Universality of Parental Love


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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

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.

Power of The Puranas


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Our Puranas are nothing but a compilation of stories which are metaphorical in nature. Listening to them or reading them for merely entertainment value can at best keep us amused. Ruminating over them and interpreting them in terms of situations can help us deal with quandaries of our lives in an informed manner. The necessity to look upon these fables beyond the frills and fancies has been put across very lucidly in the Bhagavata Purana.

Dhundhukari was the wayward foster son of a pious Brahmin Atmadeva. Perhaps he was genetically programmed to become a denigrated delinquent wastrel because of the nature of his birth. His mother Dhundhuli was not interested in bearing children. When she was asked to eat a divine fruit  to help her become a mother she fed it to a cow, pretended to be pregnant and went on to make a deal with her pregnant sister Mriduli. When her sister delivered a baby boy she led her husband to believe that her sister’s baby was theirs. The cow gave birth to a human child and was adopted by Atmadeva. The boys were pampered and sent to the best of teachers. While Gokarna thrived on education, Dhundhukari did not seem to learn much. He was more interested in frivolous activities. He was an antithesis of Gokarna. He lacked ethics and values. He distressed his parents with his debauchery. Atmadeva retired into Vanaprastha. Dhundhuli, who was ensnared in the web of deceit committed suicide. Gokarna also left his foster home in search of greater knowledge. This development only made Dhundhukari more decadent. He would stoop to any level to keep his addiction for wine and women alive. Once, the women, whose company he kept, ganged up  and killed him. His unrequited soul wandered about terrorizing those who crossed his path. Once when Gokarna returned home he learned of the new developments. He advised the ghost of Dhundhukari to take up austerity and listen to the narration of Bhagavata Purana.

Dhundhukari did as instructed. At the end of the session he was personally liberated by the lord. When Gokarna was puzzled by the unexpected development, the lord clarified the matter. True, Dhundhukari had been depraved, but he had also made a genuine attempt to correct himself. He listened to the Purana with rapt attention and reflected on it with devotion which redeemed him from his profligate existence.

 

When an Option becomes a Choice


Article published in the annual EDUVERSE

supplement of Deccan Herald, bangalore edition

                     WHEN AN OPTION BECOMES A CHOICE

By S. RADHA PRATHI

 Our sub continent boasts of at least two and a half dozen living languages and perhaps a few hundred existing dialects. The statistics are not only true but also very overwhelming to the citizens of other countries who manage to communicate in perhaps two or three languages. All the same when we look at our language skills with reference to our millions in population it is very disproportionate. The number of people who can read write and speak a language well happens to be a small fraction. And the ones who can appreciate the literature, art and culture associated with the tongue happen to be a smaller fraction.

We have no one else to blame for this situation except ourselves. Somewhere along the line, education came to be associated with studying subjects which will earn them a livelihood and perhaps help them scale up the economic ladder. Over a period of time language skills started fading. If we do not pay attention to this loophole in our system it will be no surprise when our languages disappear en masse some day in the future.

As they say, it is never too late to regain anything as long as we apply our minds to it. At this point of time in the year lakhs of teenagers who have completed their pre university examinations are standing on the threshold of new beginnings. Most certainly there must be a section of students who have a flair for languages and would like to explore the vagaries of the tongue and delve deeply into the rich literature of the language. Yet many of them refrain from pursuing a course that is close to their heart because of preconceived negative notions attributed to the arts stream and language learning as an optional subject.

For those of you who are surprised and curious, please be aware that all universities offer undergraduate courses through which students can specialize in language studies which is officially known as “Optional” languages. Just about every university offers “Optional” in English, Kannada, Hindi, Sanskrit and Urdu on a mandatory basis and sometimes throws in a couple of other foreign and Indian languages. Students study their chosen “Optional” for all the three years of their undergraduate period. During this period they are introduced to the linguistics, stylistics, phonetics and syntactical aspects of the language besides getting a panoramic glimpse of its vast literature spanning across the ages. Aspects like history of the language, its development, influences on and of the language on its immediate society, culture and ethos of the people are discovered. Poetry, prose, novels, short stories, dramas ranging from ancient to post modern are brought to the attention of students. A passionate reading never fails to inspire students to ponder and admire the universality of the works leaving them to thirst for more.

Three years of intense study of the language with two other ancillary subjects can boost the intellectual and emotional quotient of the student. The ancillary subjects offered are numerous. One could choose to study any two subjects from an elaborate list that contains History, Sociology, Economics, Journalism, and Psychology among others. Each of these ancillary subjects will help the student to develop a fresh insight into the “Optional” language and the interdisciplinary nature of learning.

One can pursue a teachers training course or a master degree course in the same “Optional” after graduation and top it with a M Phil or a doctoral course.

 The career options for students who pursue these courses can range from teaching at various levels, to becoming well grounded journalists, historians, civil servants to even ambassadors of the language. The rich dividends that one can get by doing these courses do not stop at only monetary remunerations. A sincere dip into the vast ocean of literature will not only help its ardent users to bear the torch  and pass it on to the next generation but will also make the individual a sensible and sensitive citizen.

WHAT OTHERS SAID:

 “Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things.” –Flora Lewis

Language comes first. It’s not that language grows out of consciousness, if you haven’t got language, you can’t be conscious. – Alan Moore

 

That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart. ~Salman Rushdie

 

 

Of Perceptions and Responses


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Many of us respond to a situation as we perceive it. Our perceptions are usually based on the situation, venue and our state of mind. We could be right most of the times, yet there are instances when we can go wrong horribly very simply because we have no clue about the other person’s circumstances.

The Mahabharata lays out one such instance which proves to be fatal to Parikshit the king of Hastinapura. Once, the Kuru king went on a hunting spree. He was lost and exhausted after an energetic chase. Soon he reached a clearing. There he found a sage immersed in a serene state of meditation. The royal scion bowed to Rishi with great reverence and offered the customary respects. Then he asked the Rishi if he could have some water. The Sage did not respond. The king’s repeated queries and request for some water seemed to fall on deaf ears. Parikshit was frustrated. The disgusted king looked around. He found a dead snake lying in the whereabouts. He picked up the carrion with one of his arrows and tossed it around the neck of the sage, mouthed some inanities and insults at the still silent sage.

When Parikshit self righteously turned to go away from the scene, another sage entered the scenario. He happened to be Shringi the son of sage Shamik. The virtuos son was infuriated to see his father insulted with a  dead serpent round his neck. He did not care that the perpetrator of this great sin was the king of the land. He pronounced a terrible curse on the ruler saying that the emperor would die of snake bite in a week’s time. Parikshit became jittery. He was aware of the potency of the curse. He hastened back to Hastinapura and got a royal quarters built on a tall column and moved in, in the hope of averting death. That he was overcome by death is another story.

This episode shows that each man did what he perceived to be right based on his experience and the given situation. It is easy to see that both of them did not act justifiably.

Most of us behave in more or less the same manner and end up wondering about what went wrong when matters turn sour.

Tall Task of Taking Risks


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There are two kinds of people in the world. The ones who like to play it safe and the ones who like to take the road not taken. Both kinds have their own justifications based on their knowledge, experience and circumstances.

The pioneering lot can once again be classified into two groups.

The ones who are willing to explore the unknown for personal benefits and the rest who do not think twice about throwing in their lot if it can add value to another person, people or a commendable cause.

These are the Samaritans who do not mind working behind the curtains or toiling away without an iota of expectation.

The Devas and Asuras yearned become immortal. They were told that imbibing the Amrutha found in the heart of the mighty ocean could help them fulfill their desire.

Therefore, they churned the ocean with the help of Vishnu who manifested himself as a giant tortoise to form the base of the churning pole.

After a strenuous bout of activity, they were appalled to be enveloped by toxic fumes which emerged from the sizzling poison that was garnered from the ocean.

The Devas and Asuras choked over highly poisonous air and did not know how to take things forward. Vishnu prompted them to appeal to Lord Shiva for help. Accordingly, the cousins pleaded.

Lord Shiva manifested himself almost immediately and without further ado swallowed lethal fumes and liquid, much to the shock of his onlookers. That he saved them and helped them gain the treasures from the ocean including the elixir of life forms the rest of the story.

Shiva who came to be known as Neelakanta from then on, because his neck turned blue after the consumption of venom, became the torchbearer of the tribe of people who are willing to go to any extent to help those who seek no matter what the possible consequences could be.

Shiva’s selfless act also comes under the category of “Nishkaama Karma” prescribed by Lord Krishna in the Bhagvad Gita.