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.

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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.

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 ready😊

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 – like 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!

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Panchagni: The Five Fires(Scenes 4-7)

Panchagni screenplay continued:

Scene 4:

Day

The Jail Superintendent’s room

The room is in the first floor of the office block in the Jail Complex.

The Superintendent is past fifty years of age. When he raises his head, after signing some papers,  the Matron, a forty five year old woman, salutes him.

Matron: Indira refuses to have food. It is the fourth day today.

Assistant Jailor and the Jail Doctor at the door.

Asst.Jailor salutes.

The Doctor pays respect in the normal way.

The Supdt is pondering deeply.

Asst.Jailor: Sir, we can charge under Section 45…

The Supdt motions with his head, negating the suggestion.

Doctor: She is very weak

Matron: If we manage to hold her for you, can you not give her glucose or some stuff?

Supdt: No, we can’t do it.

Asst.Jailor: Is her mother’s condition truly serious,  Sir? Has the verification report arrived?

The Supdt nods.

‘I have referred the matter to the IG. Let the decision be from there.’

An orderly arrives,( dressed in the Jail inmate’s dress), with tea for them on a tray

While serving, he comments sycophantically: ‘Too much freedom in the Jail nowadays! This is the result of that!  It was totally wrong to banish whipping.’

The phone rings. The Supdt picks it up,  says, ‘Yes’ , and then his face expression changes to obsequiousness.

‘Superintendent here, Sir! Yes, yes..but Sir! Yes, yes..the Doctor is observing her Sir! Ok Sir!’

He keeps the phone down.

‘The IG has referred the matter to the minister. But  it seems that some journalist has reported about the fasting incident in the Jail ! Hell!’

Scene 5

Jail. Indira’s Cell

The mercury rises in the BP apparatus.

The Doctor examines her as she lies on a bed.

The Matron and a nurse along side.

Scene 5A

Office of the IG Prisons

The IG throws a file to the police official standing in front of him.

‘Refer the matter to the Parole Board.’

Scene 6

Day

The courtyard of the Jail

Women inmates working.

A female inmate: If you get out on parole, do you have to report to the police station daily?

An ‘Expert’:

Hey, no! When I went, it was a good guy- as Inspector! He asked me to come just once a week.

The woman who had spoken on attacking her husband:

When I went on parole, I was  only apprehensive on whether I would end up before that son of a bitch!  I might have grabbed the cleaver again, forgetting  that the punishment could  get doubled  !

The Expert: No doubling ! All that is nonsense. It is not  there in the law.

A long whistle. The women stop work and return to their Cells.

Scene 7

The office of the Jail Supdt

The Supdt takes a typed sheet of  Official paper and pushes it forward

Indira stands in front of him, dressed in the convict’s uniform.

She is totally exhausted.

She signs on the paper.

Supdt: Fourteen days. Please read it.

She looks at him.

The Supdt checks the accounts and the voucher placed in front of him by a clerk.

‘You have some money as savings. You can take that. Also get your dress.’

He rings the bell.

He looks at Indira- she stands silent, emotionless. He thinks for a moment and then with great soberness:

‘ If you start acting as if the revolution has reached the next street…! Hmm..The Government can cancel the parole any time. Up to you’

It is a warning, also an advice.

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Panchagni/ Five Fires: Classic Movie(Scenes 1-3)

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One of the best movies that I have seen till date is M.T.Vasudevan Nair’s “Panchagni”. It was released in 1986, and I was a school student then.

If you google for the best screenplays, lots of Oscar winning film scripts become available online  for the reader. I have enjoyed Fargo, China Town, Out of Africa, All about Eve and lots more in this manner. However, we lack a database of similar scripts in English, for classic movies made in other human languages, all across the world.

It struck me forcefully, when I was trying to explain the Malayalam conversations in Panchagni, to a  non Keralite film aficionado. It was not possible for my friend to relish the classic movie- so dignified and gracious-because the beauty of the language and the depths of meaning got lost due to lack of subtitles.

There are so many of us,  decently well versed in multiple tongues, who pursue careers having nothing to do with literature; but with an abiding love for movies. If a few of us make an effort, can we not easily make available a treasure house of such scripts for the non native speaker? If I get to read a screenplay of a  classic Telugu movie in English, I’d be able to relish the scenes  to a reasonable degree, without any subtitle.

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The catch in the script is that M.T.’s screenplay  has been changed drastically in the final scenes of the movie. They changed the victim to suit the sensibilities of a 1980 audience.

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Panchagni ( The Five Fires)

Total scenes 68

Scene 1 ( Day)

Women’s Jail

Women inmates sentenced to life time imprisonment, are seen engaged in various works. The female wardens are supervising them.

Different types of prisoners. Those who have travelled through life’s darkest alleys.

From somewhere in the background, the toll of a bell is heard. The women stop working and queue up for food.

Scene 2 ( Day)

Jail

Indira’s Cell

A warden walks to a locked cell. She stands there.

If you gaze through the bars, one cannot completely see the lady prisoner who sits in a corner of the room.

The warden opens the door and steps inside.

Indira, totally exhausted , sits leaning against the wall.

Age 27-28

She is not inclined to look at the warden.

Warden:  Are you not tired of starving yourself?

Indira lifts her head and looks at her. Though her body is fatigued, her eyes have a spark in them; they are rebellious.

Warden: Get up now, and lick up what is given!

Indira , unaffected.

Warden is non-plussed for a few moments.

Then, softly mutters : Fasting! Break her bones- that is what is needed…

She goes outside.

Warden locks the cell.

Scene Three

Day

Jail. The area where prisoners eat their food.

The female prisoners are eating. Three inmates are talking.

First One: Her mother is very sick. She wrote that she wanted to see her daughter, but the parole has not been issued.

The second one(relishing the food): Those who strike by denying themselves food, must be totally nuts!Nowadays the food in the jails is so good! No one can find fault with it. Twice a week, mutton!

Third One:Go ahead,  pitch camp here forever then!

Second One: What’s wrong over here, I ask you! If one acts a bit humble, there is no issue at all!

First One: That is true for those who suck up to the wardens.

Second One( flaring up): You …..don’t you dare to play with me! Did you not murder a child to grab a mere half sovereign worth gold chain?

(She tries to find an ally in the third one.) There won’t be any one else among us, who must have committed that sort of dastardly crime, eh?

First One: Oh, as if you were specially invited by the Government, to come and reside here! Let me not start!

Second One: I did what any red blooded woman would do! Hacked them both! Trusting that son of a bitch, I had left everyone at home…and ditching me, he dared to take up with that bloody whore…!

The Supervising Warden: Silence! Who the hell is raising her voice?

The one who had started narrating the tale of slashing her husband becomes silent.

Scene 3A

Jail verandah

Outside the cell, a warden who resembles a man more than a woman, and two lady orderlies, are in a dilemma over whether to force feed Indira or not.

One can see Indira lying on the ground of the cell.

She looks at them, standing just beyond the bars, and then closes her eyes.

Lady Warden: If you two can hold her, I will show you the way to make the food go down!

One orderly: Two? To hold her, one of us is enough!

They salute as the Jail Superintendent and the Assistant Jailor walks through the courtyard.

The Supdt takes a look.

Lady Warden: Shall I force feed her, sir?

Supdt: Thinking..then negating the suggestion…Hmm

As he walks away, the orderly peeks inside the cell.

Indira, apparently in a serene sleep.

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Tarahim Bhav Sindhu Bina Jaljaan(50): You Can Cross The Worldly Ocean Without Any Other Means

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SreeRamCharit Manas’ Fifth Canto (Sopan)  named SundarKanda Ends:

The Ocean suggests a way

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Nadh Neel Nal kapi dvau bhai/ larikayim rishi aasish payi//

Tinh kem paras kiyem giri bhare/tarihahim jaladhy pratap tumhare//

The Ocean said-You have Neel and Nal, two monkey brothers with you, they have obtained a boon from an ascetic in their childhood

If they touch anything, even a mountain turns light, and with your blessings, will float on the waters of the ocean

(Note: Nal and Neel were the architects and engineers of the ancient bridge connecting Rameshwaram with Lanka. They were remarkably brilliant in their field as per folk lores)

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Mai puni ur dhari Prabhu prabhutai/karihavu bal anuman sahayi//

Ehi bidhi nadh payodhi bandhayiya/jehim yeh sujasu lok tihu gaayiya//

I will also keep Your Grace in my heart, and try to help as much as I can (  as per my capability in this task)

Hey Lord! Bind down the ocean( Build a bridge- setubandan) in such a manner that the three worlds sing praises of Your Glory!

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Ehim sir mam uttar tat baasy/hatahu nadh khal nar agh raasy//

Suni Kripal sagar mann peera/turatahim hari Ram randheera//

Please kill off the wicked clan of human beings who reside on my northern shores with Your arrow

Hearing the agony of the Ocean, the valorous and compassionate SreeRamji killed off the wicked ones  immediatly

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Dekhi Ram bal paurush bhary/harshy payonidhi bhayavu sukhari//

Sakal charit kahi prabhuhi sunava/charan bandi payodhi sidhava//

Seeing SreeRamji’s radiance and great strength, the Ocean was gratified and content,

He narrated the stories of those wicked ones to SreeRamji, then bowing before the Lord’s feet, the Ocean God returned to his abode

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Nij bhavan gavanevu sindhu SreeRaghupathihi yeh mat bhayavu/

Yeh charit kali malhar jadhamati das Tulsi gayavu//

Sukh bhavan sansay saman davan bishad Raghupathy guna gana/

Taji sakal aas bharos gaavahi sunahi santat sad mana//

The ocean returned to its abode, SreeRaghunathji liked his solution

This story removes all the sins accrued in Kali Yug, TulsiDas has sung it as per his wits ( according to his intelligence)

Sree Ramji  is an incarnation of all great qualities- He gives joy absolute, removes all doubts, and vanquishes all agonies

Hey Stupid Mind ! Let go of all worldy attachments and desires, (and instead of that) sing and listen to this great story

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Doha:

Sakal sumangal dayak Ragunayak gun gaan/

Sadar sunahim te tarahim bhav sindhu bina jaljaan//

Singing the praises of SreeRamji brings in all auspicious tidings

Those who listen to it with respect, will cross over the worldly ocean without resorting to any other means ( the Lord’s meditation acts as a safe-boat)

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Iti Sreemadramcharitmanase sakalakliklushvidhvamsane pancham sopanah samamtah/

The Fifth Canto ( Sundar Kanda) of SreeRamcharitmanas, which removes all the sins accrued in Kali Yug ends here.

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Personal Note: In these 50 blogs across two months, I have obtained  immense joy and peace; as I attempted  to understand the beautiful lines of Sundar Kanda of Goswami Tulsidasji’s great SreeRamcharitmanas.

May the compassionate Lord bless you all!

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