The Thorny Path Of Truth


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/578580/thorny-path-truth.html

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. It speaks in volumes about people of impeccable character. It takes a lot of courage and determination to tread on the path of Truth because it entails excruciating emotional travails and tribulations. Rama and Lakshmana the heroes of the Ramayana, emerge as shining examples of fraternal bonding coupled with their fortitude to stick to the path of Truth come what may.

Once, Death personified himself as Kala Purusha and sought private conference with Rama. As the king of Ayodhya led him to a private chamber, his guest stipulated that their meeting should be confidential and uninterrupted.  Accordingly, Rama instructed Lakshmana to guard the door and that anyone who dared to interrupt the duo would land capital punishment. A little while later, sage Durvasa arrived. He sought an urgent interview with the Ikshavaku king. Lakshmana gently outlined the delicate nature of his brother’s meeting. However sage Durvasa was not the one to be placated. He drew himself to doom Ayodhya into annihilation. Lakshmana grappled with the gravity of the situation. He was aware of the great sacrifices that his illustrious brother had made for the welfare of the kingdom. Rama had been exiled, fought a war with Ravana to redeem his wife Sita and later even gave up Sita for the sake of his subjects. Though Lakshmana was aware of the capital punishment that awaited him, he consciously chose to put his life in the backburner and interrupted the meeting.

Lakshmana let himself through the closed doors to communicate the arrival of Durvasa. Kala Purusha who was leaving the room at that very moment glanced at Rama meaningfully as he exited from the room. Rama was flabbergasted. He never thought that his commitment to Truth would be tested in this way. He was expected to send the very sibling who stuck by him through thick and thin to his Death. Even as Rama struggled to articulate, he remembered that the Shastras equated banishment to death and ordered the expulsion of Lakshmana. Rama’s heart broke when he saw Lakshmana embrace death by water. Once Rama passed the ultimate test of his integrity he followed the footsteps of his beloved Lakshmana by wading into the Sarayu, followed by his subjects.

Dealing With the Dubious


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/514770/dealing-dubious.html

When cheating cases are investigated, it is interesting to note that everyone of them has been based on trust.

The individual or organisation works hard at winning the confidence of the people whom they propose to swindle. The evil masterminds devise ways and means to
play fair or at least appear fair. They leave no stone unturned, plug in all the loopholes and put on their best behaviour to woo the people whose wealth they plan to deceive.

A story from the Panchatantra teaches us how to deal with such dubious people or organisations.

Once an old crane realised that he was no longer agile and alert to fish for food. He was too conceited to seek help. Therefore, he made a devious plan.

He stood on the edge of the lake and started shedding tears. A crab who lived in the pond wanted to know the reason for his sorrow. After much coaxing, the crane divulged that he was privy to a prophecy of a drought that would strike the region for the coming twelve years.

He said he was grieving for the helpless souls who would be losing their lives for no particular fault of theirs. Soon, this dreadful news was updated to all the inmates of the pond. They approached the crane one by one and asked him for a suitable solution.

Once the old crony was sure that all their attention was focused on him, he
generously offered to shift them all one at a time, once a day to another large water body which would not dry up despite the famine. The eager creatures lapped up his offer gratefully.

The old crane commenced with his charitable act of helping the fish migrate. He would fly a while with his passenger and then polish him off for lunch, only to make a meal of another fish the following day. No one suspected anything foul in the happenings.

A couple of days later, the crab requested the crane to shift him. The crane who wanted a change of taste, happily agreed to help the crab. The following day, when the old bird was flying along his regular route with the crab on his back, the crustacean saw a number of fish bones piled on a rock.

He was intelligent enough to put the pieces of the puzzle together. He felt sorry for his gullible pond mates. He decided to avenge their unfair death and also save his own life and promptly strangled the crane to death.

The common man who has been conned will be able to trace a pattern in the  crime if he pays enough attention. If all the victims of the fraud come together and expose the malefactor, the law of the land will take care of the rest.

Finding Your Footing


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/578136/finding-your-footing.html

 

The other day, I was swollen up all over. Not with importance! And no, nobody had beaten me up. The long hours of travel caused edema in my limbs. I knew that some professional massage will set matters right.

Along came the therapist – a slim, young smiling lady. She ushered me into a room to knead my limbs back to normalcy. We indulged in rambling small talk. She casually mentioned that she was a student of engineering. I thought she was kidding. Why on earth would she be rubbing oil down my limbs then?

I gave her a long look. She appeared to be serious. She told me she had completed three years of the course. She could not continue with the seventh semester because she had not cleared any of the examinations thus far. In answer to my questioning look, she said that her father’s unreasonable tenacity to make good of his money compelled her to study engineering.

After a moment of fleeting silence, I asked her how she had landed this job. I realised that I had unconsciously switched over from vernacular to English. The lass lapsed into the queen’s lingo when she said that she had trained for six months as a masseuse. I noticed that her language was deliberate and heavily accented.

The teacher in me popped another query. Should she not be working on her backlog and passing the examinations? She agreed. That would be the most ideal thing to do. However, she could not do it. I wondered why not? She said that she could not cope with the course. I blurted, “Then, why did you take it up in the first place?”

“Ah! That was a mistake. My dad worked for the local MLA all his life, so the politician gave me a free seat in his engineering college as payment for my dad’s services.” She nodded away and swore it was true. She had passed her class 12 with difficulty and that had proved to be unfortunate. She had switched back to Malayalam. She did look earnest. I decided to take her word for it.
When I reflected on our interaction, I realised that the girl had essayed the role of the obedient child quite like Casabianca. When she could take the heat no more, she had the courage to accept her limitations and abandon the beaten path.

Practical common sense had ruled her decision. She had donned her new hat with ease and relief, without ever feeling apologetic. By choosing her own path she had carved a niche for herself by alienating herself from the rat race. Hats off to her!

Truth Should Be the Cornerstone of Marriage Alliances


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/576626/truth-should-cornerstone.html

The system of arranged marriage is still prevalent in our subcontinent. Educated, accomplished, independent individuals often rely on the discretion of their parents, elders and well-wishers while taking a plunge into the most pivotal phase of their lives. To be fair to the institution of arranged marriage, one must say that most alliances click and thrive. Yet, some alliances fail miserably because one of the parties withholds a significant truth.

Mahabharatha speaks of one such regal wedding. Dhritarashtra, the Kuru prince, was blind by birth. His disability discouraged marriage proposals from royal maidens. His grandmother Satyavathi summoned her step son Bhishma and bid him to seek the hand of Gandhari, the princess of faraway Gandhara in marriage to Dhritarashtra.

Bhishma led an intimidating military expedition against Gandhara. Gandhari’s father King Subala was assuaged to consent to the proposal. The young bride-to-be was first kept in dark about Dhritarashtra. When she came know of it, she realised that the security of her motherland and the honour of her father was at stake. She weighed the pros and cons and decided to honour the commitment albeit blindfolded. Her decision proved to be detrimental to Dhritarashtra. He had hoped that she would become the vision he never had. But she decided to follow the tenets of Pathivratha dharma by deciding to not see the world that her husband could not see. Some critics interpret her action as her way of protesting the injustice meted out to her. No matter what the reason, the couple felt cheated and unhappy with each other. Their imperial and intellectual individualities could do little to salvage their marriage. Though they were crowned sovereigns and were parents of a hundred sons, their ideologies and priorities differed.

Time and again, there are instances of people with best interests of the couple in mind or callous vested interests who indulge in cooking up fictitious age, qualifications, health and wealth quotients, social and economic status among other factors to forge an alliance. Little do these people realise that they are paving way to a discontented society wallowing in self pity in the name of making the couple living happily ever after.

When Patriarchy’s Clasp Ends Up Choking You


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/574677/when-patriarchys-clasp-ends-up.html

Recently, the suicide of a homemaker and mother of two made news. She had hung herself to death following a violent and shameful domestic incident. It so happened that she was bathing with the geyser on, quite against her thrifty husband’s instruction. When he pointed out the matter to her, she apologised for using the geyser for a few more minutes.

Livid, he yanked her out of the bathroom, and thrashed her for escalating the electricity bill. The rest of the family, comprising her parents-in-law, sister-in-law and her two children, watched the woman being subjected to violence in the nude. The 31-year-old decided enough was enough and put an end to her life. Cases were slapped against the family and police investigation was initiated.

The story will probably do the rounds on social media, family and friends’ circles and eventually die a natural death. After all, patriarchy constantly smothers and pushes countless women to take extreme measures. Most of the time, the victims are humiliated, violated and decimated without qualms by the very people in their families and vicinity.

The rankling tale brings forth multiple issues that need to be understood, analysed and set right. We as a nation are often under the impression that education is the panacea for many ills that contaminate our society. In this episode, the woman was a postgraduate in education who possibly chose her family against a career in teaching. It is unfortunate that she could not impart even the basics of civil behaviour to her immediate family.

Whether her husband was trying to deprive her of the comforts of city life or simply drive home a lesson in good economics is unclear. Whatever the reason, his act of violence proved to be fatal not only to his spouse but also to his future and that of his children. Apparently, mere education can achieve nothing unless it is reinforced with dollops of values in terms of integrity and humanity.

The smaller problem (in this case) happens to be the matter of the geyser which runs on electricity which in turn generates a bill that has to be paid on time. Perhaps one of the guiding motives of this incident was also the man’s inability to cope financially. A remote possibility is that he may have wanted to conserve electricity.

Such being the case he could have encouraged his wife to work and contribute to the family kitty instead of behaving like a brute. Then she need not have been apologetic about the hot water and paid the price for it with her life. She may have garnered self-confidence by putting herself out there and lined her purse with some well-earned money. This in turn would have made her family members treat her with the respect and dignity that she deserved.

She gave up her life because she could no longer live in the ignominy of unreasonable hatred and felt ashamed to display her distress to her growing children.

It’s impossible to miss the fact that the perpetrator’s parents, who also had an adult daughter, did not object to their son’s loathsome behaviour. The report says explicitly that the father-in-law categorically declared that no one was going to save the woman from the punishment meted out to her.

Was he giving a peep into the darker side of marital life to their daughter while supporting his son or was he deriving vicarious pleasure from seeing his son’s wife in the nude sounds rhetorical. Perhaps the mother-in-law, who was a mute spectator to the disgusting affair, was used to such scenes.

The parents of the deceased Sushrutha filed a police complaint against the man who had treated her poorly for years. Yet, they abandoned her dead body because our belief says that a married woman’s funeral should be conducted by the members of her marital home. Their love for their daughter was overruled by their belief in traditions and customs. Never mind if those very traditions had brought about her suicide.

What kind of memories are the children going to grow up with? It would be a miracle if they are able to lead a normal life after being a witness to such atrocity.

This horrible happening has been discussed threadbare to show that what happened in the young woman’s life is a sample of the kind of coercion, mortification and constant degradation that women are put through despite being educated and contributing members of their families.

Our women should stop going by a set of rules, beliefs and convictions blindly to fit into the brutal society. They should become wary of succumbing to wickedness and sadism and learn to stand up for themselves.

It is time we realise that the women in our subcontinent lead life in concentric circles. The domestic, social, economic, religious, traditional and political layers that surround us end up choking us before we look up. The only panacea to this syndrome can be achieved when individuals, families and communities work on strengthening our moral core with universal values of integrity, fraternity and equality.

 

Money Can Mess Our Lives


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/574365/money-can-mess-our-lives.html

With each passing day, the world around us is becoming increasingly materialistic. We are possessive and avaricious about our worldly wealth and go through indescribable stress to earn, own and retain it against all odds.

Sometimes, it is the very riches that we have worked hard for end up paving the way to a host of other problems like breach of trust, selfishness and lack of discretion.

A tale from the Panchatantra highlights the problems of hoarding excess wealth. Once lived an intelligent Sanyasi called Deva Sharma. People often solicited his advice and paid him for the offices. Though Deva Sharma had renounced the world, he did not hesitate to collect a sizeable amount of wealth his way.

His altruistic way of life did not permit him to use the money. Nevertheless, since he was very fond of his assets, he bundled the money and checked on it every single day. Whenever he went out for some reason, he made it a point to carry the bundle along with him.

A malefactor called Ashadhabhoothi sighted the treasure and hoped to own it someday. He ruminated on the various options to siphon off the riches and finally decided to cheat Deva Sharma off it.

He approached the Sanyasi; spoke about the ephemeral nature of human life and expre- ssed his desire to be initiated with the Shiva Mantra with the hope of attaining emancipation. Deva Sharma bit the bait unwittingly. He accepted Ash- adhabhoothi as his disciple and allowed him to stay with him.

Over a period of time, Ashadhabhoothi won the confidence of his Guru. One day, when the duo set out to honour an invitation, they came across a river. Deva Sharma decided to bathe. He instructed Ashadhabhoothi to guard the treasure when he bathed.

The hypocrite who had been waiting for this opportune moment all along nodded his head roundly and took custody of the loot. When Deva Sharma entered the water, he tiptoed away, robbing the Sanyasi of the money and also the trust that he had reposed in him.

Most of us are like Deva Sharma. We are making money or stowing it away, dreading to lose all the time. This syndrome can become detrimental to our physical and mental health in the long run for money can mess our lives.

Improve Quality of Living in Villages


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/574083/improve-quality-living-villages.html

Urban India has undergone a sea of change over the decades. A little more than half a century ago, industrialisation beckoned to a large number of people from small towns and villages to shift to the happening cities. Cities welcomed youngsters who were barely out of schools and colleges with open arms. They established their families, educated their children, bought property and built their homes. The vast expanses of urban land were occupied. Satellite townships were absorbed to expand cities and everything seemed to fall into place. Thus the great Indian middle class came into being when the migrants decided to settle down in their second home for good.

But, the success and the relative comfort of the city dwellers as against their country cousins proved to be the thorn in the bush. More and more agrarians who were working hard for a pittance and their landowners who found themselves at the mercy of erratic rainfall looked citywards.

The innumerable job opportunities for the unlettered as the support system of the city to help it function smoothly, translated as secure salaried jobs for them and a better future for their kids. They came in broods from all over and occupied the nooks and crannies of the cities and looked forward to making it big or at least reasonably sustainable. Though their skills were limited, their willingness to learn and work hard for a living stood by them. And today, the second generation of the working class has proved that the speculation of their parents hit the bull’s eye.

They have been educated in English medium schools and colleges and many of them have landed jobs as  drivers, mechanics, electricians, clerks, accountants and many have even been absorbed in white collar jobs.  Quite a few have managed to clear loans, buy a little gold and build homes for themselves.

Millions of such people who have migrated to the cities in search of greener pastures have no doubt found the experience enriching in more ways than one. Yet the price that they have had to pay is humongous. They have embraced a way of life very different from their own. They have battled against variance in ideologies, language, culture and ethos and have come to terms with them without ado. They have been removed from their families and communities. They have even lost touch with Mother Nature in the bargain.

One is likely to think that the merging of the rural and urban populace would have happened over a period of time and must have helped the city that has sheltered and supported them to progress in a healthy way. Yet, the picture is quite to the contrary.

Contemporary picture
If one were to present a contemporary picture of Indian cities, it is likely to be uniform across the length and breadth of the country. We are riddled by a large population, pollution of every sort, concrete jungles, garbage and traffic jams — not necessarily in that order. There is a definite line of demarcation that separates natives and migrants socially, economically, politically, educationally and emotionally.

Yet these setbacks have not discouraged mass migration from villages to the cities.
The people who come in search of better prospects know that they have to stretch resources like housing, water, electricity, sanitation, transport among other things till they become threadbare. They are acutely aware that one of the reasons for pseudo inflation is the inverse relationship between demand and supply.

The other obvious reason is, there are not too many hands toiling away and growing food for those of us who are willing to buy them. Yet, these factors do not seem to deter hopefuls from making a beeline to the cities.

The Indian cities are bursting at their seams and are presently witless to deal with fresh onslaughts like dealing with rain woes, overflowing garbage, increased power cuts and traffic jams.

The only way out of this syndrome is to step up the quality of living in our innumerable villages. The government does not really have to do much on this count, except encourage entrepreneurs to establish their industries in and around the villages. Housing, transportation, communication and attendant facilities will follow automatically.

As for the ever growing cities, its population should be persuaded to take up terrace gardening, rain water harvesting, solar lighting and garbage management in right earnest. Only then shall the twain meet!