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”.

 

The Sublime and the Ridiculous


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/right-middle/sublime-and-ridiculous-671464.html

The other day, I watched an interesting documentary on the life of nomads who live in the desert region. They were answering several questions regarding their history, demography and relevance of their lifestyle to a keen interviewer. When the next phase of the show began, the group was asked what they thought about random subjects. Their treasury of knowledge oscillated between the absurd and the astute. For instance some of them did not know the name of the region where they had camped; but seemed to have an uncanny knowledge of the natural resources of the land like where to find water and supplies for their caravan. They hardly cared that their kids were not going to school. Yet they seemed to have been made of grey cells all over. They were able to tell the time and weather without any contraption; they reeled off a dozen home remedies ranging from a bad cold to scorpion bites. They seemed to know a repertoire of words from a series of languages including English, useful for their survival. The tribe did not bother about lack of potable water or sanitation facilities, but were perfectly capable of optimizing what came their way without obstructing or polluting their environment. In other words they epitomized the concept of wild wanderers to the core!

Then there was a query on lord Ganesha. The interviewer called upon an elderly woman in the group and asked her why she thought the lord was pot bellied. Pat, came the answer; “Because, he has the earth in his stomach.” Even as the eyes of questioner lolled with disbelief, a slow and deliberate explanation as if to a child followed. The lord protected the world by placing it in his stomach; it was but natural that the round world bulged over his middle. I mulled over the outlandish answer. For a while it appeared as if the lady had reduced sublime to the ridiculous.

Then, I was reminded of Thomas Paine who once said, “The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related that it is difficult to class them separately, one step above the sublime makes the ridiculous and one step above the ridiculous makes the sublime again.” The words which had seemed like a cryptic code to me until then suddenly came alive.

I was able to appreciate their interpretation of the deity despite appearing different. It was pretty much on the lines of what the devout would say, about the lord protecting the universe. In retrospection I realized that their set of life skills and knowledge albeit different were on par, perhaps even superior to the so called civilized society.

 

Sky is the Limit For Unshackled Women


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/600038/sky-limit-unshackled-women.html

The world of women has always been oscillating, especially in our sub-continent. Recorded history and sociology vouch for the fact that women were enlightened and emancipated in the best possible manner in the early Vedic ages. Conditions regressed in the later periods, only to deteriorate steadily. Women were weaned from the right to education, equality, economics and even dignity.

Foreign invasions and inland political insecurities which prompted the use of the purdah system caught on to the point of shrouding our sisters in some parts of the country till date.

Dowry system which was paved with the intention of passing on the rightful fraction of the family heirlooms and property took demonic proportions which started smouldering and singeing young women in their marriages. The rigid caste system, polygamy and the system of honour killing almost decimated the status of women to non-entities.

Our society slowly fell into a decadent pattern that proved to be a dreadful nightmare for women in particular. So much so that even five centuries ago, there were formulae for bringing up children. A separate set of rules for sons and daughters. By the time they were responsible young adults, they were prepared to slip into their slots and play their part within and outside their households. This methodology worked quite well through several centuries.

Several centuries later, the fairer sex stepped out of their hearths and homes pursuing education and professions. They did face teething problems till they emerged successfully. Then the trend became an accepted norm.

Young women blossomed at every given opportunity while their less accomplished sisters experienced the much needed exposure. This encouraged them to dream for a bigger platform for their daughters. If this phenomenon of getting better with each passing generation were to become a reality, then the world we live in will transform into Utopia.

Alas such is not the case. Parenting has become a challenge. Despite all the talks and convictions about creating a level playing ground for children of either gender, the harsh truth remains contrary. To be fair to parents of our sub-continent, many of them do walk their talk. There are lakhs of couples who have parented only one girl child and have helped her achieve wisely and well. Yet, sadly the fact remains that many of these young women are considered to be round pegs in square holes because the world at large openly or secretly consider them to be second class citizens.

Freedom for girl child

More than ever, there is a serious threat to the security and freedom of the girl child, especially in urban set ups. We are living in times where stories of molestation, rape and the fairer sex being subjected to indignities have started making headlines almost on a daily basis. While rationalists would like to smother this news content as the hype created by media, we must also remember that there can be no smoke without fire.

Let us face facts, looks like we have reached a stage where debauchery has begun to become a byword in our country. At one glance it is obvious that there is something essentially wrong in the way we bring up our children. It is not just about gender inequality which begins at the foetal stage.

The health and education sectors which make a staple contribution during the formative years wallow in corruption. The families and immediate society which moulds the child’s thinking and shapes its character unthinkingly imposes its biased convictions and baseless theories which undermine its personality in the long run.

Intrinsic human values like truth and compassion have given way to superficiality and wanton display of materialism. Certificates and documents have substituted learning and imbibing knowledge. The global village which leaves us spoilt for choices have made us blind to the positive qualities of our vicinity. There seems to be no censor over the entertainment sector which is dishing out brain candy and promoting medieval beliefs and superstitions. The scenario is bleak.

Despite this drawback, it is heartening to note that quite a decent number of the fairer sex in our cities have not only managed to survive but also thrive. If women can stand up against all odds and prove their mettle, just imagine, how much more they can achieve if they are unshackled of obstacles? The sky will be the limit!

Spirit of Survival


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/599151/spirit-survival.html

One winter morning, I entered the service verandah of our home in the wee hours of dawn. I picked up the little footstool which happened to be in the way only to drop it instantaneously. I had felt something cold, pokey and wet. I was too shocked even to shriek. I switched on the lights and examined my fingers which held the stool.

There were a few short, white and thick strands sticking to my hands. I clapped them off and then peered at the stool. Many more white strands were jutting out of its sides. When I felt reassured that no tiny feet were moving, I knocked the stool down to get a better view of the creature. The inner joints of the stool revealed several such white filaments. This time, I dared to bang hard on the outside of the stool to tease out the clinging life. When a few tossed out, a little observation revealed that these white strand-like structures were attached to a miniscule brown bead.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that the creepy creatures were actually ragi sprouts. Only a couple of days ago, I had sunned some ragi on the terrace. The grains had scattered, and some of them had settled in the little nooks and crannies of the inside of the stool which had been left upturned. The stool had later been placed in the service verandah, where it must have come in contact with moisture. Mother Nature had helped the seeds to germinate.

The mystery was solved. I felt extremely relieved and ecstatic to have been a part of this surreal experience. When the family awoke one by one, they were regaled with the tale. Amid much mirth, I recalled one of the earliest stories of Enid Blyton. Amelia Jane, the naughty doll, had strung a few acorns and worn it as a necklace quite to the annoyance of the others in the play area. Once she happened to  drench in the rain. The acorns which soaked up the water started sprouting; shocking the blue-eyed Amelia out of her wits. This was one of my favourite stories and little did I realise that the incident would play out later on in my own life in such an unexpected way.

Once the novelty of the incident wore out, I reflected on it. Sometimes some exotic hybrid varieties of seeds refuse to come to life despite being provided exhaustive, simulated native conditions, but here were these seeds striving to survive against all odds. This is true of people, too. Some people are cushioned by every possible support and luxury in life, but barely manage to turn the corner whereas the ones who have the spirit of life not only survive but also thrive despite everybody and everything!

Team Work For Success


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/524087/team-work-success.html

Radha Prathi, Jan 20, 2016

All of us know that the world is presently riddled with umpteen number of problems. If we want to redress them, no single person, team or organisation can hope to claim success. If we have to bring about a radical change in the world, we must do it unitedly. Everybody without exception must contribute his or her mite for the mighty cause.

In other words, team work is the panacea for all our ills.

The Vishnu Purana catalogues the importance of coming together despite differences in order to achieve a common goal.

The natural enemies, Devas and the Asuras were hankering to become immortal. They were keen on consuming the nectar which was at the bottom of the ocean.

They were aware of the colossal work involved, hence they decided to work on the project together and share the yield. They approached Lord Maha Vishnu and apprised him of the situation. They worked on a strategy to churn the ocean.

Accordingly, Maha Vishnu would metamorphose into a tortoise and form the base, the Mandara mountain would be placed on him as the churning pole, Vasuki, the celestial serpent would serve as the rope, the Devas and Asuras would assemble on either side to churn the ocean. And churn the ocean, they did.

They were rewarded with divine invaluable gifts at regular intervals. Nevertheless, the team continued to churn away till they roused the toxic gases of the sea.

Though they were famished, they were reluctant to give up before they achieved their set goal. They invoked Lord Shiva for help.

The lord appeared and consumed the poisonous fumes and cleared the air for them. The team was rewarded with the much-sought nectar after another bout of energetic hard work. That Maha Vishnu intervened in the imbalanced distribution of the nectar is another story.

The takeaway from this episode of Kurmavataram happens to be thus: Whenever we take up a micro or a macro project, we must make sure that each one of us puts aside our differences and work with complete commitment.

We must ensure that we are in a harmonious equation with Mother Nature, lest we are shaken up rudely for our apathy.

Remember, how the representatives of nature mountain and the serpent chipped in to help out? If obstacles come our way, they should be handled practically and confidently, for, we will turn into losers if we buckle down to the hassles.

When we consider our work to be worship, no impediment can stop the blessings of the Almighty to percolate down to us and ensure our success.

Sense the Sea


http://archive.deccanherald.com/Deccanherald/Oct132006/sesame14105920061012.asp

Sea Shells And The Sea
Radha Prathi
The sea activates the human senses and also lends itself to research for the betterment of the human race.

If you have ever been to beach you could not have missed the fascination that dawns on you at the enormity of the sea. Apart from simple fun and games like splashing about in the water, the ocean has a mighty lot to offer. You could swim, fish, surf or indulge in any marine sport that appeals to you or simply collect the shells that are washed ashore.

These shells and conches are actually abandoned by their inmates once they cease to live and then float away. En route to the beach their symmetrical portions get dislodged from each other. These solo pieces of shell keep floating in the water till the tide washes them ashore. It is then that that the wary eyes of people spot them on the beach and pick them up. They are generally retained as keepsakes from their trips to the beach. There are other enterprising people who make use of them in a creative way and add glamour to their hearths and homes.

The adaptability of shells as décor pieces has been appealing to man from time immemorial. We have evidence of even the citizens of the Harappan civilization to have taken a liking for shells. Archaeologists have found remnants of jewellery made out of shells in these ruins, confirming the aesthetic sensibilities of man long, long ago. Man has been collecting whatever the sea has to offer and has made optimum use of them. It could be pearls and corals, shells and sponges or anything else that he can put into use.

The more sensitive of men have woven the sea in just about all conceivable forms of literature like epics, fairy tales, poetry, ballads and novels in every language across the globe. Mythologies of the ancient world, be it Indian or Greek, have not let go the element of the ocean in its vast content.

The ocean is a veritable feast to the eyes but it certainly does not deny the ear. The overwhelmingly rugged but rhythmic sound of the rising and falling tide simply cannot be ignored. It effectively silences us to a large extent. Some of the conches found in the ocean have been transformed as bugles.

When blown into with a specific knack, it can produce a sound loud enough to alert an army. It is very interesting to note that in the Mahabharatha, Panchajanya the conch of Sri Krishna was blown at the commencement of the Kurukshetra War. In fact we find that conches are used in traditional Hindu temples and families during worship even today.

The smell of the sea…

The terrifying sound of the hurricanes and cyclones and the winds bellowing across the ocean coupled with thunderstorms and lightning can have a humbling effect on man. These sounds have been observed and duplicated effectively in the sound tracks of movies and plays very creatively. It is hard to forget the commotion caused by the sea in the blockbuster Titanic or the Shakespear’s Tempest for that matter.

The sea has a unique odour of its own. The sea breeze is believed to have therapeutic effects. While a few adore this smell there are others who feel a sense of nausea when they are among fishing nets on the sand beaches. There are yet others who gorge themselves in tongue tickling seafood but cannot quite withstand the offensive smell while the meal is being cooked.

All said and done the oceans must be having more treasures than man has figured out.