Saturday, February 27, 2010

Holi Aayee Re !

Festivals have this strange power in creating an emotional riot.It could leave you exited,sad,nostalgic,restless and even lost.So this sums up my feelings as yet another Holi arrives bringing with itself so much more.
But keeping all the other feelings sidelined i would like to proclaim that nowhere can holi be as intense and as elaborate as in my Bihar.i fail to recall the exact time but remember this that the season itself called Falgun would start with playing holi not on a paricular day but each day as and when the time permitted.This region called Bhagalpur where i hail from, nobody would take the risk of wearing new or expensive clothes and instead will try to wear only those which one was eager to discard.
All the joking relationships like Devar and Bhabhi,Jeeja and Sali,Nanad and Bhabhi,between both the Samadhi reached it's pinnacle during Holi.
In our system we have what is called the joking relationships where healthy but harmless flirtations are allowed.These flirtations could range from simple teasing to being risque.But it was legit and it would be holi when you would get to witness these in full splendour.So none would be spared and if one got annoyed it would be dismissed casually by saying-"Bura na mano holi hai"(Don't feel bad it's just holi fun). Everything would be forgiven and forgotten later.Only when you get to stay in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh can you get the true feel of these relationships where :

1. Devar=Husband's younger brother and
Bhabhi=wife of elder brother are allowed to tease and flirt
2. Jeeja=Elder sister's husband and
Sali=wife's younger sister mostly unmarried are allowed the same priviledge
3. Nanad=husband's sister
Bhabhi=wife and both belonging to the same sex can indulge in fanciful and lewd teasing
4. Samadhi=both sides parents refer to each other as Samadi so the lady mom of the girl's side called Samadhin could tease the father called samadhi of the boys side and vice versa.
As kids we would clap and jump in joy and cheer the winning side even though much that passed between the two opposing sides we couldn't understand.But being in the hot seat much later i too had my share and so did my husband when he gleefully had fun during holi with my younger sis and i had with his younger twin bros and our parents amongst themselves.i am now lost because none of my friends who hail from the South can exactly share my joy and revelry about this.The senior ladies here can never guess why i preferred calling them Akka (elder sister in Tamil) instead of anything else, when and if they accepted me in their coterie.

Thinking about the holi specials no matter how hard i try i don't know why my malpuas (deep fried eggless pancakes made simply or richer with it being soaked in sugar syrup) don't taste as good as when i had it back home.And i silently curse myself for being so detached about cooking then to learn the spicy and yummy mutton to go with the dry puas (the faintly sweet but salty Malpuas) or never bothered to learn the aaloo ka achaar (boiled potato pickle spicy and tangy with the distinct flavour of mustard ) to go with it.i have honed my skills in preparing Dahi wadas (lentil dumplings dipped in yoghurt and served topped with sweet and sour tamarind paste called imli ki chutney) but i still don't know how to prepare the other dumplings which used to be in a sweet and sour watery solution.These used to be ligher on the palate and very 'finger licking good'. So my family gets to have somehow managed holi specials of Chole (spicy chickpeas) which replaces aloo ka achaar,Malpuas,Dahi badas,and mutton which lacks that unique taste.
Maybe someday soon i will convince myself to make my journey back home in that village which resounded with the songs of Fag (Folk songs sung during entire Falgun season)with the start of the season.If not for anything but for Holi specials.Jogira Sara Rara rings in my ears to the beat of Dhol (a kind of drum) and cymbals as i get this strong calling which kindles a sad longing.Sad because with so many rituals going extinct and the villages losing their originality i wonder if i can witness the same.
i wonder if holi goes on for days as it used to, culminating with the last couple of days of rapture and joy called Dhurandi,Holika Dahan,Choti Holi and finally Holi.
Will i get to hear the folk song in local Angika(regional dialect) which told the story that though Holika was offered a boon for performing austerities she was burnt alive because her heart was not pious and and she lacked the inner purity whereas Prahlad was saved because of his piety and his faith in God?
To my friends who respond with thank you calls and compliments i always end up repeating "was my pleasure but you didn't get to taste the original".i often get restless then before cooking if everything will turn out the way i would want it to and knowing the answer very well will still go ahead and take the plunge.Is it the spirit of holi that gets me going then?

What is this about holi that gets you excited i could never explain.Is it the colours?Is it the fun?Is it the food? Maybe it is these and a lot more.That nature is at it's best with all colours blossoming signalling to celebrate this oneness.It definitely is a spirit in us that banishes all discriminations.A spirit that combines joy, naughtiness, passion and enthusiasm.Also like all our festivals it tells us that "truth is universal" and also reminds us in this age of strife that "Goodness triumphs over evil". No one can deny that the essence of Holy is Harmony.So let this Holi be that one in which we change "not only the colour of faces but also the colour of our hearts"."Let the colour that truly penetrate our beings, be the colour of God".

And just to get that feel... however this may not actually be the Fag i talked about,here is a bhojpuri song of that teasing between Devar and Bhabhi where the Devar teases her for sleeping carelessly while the dog ate the holi special pua and the left over milk was drunk by the cat.As a result now there's nothing to eat.

Closed Windows

i found this really very insulting when once travelling in the train my co-passenger, the Principal of a very prestigious school in Chennai remarked that i had nothing in me that reflected me being a Bihari.My very first reconnoitre with a left-handed compliment left me with a sense of being inadequate and also mirrored a major flaw in my character.i make people too comfortable to walk over me and really lack that smooth talker talent which smart people normally use to get back.i remember then how quiet i had become the entire journey and how embarrassed i felt for not being able to stand up for myself and My Bihar.i couldn't ascertain what prompted that compliment.Was it my fluency in language or my way of conducting myself or my appearance which many say resembles that of a Punjabi Kudi(Punjabi for young girl)? What was it?
Well this also brings me to another very close incident which happened a few years later and once again in the train when i was going to Patna for a short holiday.This person from Delhi not realising maybe that i was a Bihari was reprimanding his friend in his local lingo, who was messing up the area with peanut shells "kyun Bihariyon ki terah seat ki raid peet raha hai"(why are you littering /messing up the seat like a Bihari).Once again i was unable to utter-"What is so Bihari about your own individual choice in being uncivilised ?"
Many such incidents later and now in a mature position to talk about embarrassments and failings freely, i feel it grossly unfair to stereotype any region and make unjust declarations.Each region has it's own hue,it's own feel.Each region resonates with the sounds and smells typical of that region and each has it's fair share of good and bad.We all encounter rough behaviour oft an on and it can also happen in the most sophisticated places but it is not only uncouth to give it a regional name but also very separatist.
We often delight in making fun of the food,language,clothing of any region and it is as common as crow to talk about accents and mocking anyone who sounds the slightest bit different.If the party ridiculing us is at fault then i think it's shameful and cowardly to let it pass.No i don't mean to be aggressive or pick up a fight but to feel delighted about your own roots and proclaim who you are instead of running for cover.
Today when i recall that first train incident i have got my answer.It was nothing but my own low self esteem which had kept me tongue tied instead of asking-"What exactly do you mean with that maam?" or perhaps "what is so Chennaite in all those simpletons who came to see you off and have begged the TT to get you this lower berth and have bid you farewell humbly taking care that you are well provided for so far as food and drinks is concerned?"
i fail to see that the reason to have separate state for oneself is purely economical or purely political.Somewhere down the road each one of us is responsible.Considering our own to be best and looking down upon the rest, we sow the seeds of separatism within us and nurture this instead of weeding it out.Falling prey to manipulative leaders follows much later.Sometimes we flourish so much away from our homes and instead of feeling grateful we go on a rampage booing even that which deserves credit.It is sad to see the kind of North Indians Vs South Indians going on.And i often wonder have we been educated well enough or are we just glorified literares?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Atithi & Holi Swagatham

Thanks to Apollo Hospitals, Shankar Netralaya, M.V.Diabetic Centre, The brilliant Engineering Colleges, definitely the holy Dham Ramshwaram (sacred pilgrimage for Hindus and a few hours from Chennai) and our favourite Tirupathi Balaji i have come to establish rapport with relatives and their relatives/friends, many of whom i had never met earlier in my life.The experience had been varied and i pendulate between being hospitable to committing a homicide. Thank God my upbringing prevents me from even thinking suicide. It is just so amazing how peaceful my house looks prior to the arrival of these as it bears the aura of peace dovetailed with conflict.
Quite recently an unusual sort of calm has settled inside me.Is it a sign of mellowing down with age or is it my attempt to be genuinely in tune with Atithi Devobhava (guests are like Gods) i know not but definitely one thing is clear that now i am with my dad in his angst on lodging at relatives and have no second opinions about what hospitality actually means.Since this one says it brilliantly i can comfortably use it now.
"Hospitality,n-The virtue which includes us to feed and lodge certain persons who are not in need of food and lodging" (Ambrose Bierce,The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
That devil in me stops me from being a medium whereby my hosts gather brownie points in their good Karma.Can't help it competition man! and can good deeds be far behind.
Holi is round the corner and i sit in this Brahm Vela ( that time in the wee hours between 4-6 a.m suitable for spiritual awakening),taking stock of irritants and how to deal with it without causing pain to myself or any body.Holi mentioned here has a purpose, a reminder that this morning when i serve tea to my soundly sleeping guests who are here sine die there is definitely going to be a warm and brilliant smile on my face, the kind which should proclaim Nirvana (enlightenment)and it will get clearer in my writing why festivals and visitors have a chattis ka aankda (serious conflict) so far as i am concerned.i simply smile the laughter at my friends friends version too when she said-"You know Shivani during Christmas i invite all my family members to Chennai and by evening i want to kill them all".So i chant a silent mantra and start.In random order:

a) that they will be cooped up in their respective rooms showing their faces only when the food served announcements are made- i will count my blessings that unlike my dad house which swarmed with guests my kid is not having to share his room and i will not feel exploited or used.

b) Some will inform me when the food is served that they don't eat Bhindi/Baingan/eggs... giving me the look as if they have done me great service-i will not panic and conjure up something in a jiffy.

c) My loo's will definitely look like a devil's workshop- i will muster the inner stength to be Mr Muscle Man sans grumbling and cribbing.

d) They might ask me to do their laundry like this childhood friend of mine from Copenhagen,whom i had invited and we were meeting after say 20-25 years and the first thing he did was to open his luggage and dump the laundry for his 12-15 shirts and also the same number of inner wears.EEEKS! Washing was easy because of Whirlpool! Whirlpool! but it was the ironing which made me feel like wringing his neck while he happily showered humming some stupid old number.That i couldn't say no was understandable but taking it out on my husband-unforgiving.So this time i will offer the Whirlpool! Whirlpool! politely instead of doing it and then feeling awful later.Also if they need to be taught then shall oblige without having any profanity in my thoughts.Not to forget that now i give that friend of mine the benefit of doubt and forgive him.

e) And when these prove to be the kind very particular about Ghar Ka Khana (home cooked food) sightseeing/shopping shall be a pleasure as i shall grab this opportunity to eat out which shall save me that grudge filled cooking later when i return and i shall convince them that when i treat them to Madras meals they can choose that thali (full meal with accompaniments) which serves Dal (lentils) instead of Sambhar(spicy, sour lentils cooked along with vegetables)and that food at Sarvana Bhawan is world renowned as not only are the preparations tasty to the palate but very agreeable to the stomach.Also that it will be my honest attempt to show them the culinary side of South India and prove to them that that South Indian food apart from Masala Dosa( a kind of roll made with rice and lentil batter and stuffed with spicy potato filling and served with spicy pastes of all kinds called Chutney ) need not be condemned without even tasting and knowing their variety and uniqueness.i shall not make desperate attempts to dispel their myths about tamarind and it's use in sambhar,instead.It's of no avail convincing people who can't differentiate myths from reality and who think tamarind makes you impotent.

f) Holi will see me extra busy with more specials than i would have normally prepared to save them of nostalgia and feeling sorry that they couldn't be back home with their family and friends and that they are in this alien land jahaan kuch pata hi nahin chalta hai ki holi hai(where holi as a festival has no signs of merriment). i will take it sportingly if my guests show detachment and are stingy with their compliments.My husband's will suffice and i shall acknowledge lovingly when he says-malpua bahut accha bana hai... (deep fried pancakes minus eggs cooked as a festival special in Bihar)

e) Last but not the least this time my husband will be spared of my wrath and i shall not doubt my husband when he echoes Khalil Gibran in saying-"If it were not for guests all houses would be graves".Maybe i'll use the same later when guests from my side arrive and he is proving to be an ass...oops! sorry! hey it's after six and i must get going now as the guests which are 2 in number for the time being leave at 7 for their training at TCS (Tata Consultancy Services).Starting with a wake up call, followed by tea, packing of the tiffin box... lots to do including grocery shopping for holi to be done without my guests actually having to witness that. Some sort of host ettiquete i guess. So maybe i'll have to call it the quits for the time being.
The dawn of a new morn when i hear the sounds and see the serenity that hints of hectic activity to be followed later, i will be truly dishonest if i don't spell out my real feelings."Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once in a year"(Victor Borge)and to this i shall add just for one day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge

Awareness of facts does bring about changes and when the age of innocence was taken over by interaction with outside the Bihar Bhawan world, all these wonderful people, the presence of whom brought festivity in our lives seemed like a menace to be got rid of.Suddenly we were at a loss.We had no privacy,there was chaos all the time,there was no fixed routine,our drawing rooms looked messy,unkempt and always had that annoying smell of strong mustard oil and it hardly looked like a drawing room but more of a dormitory with the sofas which needed either to be thrown away or spruced up.The worst scenario was the toilets which were always wet and abominable and the mere sight of the wash basin would induce retching.i still don't know what devilish desire insinuated these guests to soil so badly and so quickly within hours of it having been cleaned by a mehter (people who professionally cleaned toilets with acid and phenyl -now a banned profession mostly on humanitarian grounds). Now came that yearning for same kind of organised,compact,neat and methodical lives that most of my classmates/friends had.The kind in which parents helped them with their studies and where mom cooked new foreign dishes like noodles and fancy sandwiches and the family sat neatly at their table enjoying the family only meal.Where they had rooms of their own all equipped with a study table,neat beds with bright counterpanes and a bookshelf with the school timetable stuck meticulously.The kind in which their uncles and aunts would come for a brief visit and bring them wonderful board games, toys like the walkie -talkie doll,fancy stationary and the heavenly fancy chocolates the mere thought of which made our mouths water and at the same time see us lolling in self pity as we had no such visitors.
So suddenly amoth was something which couldn't be traded with Cadburys and it was always us meeting our friends in the common lawn or gardens as we were embarrassed to call them home.Of course these friends also celebrated something called BIRTHDAY when a cake lit up with candles was cut after the ritual singing and blowing off of candles.We had to take gifts for such friends which would mostly be some biscuit packet initially given unwrapped. Oh!NO! we were at such a loss.Now our home was Shekh Chillee Niwas indeed.Profanity ceased to be sounds to be laughed at uproarously but something shameful and horrifying and imagine the horror writ on our parent's faces when in the midst of a sibling rivalry we would utter some like Khacchar Kahin Ka (aren't you an ass)...and the worst.
Now definitely it takes much more than these to have a distaste or rather a kind of guest phobia.No matter how much our parents were liberal and generous with the cook and the domestic helps nobody remained stationed at Sheikh Chillee Niwas.Only the duration of stay differed when they could last.However it was not so much for their loyalty towards us but for their desire to extract a sarkari naukari(Government job) from my bureaucratic dad.So the longest these lasted was for about 2-3 yrs depending on when they got the kagaz(appointment letter) which announced their sarkari naukri as a peon.My dad was a principled man and if he promised anyone he kept his promise.While the cooks left euphoric with their fortune and good riddance ,that particular day Sheikh Chillee Niwas bore the look of doom.As if someone very important or very strong pillar of the family on whom everything rested had attained the lotus feet of the lord and now the future looks bleak for the poor family.The jovial guests became quieter and suddenly had important assignments back home which required immediate attention and happily left in the early hours of the morn after filling their stomachs nonetneless with Dahi Chura (beaten rice soaked in water and eaten with yoghurt with either jaggery, sugar or salt) for a change.Those ailing and wanting medical treatment were fit enough to travel and those having litigation would come again as matters were now at a standstill.In any case those who had come to gather some adipose onto their skinny self were the first ones to scoot citing wierd and incredible reasons for their departure.So it goes without saying that it was then that adorance gave way to abhorance.Along with all this the immense realisation of the discomforts caused to the hosts.Some of the discomforts manageable and some painful.So i think when Benjamin Franklin made this landmark sentence-"Fish and visitors smell in three days" he said it all so succinctly.

Atithi Devobhava - Aanand

It goes without saying that as kids we were delighted to have our house swarming with this pot pourri from all parts of Bihar for the simple reason that our surroundings lacked the discipline much required for serious studies and as my husband pointed out recently, it was an appropriate place for much entertainment but not conducive to intelligent learning.i however remember that we may not have gained anything what we call textbook learning and oblivious that we were of the competitive arena which happened much later in life, we were very jolly and happy to have the tamasha like environment.That boring process called studies was limited only to hurriedly finish our homeworks after which all four us would be seen scampering off to our chosen ones.i would choose that bunch which would regale me with all the churail and dayan stories and my brothers would choose someone who could narrate film stories which had lots of dhishum dhishum and how the hero of the movie would eventually beat the villain to a pulp.Well the aftermath of these naturally would leave me chewing my nails with thrill combined with fear and wanting to keep the lights on while i slept. But of course with my brothers something different. The younger one would be seen sulking in the corner after having lost to the elder brother in a duel of dhishum dhishum.Nothing unusual as he was the evil Pran or Prem Chopra always who had to surrender to Dharmendra or Rajesh Khanna always.The sulk was not so much for the aches and pains but more for the prejudiced allottment of roles.Sometimes i got some accidental hits too when i was included as Hema Malini or perhaps Zeenat Aman who would be taken away by Pran or Prem Chopra and the then Dharmendra or Rajesh Khanna would arrive to rescue the damsel in distress.But i didn't mind as i was bribed to quietitude instead of bowling which was my regular style with a candy to keep my trap shut and not to complain.So we had a happy and funfilled life where nothing was a serious matter.
Yes we did get plenty of exposure to other more important aspects as well.The masaledar rustic snacks like Bhoonja which can be called a distant cousin of Jhalmuri and just like jhalmuri offered plenty of opportunities for innovation and this could be made in a jiffy with any roasted or some unroasted grains available unlike jhalmuri which requires puffed rice.Then there was this drink made from Sattu (roasted gram flour)supposed to be a RAM BAN elaz (sureshot cure)for any kind of constipation and this drink too offered varieties as it could be made as a shake with milk and sugar or as a chilling slightly spicy drink with water, lime juice and sugar or salt as one preferred it.
But for these people we would have never known the names of greens other than spinach/palak. So there was this Khesari ka sag, Bathua ka sag, Soya which was added to potatoes to give it a unique flavour, Chana ka sag which had to cook on slow fire for a long time and mixed with other spices like chillies and garlic and fresh mustard oil was a delight with hot rice,Sarson ka sag, methi which was also added to potatoes and other veggies to give it a lovely flavour ,and something called nonia which either could be cooked on it's own or added to others.i know now that soya is dill,sarson is mustard,methi is fenugreek,and the tiny leaves of green gram plant is chana ka sag but still don't know what khesari and bathua are called in English.But i do know that a dash of it in sarson ka sag makes it doubly yummy and being seasonal and regional is never found in Chennai. Also that Khesari is a banned item now, i wonder if it had raised the same hulla bulloo as Bt Brinjal when it was discovered to have induced paralysis in cattle. Now though as kids we had an aversion to one and all because all we adored in vegetables was the crisply fried potatoes called bhujiya.All of us definitely loved the pickles of all kinds including those made with greens and also the all time favourite with anything was gudamma the sweet and sour mango pickle made with jaggery.And not to miss amoth or aampapad commonly known in Hindi, a kind of dry chewable and suckable sweet and sour candy made with the pulp of ripe and sweet mangoes. However we enjoyed the camaraderie which the green spreads caused among the males and the females present and how once at least it presented the picture of harmony.The ladies of the house would be seen preparing with utmost devotion to please the male gentry who in turn would be giving appreciative and affectionate nods at the thought of the variety and the nutrition the greens and the labour of the ladies offered for the day.
But the most endearing of all these was our exposure to the different dialects of Bihar.Unlike my other friends in school who are familiar only with one of their own and some none at all, we were the blessed ones to know all the four major regional dialects called Magahi and Angika ,the very popular Bhojpuri,and the oh so sweet Mythili the singsong sound of which is similar to Bengali and even when the arguement is rough still sounds polite . i am still smiling the toothless ,happy giggles of joy at the various sounds of these as each sounded unique some what funny but original and pure.While our guests delighted us with theirs we made them swell with pride when they asked us to translate something of theirs in English as they were in awe of the fact that we were going to a Christan(christian) school and were in no way less than the ENGLANDIANS(English/British to be more precise).So we basked in all that glory enjoying every bit the cocked up ears so eager to hear us speak in English and all the facial expressions which conveyed that we were simply the very best.So this was when we were Godlike and it was the age of innocence...when profanity had no cheap meanings and it was just a sound of annoyance or resentment,happiness or sadness,meeting or parting,appreciation or dislike and if not anything just plain affection.i say this because if someone said- "dekhain cho ki nain chaunri kehno badjat chai"(can't you see how naughty the girl is)i would have smiled at the affectionate reprimand and would have never gone to think even once that Badjat literally means something awful.But this was way back when every thing was just one unique sound the stress of which only made us burst into peals of laughter.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Atithi Devobhava

When we were kids i remember my dad being staunch about certain principles and back then we just considered it tyranny/dictatorship but today it's a different story altogether.Had to be as we are in his shoes now and now we know exactly where the shoe pinches.So he was very particular that we never lodge at our relatives and friends.Visiting was permitted but it was time-bound and much to our chagrin we never had that fun of staying with relatives.How much we fretted and yearned to have these night outs at our mausi's and mama"s i can still recall.i definitely vowed that when i have kids of my own i am never going to deny them this kind of fun.
Well as it turned out i am in the hot heat now and it's history repeats itself.i have found it extermely difficult to lodge at a friend's or a relative's but if and when i have gone against my own self i have been hurt by subtle hints given by the hosts and thus that aversion to lodging at anyone's has grown stronger and call it one of my own idiosyncrasy but i am like that.
What triggers peculiarities of our own has got a lot to do with the past and some of it is also inherited.Of course all experiences has it's pros and cons and with each we grow but it is also responsible in making us what we are.
My home in Bihar was nicknamed as Sheikh Chillee Niwas by sceptics and Bihar Bhawan by admirers.Some ridiculed and had fun but there were others who spoke volumes in favour of my parents bon homie. Nevertheless it was one unique home always alive and kicking with guests sine die. There were some who would be there with their spouses and kids and others on their own. Chachas, mamas ,buas, dad's collegues from outstation, friends from college and oh yes not to miss if not them then their relatives.Some had agendas which ranged from a holiday in the capital town and a dig into city life, medical treatment,admissions to colleges and also schools,litigation and something which can be beautifully summed up in this apt urdu word called Pairvee. Now it's beyond my comprehension to explain this in a single word because a mere reccomendation as a word will not suffice because pairvee encompassed all-begging,bribing,sychophancy and also exploiting and scheming to get the work done.i must also remember to stress that many simpletons from the villages arrived only to have bread butter jam and all the food items they couldn't afford to have and as they said "deh thik ho jata hai yahan... maans machli poora khane ko milta hai" (our body gets healthy here as we get good amount of mutton and fish to eat).We would as kids land up being confused because in school we learned that it was the other way around as it was in the village were everything was fresh/pure and the environment was non-polluted.Wasn't it that all essays and hindi texts said Gaon ka vatavaran sehat ke liye labhdayee hota hai (The village environment is beneficial for good health) So coming to what i had been narrating before, these guests would be scattered all over the house.And we kids would be propped up with all sorts of people as we had no rooms left to call our own.Even the porch would have idlers sitting and animated conversations ranging from politics to family fueds were the familiar sounds mixed with the calling out of names.Someone or the other was always calling out for some one.We were not spared too as we also had to run errands along with all the other domestic helps.Spread out everywhere and scattered around these guests presented the scene very akin to pre wedding ceremony.i can't forget how these guests would be lurking in the kitchen too trying to humour and befriend the cook to look after their interests well.It was much later that we realised why some of these cooks went that extra mile to grind Bhaang or to prepare special strong tobacco laced pan or to starch the dhotis with the rice kanji...They were bribed both ways.Mostly the stuff was shared amongst both parties and some times money lessened their tiredness and fatigue.Our first encounter with corruption actually started at home......

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gyan-part 2

In my reflections i shall be repeating what i heard and also understood and this process extends to aprreciating rather than doubting the changes in me. For quite sometime i was feeling lost but i know where i am going now. Just like a child who is happier with the simple rattles in his infancy graduates to more technical toys as he grows up so it is not strange but a familiar direction i seem to be taking. It is amazing and also incredible how i am being illuminated from all sides now. i have just heard something and then i get to see as well as experience the same and because i am in such a disposition i am absorbing everything. So i don't feel anymore that i am groping in the dark.

People around you are so much full of unsolicited advices that they start getting on your nerves.They will all be in unison in asking you to be calm and patient and not to get angry at matters which they consider is petty but these advices don't actually work.The basic problem is that everybody pushes you to make changes in you and forget that changes should come both ways. i have decided that i am going to make a start from my side and am never going to be that person who tries to change others. i have decided to become aware of my feelings and then use them to change myself and correct the so many foibles that i have. i am also beginning to acknowledge my strengths and that acts as a catalyst in my attempt to transform.

The scholar who is respectfully addressed more as swamiji talked the other day about renunciation. He had a very interesting anecdote which sounded hilarious but so true. The entire theatre reverberated with laughter when he said that. He narrated this incident where the student approaches the master and the master asks :

Master: Do you smoke ?

Student: (feeling embarrased but wanting to speak the truth is fidgeting) Not much but yes sir.

Master: Do you drink ?

Student: (more embarrased and still avoiding eye contact) Occasionally.

Master: Do you gamble ?

Student : ( feeling low and defeated already) Only sometimes with friends.

So like this the master keeps asking more than 20 questions to which the student's answer were in the affirmative but with an added attempt of "jor ka jhatka dhire se lage" and by the end of the QA session the student was crestfallen. Head hung with shame and remorse he waits for the master to give the verdict. The master feeling bloated and pompous announces - "You will have to renounce these immediately!". The court is dismissed and the student hurries out, wipes the sweat off his brow and thinks fast...20 and more to renounce on the one side and only 1 master on the other side...easily he took take a decision and said aloud- why don't i renounce the master himself. He was tormented earlier now he was happy and he went happily his way.

This is a classic example of what happens around us all the time. Everybody is asking you to give up something. Give up sugar and sweets...give up pulp fiction...give up chaloo music listen to classicals...give up this, give up that , in fact our life is turning out to be quagmire of everything with a LESS in it for eg starting with wireless...cordless...ending with valueless... shameless... jobless and oh the mantra of the day fatless.

When Swamiji talked about renunciation he said with conviction-'' NOBODY CAN RENOUNCE ANYTHING YOU CAN ONLY TAKE UP". The explanation to this is that just like the petals of the flower fall off to give us the fruit the same way as we begin to appreciate higher values in life the lower automatically falls off. The child does not give up the rattles it is the other way around .

This made such a lot of sense to me. i was being asked by friends and aquaintances to sign up for a lot of these programmes and i was reluctant because i was not willing to sign up for a regimented programme which asks you to give up so many things. i prefer to make these changes not by giving up suddenly but more by evolving. i don't want to be tormented and miserable in the process. i have a strong belief that it may take some time but finally i'll be home.Oh and i can't help remembering now how Robert Frost had put it "...and miles to go before i sleep,and miles to go before i sleep."

Gyan-part 1

Like i said before each day has some story to tell, some message to convey, only if we stop and listen. The problem is that there are too many things and how much to listen. We are bombarded on all sides and the frivolous mind gets too easily swayed, too easily distracted to have absorbed anything other than sheer pleasures. So yet another day goes down the drain and we have not listened to anything at all.

Not for me was a day when glued to my seat i actually listened so much so that the chords are etched deep inside as i remember and reflect.

This is what i heard and understood:

We are all heroes till faced with the ultimate challenge...the moment it stares us in the face just like Arjuna we drop our Gandiv and are too stupified to act...there seems to be a freeze of all the earstwhile heroism. This happens due to many reasons of which the most important and the very crippling one is our EMOTION. All this while i thought Fear was what prevented us; fear of the results led to bolting and baulking but emotions ruining our chances was new to me. i thought emotions actually helped us in many ways but it paralyizing us, as was evident in the case of Arjuna, i could never get the full meaning of. Little did i know that soon enough i will be a witness of such a situation which will enlighten me completely. Surely there must be many such events happening in real life though i got my lesson full and clear from this movie that i saw. And though the movie was focussing on something else there was a small and not very prominent part which best fits the category of emerging victorious . The kind that the scholar had explained earlier.

Well the movie is replete with challenges as it revolves around this central character who is autistic and is afflicted with a rare kind of autism called the Asperger's Syndrome. How he faces difficulties and finds way inspite his handicap is the main story. But there is part in the movie where an ordinary mother reports her only son to the police for having witheld information as a key witness to a heinous crime. The son being just 13-14 year old and still a child. Being a mother myself i could well imagine the enormity of such a challenge and i wondered if i had the courage to do something similar. Precisely this was the challenge that Arjuna faced in the battlefield when he saw that he has to fight his own kith and kin. And look at the challenges that we get bogged down with- Exams... job interviews... presentations...postings...promotions...

Movie is over and i go about my daily affairs but i cannot help but think about that mother who was actually connected to the self. That spirit inside us which we never acknowledge. i can only salute a thousand times that courageous and righteous woman , the mother. My head bows down in worhip to that divine light which illuminated her path and also gave her strength over weakness, the power, the determination to choose right from wrong and thus take action. She saw, faced and conquered. i too saw but can i conquer that is the question. Not to worry i have heard, i have seen and have understood that once you become selfless you become powerful and fearless. At least i know now what ABHAYAM ie fearlessness means and i eagerly look forward to listen , understand and reflect more. It definitely should be one step at a be contd.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

let's start from the beginning

My first brush with this beautiful thing called romance happened when i was in my 9th grade.
' Be my valentine ' said this cute card made in handmade artistic paper with letters cut out from newspapers and the sender left me guessing as the addresse had only a zodiac sign- Scorpio and no name. Even though it was a prank played by none other than my best friend it set forth a whole gamut of emotions and i am still reeling in the after effects as i am an incurable romantic at heart. This was way back when i was hopelessly into mills and boons and had millions of secret dreams. DREAMS IN COLOUR which had slivery sandy beaches, gently swaying breeze,frondy palms,and a tall someone with whom i would be walking hand in hand . He bending down and whispering sweet nothings,while i would be coy and ecstatic with the fluttering of a thousand butterflies inside. Needless to say then that it would be dusk and i would be in a white feminine dress which of course would be swaying as if to accentuate my femininity.Strange but true, i could never get to see all this from the front. Elusive! yet it would keep me weak in my knees and waiting for that dream to happen when i could see him and me in full view up and front. i really am amazed how my obsession with anything white actually started with dreams.

i now see all around me this intense craze for valentine day and it prompted me to go down memory lane.But i wonder if in this fast forward world where everything is instant, romance is actually what it should be. i feel it has got polluted along with the others.That Romance is a beautiful process which starts from having a glimpse of each other and then proceeding gradually to the works if any chemistry existed. The teacher in me wants to stand in a public place and warn the youngsters and to plead them to slow down. i see from the newspapers that things like chocolate and flowers are passe and now valentine gifts are more risque and it wants me to tear my hair in despair. Imagine going to see a blockbuster after knowing the whole story. What fun or thrill can one experience in that? i know i may be sounding foolish but that softness,that freshness,that sweetness,that charm is now extinct. Choice is a personal thing and i guess people prefer differently now but i want to keep on feeling this that, just like other emotions love is the most beautiful one and that it should be expressed and it should be able to gratify your desires but i would prefer the old school wooing which had everything...beginning from eye contact, sending love messages, getting to know each other, flowers , chocolates, long rides with romantic numbers, trusting, accepting and believing without guarantee and finally kissing. i am not at all comfortable with all this auto- operative system in which much is already known beforehand and much is taken for granted.For me romance is that one look that says hey you look beautiful and not sexy, that warm grab of the hand in the middle of a crowd which says don't worry i am by your side and sometimes even conveys baby i want you, that suddenly coming from behind and kissing you passionately just when you are about to give tadka to your dal, that surprise tickets to the show you desperately wanted to see, that naughty look of confirmation in the middle of the show and then turning to look deeply at each other...So today while my husband and i nibbled our respective sandwiches and had Jamun sherbet at this lovely cafe attached to a boutique we shared the thrill of these youngsters who were seen walking in an out of the florists with roses,lilies,anthuriums,orchids and some exotic ones the names of which i know not. We both smiled at each other and nodded in affirmation. All is not lost afterall and that calls for a celebration. This gazhal of yesteryears perhaps sums up all that i had to say and i all that i couldn't for the time being.It is one of the lesser known ones by the famous Ghazal singing couple of the 80's Jagjit Singh and Chitra singh and the words are: us more se shuru karein phir ye zindagi
har shaiy jahan haseen thi
hum tum the ajnabi... Meanwhile i have my fill for the day as Ahista Ahista plays in the background because i have enjoyed all the fuss and pampering for the day as it was Sunday and to top it all a very happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

life is beautiful

There's a lot around to give pleasure to the senses if we just stop to soak it in. i just wish i have the right words to explain how this particular explosion of green delights me every time now. And though this delight fills me up and i feel refreshed yet there is a strong urge to freeze it. Maybe it it similar to the urge that one has of owning the thing that one finds beautiful. That feeling to have it forever but then can anything last forever? And then i understood what ''bliss of solitude "means. Only thing that with our gadgets in hand we can in some ways make things last forever. But however moments can be frozen we will always miss out the other part...that live part. i sure did feel the same emotion on seeing the new shining foliage and it gave me the same amount of joy as it would have given William Wordsworth ,when he saw a burst of golden yellow and so beautifully penned down "...beside the lake beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze...". Only thing is i am incapable of composing one to explain the joy of this lovely spectacle. At the moment i can only feel thankful to nature for giving me this joyous moment and i know that it will last forever in my mind's eye...everything...the glistening green and the gentle breeze. i am also thankful that i have the leisure to enjoy every bit of it. i was able to see the tree shed it's leaves and marvelled at the beautiful silhouette of the bare tree after dusk and how striking the parrots looked when they sat on the bare branches calling out to each other and i shall soon see the green lost in the immense burst of faintly sweet- smelling , yellow blossoms. i feel glad that i can refer to this wonderful tree by name and i know that it is called Copper Pod or Haldi Gulmohar and not unless i befriend a real lover of nature garderner will i know the Tamil name for this , till then manjal poo maram will suffice.

look no further

i really don't know if this is comforting news or otherwise when i saw in the newspapers that now performing poojas is just a matter of the click of the mouse. The mob mentality did incite me to go ahead and follow the rest but something stopped me before i could trouble my husband in the office to ask him as to what denomination pooja should i go for. It was my same questioning self which raised objections and this time my husband is spared of the accusations. i asked myself -why do i need to do that for? Who exactly am i trying to appease? What benefit will i be recieving ? The answers that i got could not convince me and so i chucked the idea totally.What is it that stopped me this time? For so long i had been thinking faith is blind but only today i knew that faith has been falsely implicated. It is us. There are so many things we do, all in the name of religion and has it brought us anywhere close to God? God is too farfetched in fact we are drifting far apart even with our own kind. By performing such poojas who are we trying to convince? None but ourselves because i understand poojas are not only done for the sake of doing it but also to imbibe a sense of discipline. That sense that i will take time out, get up early and if possible try to make it to the nearest temple will perhaps suit me better than to blindly log online and use the credit cards to do the abhishekam/archana. It will definitely give me more happiness, most satisfaction and in the end i will feel less guilty of bribing my way into Heaven. Moreover when the easier path has already been provided by the Lord Himself that of Nam Sumiran which means whenever you can and wherever you can , you can reach Him. Do i need to look any further?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Status quo

They say life is full of surprises but for me it has it has been a case of history repeats itself. i have not been much different from the yesteryears happenings in most respects except that i have a few technological devices and that i can speak and understand English thanks to my convent education. But apart from that not much has changed and soon i'll be the one feeling the angst of what is called the generation gap. So i am in a way brainwashing myself to take it easy and not to become an old hag who points at the Gen X with much disgust and cribs about the good old days when things were so recognizable and uncomplicated. What made me know myself better is when i look at myself now in comparison to when i was a kid and this usually happens now because i am already missing the non-tech days when food was so much tastier with the freshly ground spices on the sil batta as compared to the almost ready to eat stuff that i seem to be endorsing these days.Not to miss the ramblings about the village women being fit in their physical self because they accomplished most chores manually. Funny it is that i almost cheated my family by making so many shortcuts to the so many dishes which require meticulous measurements, medium flame cooking and appropriate timings. Who has the patience now to make the Daal Makhani the traditional way when it was allowed to cook on slow flame for long hours? Besides, so much fuel will be wasted and there are so many more exotic dishes to try. So basically, inside i am the same who believes that a way to the man's heart is through the stomach but have very cunnigly made adjustments to that. At least all this while, till i have started having these cravings. Cravings for the same aromas that drifted across the rooms, longing for the same sounds of frenetic activity in the kitchen which heralded the delights of the day, and i yearn for the same excitement which got us ready to plop comfortably onto our dining chairs.

Strange but true i also seem to be endorsing the concept of men doing their own thing and women doing their own. And that, gather as many skills as you can, prepare yourself for tomorrow but women should stop wanting to be like man. This can never happen because not only are we different physically but also miles apart mentally. This sense of doing things together is getting on my nerves. Because a) men will be men and don't usually go into the nitty gritty of things and b) it saves a lot of fruitless confrontations. How can you get a man to agree what is good for you? If it is plants you want to settle down with, they will suggest something like online trading to make it your hobby. If it is a particular movie you want to watch, it will definitely be something you can never dig into. When you want to eat Chinese they will always want a simple Dal , Chawal and Sabji of which one should be dry and one in the form of curry and definitely greens are a must. And getting provisions for the month only spells disaster if it is done together. So i actually want to revert to old times when women managed the home and the hearth and men were left to see to it that this function of the woman went perfect without much interference. Going down memory lane i remember this that as kids we were most intrigued why Ma and Papa had separate pooja rooms. And when i had questioned Ma about this she had as a matter of factly answered that Papa created a lot of mess in his pooja procedures and on a daily basis she was finding it difficult to cope with, so finding a convenient niche she had placed her Gods there and was happy with her little corner. Yes she did mention that she does not want in any way to show disrespect to Papa so she preferred it this way.There was no confrontation and when Papa was way good in his finances, he constructed a separate pooja room for her where she would have her daily communion with God the way she liked...followed rules and precedures in her true Sumangali attire. My mother and father were like two extremes. Papa ,very modern and a liberal whereas Ma was very traditional and too particular about religion in an orthodox way. And now, other than the pooja room , i also long for a separate room for myself where i can read for wee hours in the morning with full lights on or listen to my favourite music or even to go on endlessly watching movies. So not much has changed except that i have become more confrontational than being adjusting. Plus my sense of discipline has gone to the dogs.

i don't know how true it is but i have seen in clippings and heard people talk about this balance which Japanese women maintain in their lives. i may be prejudiced at this as i am an ardent admirer of the Orient and their culture. Maybe i don't know much but i do adore their femininity.Their humility and soft-spokenness , that adherence to their rituals and culture and also the fact that no matter how far she may have gone so far as career is concerned, she gives it all up once she is married. Not for any other reason but the fact that family comes first.Everything has it's arguements but i know now that i have come to appreciate qualities like femininity and what an Indian woman was an embodiment of -humility, endurance, sacrifice,....purity. i see myself wanting to go back in time and make a few changes in myself. It is never too late they say but what about the damages done?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Freaked out

Before you realise much about yourself something happens out of the blue and it strikes you with such intensity that in reflex all you can do is deny. No i am not that !! As more thoughts richochet inside your ever-active brain you slowly say things to yourself which kind of acts like a tranquilizer and you are okay with yourself and just move on , brushing the thoughts away that freaked you out. You yourself are the prosecuter, defence attorney and the judge all wrapped in one,verdict announced and you move on. Well i have just pronounced the verdict which of course is in my favour. The case being that for the hindus and i being one, i wanted a ban on posting the images of our Gods on shopping bags, pamphlets, cards...and everything that lands in a trash can , when it has served it's purpose. It annoys me to see that something so sacred is made so cheap , so banal . One the one hand we keep our Gods in a sanctum sanctorum and in many of our famous temples ,we have to get across an ardous and tedious queue to even have a glimpse of the Holy One and on the other hand we show utter disrespect and post them anywhere indiscriminately. Needless to say all comedies, ads, parodies, satires which use our Gods make me ballistic . My last visit to my hometown in Bihar took me by surprise when i saw pictures of hindu Gods posted everywhere one wanted the walls to be free of Picassos created by ardent pan lovers. Not a blotch on the wall !oh how religious my own kind are! hats off to their faith and belief! How can one be so religious on the one instant and so commercial to ignore the sanctity of their faith on the other, is what i fail to understand. And as if this was not enough USA now has released stamps with Sri Hanuman and Lord Krishna. i shuddered with revulsion to think how many will use glue to the self sticking stamps instead of spit which normally people use to attach the stamps to their post. And after the post has served it's purpose only a philatelist will keep the stamp but mostly my Revered One , will go either to a shredder or once again in the trash can. Why can't people leave my Gods alone? God is sacred and we place images and idols of our Gods in the most pure places. And then it hit me-OMG! i am a fanatic!! or maybe turning into one. Well it didn't take me long to understand that wierd part of me conjuring things out of nowhere and the annoyance, disgust and anger dissipated. Like i said before the petitioner in me got the case dismissed with a sound judgement. i was happy then that the world is commemorating the divinity of my Gods and that He/She resides everywhere, even in the trash cans. Lord Ram had no problems eating the half bitten fruit of Shabari which was offered to him with love and devotion and He is above all what we call pure and impure. And the sanctum sanctorum is within us. i rest my case...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

knowing myself

Just when you think you can sit back and relax with all the complacency you have got, you start once again with this virus called doubt. Doubts which are always lurking and come to the fore with the slightest of provocation. i was beginning to feel disciplined in following my routine where finally i had managed a place for religion/faith. Making promises to myself that i shall proceed from one holy book to the other i was quite satisfied with some promises fulfilled and some still beckoning. When lo! and behold! as if like a curse i am stricken with the plague of doubt. Am i religious or faking it? Am i following something or just repeating what has been handed down to me by birth? Do i think of God as an omniscent, omnipotent, omnipresent or is it my fear that makes me even think of Him/Her? Fear of the unknown , fear for the loved ones ... cowered with my own insecurities is it that what turns me to the Holy One ? After all, in all my prayers am i not asking for results? Results which are truly in my favour? So is this what we call faith or is it fear? i suppose faith was something like " i believe in sun even when it isn't shining .....". Of late i'm showing a penchant for Karma - what goes around comes around theory and that has in a way added fuel to this fire already there. Finding it convenient ,this Karma theory because i get my answers fast maybe it is a shortcut but that's the way it is. Maybe , it's that child in me denying the existence of that Big Brother who is watching you and waiting to set you right the moment you default or go against the rules? Maybe doubt will itself provide the answers when i'm able to understand fully the meaning of faith. i shall carry on with this questioning as to what it is that binds me to religion. i do have faith in this though that of all the wonderful things that has happened to mankind , it has started with a question be it how , what or when and the best of them all why. life has given me some answers and i still seek some and maybe as a seeker i might stike gold...Tathastu!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Finally free

i am finally enjoying my life. So it goes without saying that it was no so earlier. Can't really put a finger on the causes because they all look so trivial now, to have made me unhappy. Sometimes i think being educated didn't help at all, at best it left me confused. i would often watch ladies whom i would very snobbishly call illiterates and frogs in the well going about their daily chores happily without complaint whereas all i would do is to crib. Now, is it the age that has mellowed me down or is it that with the passage of time i've learned to compromise i really don't know, all i know now is that i'm happy.
Happy with my unhurried life when i don't wake up in the morning with the list of things to do which had probably hovered in my sleep too.
Happy that i no longer want to do things perfectly because i've realised nothing can really be perfect and that it's not natural...
Absolutely delirious about the fact that i no longer seek approvals from others to tell me if i'm right or wrong,good or bad because now i know it's really not worth it because the great approval should come from within me.
Talking about approvals i admit that i was an approval junkie and i'm enjoying that freedom, that peace one gets when one finally kicks the addiction goodbye.
That i was one i wasn't even aware, not until now. As i went about my affairs i wanted people to tell me how good, attractive, generous, funny, wild and clever i really was."Fear or revere me but please think that i'm special ". i was actually a monkey begging for the approval of others.
And it's scary to think that i somehow managed not to damage myself in any way. Come to think of this, what if i had changed to the liking of others ? i would cease to be me but a stranger whom i myself would fail to recognise.
The happy voice inside me says -hip hip hoo ray.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

i wish,i wish...

i indulge in a lot of wishful thinking these days and in these i pendulate between the most archaic to the most novel. How does change the world sound? Stereotyped maybe, maybe cliched but that does not stop me from wishing nevertheless. But something also tells me that this can be a reality if i convert wishing into wanting. I may be a small dust in this entire constellation but i have my own very important role to play. This should be the start if the change in the world is to be-from me.
Each day brings with it some experience, some good and some bad but if we remain true just remain true to these experiences we bring ourselves to be that change.
Just the other day while strolling into the 'Healing Garden' created by a known samaritan, my friend and i exchanged notes about our daily routines and experiences. It was one of those fruitful talks where we came to conclusions and had many revelations. And one of these was, why we are, what we are? of course the nature versus nurture theory also cropped up but at that point of time putting our perspectives across, we agreed that we fail to take lessons from our experiences so instead of being healers we turn into marauders.
There's this Greek myth which perhaps will help catch my drift. i just read it the other day in the newspaper so it is fresh and so apt to convey my intentions. There's no doubt many such stories abound in our mythology too but this is new and so close to my thoughts that i think it better to share and put forth my point.
Chiron was a gentle and kind centaur(half man-half horse) unlike others of his kind who were rowdy and indulgent in drinking. On a particular fateful day he got wounded by an arrow from Herculese's bow. Death could not provide Chiron respite from the excruciating pain as he was immortal. So he became a recluse and retreated to the mountains to find a cure for his pain. Although he was unable to find anything that could cure him he became wise in his knowledge on herbs. And thus the pain as his master he became compassionate to other's sufferings. He started welcoming,treating and thus helping all who were suffering and thus became a wounded healer.
Our experiences moulds us in many ways and as i recollect mine i know now that i have ignored many, to even give it a thought, what to talk of making commends. Actually for a long time i was only devising ways of giving it back.Oh no! not the good ones as good ones are only for indulgence but bad ones are for giving it back. Someone hurts you, mind is on the run how to hurt them back and then devise ways - tit for tat , bitter medicines can be sweet coated...blah blah. The point is why waste all that energy in devious plans and why not use that to become healers. The least we can do is to remind ourselves not to be a copy.
Well the start to anything humanitarian is the realisation. After realisation the tread may not be a cakewalk but i can try. At least trying is better than just wishing. I AM BLESSED because i realise, the less fortunate ones don't even until it is too late.
Realisation-" We need to stay mindful of the fact that as wounded healers ,we become transformed when we understand that our wound may be completely personal and uniquely our own, it simultaneously is a shared, universal non-personal process. We heal ourselves and others from our wounds."
i didn't mean to sound stiff- assed, sanctimonious , boring prude but these were my thoughts for the day before i get involved in the other frivolous activities.
Oh i wish i could tell all this to my that friend, father or to my mother in law without sounding arrogant...there i go again...
On second thoughts i'm not ready not yet or rather not fit enough to be the change. Alas...