Task Underway…As He Said!

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Hanuman- the One who has conquered ego, the One with a broken chin…Hanu/ Man have been interpreted in many ways. (Based on stories of Hanumanji being hit by Indira’s Vajrayudha in his childhood, based on Hanumanji conquering ego)

He is the epitome of humility who addresses Sursa as Mother, and promises that he will return to be her food after he makes the trip to Lanka to fulfill Sriramji’s task.

The book getting readyūüėä

Editing, tweaking, adjusting sentences, formatting … The task is on, as He said. We will return after fulfilling it.

 

The Lord Loves Us Fools

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Some books create themselves. One just acts as a medium. It happened with Sundar Kanda. My publisher sent me a beautiful draft of the book today. It is an English interpretation of Tulsidasji’s Sundar Kanda.

I was trying to understand the beautiful lines of  Sundar Kanda- a much loved canto in Sree Ramcharit Manas of Goswami Tulsidasji. Every one of my colleagues seemed to know it by heart. My friend, a great Hanuman bhakt, typically started all her training sessions with Hanuman Chalisa- a forty line devotional eulogy by Tuslidasji . And one day, another friend told me that he found it difficult to understand the various nuances of Sundar Kanda, when his aged mother recited it during pujas.

I had no difficulties with the stories of Ramayana. I had grown up with them. The only question was, whether SreeRamcharit Manas would be accessible to my understanding. The Lord, I believe, has a great liking for fools like me. We rush in where angels fear to tread.

I remembered, a vernacular line on Krishna’s preference, often quoted by mother : Melpathoorinte vibhaktiye kaliha, Poonthanathin bhaktiyanennikishtam!( I prefer Poonthanam’s bhakti to Melpathoor’s vibhakti).¬†

The story is about Melpathoor Bhattathiry, who wrote the sanskrit classic Narayaneeyam during his prayer-penance for curing his rheumatism. He was staying at Guruvayoor temple in Kerala, acclaimed as the Mathura of the South. He was cured of his disease and praised by all for his exemplary mastery of the language.

Poonthanam Namboodiri, was a poor Krishna Bhakt, who wrote a vernacular paean to Lord Krishna called, ‘Jnanapana.’ ¬† So Poonthanam decided to get his text corrected by a scholar. He respectfully approached the learned Melpathoor. The sanskrit scholar condescended to speak to the poor amateur writer of vernacular. But there he stopped. He sniffed that he did not have the time to waste on vernacular writings. ¬†Poor Poonthanam was heart broken at the contemptuous treatment of his labour of love.

That night, Melpathoor’s rheumatism returned with a vengeance. As he groaned in desperate pain, a laughing Krishna, cute and sweet in his Bal avatar, appeared in his dream and told him amidst much home truths : Melpathoorinte vibkatiye kaliha Poonthanathin bhaktiyanennikishtam. ‘Hey, Melpathoor- compared to your Sanskritic grammar and vibhakti pratyayam, I prefer Poonthanam’s devotion to me.’

( Note : I have often wondered whether this anecdote was the satirical rebuttal of the vernacular writer towards their condescending brethren who wrote in upper-class Sanskrit language! While there were poets who wrote in pure Sanskrit, taking pains with the severe rules of structure and syntax, they were also those who Рlike stringing  beads of mani and pravala in a string-combined words of malayalam and sanskrit like pearls and rubies, to create a mixed language of creation. Then there were those like Poonthanam who wrote in the simplest of Malayalam language.)

Melpathoor sent a word to Poonthanam (He could not move!) and apologised profusely. He corrected the draft and Poonthanam was gratified. Melpathoor’s rheumatism disappeared as subtly as it came-having laughed at the human pettiness of considering one language superior to another.

Anyway, fools like me gain confidence due to such anecdotes. Hanumanji was going to help me in this journey across the word-sea. He knew what a dunce I was when it came to Hindi grammar. How I mix up my ka and ki in every sentence.I guess, Hanumanji, that great bhakt of Sree Ramji- Lord Narayana himself- took pity on me. In fifty days, he helped me sail across Sundar Kanda and blessed me with a sudden official tour to Chitrakoot, where Tulsidasji wrote his master piece.

My relation with God is very personal. He is friend and philosopher and possesses an ¬†irrepressible sense of humour. He does not scare me. He is my best friend. Also, I prefer that He remains He. Though I love Him being Her too. Somehow, growing up with a mother who would say, ‘ My Krishna’ while she bowed before Devi herself, set the basic infrastructure of my devotional growth. It is very fluid, my family’s version of bhakti. You just call. He answers.

I do not have a dedication page for this book. But in my heart, it is for that divinity who exists beyond any narrow human perspective of language or culture, colour or religon, creed or country. The One who just loves us.

Blessed Be! Jai Hanuman Ji!

***

Poems of Compassion : Shri. Veeran Kutty (Translation From Malayalam)

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1. The Heaviness of the Rain

If someone were to dislodge

A pot full of water over your

Head

All at once,

Your scalp will sting

Your breath will struggle

The song in your throat-

Will break, slide

And slip inexorably down.

Someone is emptying

The pot of the sky.

Splayed into multiples

Trickling  into  cloth-wicks

It gently

Touches us.

The moist threads

Absorb

All the heat

Burdening  us.

Someone

Picks up  our shocking failures,

Split them into  thin

Hair-like strands,

Places those

Feather-like

On our heads.

Someone

Who has rain

Within Him.

**

2.  The House of The Dead

No house in this world

Can equal the Taj Mahal.

Yet

There comes a time

Glorious:

When every house

Turns into a Taj.

When someone

Lost in an inexplicable

Helplessness,

Or otherwise,

Mutters to himself

That his home

Is like a tomb.

**

3. House

I know now

That there is no room for me

In this house.

What is a room?

Just a  stifling thought,

Of those within.

Something which suffocates

As you contemplate.

It is a mere possibility-

Which occurs when there is a wall.

How can you conclude

That the walls belong to the

House?

They belong to the great

Outdoors.

If the walls are not of the house,

There is no room.

Hence, no house either.

Look at the outdoors-

That is my room, house.

I am going home,

Do not call me back.

**

Poems of Insight: Shri. Veeran Kutty (Translation From Malayalam)

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1.

When those in love

Seperate,

Nothing really happens

To them.

Except

Two small deaths.

2.

How vast the sky

Of the bird

Not bothered about

When it will die!

3.

Lady who cannot see,

Who can call you blind?

Who has ever measured

The boundaries of your sight?

My colours-

Are seven in all.

How many for you?

My paths-

When hours four go past,

Hit a door.

You walk on still.

When it is named ‘bird’

When it is named ‘tree’

Whn you hear ‘depth’

When you hear ‘height’

You are seeing certain things

Unimaginable

To others.

You might be imagining

A dead man

As one walking by.

Lady who cannot see,

With your single glance

You have clothed

The nakedness of the whole world.

Those who meditate

Learn from those who cannot see:

This language

Of seeing God

With eyes shut.

Dear God!

I am the real blind one.

Why did you reveal my blindness

By giving me sight?

**

Amritasya Narmada: Divine Nectar For The Soul

When this beautiful book was given to me, I was told, “You will enjoy the beauty of Amritlal Vegad’s writing and his lovely sketches. Try if you can translate this one.”

Hindi and I, are like ahem, not so friendly neighbours. We exist side by side, because there is no other alternative for either of us.

For instance, Mother Hindi ¬†shudders with hurt sensitivity when I say that ‘motorbike aaya.’ My ¬†indignant ¬†ten year old tells me, ‘Amma ¬†please do not speak such wrong Hindi- motorbike is a lady! Motorbike aayi.’

I am another bewildered Mother. I see a scooter and happily recalling my lessons, say, ‘Scooter aayi!’ When I look around for approval, my little one frowns formidably, as if I were a lost cause! ‘ Oho, Ma! Scooter is a male! Scooter aaya!Don’t you ever get it?’

Jeez! I will never get it, sorry! There is no human logic behind that sort of stuff! Then I realise that many times, my staff ¬†members are struggling to contain their smiles, because I mess up the genders of common nouns. Why the heck do the non living things have ¬†a gender at all, eh? ¬†And who decides? Well, well…

*

So, back to Vegadji. Amritlal Vegad, is a much acclaimed writer,a gifted and awarded artist and an environmental activist.He made travel writing, a supreme art form in  Hindi and Gujarati literature.

Narmada, as per Hindu lores, is the only divine river whose parikrama is spiritually deemed precious to Hindus: walking along her shores from origin  at Amarkantak, to the final merger with the Arabian Sea. She is called Narmada- the Giver of Joy, Reva- the One who Leaps, and is the only river in North India that flows west, flowing majestically between the Vindhya and Satpura ranges. She is one of the seven rivers praised in our daily prayers:

Gange Cha Yamune Chaiva

Godavary, Saraswathy

Narmada Sindhu Kavery,

Jalesmin Sannidham Kuru

The journey, as attempted by many  sadhus, walking barefoot through the shores, by seeking bhiksha or alms from the places they reach, is supposed to take 3 years, 3 months and 13 days. The parikammavasi, has to cover 2624 kilometres, covering both shores of this revered river.

Amritlal Vegad covered the southern shore, walking 1800 kilometres in the period of 1977-1988.

He wrote ‘ Saundarya Ki Nadi Narmada’-Narmada: The River of Beauty, based on his travels. ¬†His wit, sharp observations, benign philosophy, the strange personalities he met, the description of the mighty river and her flow- are inimitable and considered supreme literature. His beautiful sketches of the various travellers and villagers, especially the Bhils ¬†and Gonds who habitate the Dandakaranya regions of the river, are legendary.

In the period of 1996-1999, Vegadji travelled by foot again, through the  northern shores of Narmada. On 3rd October 1997, he turned 70. In twenty days he covered 230 kilometres by foot- through jungles, weathering rain and wind, sun and tough soil, meeting many pilgrims, in the never ending adventure of a spiritual sojourn.

In his own words in ‘ Amritasya Narmada'( Narmada, the Divine Nectar), ‘Main abhi jeern-sheern nahin hua/ Adhva, jeern¬†to ho gaya hun, par sheern nahi¬†hua/ Chust bhale hi na raha, par durust to¬†hu!’

I am yet to turn decrepit! Or in other words, I am weather beaten, still not yet weak! I might not be smart, yet I am decently able bodied!

*

I am an eccentric reader- I start from the comments section sometimes. I first read Vegadji’s wife’s article: My Husband (Mere Pati), and tried to understand the man himself. I read about the thrill of readers as expressed in their letters to the editor, as they explored his travelogues often serialised in Dharmayug, in Sakshatkar, in Vagarth- all literary magazines of great repute!

‘ Aapke¬†lekh kya hai, mano sanskriti ke virat bhitti chitra¬†hai’, writes a reader from Hapud.

‘ What can I say of your writing- they are like the majestic cave paintings of our culture!’

(We have to remember that the Bhimbetka cave paintings, dating to more than 20,000 years ago, were discovered on the shores of Narmada. )

‘Viswa prasiddh Nobel puraskar vijeyta Russi upanyaskar Mikhail Sholokov Ki anthyatam kriti ‘Dhire¬†Baho¬†Don’ ki yaad ¬†dila ¬†di…’ writes some other erudite reader.

‘ Your writing reminded me of the ¬†world famous, Nobel prize winning Russian novelist Mikhail Sholokov’s book: And ¬†Quiet Flows The Don!’

***

I sit amazed, humbled, and totally awed by the book in my hand. I turn the pages reverentially. This is like the pure water of Narmada herself. I ask my little daughter to give me her pencil; there are so many words that I do not comprehend. I need to research their meanings. Yet, it is a joy to read. His sense of humour, his perfect understanding of the human destiny amidst the majestic flow of the river, his quirky turn of phrase – are simply amazing.

I open a random chapter: ‘ Maunimata ke ashram se Karaundi¬†(From MauniMata’s hermitage to Karaundi), and start reading…

Then, I thank God that Hindi and I are not adversarial neighbours. I am genuinely getting to like her a lot!

***

Hanuman Chalisa (Translation Into English)

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Sri Hanuman Chalisa: Goswami Tulsi Dasji

*

Shri Guru Charan Saroj Raj, Nij Manu Mukur Sudhary/

Barnau Raghuvar Vimal Jesu, Jo Dayaku Bhal Chary//

Buddhiheen Tanu Jaanike, Sumirau Pavan Kumar/

Bal Buddhi Vidya Dehu Mohi, Harhu Kalesh Vikar//

The dust on the lotus feet of my Guru, I apply on my mind’s mirror for betterment( thus enabling me)

To praise SreeRam the Pure, which brings in the four fruits of life( Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha)

Knowing that my body is without true intelligence, I remember the Son of the Wind

Please bestow on me – strength, intelligence, knowledge; remove all afflictions of emotions

*

1.

Jai Hanuman Gyan Gun Sagar/

Jai Kapees Tihu Lok Ujagar//

Victory to Hanuman, the ocean of wisdom and supreme qualities!

Victory to the Leader of Vanaras, who brightens the three worlds!

2.

Ramdoot Atulit Baldhama/

Anjani Putra Pavansut Nama//

The Messenger of Lord Ram,  the incomparable epitome of strength!

The son of Anjana, known as the child of Wind!

3.

Mahavir Vikram Bajrangi/

Kumati Nivar Sumati Ke Sangi//

The great warrior, full of valour, Bajrangi!

Removes wrong ways( of the intelligence), always accompanies the true ways( the good path)

4.

Kanchan Varan Biraj Suvesa/

Kanan Kundal Kunchit Kesa//

Golden hued, brilliantly dressed!

With earrings, and curly hair!

5.

Haath Bajra Au Dhwaja Birajai/

Kandhe Mooj Janeyu Sajai//

In His hands- his vajra like mace, and a flag radiant

Across his shoulder,  he wears the  sacred thread!

6.

Shankar Suvan Kesari Nandan/

Tej Pratap Maha Jag Vandan//

From the  illustrious line of Shankar, the son of Kesari

Greatly radiant, worshipped by the whole world!

7.

Vidyavan Guni Ati Chatur/

Ram Kaaj Karibe Ko Atur//

Scholar extraordinary, full of finest qualities, extremely intelligent

Always eager to carry out the tasks assigned by SreeRamji!

8.

Prabhu Charitra Sunibe Ko Rasiya/

Ram Lakhan Sita Mann Basiya//

Very ardent fan of the stories of Lord Ram

Residing verily in the hearts of Ram, Lakshman and Sita!

9.

Sukshma Roop Dhari Siyahim Dikhava/

Vikat Roop Dhari Lank Jarava//

Showing up in a minuscule form before Janaki

Assuming a gigantic form to burn down Lanka!

10.

Bhim Roop Dhari Asur Samhare/

Ramchandra Ke Kaaj Samvare//

In enormous form, you killed off the Rakshasas

And accomplished the tasks given by  Sree Ramji!

11.

Layi Sanjeevani Lakhan Jiyaye/

Shri Raghubeer Harashy Ur Laye//

Bringing Sanjeevani herb, you gave new life to Lakshman

In utter joy, SreeRamji hugged you close to his heart!

12.

Raghupathy Keenhi Bahut Badayi/

Tum Mam Priya Bharat Sam Bhayi//

Raghupathy praised you so very much-

He said,’ You are a brother to me, like my beloved Bharat!’

13.

Sahas Badan Tumharo Jas Gaavai/

As Kahi Sreepathi Kand Lagavai//

May a thousand tongues praise your glories,

Saying thus, the Lord( husband of Lakshmi, avatar of Vishnu, SreeRam), embraced you close!

14.

Sanakadik Brahmadi Muneesa/

Narad Sarad Sahit Aheesa//

Sages like Sanaka, Brahma himself

Narad, Sarada( Saraswati), Aheesa( sing your praises!)

15.

Yam Kuber Digpal Jaham Te/

Kavi Kobid Kahi Sake Kaham Te//

Yama( Lord of Death), Kuber( Lord of Wealth), all the eight keepers of the Directions ( Ashtadigpal)

( When all of them  are singing  your praises-)

How can a  ( mere ) poet, ever explain your glories in a befitting manner?

16.

Tum Upkar Sugreevahim Keenha/

Ram Milaay Rajpad Deenha//

You were so benevolent towards Sugreev-

Made him meet SreeRam, gave him his kingdom!

17.

Tumharo Mantra Vibheeshan Maana/

Lankeshwar Bhaye Sab Jag Jaana//

Vibheeshan listened to your counsel

He became the Lord of Lanka,  and acclaimed in the whole world!

18.

Jugg Sahasra Yojan Par Bhanu/

Leelyo Taahi Madhur Bhal Janu//

(Aeons) Innumerable , thousands of yojanas away was the Sun

In your childish play, you mistook it as a sweet fruit!

19.

Prabhu Mudrika Meli Mukh Mahim/

Jaladhi Laanghi Gaye Achraj Nahim//

Keeping the Lord’s Signet Ring in your mouth

You jumped across the ocean- no wonder!

20.

Durgam Kaaj Jagat Ke Jete/

Sugam Anugrah Tumhare Tete//

Any impossible task, can be accomplished with Your Grace!

You bestow  great ease and blessings!

21.

Ram Duware Tum Rakhware

Hot Na Aagya Binu Paisare//

At the Door of SreeRam, You stand as sentry!

Without your permission, none can enter the Lord’s abode!

22.

Sab Sukh Lahai Tumhari Sarna/

Tum Rakshak Kahu Ko Darna//

Your refuge means, all joys are given to the seeker

When you are the protector, what is there to fear?

23.

Aapan Tej Samharo Aapai/

Teenom Lok Haak Tem Kaapai//

Only you can contain( restrain)  your glorious powers

The three worlds stand petrified at your majesty!

24.

Bhoot Pisach Nikat Nahim Aavai/

Mahabir Jab Naam Sunavai//

The ghosts, evil spirits- will never come near

When they hear the Name of The Great Warrior( Hanuman)

25.

Nasai Rog Harai Sab Peera/

Japat Nirantar Hanumat Beera//

All diseases are vanquished, all afflictions removed

When one recites  regularly the name of Hanuman!

26.

Sankat Te Hanuman Chudavai/

Mann Kram, Vachan, Dhyan Jo Lavai//

Hanuman will release you from all agonies

If  your mind, actions and words are in  consonance (with-)

27.

Sab Par Ram Tapasvi Raja/

Tin Ke Kaaj Sakal Tum Saja//

(In consonance with)The Lord of Renunciation- SreeRam,

(If so)All your desires, even the smallest, will be brought to fruition!

28.

Aur Manoradh Jo Koyi Lavai/

Soyi Amit Jeevan Bhal Paavai//

Any of your wishes brought to Hanuman’s threshold

Will be blessed with the true fruits of life!

29.

Charom Jug Partap Tumhara/

Hai Parsiddhi Jagat Ujiyara//

Your glory is spread across the Four Yugas(Sat, Dwapara, Treta,Kali)

The worlds are illuminated by your fame!

30.

Sadhu Sant Ke Tumh Rakhware/

Asur Nikandan Ram Dulare//

You are the protector of sages and saints

The one who kills Asuras, beloved of SreeRam!

31.

Asht Siddhi Nau Nidhi Ke Data/

As Var Deen Janaki Mata//

You endow the seeker with eight siddhis and the nine treasures

That was the boon given to you by Mother Sita!

32.

Ram Rasayan Tumhare Pasa/

Sada Raho Raghupathy Ke Dasa//

 

The essence of devotion to SreeRam is known to you,

May you remain forever devoted to Raghunathji!

33.

Tumhare Bhajan Ram Ko Paavai/

Janam Janam Ke Dukh Bisravai//

Meditating on you, will help the devotee to attain SreeRam himself

The pains of rebirths can thus be stopped!

34.

Anth Kaal Raghuvar Pur Jaayi/

Jaham Janma Hari Bhakt Kahayi//

One can thus enter the world of Lord Ram after  death

Become a Hari Bhakt for eternity( Be born as a devotee of Hari)

35.

Aur Devata Chitt Na Dharayi/

Hanumat Seyi Sarv Sukh Karayi//

There is no need to propitiate other Gods

You can attain all wishes by praying to Hanuman alone!

36.

Sankat Katai Mitai Sab Peera/

Jo Sumirai Hanumat Balbeera//

All unhappiness get removed, all agonies are assuaged

For the one who meditates on the valiant Hanuman!

37.

Jai Jai Jai Hanuman Gosayi/

Kripa Karahu Gurudev Ki Nayi//

May there be victory to the One who has conquered all senses!

Have compassion on us, like a Master (Guru)

38.

Jo Sat Baar Pad Kar Koyi/

Chootahim Bandi Maha Sukh Hoyi//

The one who recites this prayer a hundred times

Shall be freed of materialistic ties of the world- and shall attain  great joy

39.

Jo Yeh Padai Hanuman Chalisa/

Hoyi Siddhi Sakhi Gaurisa//

The one who reads the Hanuman Chalisa

Will be blessed,   This truth being spoken in front of Lord Shiv Himself!

40.

Tulsi Das Sara Hari Chera/

Keejai Nadh Hriday Mah Dera//

Tulsi Das is the devoted servant of Hari

Please, My Lord, Come and reside in my heart forever!

Doha:

Pavantanay Sankat Haran Mangal Moorati Roop/

Ram Lakhan Sita Sahit, Hriday Basahu Sur Bhoop//

Son of Vayu, remover of agonies, the One with the

auspicious form-

Along with Ram, Lakshman and Sita, come and reside in my heart in all your glory!

*

I heard the Hanuman Chalisa for the first time after I joined my civil services work in Uttar Pradesh.

The simple Awadhi, the rhyming phrases, the easy to understand nuances- all make it a great favourite among the ordinary devotees of this land.

And truly can I vouch for the lines:

Bhoot Pisach Nikat Nahi Aavai

Mahabir Jab Naam Sunavai//

*

In Mathura, in the main temple, is a statue of Hanuman opposite SreeRamji- slightly bent, eyes flowing with tears of devotion! One gets electrified by the sight of Hanumanji!

Jai Hanuman!

Inspirations…

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When I was twelve, my mother gave me a small book- it was so small as to be kept within one’s palm. It contained the inspirational quotes of Swami Vivekananda.

For me, it was wondrous: this handsome sage telling that it was better to build a pair of strong shoes as a humble mochi, than to spout nonsense as a professor who has long stopped learning! ¬†He said that the best way to forget one’s own sorrows was to reach out to remove those of another. He reiterated that infinite energy flowed through one, as one tried to make a difference by service- it was a universal law of the spirit.

I spent many happy hours debating on his quotations with my best friend, my namesake. In fact during a school tour, our Physics teacher was perplexed to see us analysing ‘why playing football was better to build nerves of steel than by rot learning of religious studies.’An age of innocence- that is all I can reflect about it right now.

Why am I referring to that book again?If anyone were to ask me to name a book that has transformed my life- that little dog eared copy of Vivekananda’s quotes, published by Ramakrishna Ashram, would be it! So many times, when I had felt like giving up, lying down and just let endless sleep wash over all the travails, it has been his vibrant quotations that gave me new energy and focus.

Why do we need inspiring people? Why do we need to read motivational quotations? Because, not every day is sunny and shining with possibilities. More often than not, it is a dreary, dark wintry day of hopelessness. The dark news from around the world make you wish to stop reading totally. Yet, life is meaningless without action.

And then he says from beyond: Wake up, and stop not until the goal is reached. You set a new target and you toil on- knowing that the efforts will not be in vain. The universal law springs into action and you find yourself carried by a buoyant spirit, and sunshine trickles right back in!

May every parent put a book of motivational quotations into her child’s hands. Three decades down the lane, the memory of one would make some tired traveller take another step down the road of life-with grit and determination.

*