Encountering deaths, and consequent prayers:
Encountering deaths, and consequent prayers:
The news of a poor, mentally distraught, famished young man- belonging to the tribal community- being beaten mercilessly to death by a mob who alleged that he had stolen some rice; who took delight in posting selfies, made many of the listeners reel under the shock and horror of human deeds. Finding it difficult to forget the picture of those wide eyes and face which was innocently staring at evil, I ended up calling someone dear to re kindle the fastly dimishing hope within.
Sister had a different take on the issue. ‘What enters our minds and hearts: those thoughts decide whether we become devils or angels,’ she said quietly. ‘So it is important to introduce only the highest, kindest, most beautiful thoughts into our minds.’
I recently read an article by the great SreeNarayana Guru: Spiritual leader, poet par excellence, scholar in multiple languages, humanitarian, radiant soul lamp for want of better words; in which he had elaborated on the same topic. It was an article called , ‘ Daiva Chintanam’. He warned about the omnipresent evil which easily takes over our minds and hearts if our inner selves remain susceptible and vulnerable. He also wrote about choosing intentionally to welcome the beautiful and lovely energy vibrations around to enter our souls. From the pen of a master who wrote such exquisite poetry of deep philosophical meaning in Sanskrit, Malayalam, Tamil; who had translated Upanishads and Tamil spiritual literature alike for the common man, this article on what we jokingly refer as the super natural world, took me by surprise. He clearly mentioned the ‘unseen worlds’which we have to be aware of.
Leaving aside psychological studies of mob, dissipation of responsibility etc, I allowed myself to reflect more on these thoughts.When the mind is full of anger, vengeance, pettiness, hatred, it is truly dark. Who resides within us then? How did that enter? How does one welcome the good? By cultivating kindness, affection, generosity, wisdom, love, service, selflessness…
In a world so very ready to troll and abuse the voice of the outsider, it is almost an act of subversion to bring up children who can think differently: those who can naturally see the ‘oneness’. Children who can think for themselves, and look at the world around with compassion.
Perhaps, each of us can take up the responsibility: to nurture the young souls in our family to grow up that way. But it is a lot of hard work.
Perhaps that starts by giving them good books to read. By introducing them to great, fine, high energy thoughts of those good spirits who lived/live in different parts of this mortal world. Those who had different names, different genders, different skin colours, spoke different languages but spoke the same beautiful truth.
Perhaps it starts by weening them away from the seductive world of objects, never ending greed, relentless marketing and self promotion into a serene, luminous world of thoughts.
Maybe we can do our humble bit to turn them into “human beings” : who , on meeting a hungry, mentally disturbed living being will offer food and clothes with no second thoughts.
A generation which will never seek out an iron rod and a flashy mobile phone to torture an innocent to showcase their ‘coolness’.
(Photos of excerpts from Sree Narayana Guru’s translation of Isavasyopanishad and his immortal Anukampa Dasakam- Ten Shlokas praising compassion)
My grand mother, who died when my mother was but nineteen, and my youngest aunt a mere three, was named after the Goddess of Learning. Her name “Sarda” is also that of the ancient writing script used for Sanskrit and Kashmiri. Till today, my maternal anscestral home is called, ‘Sarada Mandiram’ aka “The abode of Sarada.”
There are no pictures or photographs left behind of this Grihlakshmy, (Goddess of the House like Vesta or Hestia in other cultures:) for her grand children or great grand children to know her.
She remains, captured however (as per my mother’s version) in my young nephew’s smile, my cousin sister’s beautiful tresses, my daughter’s eyes et al. I am very sure, that she would continue in the future bloodlines too, when something of charm or beauty shows up suddenly, gracefully, without much hue or cry.
Almost like a mystery, the stories surround the enigma of a beautiful woman who “was adored by anyone who met her, due to her generously giving heart.” No being, animal or human, went hungry if they ever passed by my grand mother’s kitchen door.
” She could toss a few curry leaves and a mere touch of her hand would make the dishes so tasty,” reminisces my mother, her eyes clouded with tears.
I get to hear snippets from my aunts and uncles, their memories now mostly faded, still remembering warmth, and long,black hair cascading like a river with no grey strands ever….so lyrical that I start doubting the authenticity of it all.
” Were you happy all the time? She could not have been a paragon of virtue,” I argue, my cynical temper often aroused when I hear about angelic perfection, near or far.
” She used to be furious at times. Then I wouldn’t go near her. Especially when she was struggling with her umpteen pregnancies and child births,” my mother lets out , a sigh at a time.
Then as my mother feeds me spinach with coconut topping and curry leaves sauteed , a dish she learnt from my grandma, she tells me the tale of her parents’ marriage.
An attractive young woman , single daughter to adoring parents, who lost nine children before they had a living, healthy child. The beauty, the property – the proposals that poured in for her hand. And the tragedy of a predetermined horoscope- the fate of Chova dosham- a Manglik, so to say,..she was supposed to cause early death to her husband.
” My grandfather almost gave up hope about amma’s marriage. Such a lovely daughter, but no man daring to step across the Yama’s line of caution,” my mother whispers. (She and her grandfather had a loving relationship. Till date she swears that he was reborn into her family. Whenever I make her smile, I am the reincarnation. When I pick up fights with her, she is absolutely sure that he is someone else. That is another story altogether.)
” And how did my grandfather come into the scene?” I ask, very interested now. Some topics are eternally fascinating.
” They say, he was almost an outsider, though his family lived very close. A rebel, tall at six feet and more, a good artist, keen on science and business alike…my father,” she pauses dramatically.
I sigh again as the devil flashes his fangs at me, provoking me.
” Amma, stop being melodramatic. He had his vices, of course. But he was handsome, I presume,” I aim at the target straight away.
” Ohhhh, yes! So one day, even as his mother threatened to hang herself from the front yard for daring to dream of Sarada, he walked away laughing and entered our ancestral home.” Amma’s voice is full of thrill now.
I see a tall young man, laconic, cool, literally asking his protective female clan members to go to hell. He walks to the forbidden house, and confronts my great grandfather.
” Why did you come, Govinda?” my great grandfather asks. He can hear the screams and curses rising in undulating tones from across the front yard.
” I thought it was worth dying for Sarada,” says my Grandfather. ” I want to marry her.”
Thus a man married a woman.
They had seven children,losing one early. One girl grew up to be my indefatigible mother.
I do not ask the other parts of the story. The happiness, the tragedies, the loss of a merchandise filled boat over the sudden tempest, the sudden poverty….so many family lores stay quiet now, lying like a calm dog at the feet of a kind, beautiful, unseen grandmother.
” Do I have anything of her in me?” I ask finally, slowly, very slowly.
My mother smiles suddenly. Her beautiful face, lights up.
” What do you think?” she asks in return.
” You tell me that I am your grand father. Am I also your mother?” I grin openly.
” Maybe , she lives in your heart, whenever you ask her to come in,” says my mother mysteriously.
Sarada, Goddess of Learning, Giving, Kindness…..do visit my heart more often.
I have your sudden temper, my grandfather’s obstinacy, go-to-hell stubbornness. All the vices, than the sweet niceties.
There can be too much darkness inside this abode at times.
Make it your Mandiram- your temple.
Let me see you, please.
“The memory of my father is wrapped up in
white paper, like sandwiches taken for a day at work.
Just as a magician takes towers and rabbits
out of his hat, he drew love from his small body,
and the rivers of his hands
overflowed with good deeds.”
( Yehuda Amichai,My Father)
Many rivers of good hands have reached out to me all my life. From the most unexpected people, making me pause and ponder…
“ Fatso-Patso”, she used to call me, that ebony colored, chubby woman with twinkling eyes. It is one thing to be teased for your baby fat when you are five and totally different when you were much older… and someone calls out your baby pet name at a bus-stop!
She of the name of the basil herb, sweet of speech and bubbly of manner had been our maid for a long time. Until she fell in love, got pregnant and got married, in that order. Such an order creates
apocalypse in our society still…well, in those days it became Mount Vesuvius first and end of the world, slightly later. She was plucky, and survived the name call-scarring. Ironically, life ended up by scarring her a lot more, in her tempestuous married life. But that brewing tempest of the scandal, had removed her from my childhood forever, leaving behind memories of wails, tears and loud words.
But when she asked almost three decades later, with twinkling eyes and graying hair, what her fatso-patso was doing,
I remembered those hands of love. I remembered being carried to the nursery school and stopping by the rail tracks as the train hooted by, clutching those dark fingers.
She chatted for long and when the bus came, surely enough, for the whole world to hear, she said, “Fatso-Patso-I am going. Give love to your amma.”
Smirks all around, and one beaming face waving from the bus window.
Hands of love…
Hands of love, they planted, they nurtured-
Some flowered, some faded on the way.
Some had pulled us back from danger,
Some had served water when needed.
Some had pointed ways,
Some wagged a stern warning;
Some had wiped tearful eyes,
Some caressed with tenderness.
Some had held on- when one was lost ,
And had let go when one found
How do I repay those loving hands,
Beautiful hands, streaming of love?
May this river stream through my fingers-
May this river flow through me-
So when I move on my dusty sojourn,
The river of your hands,
Shall remember me.