The majestic statue
high on the hill
for a rendezvous
of bliss and innocence.
It is fashionable
To come here
To be selfied and uploaded
And arouse a little jealousy
“Look where we camped last weekend”.
A lone devotee infirm and old
Climbs up panting and chanting
To touch at least some height
Before her death.
Tiny flowers without leaves
Pop up from the hard rock
What a humble offering
To the huge bare Bahubali
Standing tall on the bare hill,
With relics and writings as ambiguous
as his silence!
How do they proclaim peace
in words of war -
The scholars fight it out.
The sun follows us inch by inch
As we limp up slowly
To rise above the world
And its maya.
To associate love with sacrifice is divine. To mix love with pleasure is human. And to make business out of love is American.
According to the Greeting Card Association of America 25% of all cards sent are valentines. Of course, now it is a global trend.
Well, love is in the air. In India it is the Spring season which has been traditionally associated with harvests, festivals, flowering and romance. Then of course, now a days we have caught up fast with this international tradition of celebrating the legacy of St. Valentine.
At this age I cannot join the the young enthusiastic valentine brigade. I cannot ‘beat’ them either by joining the moral brigade in India who are suddenly on a Swadeshi hype. I am still a fence sitter. Maybe, there is no harm in just ruminating a bit on various aspects of love.
Flavours of Love
Love is something that everyone experiences in some form or other. No amount of talk or preaching about love can transfer one’s experience of love to another.
Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Love is that glue that holds everything together”. Going by this definition, everything is love, expressed in its various flavors or distortions. No one is devoid of love. Even the so called loner loves his loneliness, disregarding the love poured on him by nature from all sides.
Gurudev also says that the negative emotions like anger, lust etc are distortions of love. Love for the objects becomes greed, love for perfection becomes anger, love for one’s own supremacy becomes jealousy. Taken to extreme, coupled with a sense insecurity, one’s love for one’s religion, race, language etc. may make one a chauvinist, bigot or extremist depending on one’s intensity and stupidity.
Transcending Relative Love
When love is relative, all these flavors and distortions are experienced. Love for parents, love for one’s own children, love for siblings, romantic love etc. are all different flavors of love. Then there is love of the highest order, when all these relative flavors are transcended. That is what Maharshi Narada calls in His Bhakti Sutras parama prema rupa or the ultimate love or the absolute love or bhakti. Bhakti may start as a love for the divine in form or formless. But it flowers to its ultimate state when love remains without its distortions. Then one becomes love and one’s being permeates love.
The Legend of St. Valentine
Somewhat similar to the eastern concept of Bhakti is the Christian concept of ‘Agape’. Four kinds of love are described in the Bible. The lowest being the erotic love (Eros) and the highest being the Agape, exemplified by the love of Jesus Christ to humanity and God. In between are Storge (family love) and Philia (brotherhood or love between co-followers of Jesus) .
Many scholars trace the origin of Valentine’s Day to the ancient pagan ‘fertility’ festival of Rome celebrated on 15 Feb. Later on, along with the people of Rome, the festival too was Christianized and renamed as Valentine’s Day, to commemorate agape. Towards 14th century the term came to be associated with romantic love. Fourteenth Century English Poet Chaucer extended Valentine’s Day beyond human beings, when he wrote:
“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,
When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.”
By the way, nothing is known for sure about the St. Valentine- the inspiration for the Valentine’s Day. There are many versions of the legend of St. Valentine. However, according to the majority of scholars and theologians, this day is associated with the St. Valentine who, performed secret marriages in 3rd century Rome against the dictate of the emperor to debar young men from marrying so that they became better soldiers.
The English Church removed the feast Day associated with St. Valentine in 1969 citing his questionable origin.
P.S. – I Love You
This expression is commonly used to express love, particularly in western countries and the westernized in other countries. Even a romantic movie has been made by this name. As we know, P.S is abbreviations of ” Post Script”, written at the end of a letter when someone remembers to have forgotten to write something in the main script.
I wonder what kind of love it is that comes as a post script, some kind of an afterthought. If there is love, it is there at the beginning, in the middle and at the end, it is a continuum. If you love something, you do not make it a side issue or forget it.
Some say, the expression is used to remind the other how much one loves the other. It is like saying – “By the way, do not forget that I love you”. Do real lovers keep on reminding expressly how much they love each other? Like everything else, as we progress in the name of civilization, is love also becoming formal, superficial?
In spite of so much development in science and technology, even scientists are baffled by the elusive nature of the sub-atomic particles. So in my attempt to inquire into the nature of reality, I am reminded of one of the vedic skeptic statements known as the Nasadiya Sukta. It is a hymn in the Rig Veda and is regarded as the first agnostic statement of our civilization.
The last stanza of the Sukta reads thus:
Whence all creation had its origin,
he, whether he fashioned it or whether he did not,
he, who surveys it all from highest heaven,
he knows – or maybe even he does not know
In this context it is worth being reminded of the famous zen story:
The great Taoist master Chuang Tzu once dreamt that he was a butterfly fluttering here and there. Suddenly, he awoke and found himself laying there, a person once again. But then he thought to himself, “Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?“
Even after thousands of years of evolution, we have not reached finality with regard to the knowledge of the ultimate reality. Who can say for certain what is reality and what is illusion?
Many mystics and metaphysical poets have had visions of reality that they tried to express it in their own mystical ways. It is difficult to decipher them for the lay man. It will be like deciphering the babbles of a drunk for the sober ones. But certain aspects of reality can be experienced in an altered state of consciousness, or so it is claimed (including amateur mystics like me).
The Buddhist view of reality is that it is all nothingness, things are born of nothingness and go back to nothingness (Sunyabaad). Adi Sankara, the proponent of Adwaita Vedanta, had a contrarian view. He said that it is all fullness. Even the first sloka of Isavasya upanishad propounds :
Ishabashyam idam sarvam jat kinchit jagatyan jagat.
(What-so-ever there is, it is all filled with the essence of Ishwara)
While the eastern approach to reality has been an intuitive one, the western approach has been scientific. Or, we can say the eastern approach has been to look within where as the western approach has been to look outward. Hope at some point of time, they converge and east and west do meet.
The latest development is that science has nearly come to discover the God Particle which would solve the mystery about the nature of the ultimate reality. The basic fundas about the God Particle, in simple terms, are as follows:
Electron, proton and neutron are the trinity of the atomic science and each has some mass however negligible. An atom contains these three basic particles which are in turn formed by interaction of mass less particles called quarks. How these basic particles acquire mass has remained a mystery for the scientists. In 1964, a British physicist, Peter Higgs, came up with this idea that there must exist a background field passing through which particles acquire mass by being dragged through a mediator, which was subsequently named the Higgs Boson. The scientists sometimes call it the “God Particle” — it is everywhere but remains frustratingly elusive.
This reminds us of the Upanishads where God is conceived of as the substratum of everything, subtler than an atom, pure energy, present everywhere but elusive. Coincidentally, quantum physicists have found that their theories are not much different from the teachings of the Upanishads.
In March 2009, the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory came close to finding the God particle. What prevented them from finding the particle was a component malfunction in the Lab. Even though it still remains elusive, the scientists have come closer with each subsequent experiments at the CERN laboratories in Switzerland and elsewhere.
I am hopeful that if scientists continue with their experiments, one day they will definitely nail the elusive God Particle. God willing, of course. 😀
Till then there is nothing that prevents us from enjoying the mystery of reality, illusion, delusion, the gods or the God Delusions.
The other day my social activist friend said,” Come on we have to start doing something some where”.
“Where exactly do we start? Do you have an action plan”, I asked in a friendly voice, even though he would often term me, in as unfriendly manner as possible, as a speed breaker.
“It is like this. We go and raise funds. Then we buy fifty thousand T shirts”.
Being a born skeptic, I asked, “T Shirts?”.
“I mean these will not be ordinary T shirts. We will get the slogan -Save Trees – printed boldly on both the front and back of the T shirts. If needed we will go for another fund raising to organise a grand function. We will invite a celebrity I know to inaugurate the T shirt”.
“Great”, I said. “Why can’t we use the funds to plant trees. Directly. As simple as that”.
My friend was agitated. Annoyed. I could see the passion of social service burning in his eyes. “You people will never appreciate my subtle ideas. You will never understand. First it is important to educate people. You know, educate people. Create awareness. You know, create awareness”.
He went on and on till I surrendered. His idea was that writing ‘cigarette smoking is injuries to health’ was the only way to eradicate smoking from this earth once and for ever.
We are a people of symbols and gestures. It is in our DNA. That is why events and campaigns about social ills start with a bang and fizzle out in a couple of months, till another grand even after a couple of months comes up to cover up for all our callousness.
Occasions like campaigning for swatchh bharat are great opportunities for schools to improve their brand value. It also provides an opportunity for the teachers and students to upgrade their social media status. You may clean something in the morning and by evening it is back to square one. That is why one should not make one’s hands dirty and preserve their cleanliness to to utilise for a fantastic selfie.
During those initial days of swatchh bharat mania, it was a usual sight to see a duo or trio of school teachers driving a herd of school kids holding placards and shouting slogans. They also held brooms and stopped every now and then for selfies and photo ops. I was so much swayed by their enthusiasm I also joined them. (Not because one of the teachers was pretty, mind you). At the end of the rigorous ritual lasting for one hundred and twenty minute, each child and teacher, on an average, must have spent one hundred minutes in selfies and photo ops. One teacher confided in me, “There is strict instruction from the principal. The photos must be of good quality. This event will be a watershed one for our school magazine. We will also go for a press release”
Social media like whatsapp have created another brand of social activists. You can feel the fire in their fingers. They are experts in forwarded as received messages. They do no have even time to read the messages. Because in a day they have a set a target of 10, 000 messages to be forwarded. So, you cannot accuse them of not understanding the messages. However, it makes them appear more humane than you are. They even threaten you and emotionally black mail you. “You must forward the message to hundred others, or else you are not a patriot/ your are not a human being / you do not love your mother and so on”. By the way I have lost a couple of close old friends because I dared to exit from such non sense groups created by them to spread socially bullshit messages. On their part, such virtual activists are absolved of all the social responsibility that comes up with being actively associated with the issues on the ground.
In the ultimate analysis, it makes sense to wear your T shirt to humanity. You might have erroneously and unintentionally (and very humanely, because to err is human) killed a couple of animals and human beings, but wearing a T shirt is regret enough to absolve you of all your sins, because now you appear more humane than your fellow human beings and animals who choose not to flaunt such a T shirt.
A package tour would definitely include the houses of murderers and tyrants, but not that of a humanist or humorist. So every travel brochure about Mysore, whether off line or online, include the places where the kings lived. I doubt whether even the ritual annual tours of schools include the house of RK Narayan.
What were the kings of yesteryear? They lived the most luxurious lives while the common man of those days toiled day and night to keep his body and soul together. When the country was under colonial rule the kings were cleverly used by the British to act as their tax collectors, of course for a hefty compensation. Neither the British, nor the kings bothered about how the common men suffered.
We hear, how a king used the revenue of sixteen years and a quarter of the man power of the whole kingdom to build a great temple. Those who refused to provide quality work were hanged in public. And many others must have perished due to the collapse of the already fragile public welfare system as every material and other resources were diverted to fulfill the whim of a mad king. At least that is what I felt when I visited the temple some years back.
Again in the name of art what do you find on the walls of those palatial houses – the painting of soldiers, wars, weapons and other events glorifying mass destruction and the king’s hunger for more territory.
And these are the places that prominently feature on any package tour, whether for recreational purpose or educational purpose.
In our country we are only bothered about the memorial of politicians. Thank God, at last, at least we got a memorial to a writer like RK in India. Otherwise how many such memorials do you find in India. Tagore’s is a different story. He was in some way associated with the freedom movement and he got a Nobel.
In RK’s case, the house built by him was already there. So, no new memorial has been built. In fact had there been no such house, and had the house not been subject of a controversy (when some real estate sharks tried to demolish it), nobody would have thought of a memorial for RK. In a way, like his Guide protagonist who became an accidental Hero, his house too has become an accidental memorial.
RK’s works were not part of my high school or college syllabus. I first came across him through a translated short story published in the local newspaper. It was titled – ‘Another Ratnatkar who could not become a Balmiki’. The gentle irony and humour touched me even in the translated version. There after I developed a curiosity to read his works in original. This happened during my high school days. So, when I visited his house on Vivekanand Road, Mysore, I was filled with a strange feeling of nostalgia. Moreover, his characters are no different from the people who I encountered around my home on a daily basis.
RK has written about how he built this house in his autobiography – My Days. It is a modest house compared to other houses in the locality. Of course the municipal corporation of Mysore that made effort to restore the house and develop it as a museum, has also put directional broads to the house, at many places in Mysore.
The place is nothing in grandeur compared to the regal, religious and scenic fares in store when you visit Mysore. Still, my feeling is that every tourist trip to Mysore should start from this place, in place of a temple. At least, for children it should be made a must see place so that it fuels their creative spirit. But this may alarm our Indian parents who do not want any career for their children other than medical or engineering. (I have also encountered many parents who strictly forbid their children to read anything other than what is there in the syllabus).
I have suggested, through the comment section of the visitor’s book kept in the house and by an email to the City Corporation, to name the street as Malgudi Street. But I know the chances are less. Because the street already has a Shudh Deshi name. Had it been something like Victoria Road, things would have been easier.
Out of home can be at home.
A picnicker on the hospital lawn
talks to someone on phone.
The ambulance has just arrived
to offload a body.
He hears a good news,
and misses the tears
and the gossip
and the relief
as they mourn home
just another body
in just another van,
an anonymous group of mourners
in this city of multitudes.
The man was something
to someone, somewhere.
He was a hoarder
He built a hundred homes
but never had a home to himself.
He died after a long illness.
Maybe, that is the reason
they had such a sense of relief.
First of all, here is wishing my dear reader a wonderful New Year. May you remain cheerful and passionate irrespective of whether a few wishes got fulfilled or not.
Note that I have not used the word happy. There are reasons for it – profound and scary reasons that google threw at me in form of quotes while I was searching for something else. Take the first example:
So there is no point in having good health and selfishness if, these are not backed by a healthy dose of stupidity. However, it provides for a lot of hope. To be happy is not that big deal after all. It paints a very rosy picture of human society since time immemorial- the vast majority of human society have never been as unhappy as we have made it out to be.
The following one is a very strong argument as to why one should not wish another anything related to happiness:
However, the following is the scariest of them all:
And finally a ray of hope, provided by non other than one of those highest priests of Christianity:
Of course, I am not sure whether all/some/any of the above quotes have been attributed to the right source. Now a days on social media, every now and then one comes across strange quotes attributed to strange people. Sometimes, people making up these quotes do not seem to have even elementary knowledge of history. So, Swami Vivekananda gives very sound advice on the side effects of social media and Mahatma Gandhi warns us about the impending disasters when one harbours thoughts like those of Donald Trump.
But I am sure the following one must have been spoken (or, at least thought of) by Adolf Hitler, who swayed even the most intelligent persons of Germany to his Nazist point of view with his banal rhetoric. I am afraid this must also be the secret of success of writers like Chetan Bhagat churning out best sellers and Salman Khan movies making multiple crores.
Here is wishing you again, a happy (er. sorry) , a wonderful new year.
Three blogposts that you may have missed
I started this blog in July this year.
A blogger is not like an ideal parent for whom all children should be equal favourites. Nevertheless, he has paternal instincts. It is natural for parents to give special attention to that child who lagged behind other siblings while at the same time proudly bringing to attention of the special skills of a particular child. The following blogposts from this year are a mix of both.
An evolved human being has the innocence and intelligence of a child, yet is without the accompanying helplessness and childishness.
The evolved human being loves his neighbors, his culture & his nativity. However, he never confines himself to any boundary. He learns to see an individual as an individual and does not draw pre-matured conclusions based on the particular group the individual belongs to, by virtue of his birth. (more of this elaborated in I see you as you are)
He recognizes all the conditioning he is subjected to by the society and the vested interests and rises above them. However, he does not forget his duties to the society and his fellow living beings.
He may or may not be a follower of rigid religious rituals, but he has a kind of religiosity or spirituality that is not dependent upon any concept of God or Heaven or Hell.
To be an evolved human being is not only about valuing one’s own freedom, but also recognizing and respecting the freedom of others, at the same time realizing that we are all interdependent.
To be an evolved human being is about never going beyond a healthy point to persuade another to our own views and behave to our liking. It is never projecting our own dreams on others, however dependent they may be on us.
The evolved human being has his way, which he may follow very fervently. However, he recognizes and respects other paths.
After their adaptability to the mobiles, social media apps like Facebook have become a rage. On these very social media platforms quite often we get ‘forwarded as received messages ‘ ringing alarm bells as to how real relationships have taken a back seat as people spend more and more time on Facebook, Whatsapp etc. .
This week’s Indispire topic too raises questions linked to the above propagated fears. It says, “In this world so connected with technology, we have actually lost our real connections. Technology has actually surpassed human interactions. Real time conversations became texting and feelings became status updates…. “.
I am reminded of an often repeated theme in twentieth century Bollywood films. The hero would go to a foreign country for studies. When he comes back after twelve years no body is able to recognize him. Sometimes, the story would take a ‘comedy of error’ twist. Now you cannot present such a story to the present skype generation. It is a great loss to the Bollywood script writers.
Barring the above notional loss, I do not think there is any real cause for alarm. Rather three are reasons enough to rejoice.
We can look at it this way. Now we leverage technology to save a lot of time. No more do we travel 20 kms to a railway station and stand in queue for two hours to book that vacation ticket. We do not have to visit a post office to send money or a letter or a telegram. Some even do not go to office to their official job. This in turn gives us more time for creativity, productivity or have real life fun.
Even though my wife is very active on social media, she does not miss her daily quota of enlightening and philosophical face to face conversations with her neighbours. Now there are more topics for discussion. Like, why her dress from Amazon cost more than her neighbour’s.
Jokes apart, now she is able to connect with her daughter in Switzerland on a daily basis almost at no extra cost. Sometimes during the video chat my daughter closes in on the dinner plate and they both cry. In a way it has deepened the feelings. Imagine how we would have interacted ten years back. Maybe once or twice a month a phone call. Or, an international mail. Hardly can our daughter be out of sight, to be out of mind.
There has been no let up in my face to face interactions with my family members, my neighbours and my colleagues, even though I use technology a lot. Now, due to these latest developments in communication technology, I am able to make connection with those with whom I would not have been able to do so if these latest developments were not there. In fact technology has helped me to connect more with real people, far and near.
Thanks to their status updates, now I feel being connected on a daily basis to hundreds of my school/college mates and ex- colleagues. Many long lost friends have been found. Those who are nearby still come physically to express their feelings whenever the occasion demands.
The fear that the virtual world created by technology has taken over the real world is over exaggerated. Especially in the case of India. Or else, every year you would not be seeing larger crowds at public events and holiday places with their friends and families.
In fact technology is providing me less and less excuses to be alone. The virtual reality provided by technology is only a medium. The people I interact with through this medium are real. Does not matter if they are far or near. And sometimes even if I have never met with them.
What about our blogging activity and our real time interactions over so many bloggers from India and outside?
Before the era of computers and BPO did you hear of someone earning a salary in one year, the equivalent of his father’s life time earnings in a private or government service?
Or the senior citizens (and the non-IT guys) attributing all the ills of present Bengaluru, including cost of living and heavy traffic jam, to ‘those IT guys’.
Well, that could be a kind of loss to those attached to the idea of good old Bangalore.