Ethics of Earning


Published in Deccan Herald dated 9th April 2019

Money is important in life. Our ancient philosophy, which subscribes to attaining the meaning of our lives through Purushartha consists of Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Hence it has been established since times immemorial that one cannot discount the economic factor in life. However, the moment we allow the financial quotient to take over our lives it amounts to unconditional servility to the monster called materialism. Greed will consume us till we lose touch with ourselves and cannibalize on our identity.

An episode from the Ramayana teaches us subtly to handle this tricky issue in its narrative of sage Agastya’s tryst with wealth.

Once, a highly accomplished princess Lopamudra was struck by sage Agastya’s knowledge, wisdom and keen presence of mind. The sage was also impressed by the lovely lady and entered into a matrimonial alliance with the royal lass. Though the sage had access to all the riches he could ask for by way of dowry, he chose to live a life of austerity with his bride. Several years passed smoothly. Then the couple decided to start a family. They realised that they needed at least the minimum materialistic facilities to give a comfortable life to their wards. Since the couple had led a Spartan life, thus far, Agastya, decided to seek the necessary wealth from one of his contemporary rulers as per the customs of those days. However he followed a certain principle while doing so. He decided that he would take charity only from the excesses of the treasury’s exchequer. Accordingly, he approached the kings one by one. He called for the ledger and examined the income and expenditure of the kingdom at large. He found out that just about every king’s balance sheets tallied. He did not have the heart to accept the generous offers of the just kings because it meant taxing the people of the state. Then he moved away and found his own way to acquire some means to run his family.

The amount of concern, caution and discretion used by Agastya while endeavoring to fulfill his needs speaks in volumes about the code of ethics to be followed while procuring income. If we allow our conscience to screen the money that enters our purses we could squarely obliterate a whole lot of associated crimes by simply following the ethics of earning.

Strength of Strength


Published in Student Edition of Deccan Herald on 12th of February 2019

 Little Banta was watching the children play sitting on his wheel chair with a fractured ankle. He had gotten into a brawl with his younger brother Chintu and hurt himself in the process of pummeling the younger kid. He wished to goodness that he could become well so that he could play again. His mother noticed his helplessness. She felt sorry for him. Yet she knew that Banta had invited trouble for himself. She wanted Banta to stop bullying younger children. She was aware that he was likely to rebel, or submit grudgingly if she were to advise him. So she asked him what strength meant to him. Banta gushed with excitement. To him strength was synonymous with Bheema.
Even as he was uttered the name   Bheemasena his personal hero, Banta was filled with pride. To him Bheema was a symbol of towering strength and gigantic personality, the strongest amongst his brothers, besides he was talented and skilled too. Besides, his role model excelled in wrestling, wielding the mace and had amazing culinary skills too. Banta was never tired of listening to Bheema’s exploits.

So, his mother decided to narrate one of the numerous stories of his favourite hero from the great Indian epic The Mahabharatha.
While the Pandavas were in the forest, a Brahmin household gave them shelter for a short time. During this period, the Pandavas learnt that a demon named Bakasura who dwelt nearby had made a pact with the villagers that everyday a cart load of food would be sent to him for dinner. The demon would gobble the cartload of food and also eat up the driver as a part of his meal.
The villagers were angry with the demon’s cruelty. They hated him. They were terrified of his strength. They wanted to teach him a lesson. But unfortunately they could not bring themselves to confront Bakasura or in any way.

That day it was the turn of the host family to send one member of their family as lunch to Bakasura. The very thought of it made the family sad and depressed. The Pandavas felt very sorry for them. Even as they were wondering as to how to help the family,Bheemasena  volunteered to take the food cart to Bakasura.
The following day, Bheema escorted the cartload of food to the forest. When he reached the demon’s cave he dismounted the cart and spread out the food. He heard the demon snoring. He realised that he had not eaten a sumptuous dinner for a long time now. So he helped himself to the feast. When he was through with all the goodies, he belched loudly.

Bakasura woke from his slumber and came out of his cave. The sight of the empty vessels infuriated the demon. He pounced on Bheemasena with all his might. Soon they started wrestling. After fighting an equal battle for sometime, Bheema overcame the demon and swooped him up in the air. He used all his might to twirl the demon over his head and threw him to his death.
When Banta’s mother finished narrating the story, she gently pointed out that both Bheema and Bakasura were endowed with equal strength, but interestingly enough they both were looked upon differently by the people. While Bakasura used his strength to terrorise and destroy people, Bheema used his strength to protect and empower the weak.
Bheema was not merely strong. He knew how and when to use his strength. Soon Banta realised that he should not have displayed his strength on his younger sibling. He looked at his ankle in plaster and told his little brother to fetch his sketch pens. When Chintu did his bidding meekly, Banta asked Chintu to use his cast as a canvass. Soon the brothers were laughing and enjoying each other’s creativity while their  mother fetched them their favourite smoothies with a smile.

Beauty is Only Skin Deep


http://www.deccanheraldepaper.com/

People often get distracted. They start paying attention to the flimsy and the mundane aspects of life which are fleeting by nature. This can prove to be a great impediment in achieving one’s target.

A story from the Shiva Purana highlights the importance of staying focused and also reiterating the fact that intrinsic beauty is a combination of truth and humility.

Once when the self-declared celibate Rishi Narada was wandering through the universe, he was smitten by the extraordinary beauty and grace of princess Shrimathi. He was seized by a sudden desire to marry her. Hence he decided to attend her Swayamvara. The sage realised that he could marry Shrimathi only if she chose him as her groom.

Since he had always led an austere life, he wondered whether the princess would choose him over the royal, youthful, good-looking kings and princes who had come to seek their luck. All the same, Narada felt that he could not pass up the opportunity. He appealed to Maha Vishnu to bestow him with Harimukha.

When he was granted the boon he went to the Swayamvara happily. Narada seated himself confidently because he knew that the princess could not reject him as he was endowed with the handsome face of Hari. The Swayamvara began.

When the princess entered with the garland, Narada stood up eagerly. The court laughed in unison. Narada was annoyed and disappointed when the princess walked ahead and garlanded a striking suitor.

When he expressed his displeasure, he was asked to look into the mirror. When he did so, he was aghast to see that he was monkey-faced. When he confronted Maha Vishnu furiously, he was told that he was bestowed with Harimukha as desired. Then the Lord clarified that Hari also meant monkey.

Besides, the Lord had to play a seemingly cruel joke on his most ardent devotee to awaken him from his disillusionment. Though Narada was hurt and angry, he understood that he was beleaguered by distractions that would serve him no purpose in the long run.

Teaching to Learn


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/panorama/teaching-learn-702880.html

Over the years, I have realised that no matter whatever else I do, teaching is what keeps me ticking. I started teaching primary school children donkey’s years ago since the time I was in high school. This exercise made me realise that teaching made a…

Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/panorama/teaching-learn-702880.html

Morning Magic


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/right-middle/morning-magic-682940.html

“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day” said Thoreau. I wondered whether the philosopher would make such statements if the time machine relocated him in Namma Bengaluru today. With the ongoing building boom and transport in progress, it is impossible to walk on our streets unless one is preparing for an obstacle race! One could always walk in a park, but there are so few and eventually it encourages more talking than walking.

So, I decided to walk on my terrace. The silver linings were multiple. I did not have to spruce up or look for company besides I did not have to hurry home quickly in case of a sudden shower or an emergency.

So, the following morning, well before the crack of dawn, I splashed some water on the face and passed a comb through my hair and climbed the stairs. The open space seemed to welcome me with dim lighting crisscrossing from the tall buildings and streets alongside. The almost moist fresh air stung my lungs.

Within no time I felt like the “Solitary Reaper” albeit in altered situation and sizes till the dark grey skies gave way to a deep blue as sunlight seemed to be seeping through unnoticed crevices in the skies. Flocks of birds flew across, as the hidden Koel cooed away relentlessly.  The silhouettes of the trees revealed their varied verdant hues as they gently allowed daylight pass through them. As the skies grew into a lighter shade, the street dogs shook themselves ready to face another day in their canine life.

Even as the skies brightened and the smells and the sounds of the street came alive, the curtains came down on the magic of morning. It was time to exit from the theatre of the universe and step into the reality of everyday life.

As I looked down upon the mounds of debris and building material stacked along the street, the paperboy zoomed round the corner and tossed the daily news up multiple bulls’ eyes without a single miss. The flower seller and the Soppu boy who could not bear to be left behind made an appearance by announcing their wares even as the milkman tinkled into the scenario. Soon fitness freaks flocked from different directions and hurried along to burn their calories as if in competition with the dog walkers who strained at the leashes.  The pious ones who helped themselves furtively to flowers from our garden were oblivious to the fact that they were being watched from above.

As I descended the stairs reluctantly, I looked up at the now azure firmament and made a silent promise to keep my date every single day to receive my daily dose of “blessing”.

 

When Wit Goes Wrong


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/603531/when-wit-goes-wrong.html

Good humour is a very sensitive emotion. It succeeds only when both the perpetrator and the person or the people in the receiving end are both sensible and sensitive about the contents of their joke. In other words, a healthy joke will steer clear of vulgarity or exploiting a weakness of a person or a community. Sometimes, the most well intended humour can go awfully wrong creating resentment and even enmity for the humorist.

A tale from the Shiva Purana recounts how even the mighty Lord Vishnu was not spared for having played a practical joke on his dearest devotee Narada. Once, Narada was besotted by the beautiful princess Shrimathi. He wanted her to choose him during her Swayamvara. He realised that if he wanted his dream to come true, he must be the most attractive suitor. Narada was also aware that Mahavishnu possessed the most charismatic face in the universe. Therefore, he sought to be blessed with Harimukha (the face of Vishnu also known as Hari) for the Swayamvara. The amused Lord decided to play on the pun on the term Hari which also meant monkey. Narada’s visage was transformed to that of a simian, but he was unaware of the joke. He went along to the Swayamvara only to be laughed and jeered at.

When Narada realised that he had become the laughing stock at the court, he was deeply hurt. He cursed the Shiva Ganas who prompted him to look into the mirror and embarrassed him. He marched to Vaikunta and confronted Lord Vishnu angrily about the breach of trust. He cursed the very Lord he adored to experience separation from his spouse. Once Narada gave vent to his rage, Mahavishnu explained that he had made Narada the butt of his joke to make him realise that he had swerved from his chosen path of eternal celibacy. In fact, the whole episode was structured to awaken the sage from his disillusionment. Narada understood his mistake and made haste to retract the unreasonable words blurted out in a fury. However, Mahavishnu accepted the curse gracefully because it would facilitate him to play out his manifestation as Rama, but more so because he wanted to establish the fact that when humour does not go well with the recipient then things can sour up.