Bowing The Head…

My article published in a ten part series : Translating India

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/it-all-began-with-that-dinner-where-the-milk-played-truant-translating-india-8-118021600502_1.html

***

“Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.”
― Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems

Thirteen Years Later…

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Scene One: Conference Hall in a beautiful heritage hotel…There is a banner which says ‘ Giving Back to Society: The Innumerable Ways !’

People milling around. The smart youth, in latest fashions. Camera men, journalists, participants with their ID cards.
A sudden flurry of activity when the Chief Guest arrives.Bouquets , flashes of camera, voices…

Cut to back of the room…A tall man, in his late twenties, sits quietly. He is looking at the speakers on the podium. He gazes at one face and is lost in memories.

*
On the podium.

Compère: ‘And now, we would like to invite Mrs. Karuna Menon to share her experiences as a counsellor and rehabilitation specialist dealing with juvenile delinquents for many decades.’

A young woman steps forward and manoeuvres a wheel chair towards the mike. There is a poignant sigh rising from the audience. The woman in the wheel chair is around seventy, with a shock of white hair. She is radiant and cheerful.

Mrs Menon : Dear friends on the dais and beloved members of the audience! Thank you for giving me a chance to highlight the need for sensitivity towards juvenile delinquents. No child is born a criminal…As members of the society in which she or he lives, we are responsible for nurturing that soul to the proper heights it can aspire to. For that, we should stop looking at juvenile delinquents as evil. We should learn to open our eyes and see them for what they are: children fighting for survival.

Then she continues with her speech.

Back of the room. The man, lost in memories…

The Q&A session begins.
Raised hands: hyper smart questions, cynical queries, opinions disguised as questions…Mrs.Menon answers with grace and humility.

Slowly, the man raises his hand. He gets up.

Compère: Yes, sir… please ask your question.

Man: I stand here as a testimony to the great work of Mrs. Karuna Menon. I was a drug addict in my teenage. A very dangerous juvenile delinquent who stole his own mother’s jewellery. This lady, she saved my life. When the whole world hated me, she opened her home to the likes of me. Madam, thank you.

There is a ruffling sound, as many heads turn to gaze at the man. Slowly, someone begins to applaud. Mrs.Menon, in her wheel chair, stares unbelievingly at the tall man.

‘ Thank you, thank you,’ she murmurs, overwhelmed. She beckons the man to come forward.

He moves. He climbs the steps to the podium. And hugs the woman in the wheel chair.

Mrs.Menon: Ravi! Where were you, all this while?  How many years, now? Thirteen, fourteen? You never got in touch!
Man: I had to do something worthwhile before coming back to you, right?

Compère: Sir, the audience would like to know more!

The audience is on their feet now. It is a standing ovation for both the mentor and the protege.

Man: There is nothing more to tell. I was lost, she saved me. I have started a company which is into skill development. We actively work with prisoners released from jails and delinquents who are released from Homes. We help them get dignified employment.

Compère: What is the name of your firm?

Man: ( Smiles) Karuna, or Compassion.

He bends and touches the lifeless feet of Mrs.Karuna Menon.
*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going Home…

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What ‘lights’ you up? The answer can be different for every human being. Maybe there is more than one answer. Usually, that is the truth. Meaningful work, loving family, hobbies…writing, singing, sports, or just sitting in solitude and watching the sunlight. Each of us has to find his/her own answer to that question.

Recently I was watching Elizabeth Gilbert- author of Eat, Pray, Love – speak about her journey home. Home was the term she used to describe something which she loved more than anything. ‘Writing’ was home for her.

After the stupendous success of Eat, Pray, Love, she faced a great fear. She was scared of writing again and failing to meet the standards of the first.She shared that she was happy when the next book flopped, because she could finally get back home without any more fears…She could get back and simply write for the sheer joy of writing. She went on to write many more beautiful books.

The challenge, in her perspective, was that we tend to give up our right to reach our own ‘ homes’.  There are many pressures preventing us from doing so. We have to find what gives us joy ( lights us up) and stick with it, without allowing anyone/ anything to dislodge us from that sacred space with their judgement of us.

In one way, this is what the great Jospeh Campbell spoke of in his iconic writings. ‘ Follow your bliss…’ The Hero’s journey belongs to each of us. Every adventure need not be heroic. It could be just the insistence that one has to have an hour every day, to be alone: to just be.

Even that could be a small heroic victory. Because, it could be your idea of bliss. That could be your ‘sacred space’ to rejuvenate yourself.

One of the things which lights me up is enjoying words in any form.

Is there some written rule anywhere that only successful people can write? Only those who are published should dream? Only those who are famous should indulge in imagination?  Or that only when you are supremely talented, you should dare to put a pen on paper- that too in only ‘specific’ human languages?

Who made all these rules? If I get joy in writing / translating from vernacular languages, who defines the ranking or stature of my happiness? Why would I justify my ‘home’ to anybody else?

*

Even today, when I hear some people discuss with great authority on the how/ why/ what of another human being’s choices, I cannot help a smile. What do they know- these so called experts- on what makes another person’s heart beat rise? Perhaps it is work. Perhaps it is love, perhaps it is a pet. Perhaps…million choices…Instead of wasting precious time trying to find fault with another, they would benefit, if they were to discover a ‘home’ for themselves.

**

Inside my book shelf, I encountered a few books created during my journey home. With every passing day, I am getting there. Unapologetically.

**

18. Kishkindha Kanda…Dekhiat chakrabaak khag naahim

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Mahabrishti chali bhooti kiyaarim/ Jimi sutantra bhaye bigarahim naarim//
Krishi niraavahim chatur kisaana/ Jimi buddh tajahim moh mad maana//

In the pouring rains, the boundaries of the farms are getting broken, it is akin to certain souls going astray crazed with untramelled freedom
The farmers are removing weeds from their fertile lands, like the wise man removes desire, selfishness and ego from within himself
*
Dekhiat chakrabaak khag naahim/ Kalihi paayi jimi dharma paraahim//
Ushar barshayi trin nahim jaama/ Jimi Harijan hiyam upaj na kaama//

The Chakravak bird is not to be seen anywhere, it has disappeared like Dharma on the onset of Kaliyug! On the infertile lands, the rain falls intensely, but not even a blade of grass sprouts there…It is like the heart of a Vishnu devotee which will never be fertile ground for Kama ( desire)
*
Bibidh jantu sankul mahi bhraaja/ Praja baad jimi payi suraaja//
Jah tah rahe padhik dhaki naana/Jimi indriya gan upajem gyaana//

The earth is resplendent with a variety of living creatures, similar to the prosperity of citizens living in a good, spiritually evolved land. The travellers can be seen resting at different places, like the senses desisting from seeking out sensory objects due to the awakening of wisdom.
*

Doha:

Kabahu prabal bah marut jah tah megh bilaahim/
Jimi kapoot ke upajem kul sandarm nasaahim//

The wind blows with such force that the clouds scatter hither and thither, it is akin to the clan’s honour getting lost when the family  begets morally weak characters as progeny.
*

Kabahu diwas mah nibid tam kabahuk pragat patang/
Binasayi upajayi gyaan jimi paayi kusangh susangh//

Due to the heavy clouds, darkness falls in daytime, and sometimes the sun appears. It is like a man’s wisdom getting clouded in the company of bad souls and then emerging again, in the worthy company of the good.
*

A Breathing Space

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In a world where success, happiness, perfect bodies, fame, money, popularity, smiling faces are all  considered synonymous and mixed together in a pot-pourri, sometimes an ordinary human being might stand bemused- wondering at it all… When faced with the onslaught of seemingly unjustified hatred and virulent bias or enemity, one might get apprehensive about the futility of it all…

Pray, where is my place in this melee? Is it that I have no place at all?Do I have a right to breathe the air too, eh?

From the lives of the most inspiring people I have met in my life journey, I have observed certain hometruths that they live quietly by.These have helped me in tough times as well as in normal times, to find a breathing space of my own.

1. They are full of gratitude for whatever they have in life, including their life experiences.

In a recent example, when I looked at the radiant and compassionate face of someone who has literally been to hell and back, he smiled, ‘I am so grateful for that experience because of what I learned in that time!’  It made me feel foolish for the number of times in my life when I slipped into a complaining mode!

(Let me count my blessings…and by God! The list is so big!)

2.  They focus on ‘ giving ‘ than taking. They are hard working, unassuming and grounded.

The Missionary Sister, whose face comes to my mind as I type, is always thinking of how to coach the poor school children better, how to get toilets constructed for the suffering patients, how to organise a small function for the orphans…I often tell her that she is my ‘ mood elevator medicine’, because her spirit of service is so infectious!  I am yet to meet a more unassuming or hard working person than her. And I wonder, if she manages to  sleep for four hours a day!

3. They enjoy living every day

From enjoying a good coffee, a movie, a book , theatre,  or sports or dance or walking,,,, such people have a capacity for enjoying life’s simple pleasures without unnecessary show or ado. I do not find them boasting about their hobbies or activities, and instead take intrinsic happiness in their choices.

4. They are good,  loving and kind

I find myself attracted to these qualities and have found these people to have spring wells of love and kindness which never dry up. Always, they are there to cheer you, to be proud of you, to egg you on, to tease you…Getting in touch with such souls make you heal and smile.

5. They do not compete with you or anyone else

These people compete with their own selves- to become better than they were yesterday! I find them self confident, not jealous of any one, and very pleasant to be around. They do not bitch or gossip about another’s life over their tea and do not snack on someone’s pains as an accompaniment to their drinks. I find them empathetic, humble and non judgemental.

6. They have a strong trust in a ‘ Higher Goodness’ whether they call it God or by any other name. Some do not call it any name.

They do  not believe in  any categorisation or  differentiation between human beings and go by a compass of ‘ goodness’.

7. They bring out the best in others in their  workplaces

The best bosses I have had, had the gift of bringing out the best in their team members. The best leaders that I have seen, were not quick to find fault but always ready to counsel and guide when needed. Above all, they practised what they preached.

They led from the front and never trained their authoritarian power guns on their team members to cow them down or degrade them. It is only when one encounters different leadership styles that one recognises the blessing of having had such mentorship early on, to set a benchmark by.

8. They never compromise on their dignity or self respect. They  also actively try to avoid harming anyone to the extend they can.

They walk a fine balance between respecting themselves and others. But the most inspiring people I knew never tolerated abuse from anyone. They also never went out of their way to retaliate or harm anyone to showcase their stance.

9. They are genuine to the core

Some of the most inspiring people I know are ordinary people who  are genuine to their core. They are not hypocritical and you do not have to watch your back with them. They will not tell you something and mean something else. They are refreshingly honest with themselves and others. I do not mean they are paragons of  virtue, but they are simply themselves without being apologetic about it.

10. They believe that they are stronger than the circumstances that they face currently and are always hopeful about the next cross roads.

The ultimate humility! They know and believe that they have their own sacred space on this earth and no one has the right to take that away from them.

This I would say is a greatly life affirming belief and gives courage to handle many unfortunate events involving people and circumstances beyond our control. The ditto they follow is that ‘ This too shall pass’, and that the journey must go on…

**

17. Kishkindha Kanda…Hoyi Achal Jimi Jiv Hari Paayi

hanumanji

Chhudra nadim bhari chali torayi/Jas dhorehu dhan khal itarayi//

Bhumi parat bha dhabur paani/ Janu jeevahi maya lapataani//

The small streams are destroying the shores as they make their way forward, similar to wicked men losing their sense of decency on acquiring even small amounts of wealth (they become arrogant with power).On falling on the earth, the  rain water has become muddy; like a pure soul getting trapped in illusion or Maya!

*

Samiti samiti jal bharahi talaava/ Jimi sadgun sajjan pahim aava//

Sarita jal jalnidhi mahu jaayi/ Hoyi achal jimi jiv Hari paayi//

The water is accumulating in ponds, like spiritual qualities, one by one, become part of a good man. The water from the rivers merges with the ocean and becomes finally serene and still; like the soul on attaining SreeHari, gets freed  from the birth and death cycles and achieves stillness.

*

Doha:

Harit bhumi trin sankul samucchi parahim nahi pandh/

Jimi pakhand baad tem gupt hohim satgrandh//

The earth has become covered with grass and has turned green all over, and the pathways have disappeared.  It is similar to a hedonistic approach taking over, and the teachings of the spiritual books becoming ignored or sidelined.

*

Dadur dhuni chahu disa suhayi/ Bed padahi janu battu samudayi//

Nav pallav bhaye bitap aneka/ Sadhak man jas mile bibeka//

The croaks of frogs resound from all four sides in tandem, as rhythmic as a group of  young initiates reciting the Vedas

The trees are looking splendid with new, green leaves; like a devotee’s mind becomes resplendent on acquiring true wisdom

*

Ark jawas paat binu bhayavu/ Jas suraj khal udyam gayavu//

Khojat katahu milayi nahi dhuri/ Karayi krodh jimi dharmahi doori//

The Madar and Jawasa trees have shed their leaves, like the wiles of the wicked cannot continue under a good king’s reign. One cannot discover dust even on searching; it is akin to Dharma getting driven away when anger takes over the mind

*

Sasi sampan soh mahi kaisi/ Upkari kai sampati jaisi//

Nisi tam ghan khagoth biraja/ Janu dambhinh kar mila samaja//

The earth is luxuriant with harvest crops, radiant like a good man’s prosperity. The fireflies group together in the heavy darkness of the night, similar to boastful coxcombs having a meeting.

*

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16. Kishkindha Kanda…Khal Kai Preeti Jadha Dhir Naahim

Ramji

Sundar ban kusumit ati sobha/Gunjat madhup nikar madhu lobha//

Kand mool bhal patra suhaye/ Bhaye bahut jab te Prabhu aaye//

The luxuriant forest on the mountain was full of flowers and resplendence. In the hunger for honey, groups of bees were buzzing around the vicinity. Ever since the Lord arrived, there was a great abundance in  herbs, fruits, leaves and roots in the forest.

*

Dekhi manohar sail anoopa/Rahe tah anuj sahit surbhupa//

Madhukar khag mrig tanu dhari deva/Karahim siddhi muni Prabhu kai seva//

Charmed by the beautiful and unique mountain, the Lord along with his younger brother started dwelling there. The Gods, Siddhass and sages took the forms of honey bees, birds and animals in order to serve Lord Sreeram.

*

Mangal roop bhayavu ban tab te/Keenh niwas ramapati jab te//

Phatik sila ati subra suhayi/ Sukh aaseen taham dwai bhayi//

When the Lord  of Lakshmi started dwelling there, the forest became a glorious place. There was a brilliant, exquisite crystal rock of extreme beauty; the brothers could be seen seated on it.

*

Kahat anuj san kadha aneka/ Bhagati birati nripaneeti bibeka//

Barsha kaal megh nabh chhaye/ Garjat laagat param suhaye//

Sree Ramji used to narrate lots of stories to his brother- about devotion, detachment, art of ruling and knowledge. The  blue black clouds spread across the sky in the rainy season looked enchanting, as thunder roared.

*

Doha:

Lacchiman dekhu mor gan naachat baarid pekhi/

Grihi biratirat harash jas Bishnubhagat kahu dekhi//

The Lord said: Look Laxman, at the muster of peacocks! They are dancing in delight on seeing the rain clouds. It is like a householder, who is fascinated by the idea of detachment (aka vairagya), and getting to see a Vishnu bhakt!

*

Ghan ghamand nabh garjat ghora/ Priya heen darpat mann mora//

Damini damak rah na ghan maahim/ Khal kai preeti jadha dhir naahim//

In the sky the thunder is growling mightily, and my mind is at a loss without my beloved Sita. The lightning flash does not stay forever in the clouds, it is similar to the unsteady benevolence of a wicked man.

*

Barashahim jalad bhumi niarayem/ Jadha navahim budh bidha paayem//

Boond aghat sahahim giri kaise/ Khal ke bachan sant sah jaise//

The clouds are descending  near  the earth before turning into downpour, like a scholar becoming more and more humble with his learning. The mountain is enduring the impact of the furiously falling rain drops, like the sages endure the harsh words of the wicked.