MATURITY AND PATIENCE


Published on 18th June 2018 in the Oasis Column of Deccan Herald

A lot of parents, teachers and team leaders find that they are inadequate when it comes to sorting out rivalry amongst their children, students and teammates respectively. Damages caused by the lack of grace and niceties can actually rankle the mind, leaving long term hurt or irreversible scars. Hence it is of paramount importance for people to exercise infinite patience and profound maturity to handle such situations to the healing point.

A story from the Bhagavatham can be used as a reference point to resolve similar problems in the present age. King Uttanapada had two wives called Suneethi and Suruchi, who had a son each who were called Dhruva and Uttama respectively. The king’s favouritism encouraged Suruchi to cherish the fond hope that her son Uttama would ascend the throne one day despite the presence of the crown prince Dhruva.  This confidence also braced up Suruchi to look down upon the legitimate queen mother. One day, the five year old Dhruva saw his little half brother Uttama seated on the lap of their father Uttanapada. The child in him craved to climb on to his father’s lap. Even as he tried to do so, he was reprimanded sharply by his step mother. Suruchi snapped at him saying, “Only God can bestow you with what you want to do.” The confused lad ran to his mother to seek comfort. Suneethi knew that she was powerless to direct the king to do her bidding as he was besotted with Suruchi. At the same time she was mature. She did not want to influence the young mind negatively by telling him about the lopsided equations in her marital relationship. Since Dhruva was persistent, Suneethi worked around the words of Suruchi to advantage. She told Dhruva that there was no greater power than God in the universe. If the supreme power was appealed to with sincere devotion, everything would become possible. Dhruva was consoled and convinced. He went out to seek God. He was initiated by the celestial sage Narada and performed a severe penance. In fact, he not only gained his father’s affections and the kingdom but also went on to become one of the greatest Bhagavathas ever. Suneethi managed to steer her son out of a life of discontent, disappointment and directing him towards eternal glory!

Unlearn and Relearn


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Great minds across space and sands of time have always agreed that the cornerstone of society revolves around how it responds to a situation. This, in turn, depends on the domestic, social, economic and educational backgrounds of its people.

An incident in the life of Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, throws the spotlight on this issue effectively. Once, Valmiki was returning after completing his ablutions on the banks of river Tamasa. There he saw a hunter poised with his bow and arrow, ready to bring down a pair of cranes perched on a tree. Almost immediately, one of the birds was shot dead and its companion wailed inconsolably.

Valmiki was disturbed and inadvertently cursed the hunter for perpetrating a heinous crime. That, the expletive of Valmiki, the expression of his “Shoka” which metamorphosed into a “Shloka” is another story.

What needs to be examined here is the fact that as far as the hunter was concerned, he hunted the bird down probably as a part of his routine. Perhaps, he looked upon the cranes as his meat.

Valmiki, who had a violent past as a dacoit, must have behaved like the hunter very many times in the past. Yet, his attitude towards his way of life changed when he realised the futility of robbing others to cater to the needs of his family. Possibly, this enlightenment helped him to see the incident in a new light.

His reaction towards the hunter’s act precipitated as a metric verse, one of the high points of a culturally evolved society.

The contrast in the two reactions to the same incident also serves as a divider in the cultural quotient of the two men.

This incident also serves as an example to people who want to change for the better as sensible and sensitive human beings.

If we tarry a moment and retrospect, it will not be difficult for us to realise that we can weave woofs and warps of changes in the world at large when each of us ready ourselves to unlearn and relearn for the betterment of self and society.

Effective Communication


Deccan herald 30th January 2018

These days we find plenty of courses that guide people into communication skills. Aspects like correct usage of language, body language, tone, clarity and confidence are emphasized in these soft skill sessions. At the end of the day people are taught to communicate pleasantly and effectively to forge successful personal and professional relationships. Hence it is no wonder that educational institutions, governmental organisations and corporate bodies do not hesitate to invest a pretty penny on honing these skills of their new recruits at all levels.

A reading of the Ramayana reveals the universal significance and the cornerstone of communication skills has remained the same right from the good old times.

Hanuman was sent as the most hopeful candidate to search for Sita because Rama was impressed by the simian minister’s intelligence, sincerity and communication skills. The emissary of Rama discovered Sita in the Ashoka Vana of Lanka. He realized that he would traumatize the doe like Sita if he appeared in front of her without notice. Therefore he narrated the story of Rama in mellifluous verse to attract her attention. The act of Hanuman construes the importance of using introductory talk as the unshakeable basis of every conversation. The fact that Sita gave him her Choodamani – the hair accessory, which happened to be her only earthly possession and proof of her existence to be given to Rama, speaks in volumes about the success of Hanuman’s ability to communicate effectively.

When Maruthi returned to Rama with the good news, he does not indulge in formalities or flowery language. Instead, he very simply hands over the Choodamani of Sita with a brief phrase that said, “Sita has been found.” The magical phrase sent a surge of joy through the being of Rama and prepared him mentally to take in the details about the disheveled and depressed status of Sita and her resolve to hold on to her life for another month till she was freed from the clutches of Ravana. Hanuman used speech as a tool sometimes eloquently and at other times briefly. He just proved that there are no hard and fast rules about the length of the talk. He had the discernment to understand that content is king in any conversation. When truth, tenor, confidence, clarity, humility and simplicity adorn the content, communication becomes complete.

Determination vs. Obstinacy


Many a time people want to achieve their goal by hook or crook. Their very attitude is proof of the fact that they are not in a position to distinguish between determination and obstinacy.

When a person refuses to weigh the pros and cons of a situation and pursues his ambition blindly, he is not only likely to harm the people around him but will wreak havoc on himself both physically and mentally.

An episode from the Mahabharata unfolds the unfortunate repercussions of tenacity. Ashwaththama, the best friend of Duryodhana had promised his dying friend that he would ensure the annihilation of the Pandava family at all costs. He manipulated the death of the Pandavas and ended up killing the five sons of Draupadi. In hindsight, he realised that his mission would be completed if he managed to abort the foetus if princess Uttara who was carrying the posthumous child of Abhimanyu. That way he could effectively put a full stop on the continuance of the Pandava clan. Accordingly, he went to the princess and aimed a potent blade of Darbha grass at her womb. The petrified Uttara ran away in panic. When Ashwaththama chased the pregnant princess, he was intercepted by none other than Lord Krishna.

Krishna understood that the son of Drona was not in a position to distinguish the right from wrong, and there was simply no way he would tarry to listen to the Yadava king. It was then Krishna looked at the gem signifying human intelligence studded on the forehead of the Brahmin. He hastened to pluck it out and prevented the perpetration of foeticide. The mindless Ashwaththama could not focus on his evil undertaking. Thus, Krishna rescued the unborn baby. He ensured that the last scion of the Pandava family – Parikshit- the one who was tested arrived safely on planet earth.

When one examines Ashwaththama’s behaviour, it is not difficult to see that he was being faithful to his friend and true to his promise although his bosom pal was dead. All the same, it is apparent that he lost sight of human propriety in his zeal to redeem his promise. Had he realised that the means is as important as the end he could have spared himself of the ignominy?

Dealing with Embarassment


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Some of us go through embarrassing situations in life for no particular fault of ours. It becomes increasingly difficult to take a stand, especially when the people involved are the next of kin, good friends or well-wishers. A story in the Bhagavatha Puranam speaks of one such predicament.

Naabhaaga, an erudite scholar, decided to find his own fortune. He was well versed in all areas of rites and rituals. He knew that he could earn a great deal of wealth if he offered his niche services. For starters, he went to the Yajna conducted by sage Angirasa as directed by his father Nabhaga. The sage was very happy with the arrival of the young man.

On the sixth day, ceremonies, which involved a lot of nitty-gritty, had been worrying the sage. Naabhaaga did the needful efficiently. The Yajna was completed successfully. Sage Angirasa was very happy and satisfied.

In a moment of gratitude and generosity, he offered every bit of his frugal possession as Dakshina to Naabhaaga. The latter accepted his fee thankfully and took leave of the sage. Naabhaaga was waylaid by Rudra. The angry god accused Naabhaaga of walking away with what rightfully belonged to him. The young man was confused. Nevertheless, he walked back to the site of the Yajna along with Rudra. The duo found sage Angirasa in conversation with Naabhaaga’s father. Rudra presented his case. Almost immediately, Angirasa and Nabhaga realised that they had goofed up. Strangely, both of them in their zeal had overlooked that the last portion of the Dakshina had to be lawfully offered to Rudra. They admitted their fault sheepishly, clarified the matter and apologised profusely. Both of them found it highly embarrassing to dictate the future course of action.

Naabhaaga and Rudra understood the nature of the faux pas. Naabhaaga decided to iron out the matter. He did not play the blame game nor did he cock a snook at Rudra for being angry with him for no reason. Instead, he handed over the entire amount to Rudra. Angirasa and Nabhaga were overwhelmed with the turn of events. Rudra was touched by the integrity of Naabhaaga and blessed him with unlimited prosperity.

If any of us happen to inadvertently get involved in a slip-up, we will do well to display a generous and forthright spirit like Naabhaaga.

Gift for teacher? Classroom Discipline


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S Radha Prathi, Sep 5 2017, 0:08 IST

If teachers were asked what they would consider the best teacher’s day gift, the answer would be an unanimous chorus — classroom discipline!

Well, that happens to be the harsh truth. An average classroom in any school across urban India is almost always in a state of chaos. The teacher-student ratio is unwieldy in most. Under the circumstances, a conscientious teacher has to also double up as the bad cop, usher the students to step in mentally, not just physically, into the classroom. Healthy classroom practices like interactions, discussions and debates on the subject of study is often replaced with pontification, which has almost become a mandatory feature in the lives of teachers. Seldom can they do much else, because the law of the land forbids them from using the cane.

Most teaching staff are ashamed or afraid to rope in the help of colleagues, seniors or the head of the institutions because they do not want to show themselves to be weak or helpless. Besides, they do not want to jeopardise their chances of getting an increment by showing themselves to be lacking in class control skills. The students, for their part, ranging from primary school to the undergraduate levels seem to find it extremely difficult to sit still in the class and focus on what is being taught. Their attention span seems to be consistently declining year after year. They seem to have collectively traded the art of listening for the art of merely hearing that serves no purpose.

Such being the case, teachers have to often repeat themselves to reach out to everyone in the audience. In the process, a sense of repetition and redundancy sets in in the ones that got it the very first time. They become restless till the teacher takes the lesson forward but only after another round of disciplining. When this exercise becomes repetitive, it can get tiresome for both the students and the teacher. Precious classroom time is spent in shepherding students individually or in little groups into a state of silence before continuing with the lesson. Over a period of time, both parties get familiar with the pattern and play it out like clockwork to the point of frustration.

When teachers bare their hearts out on the subject, they are told categorically that “content is king” and the conduct of the teacher is the benchmark in a classroom. While that may be true, even experienced and passionate teachers who do know their subject and carry themselves with dignity are finding it difficult to handle disruptive behaviour. All the same, teachers agree that kids should have their fun and freedom as long as they do not constantly disrupt the classroom. They also vouch for the fact that the young are perfectly nice alone; it is only when they get together they become unmanageable.

It is time for us to unravel this conundrum. The restiveness stems from the environment the child comes from. The pressure to do well and realise the dreams of their parents has pinned them down. The gadgets they use and the amateurish exposure they get to various subjects on the internet make them feel that they know it all. The junk foods they consume, the sedentary lives they lead and the assorted pollutions they have to deal with have rendered them weak. Their preference to play with gadgets than with siblings or friends has made them strangers to empathy. The stress and strife of modern life is taking a toll on the children.

If we hope to salvage the future of our children, we must work on these issues on a war-footing. Remember, the family is the first school and the mother is the first teacher. Parents should make it their own imperative to spend quality time with children no matter what their age. Children who hail from sensible, ethical and loving homes will reflect those qualities.

Having well behaved students can prove to be a tremendous boost to a passionate teacher’s morale and her capacity to teach. Precious class hours can be channelised to sow the seeds of knowledge, nurture analytical thinking, and help children blossom into responsible, intelligent and considerate individuals. When teaching becomes a fulfilling and pleasant experience, a teacher can make a world of difference to the taught. When that happens, every day will be Teacher’s Day!

Self Respect Vs Ego


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Most misunderstandings and rifts in personal and social relationships can be resolved if people start discerning the difference between having self respect and being egotistic. Oftentimes the two traits are confused for one another. While the former is commendable, the latter can prove to be detrimental. The Mahabharatha chronicles the tale of the foremost Guru Drona who rose to great heights because of his self respecting nature and fell from grace because of his bruised ego.

The immensely talented man of humble origin gained employment as the teacher of martial arts to the princes of Hastinapura. Though the royal household came forth to sponsor his living expenses and that of his family, he politely but firmly declined the offer. Drona had a son about the age of the Kuru princes. Yet never once did the self respecting teacher encourage his son to partake or enjoy the privileges of his highly placed peers. He lived and provided for his family within his means.

Once, his child Ashwaththama saw his regal friends drinking milk. The curious child longed to taste the white liquid. When he expressed his desire to his parents, he was given a tumbler of wheat flour mixed with water which the child drank happily thinking that it was milk. Drona could have had all the milk his son needed. Nevertheless the self respecting man would not accept any help from his employers before it was time to collect his rightful Gurudakshina.

It was around this time Drona’s wife Kripi reminded him of his childhood friend who had become the king of Panchala and requested his friend to seek his help. Drona was reluctant in the beginning, but went along all the same to meet his friend for old times’ sake.

Unfortunately for him, Drupada refused to take cognizance of him and behaved high-handedly. Drona was deeply hurt when his erstwhile chum offered him cows by way of charity to a Brahmin as against the token of friendship. Drona vowed to trounce Drupada’s arrogance.

One thing led to another and to make a long story short when the master’s self respect manifested itself as his ugly ego he failed miserably, to the point that his dead body was beheaded by Drupada’s son Dhrishtadyumna.