Perceive with Sensitivity and Sensibility


http://www.deccanheraldepaper.com/

War can only precipitate two things in any age and place – death and destruction. When two mighty powers are at loggerheads with each other the lives of the innocent are at stake, no matter to which camp they belong to. Besides appearances can be deceptive and so can perceptions about ideologies.

The third act of the play Veni Samharam written by Bhatta Narayana has a very thought provoking prelude which discusses this syndrome peculiar to human beings. The dramatist employs irony to show the cruelty and the futility of war. Rudhirapriya and Vasagandha, the demon couple, have a very domestic conversation, revolving around the war of Kurukshetra where they discuss about storing the blood and flesh of great warriors who died on either side which will save them the trouble from scavenging for food in the coming months. Though the talk appears to be insensitive and gruesome, a little observation reveals that the conversation of the couple is only reflecting their natural state of mind whereas the fighters on the battlefield, trained and heroic men were behaving like barbarians killing one another in the name of war.

The sensitivity of the so called insensitive trolls  is highlighted further when they point out how the bereaved mother Hidimba who lost her only son Ghatotkacha was consoling Subhadra who happened to be sailing on the same boat  having lost her only son Abhimanyu. The ability of the Rakshasas to empathise the sorrow of the grief stricken mothers impartially speaks in volumes about their compassion, a quality rarely attributed to their kind. It is the author’s subtle way of saying that any war finally punishes doting and affectionate mothers who may send their sons to war voluntarily or otherwise. No one can efface the scorched souls of the kith and kin of the dead heroes who face the brutal brunt of war.

When we perceive with sensibility and sensitivity we  will not only realise about the futility of war but also understand that popular perceptions about typecasting and role play may not always be spot on.

 

Life (Re)Cycled


https://storymirror.com/read/story/english/j710n3bq/life-re-cycled/detail

Dhaarini rushed in, her school uniform all awry, her folded plait slipping out of the blue ribbon which contained it and even as she tried to dump her extra-large school bag on her study table and take off her shoes almost simultaneously, she announced loudly, “Amma!! Ajji!! I am the leader of the new environmental project for my class. Each class has to bring along all the plastic things that one can do away with at home to school tomorrow, the class which contributes the most gets a prize, and I must collect the plastics to contribute my share for recycling.”

Even as the child was chattering away, and was slipping out of her uniform, her grandmother Dakshayini, draped in a soft non-descript olive green cotton sari hobbled into the hall told the young lass that her mother was away from home for the evening hence Dhaarini was to change into comfortable home clothes, freshen up, drink up her milk and finish her homework before doing anything else.

Ten year old, Dhaarini’s enthusiasm did dip a little but in an hour’s time the young one complied with all the instructions of her grandmother and fished out a huge, black, plastic carry bag and started scouting the house for plastics which she considered dispensable. Being the only child she had scores of toys, pencil boxes, water bottles, sharpeners and clips among other paraphernalia which she merrily tossed into the bag without looking at them twice. Then she made her way to the kitchen closely followed by her granny and even as she rested her eyes on the neat stack of washed, use and throw containers which made their way regularly into their home during the days when they decided to order food or sweets from a nearby hotel, her grandmother eased them out of their position and placed it in the bag.  Then the twosome went to the bathroom and gathered empty plastic containers, frayed mugs which went into the huge plastic knapsack. Then Dhaarini climbed up the light aluminium, portable ladder placed in the bathroom and laid her little hands on an old faded and ugly red pot with a broken neck placed in the open attic in her grandmother’s room and instantaneously she heard the elderly lady forbidding her from picking it up. The child was taken aback a little, the pot was out of colour and chipped and had been around the house for as long as she could remember so she turned around to check what made the seventy year old, object to her choice of scrap plastic.

She heard Dakshayini murmur that the pot was bought by her late grandfather and hence should not be touched. The young girl did not find this statement to be explanation enough, so she reached out for the object again and this time around the objection was louder and clearer and the pot was taken away physically by her grandmother and was firmly placed on the tiled floor. She categorically told Dhaarini to keep away from the pot and walked away in a huff. The perplexed child got down from the ladder and went on pointing out that the pot was old and therefore fit to be recycled, but did not receive any response from the latter. Dakshayini plunked down into her cosy arm chair and was lost in thought with her eyes open, not looking anywhere in particular. Dhaarini took one look at her grandmother and instantly got the message that she was to leave granny alone for a while, she was familiar with her grandmother’s mood swings which were occurrences that happened once in a blue moon, but she was also sure that her grand old lady would bounce back to normalcy if left alone for a while. Even as the child tiptoed away, the older woman lapsed into nostalgia.

True, the pot had lost its use but it had traveled with her for the last forty years and held a special place in her heart. No one knew about it for the simple reason she never spoke about it.

Dakshayini was not highly educated but she had been to school for a decade and was literate in both her mother-tongue Kannada and the foreign language English. She kept tab of current events through magazines and newspapers and managed to read a couple of novels whenever she was able to lay her hands on them.  She gained a lot of worldly knowledge through her travels when she accompanied her husband who was posted in various places in South India. She was aware that plastics were not favoured by environmentalists as they were considered to be lethal to the earth nowadays. But then she had also witnessed another era when plastics captured the imagination of people in an unimaginable way. She was soon lost in an era, more than half a century ago, when she took over the responsibilities of a new bride in a large household in Rampura.

That was an age when rural and urban India used brass, iron and earthen vessels to cook their meals. A stainless steel utensil was considered to be a sissy in a kitchen filled with sturdy vessels because it lacked the strength and the endurance of being placed on an earthen hearth with a large flame. Such being the case other materials were not even considered as possibilities. When she longed for some fancy glassware in her marital home, her wish was discounted with a reprimand from her mother-in-law who was aghast that Dakshayini wanted to use glass wares which were used only by barbers of those days usually the ones handed down by the British “Mems.”

Being the third daughter in law of an orthodox Brahminical family, her frail constitution and relatively delicate upbringing did not permit her to handle the heavy kitchenware with ease. She was assigned the job of fetching water for the kitchen from the well which kept her on her toes for most of the day. She never once thought of shirking her duties but wished to goodness that the heavy brass pot used to draw water from the well could be replaced by something lighter. Her desire took shape into an obsession and then took the dimensions of a secret ambition as she longed to own a weightless set of kitchen ware day in and day out. She found it increasingly difficult to lift or set down the heavy vessels as she got weaker after two childbirths followed by a miscarriage. Every one in the family and extended family warmed up to her and offered her kindly tips on how to put on weight and get stronger. Sometimes they helped her out whenever possible but nobody really thought much of substituting lighter material, at least for drawing water from the well.

She brought up this subject whenever she found herself alone with her husband Guru, which was usually during bedtime when she became completely drained out after a day of heavy work. Guru understood her problem but was shy of being dubbed as a hen-pecked husband if he enunciated Dakshayini’s quandary in front of the family. He dismissed the idea or even the possibility of a lighter option, instead he opted for a practical and diplomatic way out of the problem by drawing at least ten pots of water for the kitchen besides filling up the cement tank for his beloved wife before the crack of dawn, before anyone else got up in the household. Though his help lightened her workload to some extent, she had to draw tenfold amount of water over the day to cater to the domestic needs of the large family. The brass pot used to draw the water weighed almost two kilos left her wanting for energy. Even as others failed to understand her crisis the drudgery worked on her mind and wore out her body day in and day out, as she went through her chores everyday.

Dakshayini’s craving for light pots and pans grew day after day though she was not quite sure how to go about acquiring them. Nevertheless she spent a great deal of time in designing her perfect vessels in her dreams and enjoyed herself in a make believe world of colourful, weightless objects which could be handled almost effortlessly. This abstract mental exercise gave her an inexplicit sense of joy and creativity and she enjoyed every moment of it whenever she was by herself.

A couple of years rolled along; but nothing much changed in Dakshayini’s life. Even as she lived in a make believe world of light materials, she was told by a visiting cousin of hers that a new material was introduced into the Indian market. It was called plastic and just about everything from toys to mugs, to bowls and pots were made from the substance. She apprised Guru of the information and he made a special trip to the city to investigate the news and came home with a red coloured plastic pot which he placed in the middle of the hall on arrival. The whole family gathered around to inspect the novel article. Dakshayini immediately understood that pot was meant for her though Guru did not actually give it to her in the presence of others in the hall. She eyed the pot from a distance without touching it and fell in love with the gift; it appeared light, bright and pretty strong too and would lighten her work to a great extent. Her dream had come true. She was elated, but she did not express her feelings because she did not want to be teased. She knew that nobody in the house could object to her using it, as Guru, the son of the house had bought it. As Dakshayini sat in the ladies quarters that afternoon after lunch she listened to every word that Guru gushed about the new fancy material. He described how the city was flooded with the material that was available in every possible shape, size and structure while she silently reveled in the fact that her unspoken vision had actually translated into reality. In fact it surprised her that she could listen to him with the same awe and without interrupting him when he repeated the same information when they were together in their room later on that day. She found it amazing that her dreams had come true and reminded Guru of her longtime fantasy ecstatically, but he did not seem to pay much attention to her claims. She swallowed her disappointment and chose not press the matter further.  After all, life became relatively easier for her as plastic replaced the heavy metals wherever possible.

Two years later, the large joint family disintegrated when her parents in law passed away and the three sons of the family decided to explore job possibilities in the cities which were on the fast track of industrialisation.

Guru moved on to Bombay with his wife and two sons. Dakshayini enjoyed being the mistress of her individual home and she learned to speak the local language and took a special interest in her sons’ education but most of all she took restrained pleasure as she welcomed stainless steel, glass and porcelain into her kitchen. Several decades later when her first born returned from the USA she procured her first microwave oven accompanied by a set of light plastic dishes that could be used to heat and cook food too. She was overwhelmed with a silent joy when she saw for herself that plastics had been designed to even withstand heating.

Life had changed for her in more than one way. She lost her husband, her first born decided to settle down abroad and she chose to stay back in India with her second son. She enjoyed the company of her little Dhaarini and participated enthusiastically in all her activities. The older woman learned to enjoy, appreciate and understand her granddaughter’s childhood which was so very different from her own childhood and those of her sons. She had mastered the art of coping with new situations in her life which was backed up by her enterprising spirit which helped her experiment, understand and give space to people, new things and novel experiences that crossed her life – with grace and dignity.

Her passion for plastics waned over the years as she became aware that the boon in her life was turning out to be a bane to the lives on earth. Plastics manifested themselves in demoniac forms and had gotten busy choking life on earth. Dakshayini was not insensitive to the ecological issues around her and was more than willing to avoid plastics and recycle them whenever possible as a rule. However parting with the old pot was altogether a different ball game. She had let go of most of her acquisitions over the years but could not let go of the pot, her first plastic pot designed in the laboratory of her dreams. It was a symbol of her ambition, success, youth, romance, emotional bonding with her late husband and most of all her vision. No, it could not be recycled!!! She could not possibly allow it to be recycled at least as long as she lived!!!

She felt relieved when she relived her past with the pot. She felt convinced that she was right in holding on to the historical object. When clarity refilled her mind she looked at the open door and caught Dhaarini peeking in to the room to check her grandmother’s mood. Dakshayini beckoned to the child lovingly and the little one who was waiting in anticipation rushed into her arms. After the youngster settled down comfortably between her knees, Dakshayini told her, “Darling, some things cannot be recycled; they have to be saved like relics or premier inventions just as they are conserved in museums. Every home will have some such piece or two which have to be treasured for various reasons. The old red pot belongs to that category, it has a story. I will tell you the story when you are old enough to understand on that day you take a decision whether you want to trash the pot or not. For the time being, let us rummage around the house once again to check whether we have left out other dispensable plastics.”

Even as Dhaarini nodded her pretty head in agreement, the clock chimed to announce that it was seven   and Dakshayini smilingly said, “Look even the bell is agreeing with us”

 

Once Upon A Time


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/right-in-the-middle/once-upon-a-time-764291.html

We are often told to keep the child in us alive. I have tried. It does make life lighter. We are also told reading habit can enrich our minds.  I have spent the best part of my formative years curled up with books of all genres. It has lent its wings to my imagination. I can vouch for that. However, these boons of life have a flipside too!

There are certain things which seemed so perfect once upon a time. I would have happily given a limb or two to realise those dreams. Yet when those very fantasies gain physicality today, they render themselves cumbersome.

For instance, the snow! The whiteness of it and its freezing touch which I read so often about in books fascinated me no end. I longed to live in an igloo, under steely grey skies, wearing parkas and making my own fishing hole when I needed amusement.

My fascination for white Christmases, snowstorms and hail seemed to unfold ceaselessly till I actually experienced snow. The cold, wet feeling which not only dampened my clothes and bones besides  my spirits led me to examine my weird wish which was expressed explicitly many times over when I was living in the truly salubrious weather of Namma Bengaluru all those decades ago.

As a child, I would invariably contract a crick in my neck craning at the occasional aeroplane flying in the skies. I would yearn to fly high among the clouds and help myself to a fistful of the toffees that were supposed to be offered by the airhostesses. Today, when I wait indefinitely at airports and get cramped in aircrafts that do not offer anything to soothe the sweet tooth I crave for the magic carpet!

The endless picnics, delightful tuck boxes and midnight feasts described by Enid Blyton in her various series of books left me drooling. A comic book where Donald duck and his three nephews lazed around on sun beds sipping lemonade from a lake which was filled to the brim with the drink was my ultimate food fantasy. I dreamt relentlessly about having orgies of junk food around the designer lake! I knew little about calorie intake, its effects on health and fitness.

One of the large castles, palaces, ranches, country houses, cottages and bungalows which peopled the protagonists of many stories would metamorphose into my dream home for a while till I took fancy to a new one. Those were the days when I had no inkling about real estate market, cost of interior decoration or the multidimensional aspects of housekeeping.

At the end of every fairytale in which began with once upon a time and end with lived happily ever after; I would wonder why all the stories ended the same way. Adult life changed all that and more. When life unfolded its vagaries which were always not pleasant, I long to be a child again and seek solace in the hope of a happy ending!

 

 

Gratitude is the Best Attitude


Published in the Oasis column of today’s  Deccan Herald

In the Ramayana Hanuman, was identified to cross the ocean and scout for Sita the abducted wife of Rama.  When he was midway across the ocean Mount Mainaka rose from the depths of the ocean and intercepted him. Hanuman was annoyed by the obstacle and started pounding the great mountain with all his might. Mainaka bore the brunt gracefully and spoke gently to Hanuman requesting the latter to accept the hospitality of the ocean. He sourced fresh fruits and water from his being and humbly requested Hanuman to avail the same and rest awhile before continuing on the journey. Maruthi was highly appreciative of the hospitality made a token of acceptance and continued with his journey.

The meekness of the once powerful Mainaka may seem in order with his altered status as a refugee. A little introspection of this story will reveal that Mainaka was being humble and grateful for what he received. It is said that long long ago all mountains were winged. They flew around with their massive bodies and landed where they pleased. This exercise proved to be a menace to earthlings. Therefore the Rishis requested Lord Indra to help them. Consequently, Indra chopped the wings off the mountains using his Vajrayudha. Mainaka, the son of Himavaan did not want to lose his wings. He sought refuge in the southern seas. Sagara obliged Mainaka and allowed the mountain prince to hide himself in the bosom of the ocean.

When Sagara learnt that Hanuman was crossing the ocean for Rama, the Ikshavaku prince he bid Mainaka to offer respite to the messenger. Sagara extended this support because he was grateful to Bhagheeratha, an Ikshavaku prince who had added sanctity and volume to his being by bringing down the divine Ganga to earth which eventually flowed into the seas.

This well known story has the mighty and the powerful eager to show their gratitude for favours received, and all of us are well aware that gratitude is the best attitude one can ever have to keep us happy.

 

Universality of Parental Love


http://www.deccanheraldepaper.com/

These days a lot of young and not-so-young adults are donning the roles of adoptive single parents. Being such a parent can be an arduous and fulfilling experience at the same time. For those of you who think it is a postmodern trend, think again. Kalidasa sketched the affectionate and responsible mindset of a single unmarried adoptive father in his famous work, Abhijnana Shakuntalam.

The abandoned baby of sage Vishwamitra and the nymph Menaka is adopted and brought up lovingly by sage Kanva. The child grows up amidst pristine beauty and selfless love absorbing those very qualities. As a young girl, she is once harassed by a recalcitrant bumblebee.

King Dushyantha of Hastinapura who is on a hunting spree in the vicinity observes the damsel and springs out of the bushes and saves her from distress. The couple fall in love in the aftermath and enter into a secret wedlock known as Gandharva Vivaha.

When it is time for the king to return to his royal duties, he does not want to take his young bride with him in the absence of her foster father. Soon, Shakuntala discovers that she is with child and languishes in the hermitage gazing at the regal insignia Dushyantha has left behind.

When Sage Kanva returns to the hermitage, he hears an aerial voice apprising him of the scenario awaiting him. Perhaps, this prepares him mentally to deal with the situation with patience and understanding. He immediately makes arrangements for his pregnant daughter to join her royal husband without much ado about the circumstances of the events.

Yet, the practical man is emotionally fraught with angst when he has to let go of his daughter. He wonders if a similar experience could be worse for biological fathers!

This incident brings a closure on the difference between foster and biological parents by subtly pointing out that a genuine parent-child relationship is an intangible web woven by innumerable strands of love, care, sharing and emotional support for each other.

The Metaphysics of John Donne


John Donne

I have given the link to my talk please do listen in as and when you can!

http://www.iiwcindia.org/lecture/MetaphysicsOfPoetJohnDonne-24-7-2019.mp3?fbclid=IwAR21bFf7TGdWvPC-JYHZPpE4SjmCbNFLpGsRuDmTlgexIlRFyFIXv3y2ZFU

Overcoming Timidity


http://www.deccanheraldepaper.com/

Most of us must be familiar with a certain type of people who are timid to the point where they allow the domineering to walk all over them. While we cannot discount the fact that they are the tribe who are responsible for the little peace we enjoy on earth, we must also not forget that we are punishing them with untold trauma for being good natured.

A tale from the repertoire of stories from the Ramakrishna Ashram suggests a panacea for diffident denizens. There once lived a cobra in a little hamlet. He was feared by everyone. One day a saint came to the village. The cobra noticed the contrast in the attitude of the villagers towards himself and the saint. He approached the saint and spelled out his observation. The sage told the cobra to follow austerity. The snake who was determined to garner admiration even gave up hunting and lived on leaves shed by the trees. When he became noticeably meek and amiable, even little children in the village picked up him up by the tail and swirled him around just for fun. The serpent put up with this ordeal, to achieve his goal. Sometime later, the saint visited the settlement again. He heard about the saintly cobra. The good man visited the emaciated serpent and told him, that being nice did not mean accepting rude or violent behaviour. In fact, no one should ever accept an onslaught on their self esteem or accept discourteous behaviour, especially when they have done nothing to merit it. The Samaritan told the cobra to continue to be affable but also draw the line when others tried to take advantage of his goodness. When the reptile wondered as to how he could straddle both the situations, the saint told the cobra to unfurl his hood and hiss to frighten the mischief makers. He need not necessarily harm them, but threatening to do so could keep them at bay and also ensure his sanity and serenity.