jovial volunteers

(Third and concluding part of Landmark. Day 10 of BlogChatterA2Z)

Read Part -1 of the Story

indian-street durga dash blog

I was angry, upset, and frustrated.

“Maybe, as a last ditch effort, when the beggar is asleep I will cut the chain, take the desk, and throw it in the nearby lake. With the desk gone, the beggar will hesitate to stay in the footpath. Am I not being too harsh on a poor beggar? But, what will a beggar lose anyway. Even after the loss of the desk he will remain a beggar. Rather, with his desk gone he will seriously think of going to the Rehabilitation Center. But, will I be able to do it alone? I need a partner in crime. At least for moral support.”

Chandu was the obvious choice. I knew many of his secrets. He was the one who had once taken me to a whore house.   I was unmarried and stayed alone in a small studio house two streets away. Chandu lived with his family in the same street.

I called him inside my shop and explained the plan. He listened to me patiently but was reluctant to join me. He tried to dissuade me.

“Seems, you have developed a soft corner for the beggar. By the way, did he finance your night adventure last time?” I chided. Then I added, “I was just kidding. Don’t mind. After our mission is over we will have a big bash. A complete night out starting from the Bar to your favourite bitch. All expenses taken care of.”

“No, no, no. I don’t need that. As a friend if I can’t help you this much, what are friends for. I was only worried that the plan might misfire,” said Chandu. “Now, listen carefully. We will execute the plan between three and five because that is the time people slept the soundest.

Happy that my strategy to make Chandu help in my mission had succeeded, I prepared to pull down the shutters humming the tune of a happy man.  Chandu usually followed the opening hours of the Bar nearby and closed his shop one hour after I downed my shutters. That day he shut his shop one hour earlier and came to join me on my walk back home so that we could work out the details of the plan on the way.

My studio house was on the second floor of a cluster of old houses with a big court yard. After dinner I set my alarm to three. That night sleep eluded me. By the time the alarm rang I was already awake to put it off.

I waited for Chandu to show up. I paced out of my room onto the balcony that overlooked the street and came back. I lost count of the number of times I paced out and in. It was four but, there was no sign of Chandu. There was no way to confirm. Those were the days when cell phones were not conceived of. I did not know where exactly he stayed. Even though he came to my house so often, he always avoided when I expressed my interest to go to his house.

“That …  has ditched me”. I cursed myself for depending on such a fellow. “Let me not waste time waiting for that ….. .”

Covering myself with a big black shawl I started out on my mission. Reaching the place, I was surprised and jubilant to see that the beggar was missing from his post.  He must have gone near the lake for his morning rituals, I thought. Still I looked around to see if the beggar or anybody was around. The light bulb attached to electric pole had fused off a few days back. On such a damp and cold night it was unlikely that even a casual visitor would be found on the streets. The policemen and the chowkidars on  the errand must be dozing somewhere, I thought .  All in all, the signs were  favourble. I soared in joy when I did not find much difficulty in cutting the chain to free the desk.

But, the desk was heavier than I had expected. So, at the street corner I put it down to take a break. It was then that I saw or imagined seeing someone coming from a distance. After two more shops there was a staircase. I moved there quickly to hide.

Hiding myself behind the staircase as I palpitated, a million possibilities flashed through my mind. How come I had forgotten that for any damage to the beggar or his property, I would be the first suspect. When I remembered that the beggar was a leader and well connected, I had a scary vision. A crowd of beggars had gathered in front of my shop shouting slogans, Sameer hai hai and demanding my arrest. Next, I was being carried in a police van. I was so engrossed in this scary vision, I did not realize I was perspiring even though it was such a cold night.

What was I to do now? I came out of my hiding and peeped out to look around the street. Actually there was no one around. Without hesitation I lifted the desk, ran back to where it was, put it down and hurried back home.

Next day I opened the shop as usual and acted as if nothing had happened. Chandu also came as usual and acted as if nothing had happened. The beggar sat as usual in his yogic posture. Now, binding his desk to the electric pole was a brand new chain.

Chandu came after lunch time inside my shop, apology writ large oh his face.  Before he said anything I dismissed him saying I had some urgent accounting job to do.

After this failed attempt, when I accepted that it was beyond human capacity to rehabilitate or evict him, a great sense of relief dawned on me. Since then both of us continued to have a peaceful coexistence. As a friendly gesture, sometimes, I would be his first donor of the day. But the beggar did not evince any thankfulness and continued to show his indignation if I dropped the offering without due reverence.

The assistant came in the evening again. “Is the manager too much upset?”, I asked.

He looked at me but did not answer my question. “You know Sir”, I continued, “I am not so serious about the loan”.

“But we are. By the way I came here to buy a packet of condoms.” After pocketing a packet of condoms and giving a contemptuous look at the beggar, he left.

At ten ‘O’ clock in the night when I was going to close the shop, I noticed a small police van followed by a large white van pulling in. Big bold beautiful pink alphabets, that read ‘Rehabilitation Anonymous Bangalore” adorned the sides of the white van.

The policemen did not get down. But two volunteers, who looked more like bouncers of a night club, got down from the van. They came to the beggar and one of them said in an authoritative voice, “Come with us. Be quick.”

The beggar looked perplexed. One of the volunteers asked politely to open the lock and unchain the desk. He sensed the veiled threat and obliged. The volunteer carried the desk and the begging bowl inside the van. He had no option but to follow.

He  was about to board the van with hesitant steps when a man sitting inside said in a loud jovial voice, “Oye Sir, you don’t worry. We are here to uplift people”. The volunteers lifted him up and got him seated inside. Carrying the landmark, the white van sped away out of sight.

(Concluded)

 

in the national interest

(Part-2 of Landmark. Day 9 BlogchatterA2Z)

Read Part 1 of the story

indian-street durga dash blog

Whether they sanctioned the loan or not I was determined not to change the form. I had given up on my efforts first to rehabilitate and then to evict the beggar after a prolonged battle.  Barely one month after I had rented the shop I suggested the beggar to take up a security job that would have also entitled him to free housing inside the complex. He did not say anything and went on with his job without paying any heed to my entreaties.

We continued to share a love hate relationship. The day when my earning was good I did not forget to add a few coins to his kitty. I also thought of ways to rehabilitate him. After all he is a fellow human being. The day my business was poor, somehow I felt he was responsible for my ill luck of the day and thought of ways to evict him.

I still remember my last attempt to evict him. It was the day when just before closing my medicine shop an uneasy and feverish feeling dawned on me that the whole city had suddenly become exceptionally healthy. That day, after lunch time, not even a single customer visited my shop. Later on I realized that another medicine shop had been opened that day just across the street and there was no beggar sitting there in front of the shop. What irritated me more was that the beggar’s income was always protected from any kind of market fluctuation, business rivalry, or national calamity.

That day I decided I would try once more. At the same time I was not sure what to do. Should I cause another beggar to be stationed in front of the other medicine shop? Why one, I could even manage to bring half a dozen beggars to this marketing street. That would end his monopoly. Ultimately, this unprofessional and ungrateful beggar would lose out in the competition and shut his shop. As I was weighing this option in my mind I remembered what Chandu had said on a number of occasions. The beggar was the president of the local beggars’ union. No one would dare compete with him.

I had heard that there was a charitable organization that rehabilitated beggars. I enquired further and went to the office of the Rehabilitation Anonymous Bangalore. I insisted on meeting with none other than the head of the institution. I was told that the head trustee was out of town.  However, his secretary, a plump lady in her forties, was gracious enough to grant me a patient hearing.

“So you stay in Nehru Nagar. Do you know my brother? Recently, he got transferred to Nehrunagar branch.”

“Madam, I am not  Google. You haven’t even told me your brother’s name and the branch of what has he been transferred to.  By the way, I came here to seek help for my problem. Actually it is not my problem. It is actually in national interest. But I believe your organisation is interested in rehabilitating beggars. I came here to inform that there is one in the market street quite for a long time. There is an urgent need to rehabilitate him.”

“In the market street. Near a medicine shop?”

“Yes, yes. In fact I am the owner of the medicine shop.”

“Look here gentleman. I mean Sameer. We can’t do anything about him. Frankly speaking that fellow is well connected. Unless he himself wishes to be rehabilitated we can’t touch him.”

“If he is so well connected, why is he a beggar then?”

“I don’t know. Maybe, that is why he is a beggar. Or he is not a beggar. Have you ever seen him begging? He just sits there and people donate voluntarily.”

“Well Madam, you seem to know so much about him. Still then why can’t he be persuaded to vacate the footpath and live in your beautiful Rehabilitation Centre?”

“That is also a mystery to us. We don’t know. I don’t want to talk further. Ours is a volunteer organisation. It is not a police station. But if you are interested in a loan, here is the card of my brother who has been transferred to Nehru Nagar branch.”

Strange lady. I wanted to get the beggar rehabilitated. All she was interested in was to get me an unsolicited loan. I felt the lady was in conspiracy with the beggar. Why only the lady, the whole universe was conspiring to see that the beggar was stationed there for centuries to come.

(To be continued)

hospital for horses, the

(Taking a break from #talesfrompaharpur series, here is story set in a city. This is part  -1 of the story titled The Landmark. Day 8 of BlogchatterA2Z)

indian-street durga dash blog.jpg

The loan application form required me to mention a land mark near my medicine shop in the market street.

I wrote- ‘Beggar with his Wooden Desk’. That was what came to my mind immediately.  I did not think anything unusual about it. But the manager of the financing company thought it otherwise.

I received a call from the company the next day requesting me to be gracious enough to be present exactly at three ‘O’ clock in the afternoon. The Area Manager himself would be coming for a spot inspection of the shop and the landmark site. The caller from the company repeated, “Exactly at three ‘O’ clock in the afternoon.”

The manager, a burly man around fifty was seen in front of my medicine shop at exactly at five.

The landmarked beggar was stationed on the footpath in front of my medical shop. It was his working space, resting place, and sleeping place. He was there 24×7, three hundred sixty five days a year, now sitting, now standing, and sometimes sleeping beside the wooden desk. When it rained he had polythene sheets to cover him and his desk. Come what may, he held on to his fort with the steadfastness of a dedicated soldier.

Wearing a three day old white beard and moustache, he sat cross legged behind the desk. His faded white shirt was tucked inside a torn grey dirty trouser.  On top of his dusty desk he kept his begging bowl, which was not actually a bowl but a steel plate like the one they use in temples to take the arati around.  The plate was always full of notes and coins of various denominations.

This was no ordinary beggar. I wondered whether he was a beggar at all. He never said anything, as if, it was beneath his stature to say, “Raam ke nampe de de baba or Allah ke naam pe …”.

Even he did not use any gesture or facial expression to indicate his intentions. He just sat there like a yogi. Somehow, generous passersby understood what was expected of them. They dropped their offerings according to the mood of the moment.

He was out and out unprofessional in his attitude. Instead of uttering the customary blessing- Let god be kind to you, all he did was to show annoyance at those who did not put the donations on his plate with due reverence.

Food and drinks, sometimes from very good restaurants found their way to him. For those insignificant chunks of time when he disappeared from his post to attend to his natural calls, he made sure the desk drawer was locked properly. For additional safety, the desk was chained to a nearby electric pole and before he took those short breaks he inspected the chain to make sure that any natural wear and tear had not slackened it.

Nobody, except perhaps the beggar himself, remembered since when he had been stationed there. He had been there before I took the medicine shop for rent. Once I asked Chandu, the pan vendor, who occupied my neighbouring shop, “ Do you have any idea about since this gentleman has been stationed here?”

Without lifting his head he continued applying lime to betel leaves and answered, “He must have been here since the time of Adam. That is what I have heard.”

The manager was accompanied by a bespectacled gaunt assistant who looked like a man well past seventy.  With his assistant in tow, he did a pradakshina of the beggar. After three rounds he stopped. He looked at the beggar’s plate as if to estimate the amount of money it contained from a financial expert’s point of view. Then, he looked at me through the two customers standing at the counter and said, “So this is your land mark.”

To show that his statement had not registered in my mind, I asked, “Is everything OK with my shop, Sir?”.

“There is nothing wrong with your shop. It is the landmark I am talking about. Do you know what you have written”.

The assistant took out the application form from a brown folder and placing it on top of the counter table pointed at the column where I had written “Beggar with his Wooden Desk”

“Beggar with his wooden desk!”, the manager continued in a sarcastic tone, “Well young man.  I appreciate your sense of humour. Now jokes apart, will you please change it and write, the Queen Victoria’s Government General Hospital for Horses”.

“But, Sir people say he has been here even before the hospital was built. You can verify this from Mr. Chandu. “

“Then it is quite a heritage site. I will write to the tourism department to include it in their heritage walks. But now, I am more interested in sanctioning the loan to you. We have to see that your form is complete in all respects”

“I am serious sir. The beggar is so famous, when parents send their children for medicine they say – go to that medical shop in front of the Beggar with the Desk.” I said.

“Well young man. It seems you are quite adamant. First of all a beggar should not be there in this street. Beggars should not be there anywhere in this city and for that matter anywhere in India. What a shame. What a shame. In which country are we living? A Beggar with a Desk has become a land mark.”

The manager did not say anything further and left in a hurry. The assistant threw a mysterious glance at me and followed his boss.

(to be continued)

switching trouble

My two wheeler is giving me some switching trouble. Before I gave it for servicing it had a few problems, but not this one. The switch start was working perfectly. Now, those problems, that I mentioned to the customer care guy at the servicing station, have been taken care of. But, new problems have cropped up.

Of course,  I am yet to ascertain whether the same thing happens with my car.  But, car servicing being few and far between, it may take some time to ascertain it.

These are like the health problems I used to face during my childhood days. If I took medicine for loose motion, I got fever in lieu. If I took medicine for  running nose, the disease ran away but not before switching baton with dry cough. Things became slightly better when I practised yoga and used ayurveda along with allopathic treatments.

But it is surprising that in line with my body’s reaction to allopathic medicines my vehicle too should develop side effects. What is more surprising is that this phenomenon is immune to the type of servicing centre you go to: authorised, unauthorised, local, known, unknown, reputed, or notorious.

I noticed this phenomenon after shifting to Bangalore. While in Coimbatore, I had a friendly owner of an authorised service centre. I don’t remember ever paying beyond three figures any time for the periodic service. But every time the vehicle came back from the servicing centre, it felt like a new one.

One of the perils of living in a city like Bengaluru is that (if you are not a techie) there are guys who earn US salaries to be spent in India. In comparison to them you are doubly disadvantaged. Thus, when a Bengaluean of the good old days, his own finances now on shaky grounds,  is bitter  about the IT guys, his grumbling definitely is on solid grounds.

This is what happened when I first gave my old motorcycle for servicing for the first time after coming to Bengaluru.  It was an authorised service centre. Many vehicle were already in a long  queue. Back in Coimbatore I don’t remember ever waiting in a queue for such a thing.

To test my patience further when my turn came after forty five minutes the customer care girl took a break. Of course to my relief she came back after five minutes. She looked at my face quickly noted down ten serious problems of the vehicle.

Then she was gracious enough to ask me, “Tell me, Sir, what are the problems?”

I said, “Look. My problem is that I don’t understand what an intelligent girl like you is doing here. You should open a face reading and astrology consultancy centre for celebrities.”

Luckily she did not understand. Or, pretended not have heard anything and repeated the question more politely, “Tell me, Sir, what are the problems?”

I asked her,  “Can I see the list of problems you have noted down?”

“These are just routine things, Sir.” She was a little reluctant to show me the list.

I snatched the worksheet from her. After going through it, I said, “Change of rim and spokes.. anti rust coating… change of the .. you call these routine things? Anyway,  you strike out these and write what I say.”

Reluctantly and after showing her disgust at my audacity in not taking here advice, she noted down my requirements.

I was to get back my vehicle at six in the evening. I reached there on time. Again I had to stand in a long queue at the billing counter.

I noticed that the guy at the billing counter, in stead of a proper bill, was handing out hand written chits. Nobody was complaining. People were just handing over whatever amount was asked for and going away without pausing even to check. May be IT Guys who did not think in terms of Rs. 3500/- , but mere 50 dollars.

In the morning I had been given an estimate of Rs. 3500/- . So I was shocked to see a bill of Rs. 6500/-. When I asked for a break up, from his jumbled answers, the only thing I could could  make out was that the last item for the bill was for VAT and the penultimate item was labour charges. I had only one question. “How come you charge VAT on labour charges?”

As he fumbled for reply more customers came forward questioning the handwritten bill and demanding a detailed break up.

Things were turning out to be chaotic. The manager of the servicing centre stepped in and explained that there was a problem in the computer network and we were free to collect our vehicle the next day along with a proper bill. While some, with a little bit of grumbling, preferred to pay and take their vehicle immediately, I preferred to come the next day.

When I came next day morning to collect the vehicle I was pleasantly surprised to see that the printed out bill for me read Rs. 3790/-.

It was only later, after using my serviced vehicle for two to three days, that I realised I had got more side effects than I had bargained for. I went to the servicing centre ( to use Chetan Bhagat language) with six and a half problems and came back with eleven and a quarter.

 

 

(Sixteen Parenting Sutras will be available for free download till 12th March.)

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

 

 

 

 

love is the way

love is the way durga dashLate nineteen eighties. Just when we thought we were out of our teenage hangovers and stupidities, and the advent of TV and DVD players would sound the death knell for Bollywood, a spate of romantic films ruled the box office. These movies also launched the career of a lot of stars: the innocent looking Juhi Chawla, the dhak dhak girl Madhuri,  the chocolate boy Amir Khan, and romantic singer Udit Narayan  to name a few. We enjoyed listening to those great romantic songs without bothering much about their meanings or origins.

Now we don’t have to even wreck our brains to understand the lyrics of some of the popular songs.  We have to just google it. I found out this from a site:

Aye mere humsafar
Ek zara intezaar
Sunn sadayein de rahi hai
Manzil pyaar ki

O my companion
wait just a while
Listen to the calling
of love’s destination

Even after a little help from the Google, the song may not be fully understandable. I too write poems that friends say they don’t understand. But what I do understand from the above song is that it treats love as some kind of a goal to be achieved. And I have an objection there. Because I think love does not have any destination. Love is the way.

When your goal is to become a doctor, it means you are not a doctor now. Same way if love is your destination you are not in love now.

In those days, not having the advantage of Google to check out the exact lyrics and not being native Hindi speakers, the lines we sang sometimes went like this:

App jaise koi
Mere jindegi mein aai
To baap ban  jaye
…… to baap ban jaye

Duniya kaminooo.. ka mela
Mele mein yeh dil akela

Those days we never tried to understand the meaning of Hindi film songs. These days, even after trying my best I fail to understand the mystic connotations of the majority of Hindi film and pop songs.

 

In Bhakti Sutras (which some translate loosely as the Aphorism of Love), Narada says that love is the goal as well as the way. Of course he was talking of divine love. Similarly many of the songs written by Rumi and other Sufi saints are about divine love.  For the spiritually inclined love is the way to self realisation.

But, for the Bollywoood lyricists love is the way to make lots of money. Some highly paid lyricists have brought down many Sufi bhajans from their high pedestals to the level of teenage infatuations. They don’t even acknowledge that they have plagiarized the songs from Sufi and Bhakti writers. Don’t think it is only the script writers who plagiarize.

Of course our popular bhajan singers do not do a better job when they sing bhakti songs following the tune of Bollywood songs that reminds you of  semi clad heroines and item girls gyrating to the tunes in all their vulgar glory.

In my book Idle Hours, I have dealt at length about my ruminations on love at length in an article. I have also discussed about the origin of the Valentine’s Day.

According to one theory, this day is associated with the St. Valentine who performed secret marriages in the 3rdcentury Rome against the diktat of the emperor to debar young men from marrying so that they became better soldiers. However, St Valentine would hang his head in shame if he now learns that marketeers are exploiting his name to sell cards, roses, and chocolates to gold, diamond, and platinum. Moreover, we are not satisfied with marketing the ‘ways’ associated with love only for one day. We have invented so many curtain raisers (Rose Day etc.) before the Valentine’s Day.

On a serious note, St Valentine will also hang his head in shame when he learns that even though we are living in the twenty first century we are seducing girls so that it will add to the numbers of our community.

At the other extreme, we are killing the people who genuinely choose love in spite of differences in social status, religion, caste, or creed.

I was deeply touched by the way poet Rahat Indori has put it.

फूल इस सोच में गुम हैं, के कहाँ महकेंगे, 
तितलियों के लब ए इज़हार पे पाबंदी है..... 
क़त्ल करने की खुली छूट है अब भी लेकिन, 
प्यार मत करना, यहां प्यार पे पाबंदी है.....

Educating India (Part-III): Hear it from Sir Ken Robinson

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Education is one of the boring subjects to discuss when you are in a party. Everyone needs it, everyone is concerned about it, but how many are willing to go in for an in depth discussion about it?

When it comes to educating our children most of the parents usually go with the wind of the times, subject to their economic limitations. And immediate economic considerations always takes precedence over anything else like the actual talent or inclination of the child.

In depth discussion about educational issues may be boring. But, you will be surprised to know that a TED talk given by British Educationist Sir Ken Robinson is one of the most watched videos on TED website and Youtube.

Here in India the perception is created that much of the rot in the education system can be traced to Macauley. But, after hearing Ken Robinson I realised that it is a global phenomenon. Education was taken seriously by the governments in the nineteenth century to meet the growing need of the industrial revolution. Thus, while some aspects of education (maths, science etc) are overemphasised, other aspects like arts, music, dance etc., are never given the importance these subjects deserve in our school curriculum.

These talks are sprinkled with generous doses of humour. So whether you are an educationist, a parent, or a lover of British sense of humour, do not miss these videos.

 https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity

https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution

https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley

(My book Sixteen Parenting Sutras is live now on amazon. It is also available on #KindleUnlimited)

Part 1: Educating India

Part 2 : Educating India

 

What’s up, Doc?

durgadash1

Bugs Bunny’s casual inquiry – ‘What’s up, doc?’ – was not meant to elicit a detailed status update as Bunny himself (or, itself) hardly waited for the answer. But status update is very cool and hot these days in the era of smart phones. Whether you are interested or not, your phone is bombarded with status updates and messages of all kinds.

There are some friends who are just content with sending a good morning message to the group that we are members of. Some go a little far in sending the same message to my personal whatsapp number. Some go a little too far when, after sending the good morning message to our common whatsapp group and to my personal number, they send the same message to me through Facebook messenger.

Recently I read an interesting article titled – Whatsapp Freezes Because Indians Send Over 100 Crore Good Morning Messages It Just Can’t Handle.  It means this fad is not a global phenomenon and now there is one more thing I as an India should be proud of.

In a country where people love to bombard you with good wishes morning, mid morning, mid day, after noon, evening, and night, getting out of whatsapp groups, that you are not interested in, becomes a sensitive issue. If I had not been a little rude, till now I must have been a member of about one hundred such groups. When you leave a group some admins do not express their disapproval openly or immediately, while some are a little vocal demanding an explanation as to what made you to choose this disastrous path of your life. Some may go a little far as they add you back again and again ignoring all your humble efforts to exit the group.

Some admins use innovative methods to keep the flock together, like the one where every one was made an admin immediately after he or she joined the group. How can you show your back to a group where you are a caretaker now?

Messaging apps have created a lot of duplicate Nirmal Babas. Messages and photos come with a rider that you must forward the message to ten others so that kripa ani suru ho jayegi.. (blessings will flow to you).  But there are threatening messages too: ‘you must forward this to ten others or else..’

When social media arrived on the scene, people were already fed up with the biased attitude of the main stream media which has been considered as the fourth pillar of democracy. Some thought (and I think still they do) that social media would act as the fifth  pillar of democracy.

But the fact is social media is slowly turning into a filthy pillars of democracy as we are bombarded with propaganda and rumours in the form of ‘forwarded as received’ messages. Most of the ‘forwarded as received’ messages turn out to be fake. Some messages kill people while they are still alive. Some warn about imminent earthquakes or other disasters quoting from privileged sources. It is unfortunate that people react to such messages without bothering to verify the authenticity of such forwarded messages.

Long before Shashi Kapoor actually died I got a forwarded message about his death. I immediately checked on google news and there was no such news. Now a days when authentic information is available at the same finger tip that as that of the forwarded message through the app, I fail understand why people do not take a few seconds to verify such news before forwarding it blindly to others.

The one thing I sometimes like are the jokes. But it is not a joke when you receive the same joke a dozen times a day, or worse when a joke lands up in the wrong forum. I am  a member of a few spiritual groups and one day it was a shock of our life time when a lady member posted an adult joke in the forum. Of course later one one of her friends, in order to clear the embarrassment that hung around her, took pains to make us understand that it was one of her mischievous colleagues who did this.

What is far worse is when your well intentioned  amorous messages land in the inbox  of an unintended recipient. In my book – Idle Hours -I have discussed one such incident in humorous detail. However let me briefly state it here. Once I received a message on my whatsapp, ‘Janu I love you’. It was from a married lady who was not married to me. To make matters worse my wife saw the message first. Of course later it was confirmed that she had accidentally sent the message to me in stead of her husband and all parties were assured of it after necessary verification and certification. Everything ended well. But I leave the scenes of turbulence that must have happened in between to your generous imagination.

That’s all folks. Thanks for reading.

(In response to Indispire Edition 206 . Topic suggested by Dr. Anita Sabat)

 

Let the Gregorian New Year make us more Gracious

As one of the blogger friends has mentioned in the comments of the previous post, this time around the wish was not a simple new year. Some wished a great English New Year, Some a great Christian New Year, and some a prosperous Gregorain New Year. In fact, in my previous post, I myself was wondering why we do not name it as the Christian New Year.

However, at this point of time, 2017 years After Christ,  I think we should not be so fussy. The Gregorian calendar has now become the international standard for dating (no pun intended). So be it.

In fact, unless we are specifically reminded that celebrating the Gregorain new year is endemic to our cultural values, we will not start thinking seriously that it has the potential to uproot us from our native culture and religion.

Now imagine what would happen if every country, every region, every religion, and every sect  rigorously started using its own version of calendar rejecting all other versions. In India itself we would have more than hundred types of calendars. If you boarded the train at Bareilly on 07.02. 2032, you would wake up in Bangalore after two days on 05.04.2130.

And imagine how difficult the life of the air traffic controllers and the pilots would be. Even Google and Microsoft will have a hard time to construct special algorithms to match your religious and cultural sensibilities and sense of time.

At the same time the same generosity should be extended to many other practices. Reservations have been expressed about the International Day of Yoga. A couple of years back clerics in Egypt issued edicts against yoga terming it as un-islamic. Even though yoga is more widely practiced in the Christain majority countries of the west than the country of its origin, Churches have expressed their disapproval.

Maybe, to avoid confrontation with the church, some yogic practitioners came up with a theory that yoga originated in the West. But I don’t think even such a theory will pacify the people who think yoga is a type of a subtle invasion to uproot people from their cultural and religious roots.

People who object to yoga on religious grounds should read the primary treatise on yoga: Patanjali’s yogasutras. To be a yogi you do not need first of all to believe in any particular concept of God, or heaven, or origin of the universe.

Mad Charvak says that this is the very reason religious leaders are afraid of yoga. Religions are driven by faith. When people follow reason and experimentation based on cause and effect there are chances that they will see through the various schemes they propagate in the name of religious faith.

Last year I did not want to wish my loved ones A Happy New Year. Let me assure you it was not for any religious reason. I was alarmed going through what some leading thinkers over the ages had said about happiness.

This year let me wish everyone to start the new year on a poetic note. To help your poetic journey, my anthology of poems – teach me to dream– will be available for free download from 3rd to 5th Jan 2018.

teachme to dream book cover

part 3: The Japanese sense of Aesthetics

The concept of mono no aware that I discussed in part 2 finds expression in Japanese art and literature including in the works of the latest Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro. Even though the concept originated in the Heian Era (8th-12th century), it started gaining prominence in Japanese culture with the works of the 18th century scholar Motoori Norinaga.

The sweetest songs are those that tell us of our saddest thoughts (PB Shelly). But songs or no songs, the sadness about the passing of beautiful things and pleasant moments may have an underlying elusive shade of sweetness. Maybe, that is what mono no aware is all about.

The Heian Era also saw the origin of the three art forms of Japanese refinements: kado, kodo, and chado. Kado is the native name for the Japanese art of flower arrangement which is also known as ikebana. Kodo is appreciating the subtle variations of incense and chado is the famous Japanese tea ceremony. The origin and refinement of all the three forms bear the influence of Buddhism.

I am fascinated by the Japanese tea ceremony. It is said that a Buddhist monk discovered tea. While dhyan which traveled from India became a refined form of meditation and culture known as Zen after reaching Japan, the simple act of taking tea to remain alert and ward off cold developed into a kind of religion reaching its Zenith during the time of emperor Hideyoshi and tea master Sen No Rikyu.

Chado can be loosely translated as the way of the tea. Detailed attention is given to the choice of the utensils, the movements of the host and the guests. The decoration inside is austere following the principle of wabi-sabi. There are four basic elements of the ritual: harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. Care is taken to see that the location of the tea house, its surroundings, its interior and the objects inside are all in harmony. One has to bow down or crawl to reach inside, kneel down and bow to the hanging scroll and sit down in tatami. It is like going inside a temple. A special connection between the host and the guest is made when they honour each other. Purity is obtained when the actions of the host seem spontaneous, not rehashed. The overall effect is meditative, tranquil bringing all participants to here and now.

Another concept of aesthetics associated with Japanese art, literature, and culture is yugen. The underlying principle is that certain deeper truths cannot be explicitly expressed and can only be alluded to or hinted at. Even those that can be explicitly expressed can achieve a sublime and mysterious status by being alluded to thus deepening their effect.

I started this series with a clarification about the poetry form haiku. Some readers have opined that we cannot be too strict about the form of poetry that has undergone change over the centuries. Agreed. However, it should not water down to a lamentation about the low office wage with no reference to nature or with nothing to juxtapose. To end this series, here a few of my favourite haikus:

Come come ! I call ...
but the fireflies 
flash way
into the darkness (Onitsura)

Watching the spring moon
rise
I no longer bother
about the mountains (Kyorai)
(hint: the spring moon is more transient than the mountain)

What does this mean?
Chrysanthemums
and jonquils
blooming together (shiki)

The leaves never know
which leaf
will be first to fall..
does the wind know? (Soseki)

Preach away cricket
it doesn't matter to me
I know 
it's autumn (Soseki)

There goes a beggar
naked
except for his robes
of heaven and earth (Kikaku)

Since I first became 
a hermit
The frogs have sung 
only of old age (Issa)

Day darken!
frogs say by day
at night they cry bring light
old grumblers (Buson)

How can a creature 
be so hated
as a winter fly
yet live so long (kikaku)

Among these lovely 
cherry blossoms
a woodpecker
hunts for a dead tree (Joso)

If my grumbling wife
were still alive
I just might enjoy
tonight's moon (Issa)

Over the ruins 
of a shrine
a chestnut tree
still lifts its candles (Basho)

An old silent pond
into the pond
a frog jumps
splash ! silence again (Basho)
(This seemingly simple haiku has hundreds of translations and interpretations. All I can say is while reading this haiku if you get a feeling of here and now, you need not bother the hundred intellectual interpretations of the poem)

 

By the way, I enjoyed these hilarious haikus written by Sri Uma Shankar Pandey on his blog.

My next book, an anthology of poems which will be released shortly, will include some micro poems. Let me assure you I will not claim those as haikus. 😀