Public Sector Companies-End of an Era


https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/right-in-the-middle/public-sector-companies-end-of-an-era-746322.html

Seven decades ago, India stepped into the path of progress by instituting a large number of public sector companies and factories. Namma Bengaluru has housed several of them. The coming of this sector ushered in a new pattern of work life in our city. New secular communities, colonies and tenements sprouted like mushrooms all over the place. They thrived for a couple of decades lending a vibrant vigour to the ethos of our garden city. As in all things change happens to be the only constant in life. It has not left the public sector untouched, hence we see the phenomenon phasing out ever so quietly from our lives.

The only remnants of the public sector happen to be the senior citizens who dot our city with their unique anecdotes. Though I have been privy to many of them, the one which never ceases to fascinate me happens to be the one I wish to share with my readers.

It is a well known fact that Rama and Lakshmana the protagonists of the Ramayana availed help from Sugriva the monkey- king to fight their enemy Ravana and redeem Seeta. An army of monkeys famously known as the Vanara Sena was instituted to help Rama in his mission. The ocean was crossed and the battle was fought. Rama the crown prince of Ayodhya slew the ten headed demon king Ravana redeemed Seeta. When it was time to return to Ayodhya with his wife Seeta and brother Lakshmana, he rewarded all the leaders like Hanuman, Sugriva, Vibhishana among the others but was at a loss as to how to return the favour of the members of the Vanara Sena. Then the lord said that the Dandakaranya forest would be abundant with fruits to take care of them during the Treta Yuga.

The simian army accepted their gift humbly but did not disperse as expected. So Rama told them that they could serve him as Yadava confederates when he re-incarnated as Krishna. Even as the Vanaras acknowledged the blessing gratefully, Rama felt that he had not been generous enough to see them through the wheel of time. So he said that in the Kali Yuga they would be absorbed as human resources by the public sector!

I have heard this tale regaled in jest, just to mark a merry moment. Of late, the elderly who recollect this tale do it with such a veneration which leaves the listener baffled! If the stories do enough rounds in the new tone, it will probably enter the portals of our mythology by the next half of this millennium!  Only time can tell!

 

Cross Six Obstacles to Success


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We cannot, should not and need not live like the Jones’. We can achieve our personal goals by recognising our set of six enemies known as the Arishadvargam and make sincere efforts to overcome them. The Ramayana outlines the life of Vishwamitra who was a Rajarishi. He once visited Brahmarishi Vasishta who lived in austerity but had access to plenty because he possessed the divine wish granting cow Kamadhenu.

Vishwamitra thought that he could put Kamadhenu to better use and demanded Vasishta to hand it over to him. When he was met with refusal, he seized the gentle giver. Vishwamitra was stunned when the divine bovine materialised a massive army to defend herself.

At that moment, Vishwamitra realised the superiority of Vasishta and resolved to become a Brahmarishi like him. He renounced all his worldly titles and commitments. In other words he gave up ‘Lobha’ or greed to pursue the path of spirituality. He performed stringent penances, which were interrupted time and again by his own frailties. He understood that he would have to overcome ‘Kaama’ or passion when he succumbed to grace and charm of Menaka and fathered Shakuntala.

When he resumed penance he became aware that he should conquer ‘Krodha’ or anger when he cursed the celestial nymph Rambha to turn into stone. His ‘Mada’ or ego took a beating when he tried to send the corporal form of Trishanku to heaven. He knew he cut a sorry figure when he created a unique heaven for Trishanku.

He recognised that it was his ‘Matsarya’ or jealousy of Vasishta which was still being an impediment in his lofty pursuit which was nothing but ‘Moha’ or his infatuation for power. This realisation made him submit humbly to the compassionate sage which finally made him Brahmarishi.

Sage Vishwamitra went through a roller coaster of obstacles when he displayed one-upmanship to spite his rival. Yet when he delved into his psyche identified his faults and corrected them he succeeded.

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.

Quality of Mercy is Twice Blessed


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Many of us carry a mental baggage. Injustice and wrongs meted out to us at different points of life continue to bog us down. We either wallow in self pity or very simply crave to settle scores.

Both options can prove detrimental to our physical and mental health. Religion and psychology say that the only way forward is to forgive and forget. This lofty concept is easier said than done. This is because we are not as large-hearted as we believe ourselves to be. Secondly, we forget the times when we have been pardoned for our sins by generous souls. The sum and substance of the quality of mercy can be identified in one of the key episodes in the Ramayana.

Rama killed Ravana, the king of Lanka and the abductor of his wife in a gory battle. Hanuman hastened with the news to the Ashoka Vana where Sita was held captive.

The distressed princess felt elated. Hanuman told Sita that he could punish her offenders. Sita gave Rama’s messenger a long look. She looked around her at the faces that were no longer menacing. She simply told Hanuman to leave them alone. When Sita saw the quizzical expression on Anjaneya’s visage, she explained that the female ogresses who guarded her and intimidated her were mere instruments in the hands of their leader. They had been carrying out their assignment out of dread of their king. Hence they were not to be faulted or penalised for simply carrying out their duties.

Besides, her redemption from the clutches of her abductor happened to be a red lettered day in her life. She had no earthly possessions to give away to signify her joy. Her royal lineage prompted her to be generous. Her intrinsic nature chose to forgive the malefactors. Hence it was but natural for her to let bygones be bygones and carry on with life.

Shakespeare reiterated the same sentiment when he said, “The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes: ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes. The throned monarch better than his crown;—”

Tactlessness Can Be Hurtful


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Sometimes, we end up saying or doing tactless things with the best of intentions in mind. Our idea boomerangs and shows us in bad light. A little introspection will reveal that lack of right approach and choice of wrong words land us in such unpleasant situations.

The plight of sage Jaabali is one such as recorded in the Ramayana. When prince Bharata knew that his mother Kaikeyi was the architect of the twin catastrophe that struck Ayodhya, he decided to go to the forest and impress upon Rama to return from exile.

An entourage of family, well-wishers and ministers followed him. Repeated requests by Bharata pleading Rama to return were turned down by the Ikshavaku prince.

At that point of time, Jaabaali, an advisor in the court of Ayodhya, took it upon himself to convince Rama. He pointed out that it would amount to folly if the prince turned down the kingdom, especially in the new scenario when Kaikeyi and Bharata wanted him to assume throne. When Rama refused to breach his promise, Jaabaali he discounted the value of the promise of Rama in the altered circumstances.

Jaabaali felt emboldened by the calm attitude of the exiled prince and started elucidating his point with a very insensitive example. He said that people perform Shraaddha for their forefathers and feed Brahmins in the belief of satiating their dead. If such a practice had any genuine value attached to it, one could also perform Shraaddha to people going away on a long journey and then there would be no need for them to eat on their way.

When Jaabaali tried to ply his point using such tactless examples, he ended up enraging Rama. Raghava who was unperturbed when his crowning ceremony was cancelled and sent on exile, was enraged by the insinuations of Jaabaali. Rama, who was determined to redeem his promise to his father, actually faulted his sire for having entertained an atheist and foolhardy advisor like Jabaali in his court.

Jaabaali confessed that he had resorted to nihilistic ways in the hope of changing Raghava’s mind following which he sought the latter’s forgiveness.

Palm Leaf Paper


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Long long ago in India, when children of your age went to schools known as the Guru Kula they had lots to study just like you but they certainly did not have to write as much as you do! They committed whatever they learned to memory and sometimes noted down some very important definitions or formulas on palm leaves for later reference. You see they did not have note books then as you have them these days! If you are wondering whether they were lucky, unfortunately they are not around here to answer your question but they were certainly an eco-friendly lot as they were not using reams of paper made from trees!!! In such a case you could always argue that the palm leaves they used were also sourced from trees! Very true, indeed! In those days there was really no dearth of palm fronds, besides the rudiments of language like grammar and core subjects like science and mathematics were reduced to verses running into two or four lines. These couplets and quartets captured the essence of the subject in as few words as possible. The student had to understand these formulas which were popularly known as “Sutras” and he needed to memorise them to help him remember of all the aspects of the theory at a later date.

They were tested on the subject from time to time orally just like you are tested, but then all of you also take up a written test to show that you have writing skills too ! Perhaps they were spared of the exercise because processing palm fronds into writing material was a long drawn process.

Centuries before paper was invented our ancestors hit upon the idea of using hardy dried leaves as paper.  They were known as “Patra” which means both letter and leaf in most Indian languages used till date. Students processed palm leaves not only for their use, but also for their teachers and scribes who were engaged in making copies of important manuscripts.

Processing palm leaves was no mean task, but it was certainly fun –filled too! Palm fronds cut freshly from the tree were allowed dry partially for a couple of days in  sunlight and then they were then buried in swamps for a week so that they become sturdy and later on the leaves were washed and dried completely in the shade.

Then they were cut along the borders so that they formed rectangular pages which measured eight to twelve inches in breadth and about an inch or two in height. Some times when longer sheets of palm paper were required they were sewn together using plant fiber.

Once the palm paper was ready for use a fine tipped iron stylus (pencil) was used to etch the words or diagrams on the leaf so that it made a depression without actually damaging the leaf. Then powdered vegetable dyes usually green or charcoal powder made from burnt coconut shells were mixed with sesame oil and rubbed over the leaves in such a way that the colours settle down in the depressions. Then the palm leaves were coated with turmeric powder mixed with sesame oil to add sheen and strength to the leaves. Then they were bundled together and wrapped in silk or cotton cloth for safe keeping. Our ancient texts like the Vedas, Puranas, the epics, scripts of plays and treatises have been passed on to us on palm paper.

Possibly this is the reason why we are able to see manuscripts preserved in this manner for over a millennium in a fairly good condition in spite of the gross neglect they are subjected to.

Over a period of time when paper was invented and mechanization made it possible for it to be easily available paper made from palm leaves made an exit. Today these processed leaves are used as canvass on which creative artists showcase their talent.

If you happen to be traveling in Orissa make sure you visit a small village called Raghuraipur in the district of Puri. There are several craftsmen and artists who make a living there by etching wonderful designs on processed palm leaves. Even little children in the village know how to make the longer lasting palm paper. Now that you have an insight into the method, why don’t you try making your own name plate on processed palm leaf?

Verify for Veracity


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Misunderstandings can cause rifts in relationships. These days such cases are on a prolific rise because the differences and the distance between the virtual world and the real world is closing in. People are losing track of the difference between the two, mistaking one for the other. While the benefits of such development are unarguable so are the drawbacks.

An ancient saying goes thus, “One must not believe anything that hears about or sees perchance. On the other hand one should verify the matter for truth even if the incident happens right in front of our eyes.” Truer words could not have been spoken.

It is during these times one will do well to ruminate on the story of the descent of the divine river Ganga from the heavens. King Sagara performed an Ashwamedha Yajna. Towards the end of the ritual, the ceremonial white horse was lost. Indra, the lord of the heavens wanted to abort king Sagara’s endeavour. Hence he stole the horse and led it to the nether world and tied it near the hermitage of sage Kapila who was deeply engrossed in penance. Since the Yajna could not be concluded without the animal, Sagara sent his 60,000 sons in search of the horse. They scourged the earth and then made their way into the nether world. There they found the sacred horse grazing casually. Alongside they sighted sage Kapila in profound penance.

The princes deemed the sage to be the horse thief for the lack of the knowledge of the truth. They thought it fit to disturb the sage and berate him soundly for his misdeed. The sage, who was completely unaware of what had transpired, was very angry with the arrogant princes who dared to accuse him wrongly and belittle him unnecessarily. He used the power of his penance and reduced them to ashes within moments.

It is obvious that both the parties involved in this unfortunate incident acted on the basis of what they considered to be true and not on the basis of what was really true. They allowed their ego and anger to rule over them. If they had used a little patience and some discretion, they could have completely avoided the debacle.