Letting Go

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And then, the  lesson:

Letting go.

Bemused, I observe

How the stone of Destiny falls-

Unhampered by my not letting go.

Free fall.

Detachment.

Wind rustling sideways,

Whoosh of life whizzing past,

The stone drops.

And I wonder,

Why did it take me so long

To learn this chapter?

The Master laughs from somewhere:

Next lesson coming tomorrow,

But before you enter the classroom,

I will verify-

Have you let go?

Else,

It is back to teaching you

The lessons past,

Still not mastered.

I sigh:

My Lord, four decades of that same lesson-

Perhaps I am a slow learner.

But I will try

To let go, let go, let go.

***

Pondering on * Nishkama Karma. Reflecting on Hanumanji and the lesson of absolutely letting go.

 

 

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Searching For A Shore: Tat Ki Khoj By HariShankar Parsayi

Tat Ki Khoj-(Searching For A Shore) is a slim novel by Hindi’s renowned writer and satirist Harishankar Parsayi. Written originally in 1998, it has been reprinted many times.  The theme it explores, of a woman’s place in society, is as relevant today as it was in 1998.

Sheela is a brilliant, motherless college student. Her poor, honest government pensioner father is distraught at his lack of wealth which makes it impossible for him to give dowry for his daughter’s wedding- which consequently becomes an unfulfilled dream. Meanwhile a supposedly progressive young lecturer called Mahendranath makes his interest known to Sheela. But a strange quirk of fate exposes his inherent cowardice before a hypocritical society- the one which considers a woman’s virtue to be a  fragile glass plate that can shatter at the mere presence of a man. Shocked by the turn of events, Sheela finds  that her god has clay feet.

The latter half of the story is  about the temporary  emotional shelter the innocent girl obtains from her friend Vimala and her brother Manoharlal. The arrows of prejudice against an orphan girl whose chastity has once been questioned, prove too bitter  a venom for the rest of  Manohar’s family. Finally, Sheela leaves in search of a dignified life- where she wants to be her own person, without being dependent on any other.

The story line by itself is simple: but the  sly sentences that the satirist par excellence weaves in his narrative can excoriate the false ego and hypocrisy of every one of us.

What is the status of a ‘tainted woman?’ Even if she is totally innocent, why do we revictimise a victim? Why is it always her fault? How come the man gets away scot free? Is wealth the only solution  for removing a woman’s agonies- by purchasing  a husband, by buying the comforts of a respectable life, by buying silence from a rabid society?  Why is the girl objectified and paraded before prospective grooms who get to balance her on the scales of their greed? Why do values, which people write about and shout about heroically, become very hard to practise when the time demands it? When a woman decides not to commit suicide  in utter desperation and instead chooses to live with dignity, should we not be applauding her?

Let me translate a few striking observations of Parsayiji.

“Ve sab log haath mein taraju liye the, jiske ek palve par bete ko rakhe the/ Mucche, mere samast vidya,buddhi aur saundarya ke saath doosre palve par rakhkar dekhte,to har baar mera hi palva halka pathe/”

All those people had in their hands a balance: on one of the scales they would  have their son seated  and on the other- me with with all my education, intelligence and beauty. However, every time my scale would be the  one lighter in weight.

“Main jaanti thi Ki yeh photo maal Ke namune Ki tarah kisi vyapari Ke paas beji javegy/parantu doosry or se kabhi chitra nahi aaya, kyonki kharidar hi maal Ki parakh karta hain; maal kharidgar ko nahin dekhta/streepurushon ke sambadom mein yehi darsan sab jagah charitarth hota hai”

I knew that this photograph ( of mine) would be sent to some buyer like the sample of a good on sale.But never did any photograph come from the boy’s side- after all it is always the buyer who gets to see the good, not the other way round. In every place, this view about male and female relationships remains in vogue.

“Kabhi kabhi prem ki apeksha khrina ka sambandh adhik majboot hota hai…lagta hain, khrina aur prem mein koyi visesh andar nahin hai”

Sometimes, compared to relationships based on love, those based on hatred seemed stronger…I feel that there is not much difference between hatred and love…

“Kyonki purush ko yeh sochkar bada garv hota hai ki naari ne uske prem mein atmahatya kar li…”

Because a man feels great pride in the fact that a woman committed suicide because of her love for him….

***

I can only shake my head in wonder at this iconoclastic writer’s penetrating observations and  their scorching truth.

Maybe I will conclude by translating the author’s foreword for the latest edition.

Foreword: By Harishankar Parsayi

I still find it hard to understand about how I ended up writing ‘Tat Ki Khoj’, all those years before. This is a story which can be called a novella. My poet pal had narrated the original story to me. He was extremely emotional. My age was also that of being drenched in emotions. I was also a romantic. Logic was not my strength then. At that time I had been asked to contribute  something for the Deepawali special of ‘ Amrit Prabhat’. I was in a hurry. The incident that my friend had shared with me was still troubling my mind. My sensitivities were aligned to the girl in that story. I stayed up for two nights consecutively and finished writing this story.

After writing it, I felt regret. When it was published, I regretted more. Now that it is getting republished by Vani Prakashan, I am still regretting it. I can no longer face this creation of mine. One third of my creations are such that I find myself petrified on facing them. Anyway, I am giving the go ahead for the republication of ‘ Tat Ki Khoj.’

****

Oliver Twist, Fagin, And Others

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I was fortunate to attend a seminar on child friendly policing initiatives, with other stakeholders working on the issue.

The seminar started with a theatrical performance.The group of young boys who performed  a powerful play about caring for every child, were erstwhile juvenile delinquents who had been successfully rehabilitated.

They were orphans who had been forced into  petty crime for survival- lucky enough to have met good police officers, good NGOs, good human beings…The results were before us. One was the school topper, another the swimming champion, the next was going to give a TeD Talk! The play itself, all song and emotion- was a cry to help others like them out there; without prejudice.

I thought then of pampered children, over cosseted and over adored, brought up to believe that they were so entitled in life that the world existed to serve them. We read of them often enough in newspapers- for the wrong reasons.

Both are children- the first  lot  who are denied chances totally- pushed into labour and crime for survival,  and lucky if there is an escape route like the young performers; the second lot that I see daily, overwhelmed with life’s best opportunities yet brought up to seek only self centred pleasures.

Of course, the system perpetuates itself -invariably leading to the creation of more children of the first lot. The cycle continues, smirking malignantly.

**

I heard about a young child, porn addict at the age of twelve, his parents terrified of him. He has four servants at his service and his poor mother is terrorised by him .Whatever they are trying to do to help him, is only serving to keep his devilish side happy. He throws tantrums if anyone touches his iPad.He hits people.He gets away with it all.

So early in life, he has decided that he is  very much entitled to be bad. Bad means, all perversions and pleasures are obtained! Not bad, eh?

Furious, I asked the acquaintance, of why the parents had not sought professional help and got rid of the instruments of addiction. Apparently, they were scared .

Scared of being found out? Scared that in the eyes of society, they have a child who requires to be corrected with discipline? Scared of their own child? So scared that they were buying silence by overindulging a budding criminal?

**

“Certain situations are like facing snakes unexpectedly,” said the speaker, “snakes are scary because humankind has not mastered the art of taming them.” As we gazed with wonderment, he continued, “A dog, even if potentially more dangerous, we are not afraid of, because we have a history of taming their kind.”

“If the situation triggers an inherent repulsion-unless we learn to think beyond the obvious reactions, we will not be able to adopt new approaches. Fear will paralyse us- prevent us from taking any step for bettering the existing circumstances.”

It made sense, of course. I thought of the kind police officer, sensitive enough to trust, and see a potential school topper in the shivering child who stood in front of him.  He sees the innocent Oliver Twist, used by a ruthless Fagin.

The first words of kindness are uttered , paving way for  a change. The counsellor who guides, the NGO who helps, the school which enrolls him…the network of good acts to empower and help the child trust his own potential.

I wonder then on the cure for over indulgence. The loving nurture of budding criminals in many homes- over cosseted, over loved, over protected, allowed freely to be self indulgent, to be self centred, to seek riches and pleasures  and to broadcast it all- with exclusive focus!

We reap what we sow. The season for planting and pruning and watering and adding fertiliser is so short and precious. Done the right way, even the most dried up and deprived plants thrive to be fruitful. And if overdone, the most promising young plant will degrade, decay and stink fast. ‘Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.’

Charity, indeed, begins at home.

*

 

 

 

 

Pick Up A Book

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Why do we read? So many brilliant scholars have debated on that topic; from the time that humans started reading. In a couple of interesting articles in Arts and Letters Daily, the topic has been visited yet again.

To recognise oneself ( self understanding), pleasure, to be enchanted ( lost in an imaginary world) were a few reasons. There were articles on how the souls were no longer part of the reading experience since the minds were benumbed by cynical, reductionist critical reading !

(Wow! Now I understand why I had always hated those erudite essays that tore to bits a nice novel by linking it up with Derrida and Defoe and Confucius and Faust- all in four consecutive sentences.)

There were such interesting comments in the readers’ section of an article by Julian Barnes on how he has started liking E M Forster in his er, evening years! The article was witty, the readers were more so!

All of which led me to ponder on why I read…whatever it is that I manage to read…when I can do it.

1. It gives me immense joy

2. I forget my breathing problems in winter, when I have a book to bury that red nose into. Even the wheezing stops until I return to earth. Then it hits back with full vengeance, making me burrow back again!

3. It increases my self esteem that I know meanings of Bildungsroman ( he he!), exiguous, plangent and camply. (Yeah, it is not comply and Julian Barnes himself used it, so there! )

4. It is the best baby sitter around. If you want to watch an old sixty flick with hardly a groan emanating  from near vicinity, try giving a dog eared copy of ‘Upper Fourth At Malory Towers’ to a  little busybody!

I really do not care of what they say Blyton does to little children’s cerebrum and cerebellum along with their multi cultural sensitivities; I think she is great fun! Besides kids get to read words like pensive and candid, melancholy and malicious!

5. I remind myself of the vast universe of books unread in multiple languages;the thoughts, wisdom and laughter hidden from me . It is like getting a momentary glimpse of one’s utter ‘smallness’- so to say- of where one stands,in the vastness of the scheme of things.

Ozymandias comes to mind! That leads me to..

6. I feel great when I can relate or recollect a poem or a novel or a story and interconnect it with a picture or film or music or another book. Yay! Serious pleasure, totally self centred, by the way.

7. It improves my endurance capacity in the routine of daily living. To know that even when one is in a boring meeting or a crowded place, one can, forgive the analogy, like Hannibal Lecter, escape into the archives of memory and entertain oneself with some thing read in the past! Serious!

8. Knowing that in the most totalitarian of regimes, what they silenced first were reading and writing among women, I enjoy and toast the sheer power and freedom to enjoy the most fundamental of my human rights!

9. It teaches me, that there is a world beyond myself, my face, my body, my aspirations,  my wants, my dresses, my likes, my selfies. A lesson which helps me, whenever ‘I’ become too much for me.

10. The giddy  promise  I have made to myself that in case God asks me for an option for my after death assignment, I might get to work in his divine library. Even dusting around the Books would be so worth it! I might end up seeing Dahl!

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( The Twits: Roald Dahl)

Trin Saman Trailokahi Ganahim(46): They Consider The Three Worlds As Insignificant

 

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The Spy’s Story (Sundar Kanda Continued)

*

Doha:

Ki bhayi bhent ki phiri gaye shravan sujasu suni mor/

Kahasi na ripu dal tej bal bahut chakit chit chor//

Did you meet them(the mendicants)? Or did they return after hearing about my great fame?

Why don’t you tell me about the strength and prowess of the enemy’s army?Your mind seems to be intimidated!

*

Nadh kripa kari poochehu jaisem/manahu kaha krodh taji taisem//

Mila jaayi jab anuj tumhara/jatahim Ram tilak tehi sara//

(The messenger said-) Lord, with the same kindness with which you asked me questions, please give up your anger and bestowing patience, listen to me ( trust my words)

When your younger brother went to meet SreeRamji,  He anointed him as the King

*

Ravan doot hamahi suni kaana/kapinh baandhi deenhe dukh naana//

Shravan nasika kataim laage/Ram sapadh deenhem hum tyaage//

Hearing that I was Ravan’s messenger, the monkeys tied me up and tortured me a lot

But when I took the Name of SreeRamji, they let me go!

*

Poochihu Nadh Ram katkaayi /badan koti sat barni na jaayi//

Nana baran bhalu Kapi dhari/bikatanan bisaal bhaykari//

Lord, you asked me about SreeRamji’s army, it cannot be described even with one crore faces(tongues)

It is an army of innumerable bears and monkeys of different colours, their faces intimidating, with monstrous bodies and totally fearsome

*

Jehim pur dahevu hatevu sut tora/sakal kapeenh mah tehi balu dhora//

Amit naam bhat kadin karaala/Amit naag bal bipun bisaala//

The One who burnt the city and killed your son, his strength is so little compared to others!

They are of so many names, such mighty and terrible warriors!They have the strength of multiple elephants and are gigantic in size!

*

Doha:

Dwibidh Mayand Neel Nal Angad Gad Bikataasy/

Dadhimukhi,Kehari,Nisad,Sad,Jamavanth balraasy//

Dwividhi, Mayand, Neel, Nal, Angad, Gad, Vikatasya,

Dadhimukhi,Kesari, Nishad, Shad and Jambavan- they are all epitomes of might!

*

Ye kapi sab Sugreev samaana/inh sam kotinh ganai ko naana//

Ram kripa atulit bal tinhahim/trin samaan trailokahi ganahim//

These monkeys are equivalent to Sugreev in strength, and there are crores like these, who can count them all?

Due to SreeRamji’s blessings, they are unmatched in strength, and they consider the three worlds as mere speck of dust( they consider them insignificant)

*

As mai suna shravan Daskandhar/padum adarah juudhap bandar//

Nadh katak mah so kapi nahim/jo na tumhi jeetai rann mahim//

Hey Dasagreev! I have heard that eighteen ranks comprise  just of Generals of the monkey warriors!

Hey Lord! There is not a single monkey in there who cannot defeat your army in battle!( They will defeat yours in battle)

*

Param krodh meejahim sab hhad had/aayasu pai na dehim Raghunadha//

Soshahim sindhu sahit cchash byaala/poorahim na ta bhari kudhar bisaala//

The warriors are all flexing their muscles and hands, but SreeRamji has not given them the go ahead as yet

‘We will dry the ocean up along with its fishes and snakes, else we will part it  by filling it with huge mountains-

*

Mardi gardi milavahim Dasseesa/aiseyi bachan kahahim sab keesa//

Garjahim tarjahim sahaj asanka/manahu grasan chahat hahim Lanka//

And we will crush Ravan and mix him with the dust’, that is what all the monkeys are speaking,

They are fearless by nature, they are roaring and stamping their feet, as if they want to  crush Lanka

*

Doha:

Sahaj soor kapi bhalu sab puni sir par Prabhu Ram/

Ravan kal koti kahu jeeti sakahim sangraam//

All the monkey warriors are  naturally valorous , besides at their head ( as their leader) they have SreeRamji

Hey Ravan! In a war, they can defeat a crore of DeathGods( Kal)!

*

 

Jadapi Sakha Tav Iccha Nahim(42): Although, My Friend, You Have No Desire

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SreeRamji and Vibheeshan ( Sundar Kanda continued)

*

Sagun upasak parhit nirat neeti drid nem/

Te nar praan saman jinh kem dwij pad prem//

Those who are devotees of  the Lord ( sakar roopi) full of good qualities, who  constantly work for the welfare of others, firm in FairPlay and justice

Who have love for good souls, those people are dear to me like lifebreath

*

Sunu Lankes sakal gun torem/tatem tumh atisay priy morem//

Ram bachan suni banar joodha/sakal kahahim Jai kripa baroodha//

Hey Lord of Lanka! Listen, you have all the above attributes in you, and hence you are very dear to me

Hearing SreeRamji’s words the monkey army chanted joyously- May the Lord of Compassion be Victorious

*

Sunat Bibheeshanu Prabhu ke baani/nahim aghath shravanamrit jaani//

Pad ambuj gahi barahim baara/hridayam samat na premu apaara//

Hearing the Lord’s words that showered like nectar in his ears, Vibheeshan was overwhelmed,

He fell at the lotus feet of the Lord again and again, his heart was  bubbling over with great love

*

Sunahu Dev charachar swami/pranatpal ur andarjaamy//

Ur kacchu pradham baasana rahi/Prabhu pad preethi sarit so bahi//

(Vibheeshan Ji said) Hey Lord! Master of the Universe!Hey Protector of the refugees!The omniscient one who knows what transpires within everyone’s hearts!

I had some desires within me which have flown away in the river of Your kindness

*

Ab kripal nij bhagaty paavani/dehu sada siv mann bhaavani//

Evamastu kahi Prabhu randheera/magaa turat sindhu kar neera//

Now, My Lord! Please grant me unflinching devotion to You, which is so beloved to Lord Shiv’s heart

Evamastu-Let it be so, said SreeRamji and asked for the water from the ocean

*

Jadapi sakha tav iccha nahim/mor darasu amogh jag mahim//

As kahi Ram tilak tehi saara/suman brishti nabh bhayi apaara//

(The Lord said-) Although my friend, you have no wish for it,  getting to see me in this world, will not go fruitless

Saying that, SreeRamji did Rajtilak ( did the ceremony of anointing Vibheeshan as King), flowers were showered from the skies in great numbers

*

Doha:

Ravan krodh anahl nij swas sameer prachand/

Jarat Bibheeshanu rakhevu deenhevu raju akhand//

Vibheeshan, whose breath( spoken words) had the effect of  a wild wind that made the fire of Ravan’s fury burn madly,

Was saved by SreeRamji, who gifted him an undivided kingdom(Lanka)

*

 

 

 

Jiski Zuban Urdu Ki Tarah…

When I first encountered Urdu in my official work, I sought help. I was an Assistant Collector Under Training and the RA Babu (Revenue Assistant) of the Collectorate was an erudite gentleman whose English was exquisite.He was a product of the famous Allahabad University. Most of the official lingua franca had vestiges of the rich Awadh history woven intricately into it. Especially the  revenue and the police records- fundamental to administration.

Later, when I sat down to listen to learned lawyers argue about revenue records as a Judicial Officer,  I started asking them directly about words which puzzled me.

‘Kayam Mukami’ hona hai madam- said one learned counsel.

The only Kayam that this Keralite had heard of was in  the dish of sambhar- as the astoefida that my mother used to add for taste!

‘What is this kayam business?’ I had asked the counsel politely- and he, used to the eccentricities of Officers who struggle with their language, obliged happily enough. It was the Urdu for Substitution of a name  in the place of another ( especially relevant in mutation of land records)

Whew! That was tough for a novice.

*

When there are traces of Persian, Turkish, Rekhti, Hindustani, Khadi Boli, Braj, Awadhy, Bhojpuri, Bundelkhandi, Urdu, Sanskrit…when all these blow about in the wind, what do you do? You learn to appreciate the loveliness of it all. The great syncretic, eclectic culture that this beautiful mixture produces.

So much so that now I am confident that I can enjoy the nuances ( to a certain extent) of lovely ghazals, with the help of a few translation websites or transliteration works.

Since I am reading SundarKanda of Tulsidasji and trying to understand it, it was delightful to encounter the Urdu poetry on Ramayana by Brij Narain Chakbast (1882-1926): lawyer, freedom fighter and poet par excellence. I found it in a book by Raza Mir entitled ‘ The Taste of Words’: An introduction to Urdu Poetry.

One paragraph from Chakbast’s Ramayan Ka Ek Scene ( In which Ram comes to take leave of Kausalya, his Mother). It is written in the Mussaddas tradition( Usually adopted for the Marsiya form to describe the Battle of Karbala in Islamic history- elegies are written in this style among others)

(Kausalya speaks her mind in anguish…)

Leti kisi faqeer ke ghar mein agar janam

Hota na meri jaan ko samaan ye baham

Dasta na saanp ban ke mujhe shaukat-o-hasham

Tum mere lal, tthe mujhe kis saltanat se kam?

Main khush hoon, phoonk de koi is takht-o-taaj ko

Tum hi nahin, to aag lagaoongy raaj ko

If I were born in a faqir’s home( beggar’s house)

I would not have faced this state of life

The serpent bite of  this show and prestige would not have bitten me then

You my beloved son, were you not a Kingdom in yourself?

I would be happy if someone were to burn down this throne and crown

If you are not there, I shall  surely burn  this kingdom down

*

And so, the magic of language- in different tongues,  we speak the same divine language of emotions- understood by every human being in his or her own way.

I bow to Serendipity again and hum a few lines…as my Ram speaks in lovely Urdu to his mother, calming her down…

Shayad khizaan se shakl ayaan ho bahaar ki

Kucch maslahat Isi mein ho Parwardigaar ki

Perhaps from this Fall( autumn) would a new spring arise

Perhaps it is a  divine machination of the Supreme Being

**