comes to learning about the most important thing, worship, for our personal betterment some like me think we know it all, or some of us conveniently assign the task to the temple priest and continue to light the lamp with whatever is available at home unmindful whether what we are doing is beneficial or simply a routine duty.