A Step At A Time…

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The last few chapters arrive for correction. The artist has done a spectacular job. As I edit, snipping a word here, adding a comma there, I stare at the divine pictures.

The journey has come to an end: Sundar Kanda- 156 pages, 50 chapters.  And quietly a book is born.  The end is  actually a beginning. As always in life.

But I cannot leave Hanumanji alone. The journey with Him has changed my life. How can I let go now- when the joy of describing everything about Him has got me addicted? It is like inhaling camphor in the temple. So I promise myself that the next book on Him is going to be Kishkindha Kand. The thought energises me. Another journey to look forward to. Great!

What have I learnt in the presently concluded one? That I am never alone. That the shield of divine protection encompasses me and my loved ones at all times. That one can achieve seemingly impossible tasks with His blessings. That detachment  is not just a philosophy but a very strongly protected forcefield. If the focus is on Him, everything meaningless falls on the wayside- what remains is what is meant to remain. Fair enough for this life journey.

***

 

Kishkindha Kant: Fourth Sopan-1

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Kundendivarsundaravathibalau Vigyanadhamavubhai

Shobhadyo varadhaninyou shrutinithou Govipravndapriyou/

Mayamanusharoopinau Raghuvarau sadharmavarmau hitau

Sitaneshwanatatparau padhigatau bhaktipratau tau hi nah//

 

Like a star jasmine flower(Kunda pushpa) and the blue water lily( neel kamal)- coloured fair and dusky, extraordinarily strong, epitome of learning, radiant, gifted archers, praised by the Vedas, loved by people and animals, in the Maya form of a human being, wearing the armour  for maintaining divine Dharma, well wisher to all, focused in the search for Sitaji, in the form of travellers (we find) both these fine princes of  Raghu clan- SriRam and Lakshman!May we be bestowed with devotion to them.

*

Brahmashambovisamudravam kalimalapradhwamsanam chavyayam

Srimatshambumukhendrasundaravare samsobhitam sarvada/

Samsaramayabheshagyam sukhakaram Srijanakijeevanam

Dhanyaste kritinaha pibanthi satatam Sriramanamamritam//

That soul is blessed, who is constantly drinking the amrit( nectar) of Sriram’s name: He who destroys the dirt in the minds of those living in Kaliyug(  the yug or aeon in turn  having been created by the churning the ocean of Vedas), indestructible,lighted up by the beautiful and radiant moonlight of Lord Shiva’s grace, the medicine to the never ending death- birth cycle,giver of joy to all, and the very life of Janaki( so beloved to Sitaji).

*

Mukti janma mahi jaani gyan khani agh haani kar/

Jah basu Sambhu Bhawani so Kasi seyia kas na//

Where Shiv and Parvati reside- that Kashi- knowing that it is the birthplace of liberation ( mukti from worldly tangles), treasury of wisdom, and destroyer of all sins- why not be devoted to it?

**

 

Chasing Christie

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My little girl asks me whether I can guess who the murderer happens to be.   I am yet to finish the book. The novel is ‘Sleeping Murder’ by Agatha Christie. I have experienced enough of this world and read enough of Dame Christie to venture a serious guess even at the middle of the book. I suggest a name and she sniffs: ‘ So you did read the ending!’ I laugh.

I tell her that Winston Churchill had guessed the murderer by the middle of  the play ‘Mousetrap’. His wife Clementine apparently sniffed:’Of course not!’ Guess who turned out right at the end. Yes, your hunch is as good as mine.

The fan club of Miss Marple is steadily increasing in my home. From Bertram’s Hotel to A pocket full of rye, Miss Marple’s sharp brain has my child fascinated. And I am glad.

Miss Marple  subtly teaches the importance of  classical literature to young readers. From the Duchess of Malfi to The Lady of Shallot, there is a  literary clue in each of her books for the prescient reader. And a practical approach to life and love and all that is good and bad. I find Miss Marple formidably intelligent when it comes to second guessing human nature with all its foibles.

I tell my kid that her granddad introduced me to Agatha Christie. I was thirteen. She laughs that Amma was too old when she started Miss Marple. I agree humbly.

She knows all about the episode of Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance and come back. She had watched it in a Doctor Who episode. I let her interpretation stay magical.

‘Which is your favourite Miss Marple novel?’ She is quizzical now.

Without a moment’s hesitance I answer: ‘ The mirror crack’d from side to side.’ I have loved the book and all the various visual depictions of that true classic.

‘ I liked it too.’ She nods her head.

Great.

‘ May the old dames win’, I grin.

**

Jumping From A Branch…

The artist says that it is a joy to design the book. For me it is a blessing to have been a part of its creation. Hanumanji is all about  total detachment, absolute joy, perfect strength,  and total surrender to the Lord’s will.

My favourite lines:

Sakha mrig ke badi manusayi

Sakha tem sakha par jayi

Naghi sindhu hatakpur jaara

Nisichar gan badhi bipin ujaara

So sab tav Pratap Raghurai

Nadh na kacchu mori prabutai…

That a monkey like me can jump from one branch to another is  itself a big deal-akin to  Purushartha- Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha…That I could jump across the ocean, burn the golden city, kill the Rakshasas and uproot Ashokvatika- all these are, My Lord, a manifestation of Your glory, there is nothing great about my role herein.

Walking in Beauty

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She is bubbling with her enthusiasm about Mathematical Physics. Half of what she is  telling me- especially about  the Calculus classes -goes above my head. I watch her animated face as she speaks about a senior who is enrolling for a Masters in Perimeter Institute, Canada ( her dream) and has deferred his PhD admission to Stanford by a year. “One day, Amma, I will be there!” I have absolutely no doubt that she speaks her destiny.

‘My child, I wish to tell her, keep this faith alive. For every naysayer who had dissuaded your dreams in a thousand ways by not supporting you, by laughing at girls dreaming big, by mocking you for ‘not fitting in’, you have always had those few critical people who stood by you like a rock. In life, for every hundred people who could not care less about you, you will find one  genuine well wisher. That solid love is more than what the little green sapling needs to thrive in this world. Every battle won with sweat and tears of dedication creates way for a wonderfully tasting feast of celebration. But the warrior needs rest and recuperation too.

Do not get caught in the fancy trappings of what ‘success’ is acclaimed to be by the world. The quiet scientist who toils away in her laboratory and advances the cause of Science, leads a life which illuminates the way for humankind. Perhaps her coat is stained and sweaty. Perhaps it is not. Perhaps she is not known outside her circle. Perhaps she is.  These are irrelevant.What matters is that when she sleeps at night, there is a joy of having another beautiful day to wake up to and live her dream.

May learning light up your way. May your dreams come true. May you remain humble and grounded. May you always think of leaving this world a better place with the gifts that you were born with. May you follow your bliss and your true calling. May the right teachers appear at the appropriate time. May you always remain my bubbling and happy child.

Tremendously grateful for the gift of hearing you passionately describe your Calculus classes and your wonderful professors. Stay blessed. May your light brighten the life of all whom you meet in your life path.’

‘Amma, you are not actually listening!’ She pouts.

I smile. ‘ Your Amma still has nightmares about her engineering maths.’

‘ Yes! You should have studied Byron instead. No issues! Ok so you know what professor…’

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of countless climes and starry skies

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes…

Ahhhh, Byron. You did get that one right.

**

 

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.

 

 

That Ghost In The Cupboard

 

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Yet another suicide by a brilliant young man studying at a premier institute. I will no longer ask, why. Life has taught me enough to write the answer to that one. Because we are human. No animal would commit suicide.

At so many stages in life, at so many points of decision making, the dream of escaping it all easily appears: like a tantalizing mirage. If only, if only…It is that precise moment which one has to survive. Perhaps the faces of your loved ones will appear to caution against the decision. Or it could be a determined voice from within which stubbornly says: “I will not give up.” The survival instinct will definitely kick in, and one reaches for a way out. The instinct to destroy is unfortunately strong too; and it will resist that friend or help that is a call away.

One of the most ignored areas, at least in our country, is mental health. Depression, nervous disorders, eating disorders, suicidal tendencies- all are whitewashed into one heading: Needs Rest.

Some deny it actively, some mock at it aggressively, some escape into parties and alcohol, some become detached and cocooned, some pretend it is a ghost in the cupboard and occasionally face it in their privacy, and some kill themselves.

**

If there is anything which has helped me face different apparitions of intolerable pain (which sits within me and mocks that  I am better off dead at times), it has been a fierce determination to crawl out of darkness every time. I reach out for my quotes of Vivekananda and try to fill my mind with thoughts of power and service. Typically I visit Missionary sisters and try to talk to the poor and disabled that they serve so selflessly. When I see a five year old orphan child suffering from HIV, and who cheers up on getting a chocolate, I feel that my troubles are so pitiful and meaningless. Truly has Vivekananda said that the way out of your own troubles is to serve someone who suffers more than you. When “I ” become too much for me, I visit a hospital. By the time I return, the ” I ” is usually replaced by a sense of immense gratitude for the good health that I take for granted.

My mother often tells me that tears are a way to getting closer to Him. It shakes you out of whatever ennui and makes you go down on your knees, seeking help. And help has always, always, always come.

If I could tell something to the bright student sitting in some top institute, depressed and angry at himself and the world, it is this:

Stop thinking of yourself for the next half an hour. Get out as fast as you can from your room.  Go to the nearest hospital, or any place of pain and tears and helplessness. Please help by volunteering there: buy someone medicine, help a mother carry her sick child, read a prescription to an old man.  Visit an orphanage. By the time you return, my dear friend, you would have so much power within you that you will live for another day. Whether you choose to live that day well, will be a blessed option left to you.

The way out of your own apparently interminable darkness is the light you will be kindling in another unfortunate’s life. I do not know why it works every time, but it always works for me. Maybe by giving another a bit of your life energy, you have shooed off the ghost in the cupboard for yet another day. For the time being, it is a battle worth having won.

***