come back divine ancestors and be fulfilled

mother and childShe was not like Gorky’s Nilovna who was immortalized for supporting a revolutionary son even though she herself was not educated enough to understand what the revolution meant. She did it for the seer love for her son. But, she was a mother and every motherhood is as great as it can be. I do not think any rating is possible as far as motherhood is considered.

Of course, I am talking about my own mother. But why do I remember her today? The fact was that when she was alive, she was so much part of my life neither did I felt her presence, nor her absence. She lived that way or rather preferred to live that way, just a whispering presence like the gentle breeze, not asserting yet as life sustaining as the air. Today is her twenty first death anniversary, or what we call shradha divas according to our sanskara.

Our ancestors never foresaw we would have to see the unfortunate days when the children will remember or give special importance to their parents while they were alive once a year on a day designated as Mother’s day or Father’s day.

It was envisaged that generations would live under one roof in the presence of parents and other elders for years to come. You do not remember when someone is present with you, day in and day out. Of course there is a need to remember them when they are away or dead and gone.

The word Shraadha is derived from Shradhaa which means fondness mixed with respect. So, on Shradha days, in our Hindu tradition, we remember fondly not only the departed  parents, but also three lines of progenitors from father’s as well as mother’s side.

My father was an avid ritualist. It was worth watching and being around when he performed Shradha for his own parents and ancestors. He himself did all the Brahminical rituals while my mother cooked elaborate satwik dishes that were too good to resist.  The rituals would take four to five hours. He was very meticulous. He saw to it that no part of  the ritual was left out.

It was a great occasion to skip school. I would also urge my contemporary cousins to skip school so that we would be able to assist my father in preparations. Our adventurous duty started before sunrise by practically stealing flowers from the nearby temple premises. In case my father felt the quantity of flowers was not enough we raided the village zamindar’s well-guarded gardens. We also had to collect Jackfruit leaves for making plates and bowls by stitching these with coconut sticks.

Then, we would be ordered to go and take bath so that we earned the merit  to sit near the place of Shradha proceedings. We could  understand neither the elaborate mystical drawings that my father made on the floor, nor his Sanskrit chanting. But his chanting, which were sometimes in a whisper barely audible to others and at other times  in a high pitch voice that reverberated around the whole village, created a mesmerizing and mystical effect.

Now I remember a few lines – “Ranganahta deva sharma  atra gachha, iha tishtah, achamanam kuru……… Ranganatha deva sharma trupytam” which may roughly translate as – “Oh Godlike Ranganatha (his father), come here, take your sit, wash your feet and have these many delicious dishes……. Oh, departed ancestors come and be fulfilled ……”

But as children, our real interest lay in the dishes that were served. We would eagerly wait when all these mumbo jumbo would  be over so that we relished those dishes, fruits and sweets. Sometimes out of compassion, my mother would urge father to finish the rituals and not unnecessarily prolong the proceedings.  My father would act as if he had not listened and would go on unruffled, to make it doubly sure he did not miss any part of the ritual.

Sensing that my father was in no mood to take a short cut and finish early, she would call us to the kitchen on some pretext. In the kitchen she would have a kept aside a few sweet cakes  specially for this occasion. She would tell us to eat those cakes without making any noise, wash our mouth and hands and re-join the proceedings.

With my generation, the tradition of elaborate Shradha ritual has become almost extinct. Now a day, we go to a temple and donate something to the priest and the temple in cash and kind. In return, the temple priest gives his blessings, the intensity of his blessings being dependent upon his mood and his ability to chant those difficult Sanskrit stanzas.

Since I write this article on the occasion of my mother’s death anniversary I must pay my tribute to her. She was no special mother- that was her specialty. She was like any other mother, an Indian mother to be precise -not educated beyond the primary classes, yet unschooled enough to follow her motherly instincts and insights to know at what precise time which of her children needed what. I felt she had a special corner for me, being the youngest of the siblings. If I recall all events great or small to exalt her motherhood, it will fill a book. But, the following  incident haunts and will continue to haunt my memories for a long time to come.

My parents usually stayed with my elder brother. I studied staying in a hostel and then joined Indian Air Force where you cannot live outside the bachelor quarters till you are married. It was going to be her first visit to my place of posting. I was coming back to Bangalore with my wife, parents and my three months old daughter. We were waiting for the train at Berhampur, my home town. It was announced that the train was going to be late by a couple of hours.   Coincidentally, the child fell sick. We rushed to a doctor and got medicines. Being novice parents we panicked and decided to cancel the journey. But my mother would not listen. She insisted we carry on with the journey and that everything was going to be alright. So we carried on with the journey, though not sure whether it was the right decision.

We reached Bangalore without much problem. Still I could not forgive my mother for being so adamant and putting us to such risk. After a few days she explained during a casual conversation, “ See, first of all I knew there was nothing serious about the baby and at this age these are common ailments. Secondly, if I cancelled the journey you would have got a very bad name. Without understanding he situation the neighbours would have murmured that you were trying to avoid the responsibility of taking us with you. Thirdly, who knows whether I will be able to visit you again at your place of posting?”

Hardly convinced, I told my mother not to say so. But the depth of her concern and her foreboding could be realized only after her death three years later. Even though everything for her second visit to our place was arranged for, she died just three days before the proposed visit.

She preferred to be misunderstood so that her son was not condemned. That is what distinguishes mother’s love.

And she had a premonition that she would not be able to make it for a second time. If I had missed the chance first time, it would have been a regret of a lifetime.

On my mother’s twenty first death anniversary as I recall her, I am reminded again of the Shradha chantings done by my father in his mesmerizing and mystical voice inviting the ancestors to come, partake of our offerings and go back fulfilled.

 If only, we could really get those ancestors back, even if for a day!

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those cool summer days

 

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“Now that Deepayan’s school is closed for summer vacations, why don’t you all come down here.”  It was my brother in law at the other end of the call.

“If Durga is not free, at least they  can send Deepayan here to spend a couple of weeks.” I could overhear his wife’s loud prompting.

“I heard what bhabiji said. We will discuss and call you back”, I said and hung up.

It was this invitation that brought back memories of long summer vacations of my childhood spent in my maternal grandparents’ home. It also prompted me to suggest the topic on Indispire.

Indian BloggersTill I was 8 or 9,  summer vacations meant my granpa’s palce in Narayanapur, a tiny village four  kilometers away from my own village. Usually we walked the distance, through rice fields, mango groves, and along a  river avoiding the  lengthier motor-able road.

Narayanapur is a small village consisting of about a dozen  houses. My grandpa’s was the corner house towards the western end of the village. It had extensive coconut, banana mango, palm and other plantations covering the back and the west side the house. In front, across the main village road, was his lemon estate. My morning and evening routine consisted of  assisting my uncles in taking care of the plantations. There was a thatched mud walled house in the lemon estate that served as the place for my noon time siesta and reading room. Other pastimes included  swimming in the  pond adjacent to the village, exploring the numerous ancient temples surrounding the village and occasionally, playing with the other village boys.

My grandmother specialized in preparing various types of traditional sweets. Back in those days my favourite sweet item was ‘Arisha Pitha’.  Whenever she sensed that the charm of grandpa’s place was wearing off she would say, “Look I have already made arrangement for your favourite sweet dish. Tomorrow you will have it”.  Another incentive to detain me was to inform me that the Mahaprasad  from the local Narayana Temple was the lunch menu for the next day. This Mahaprasad, which was home delivered in a huge thali, consisted of varieties of rice, dal, curry and sweets – twenty to twenty five items in all. It was  sufficient for seven to eight adults.  Of course you have to pre-book, sometimes weeks in advance. Now imagine, home delivery of lunch for the entire family including guests in a remote village that too against a very nominal donation. Moreover, this system is as old as the twelfth century temple.

Grandma also made varieties of pickles from fruits and vegetables which were collected from the plants  grown around the house. It was so much confusion to choose the pickles of the day out of so many varieties – carambola, bitter gourd, amla, bamboo shoot, mango, lemon and so on. Again some of them had sweet as well as pungent versions.

After spending two to three weeks or sometimes a whole month,  I would be back to my native village. The summer vacation was far from being over.  In my village the days would be spent among friends with the usual sports, games and a little badmashi. Our play ground was not restricted to the village street, our houses or the backyards. It extended to the two huge  mango groves, three ponds, two mountains and a river surrounding the village.

 The two mango groves did not belong to any particular owner as a whole. Each tree or a group of trees had a different owner. So, the access to the mangoes was restricted but not to the grove or the trees. Because of this, while the security guards had a very tough time,  it  provided many avenues of fun to us.

During those long summer days a personal connection was established with each of those hundreds of trees. Each  mango tree had a character of its own.  If one gave out mangoes that tasted sweet only when raw,  another  was useful only as pickle, and yet another one must be left alone till its fruits fell down ripe. A group of two to three mango trees in a corner of the grove provided such thick foliage, not a single ray of the sun could make it to the ground thus, making it ideal to host the marathon card games for the village idlers.

I went to my native village a couple of years back. When I visited the mango groves, I was almost in tears. The majority of the trees were either uprooted or branch-less. The Cyclone Phailin that stuck Odisha in October 2013 did all the damage it could do so that this vibrant childhood playground  lived only in our memories.

oh sister, my sister

 

(This time, in stead of I writing a blog post in response to the topic of Indisipre Edition #165, I asked my son Dipayan to write one. Being the beginning of the academic year, I saw him having too much fun and I wanted to curtail it. But I was proved wrong as he announced that writing the article was no less fun.)

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Adyasha & Dipayan

I love my sister. Though there’s 10 years of difference between us (ten years three days to be precise), there’s no gap of affection. She is now in Switzerland, but still we talk often. I do miss her, but I still get to talk to her, and that’s a good thing. Quarrels are rare, because the last time we quarreled must be around 8 years ago, when I was 6 and she 16 and we used to stay together (aah, those days…). But those quarrels used to end in a jiffy. None of them were too serious. I stayed with her till her twelfth class. After that she went for higher studies to NIT, Trichy where she stayed in a hostel. So, we met only during vacations.

Two years back, she went to Zurich to do M.S. Since then, we have been able to meet only online.

We used to play many small games together, and we had a lot of fun. I didn’t feel bored at all when I was with my sister.

Indian BloggersHaving a sister has many advantages. A sister is more caring and patient than a brother. My sister taught me many things. She taught me many good values, and of course, helped me a lot in my studies. Not only in studies, she helped me a lot in everything, and in return, I helped her. According to me, helping and caring is what makes a sibling relationship special.

She used to hug me tightly and kiss me everywhere on my face and call me many affectionate names like ‘cutie pie’, and I believe she would do the same when I meet her now. She says even if I grow, I would still remain a small child to her.

My sister motivates me not only by her words but also by her deeds and achievements. She was one of the CBSE All India toppers both in Class X and XII. She carried on her academic feat to NIT, Trichy,  where she was also much sought after for co-curricular activities like organizing and compering special events, creative writing and editing.

She tells me what to do and what not to. She is my inspiration and I am proud of her. When I miss her and cannot immediately contact her online, I watch the following video on youtube, which is a recording of her fun presentation on drones at Science Slam Zurich.

The Monk who is yet to get his Ferrari

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‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

In addition to sharing bits and pieces of information about my life on many of the posts here, I have written specific posts covering my personal life. All these have been categorised under 'memoirs' . 

May be this is an opportunity to sum up the journey so far. Maybe, I could be revealing some aspects for the first time in a public forum.

I was born in a remote village in Odisha about half a century ago and spent my early childhood there..

Did all schooling and colleging in government schools and colleges at government expenses (was recipient of generous Government scholarships from class IV till Post-Graduation)

In our days, campus placement was unheard of, but I got a campus selection.
(The head of our High School Campus selected me to marry his daughter.)

 After remaining an academic topper in all the exams till matriculation, decided to dip the academic graph so that I was able to join Indian Air Force, another childhood fascination. (Maybe to pay back part of the Govt. generosity bestowed on me during student days).

Now that our son has crossed fourteen, he is at par with both the parents and his elder sister  to have all the rights in our democratic family where no one imposes anything on another, even though consultations and opinions are actively sought.

While in high school, wanted to become a monk, so ran away from home for a brief period (safely during summer vacation) and stayed in a stranger’s house in Puri near Jagannath Temple.

Spiritual depth came in life after coming in touch with my master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living in 2001.

After living a vagabond life due to a frequently transferable service, came back to the city of my first love, Bengaluru,  in 2011.

In 1996, was bereaved of my mother who was unique, like every one’s mother and in 2008, lost my father – a simple man who never imposed anything on me even in my childhood.

I am a monk who is yet to get his Ferrari – having fun living the contradictions of life – being a mystic and a man of the world at the same time; trying to  delve into the depths of spirituality without getting biased or dogmatic towards anything.
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The Day I Got Lost and Found a Day So Wonderful

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As for the events of the past in general are concerned, particularly events of the childhood days, one may not remember the routine day to day events. However, there are certain events that get etched in memory so much so that these keep on rewinding in your mind time and again. We enjoy relishing those moments as we do watching particular favourite moments of a repeat telecast.

I must have been  6 to 7 years old then. My father was working in the forest department. For sometime he was deployed deep inside the jungle in the tribal district of Koraput, Odisha. Usually whenever he was deployed in remote locations we used to stay back in our native place. But this time he took us – me, my elder sister and my mother – along.

Our dwelling was a huge cottage in the middle of the jungle. Of course, some area  surrounding the cottage were cleared of vegetation to avoid jungle fire catching up. it was a single row cottage with seven to eight rooms. While, we occupied three to four rooms, some rooms were used as stores and in one room a few of my father’s subordinates stayed. The nearest human dwelling was a tribal village, perhaps two to three kilometers away.

One day it so happened that I got upset. I do not remember the reason. I threatened my mother that I would go away inside the jungle never to return. My mother laughed. My sister challenged me and said, “Go. Who bothers”. But, they did not know I meant what I had said.

My father was away on his project site. After some time my mother and sister got busy with their chores. Slowly I sneaked out and ran towards the jungle.

Of course I took the temporary muddy road made for the trucks to ferry jungle products. In my concern not to be tracked I had run so much that I now lost track of where I was. When I realized this, I panicked. But, then I heard a familiar voice following me – “Baba, Baba. Stop”. It was a worker at my father’s project. Frequently he came to meet with father at our cottage. Whenever he came he made jokes at me and tried to be friendly. Suddenly, at the sight of a familiar face, panic feelings gave way and I became adamant again.

“No I would not” I shouted.  “I do not want to go back to that house again”, I said and started running again, this time into the wild growth, leaving  the muddy jungle road.

The worker was a robust tribal man form a nearby village and I do not remember his name.  I could not outrun him. He came near me and caught hold of my hand. I tried to  wriggle out.

“Listen, Baba” he said,  “I will not take you to your house. We will go to my village. Come first see my house. If you do not like it,I will bring you here and leave you”.

I consented and he lifted my on to his shoulders. For the entire journey of two to three kilometers I rode on his shoulders. On the way, he picked of wild fruits and gave me to eat. We reached his village, a small village of about twelve to thirteen houses. His house was a single room hut at the middle of the village. His wife and son welcomed me. His son was almost of my age. His wife offered me a kind of sweet made of millet and jaggery.

What followed afterwards was a full day of fun, much more thrilling than the kind of fun you get in a modern amusement park. First he took me and his son to a nearby water body for angling. We played Tarzan. There were huge swings made out of the roots of the banyan tree. Every hour I was given some special delicious fruit, root or preparation to eat. We also enjoyed water sports. His son tried to teach me swimming.

But then, towards the evening I remembered my mother and started crying. He realized that I was ready to return to my source. Immediately he lifted me on to his shoulders and carried me back home. He was so fast in his walk that we reached our cottage within no time. But my mother gave no reaction. She taunted me, ” Why have you come back?”

It was only later that I came to know, the tribal man was deployed by my mother to take care of any eventuality, i.e  in case I actually ran away.

I thought my mother would not know and I would surprise and shock her by running away. But I was so wrong. Especially about a mother’s safety concerns for her children.

‘This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’


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Sunday Musings and Random Notes #4

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Those unknown heroes did not even wait to hear our applause

One day, while I was driving to Bengaluru Airport, I spotted two small IAF planes moving in synchronicity. Instantly I was reminded of an aerobatic display by the Suryakiran team two decades back.

It happened at a  forward base. The local Chief Minister was the chief guest. All were waiting for the first glimpse. The perfect formation of the nine aircraft became visible over the horizon and in an instant they zoomed past the spectators who looked on with awe. There after followed various hair raising stunts and manoeuvres, all in perfect coordination and formation. Every one knew that a split second error could result in a major disaster. Only those at the cockpit knew how much practice, patience, alertness and gut feelings went into producing such an impeccable display.

Of course in some of the later displays that I witnessed at other locations including the displays for the public, there were arrangement for running commentaries where the name of the team leaders were mentioned. But then with all those din and excitement in the surroundings,  the running commentary hardly held your attention. In this particular show there was no such running commentary or public announcement. After the display there was arrangement for refreshments. During that time the Chief Guest was supposed to meet and compliment the pilots. A large part of the spectators was eagerly waiting to see those men behind the machines who gave those miraculous stunts. However, after some time we came to know that the team had to leave urgently. Neither did we know their name then nor did we have any opportunity to let them hear our applause.

This incident is a representative of the larger events involving our soldiers. Forget about the applause, in the theater that the soldier operates there are no spectators to applaud. Sometimes the hero even does not live to narrate or hear his glory. There are case where a soldier is awarded and may occupy a fifth  page mention. But the majority of those heroes go unsung. May be that is why we have so many memorials to the ‘unknown soldiers’.

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 By Sivakumar ThyagarajanSurya kirans !, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

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 Why should the Hero take all the credit

Here of course I am talking about the reel life heroes. There is no need to mention that. Our social conditioning is such that when we talk of heroes, the first ones to come to mind are the filmy ones, even though majority of them could be damn cowards and hypocrites in real life and may be suffering from all kind of fears including fear of not being the best noticed one in a public gathering and not to speak of the fear  of cockroaches. To distinguish a real life hero from the filmi hero, we have to say – so and so was a real life hero; where as,  it should be the other way round.

Now coming to the real (or, reel) issue, the filmi hero is like the body of a car. It is the most visible and highlighted part of the movie. The other fellows (including the heroine) who work equally hard and are equally talented, do not get as much credit as the hero. In the filmi world too there are unsung heroes. The body double who does the real ‘heroic acts’ remains  unsung.

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Looking Back with Gratitude

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So here comes my feedback form. My feedback at fifty. If the biblical life span is 70, for a Hindu the ideal life span is 100. So, here I am, at the thresh hold of my half way mark.

I did my education at a number of schools in a number of localities falling in rural , semi urban and urban areas. This provided the opportunity to have a taste of  India in its myriad of colours and flavours. This experience was extended in range and depth when I joined Indian Air Force that provided me the opportunity of close interaction with people and places from all across India. A career in Defense takes away many of the biases associated with religion, language and locality. The stint in Indian Air Force has truly been a blessing.

By the way, as I write this article today, the Indian Air Force is celebrating its eighty fourth anniversaries. My hearty greetings to all Air Warriors (serving and Ex) and their families. I also take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Indian Air Force for not only giving me an opportunity to do my bit for my fellow citizens, but also for enriching my life with beautiful experiences.

There were times when the perceived indifference of parents was painful. But, when I saw how some of the over caring parents are playing with the dreams of their children and hindering their growth by their protectiveness, I realised what a blessing it was to have parents who did not interfere with many of my choices.

It is has been a great wandering, a great journey. There have been moments of fulfillment, moments of disappointment. Kabhi khushi kabhi gam – life has gone on. There have been rewards, there have been brickbats. There have been times when I have been treated like a celebrity and there have been times when I preferred to go into temporary oblivion. Plenty of foolish decisions marked by a few sparks of wise ones.

But no moment has betrayed me. Each moment has given me an intensity and passion. The failures have been as intense and meaningful as the successes. A cluster of failures caused disappointment in those moments. But, ultimately it was so sweet when those failures led to greater success subsequently. Through it all everything has been a learning experience and it continues to do so. Every event has been a launching pad, a rest house by the great road side of this journey called life.

One thing that I lack let me confess, is focus. Nature’s myriads of creations detract me. Sometimes I want to do too many things in one life. I get easily bored. However, I feel my interests in thousands of things do not leave any moment to get bored.

At the end of the day what is there to achieve ?  Of course here I am reminded of the sand artist. Every achievement is like the art work of the sand artist, may be just a little more enduring. Nevertheless, the sand artist does not stop his creative work knowing full well it would be so transitory.

Similarly, I also take up challenges – sometimes for my own personal growth, sometimes to bring some beauty into the world through creativity, sometimes to make this world a little more livable and lovable thorough bits of unreasonable acts of service and criticism. Have I achieved anything substantial? By the way what would be my definition of achievement? Well that is for others to evaluate.

And so far, it has been a great wandering in this wonderful creation; and I would continue to wander and wonder.


Indian Bloggers

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(This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.)

If I could meet you again, Miss Mary

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To most of my male contemporaries in India, the word teacher will bring male associations. In the Odisha of the 1970s and 1980s, even half of the teachers in girls’ schools were male. The lady teacher was something uncommon. Particularly in rural areas, it was rare.

Against this background, when Miss Mary came on transfer to join our village primary school, it was quite a sensation. She created a record short of firsts in the five sleepy villages that the school catered to. For the first few days, she travelled the distance of eight kilometers from the nearest town to my village, alone. Nobody of those villages must have heard of a lady travelling such long distance, unaccompanied by any male relative. Yes, eight kilometers is a long distance when half of it you have to cover on foot. She was the first lady teacher of the school and later on she became the first non-Hindu resident of our village.

I must have been six or seven years old then. So, my memories are vague. Some of the incidents described are reconstructed from what I heard later on. Of course I remember a few incidents like her making me stand on her table and tell me to touch the ceiling with a long stick and accompanying me home and telling my mother, “Your boy is so sweet, and when are you making me your daughter-in-law?”

Being a Christian and a single lady, it was tough finding residence in any of the villages nearby. Barring one village, which was a ‘Brahmins only’ village, the others had people from all castes. Even in our village, where people from different castes shared a common wall, some elders opposed the idea of her taking up residence. But a few open minded people including my father were successful in convincing the village elders to accept her and treat her like any other human being.

Still the initial resistance continued and she became the focus of all sorts of village gossip. She regularly came to see my mother after school, sometime accompanying me from school to my house and stop by to talk to my mother.

We lost touch with her, when we moved to the nearby town after three or four months. After three or four months she herself got transferred. I came to know that on the day of her departure the whole village was in tears. During her short stay she had endeared the same village that had once refused her accommodation.

I doubt that I would ever meet her, or even come to know of her whereabouts. But she lingers in my memory as a vague fragrance, long after the flower is gone. Also I do not remember what academic things did she teach me. But whenever I think of Miss Mary, two other words come to my mind – love and courage.

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(In response to Indispire edition #134 )