30 January, 2012

Classic Incantations - A concert of confluence

AR Rahman's music is that undercurrent in my life which interleaves most of my memorable memories and important instances. His music is not just a means of recreation to me, it is where my rationality fades and I know of one thing but surrendering to his notes.

Today happened to be an excellent opportunity to rejuvenate my Rahmanism, and witness a German orchestra - Babelsberg perform some of his best pieces. The concert was in commemoration of the Indo-German relationship, and aptly the German orchestra performed to AR Rahman.

Although ARR was not at the venue, he did peek in via web chat and greeted the audience.

The impact live music leaves one with is unimaginable, and if the music is something you already relish it elevates the experience one level ahead. Although this I can't claim to be the best live music experience I've had, it did leave me with goosebumps most of the time, and ecstatic at the end of the performance.

My first live experience of a soprano happened today, and after today's brief rendezvous with soprano, I only ask for more of it. If there is one composition by ARR that I have always longed to listen to live in a symphony orchestra it is the opening music of the title track of Rajni starring Muthu. And it was scintillating, as expected!

The exotic theme music of Roja, Bombay, Lagaan, Subash Chandra Bose, 127 hours, Robot, Passage, Mangal Pandey,  Warriors of Heaven & Earth, Lord of the Rings, Elizabeth, Meenaxi and Slumdog Millionaire were performed. Each one leaving behind a repertoire of emotions :-)

The last performance, which enchanted the 8000 strong audience was the theme from Swades. Although my favorite portions from the movie soundtrack are different than the one performed it precisely showed the power of an orchestra! Just splendid!

My monotony was undone, and I feel full to the brim :-)

26 January, 2012

Fulfilling emptiness....

Both socilasing and solitude are necessary to keep us sane. Just that we long for one of these, when the other has been experienced in excess. But being stuck in one of these extremities might render some extreme ramifications – one either becomes a hermit, or an identity-less chunk in the crowd.
I am now relishing solitude after an excessive dosage of socialising. AR Rahman is singing quite aptly and filling the air with “thanimai thanimaiyo” , as I am writing this now.
It is as if I am getting back to myself; as if to catch up with a portion of me I had forgotten and to savour every moment with this interaction. Music and unfettered thoughts both playing at full force : serenity. It seems that I was longing for it for quite sometime.  
You are your truest self, when alone, I had read somewhere, and what better opportunity than when in solitude to rendezvous the unfaking self.

Solitude is not just about introspection, although that comes as default. It is more on the lines of rediscovering, revealing and rejuvenating the self. It has an unparalleled power to appease the disturbances, distilling the mind.

Bliss when caressed secured in the bosoms of Mother Nature and the bliss in the damp warmth of seclusion are but extreme, yet sublime experiences.

My slowly dawning revelation of a close companion – words, seem to flow out with ease, articulating my thoughts with utmost fidelity in an ambiance uninterrupted by the chaos of the routine. Intimate and profound thoughts quantify as ideas and take form as my scribblings. At this juncture I also am introspecting this companionship, and validating if I haven't fooled myself. To question my caliber of writing is a routine passing question.
And even before I have completed thinking of the question, the answer already is surfacing up. Why does it have to be gauged at all! It is fulfilling, complementing and extending myself beyond the biological me, and is that not a valid reason to stop questioning of its caliber and let it flow? I do write to cater to others, but only after gratifying my own urges to vent out, ideate and express.

The post as you have read on, if you noticed has no structure at all! It is the crudest of my posts, in saying that it also lacks any intent to pretend or preach.

It is quite an irony to see how emptiness can also be satiating. But is it emptiness at all is the question :)

25 January, 2012

Swami Vivekananda: The monk as man

Swami Vivekananda: The monk as man
Translated from an article by Dinesh Aminmattu, Prajavani, 16th Jan, 2012

Swami Vivekananda was a “dull” student. He lost his job as a teacher because he was 'not able to impart lessons' to students. By birth he was diseased. And by the time of his demise not one or two, but was suffering from 31 different ailments. Matching with his Bengali descent, he was an obsessive junk food eater. Until the last day of his life he was eating non-vegetarian food, and was also able to cook non-vegetarian recipes derived from national and international cuisines. He would smoke cigars and hukkas like an addict. Without distinction of it being Hindus, Muslims or Christians, he would eat at all their homes, Even while he was devoted 'Sanyasi', he would be engaged in all the get together parties that were organised throughout the day in the hotels, while he was in the USA....

If these snippets be propagated, to all the people currently engrossed in celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of this “Revolutionary Hindu Saint”, they would be taken aback with terror. Nonetheless, these are true facts.

Even though from a backward class (shudra), Vivekananda took up Sanyasa going against the Hindu tradition. He denounced the same tradition again by crossing the oceans. Rebelling against the ancient traditionalists he would stay put at the 'unholy' places of westerners. For the very same reason, High Court judge Murthy Gurudas Mukherjee refused to head the Welcome Committee after Vivekananda was returning from the Chicago World Religious Forum address. After the renouncement and the 'sainthood', numerous eminent people from the 'upper castes' would address him a friend and not as swami. He expressed his infuriation about the hoaxes, customs prevalent in Hinduism and other perils like casteism, untouchability, blind superstitions, temple rituals and these outbursts would for sure have earned him the tag of an enemy to Hinduism from the fanatic proponents of Hinduism. 
Swami Vivekananda at Jaipur, ca.1885-1893

Ideas like “Head is superior, and legs are inferior”, which instilled disparity within one's own body and other disparity installing mechanisms that are inherent to Hinduism had frustrated Vivekananda, and in rebuttal he would say that people should have “Muslim bodies, with Vedic minds”. When the Maharaja of Khitri, a disciple, expressed his dissent about Vivekananda eating at a Muslim home. Vivekananda retaliated by saying, “I would even eat with the scavengers. I wouldn't be scared of people like you. You don't know anything about God or religion.” Once, an emotional Vivekananda went on to say, “If I were alive during the time of Jesus, not with my tears, I would cleanse his feet with the blood oozing from my heart”.

He would also defer the argument that Hindus were converting to Islam because of the force of Muslim rulers. He would attribute this migration to the inherent casteism, untouchability and exploitation in Hinduism. When a religion does not recognise and respect the fundamental rights of humans, then it no longer is a religion, but “dance of the devil”, and the place becomes “hell”, was his perception. He would also reminisce words from his teacher Ramakrishna Paramahansa, “Mutual respect between religion is not sufficient, there must be a cognizance of the fact that all the religions are true”.

Hoping that the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Vivekananda “Utsavamurthi” would increase the awe and respect towards him, but when experienced turn out to be a disappointment. Even after 110 years after the demise of the maverick saint who lived for only 39 years, 5 months and 24 days, after endorsing sainthood at an age of 24 years, life of the real Vivekananda is still shrouded in obscurity. Often in recent times, Vivekananda is being projected as the “Brand Ambassador” of Hinduism and in this process, traits which weren't his are being fabricated and portrayed exaggeratedly to elevate him to the place of God! 
Vivekananda in South Pasedena
This misrepresentation is nothing new. People who have wanted to transform the society by social reforms have all been made 'deities' and have been distanced from the common people. The notion that, if not for an incarnation of God, no normal human being can grow to have any substantial impact has been shrewdly planted and perpetuated by various religious leaders with political leaders as accomplice. Starting from Buddha to Basavanna, Vivekananda to Narayan, all these people leaders have been escalated as deities amidst their 'worshipers' and are today drowned in the anointments and chants of their 'devotees'. Sinking under the worshiping of these these devotees, the real life and ideas of these great leaders are going oblivious in the pages of history.

Last year, Penguin Publishers published a book “The Monk as Man” by famous Bengali writer Mani Sankar Mukherjee. This is the English translated version of a research based Bengali book (Sankar's novels “Seemabaddha” and “Jana Aranya” were made into movies by Satyajit Ray). Apart from the ideas and philosophies of Vivekananda, the little known private life is featured in this book. Also other books about their elder brother by Vivekananda's younger brothers and letters from Sister Nivedita throw light upon the life and times of Vivekananda. 
Another group picture in South Pasadena
Vivekananda would in future enchant the western world with his knowledge and mastery over the English language, in spite of faring not academically well in his intermediate and B.A exams. He scored 46 % and 56% respectively is worth a mention. Out of 500 marks he scored 261 (in Sanksrit he scored 43 and in philosophy 45).
After the death of his father, Vivekananda, out of compulsion had to work to maintain the family. He joined Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar's education institution. And because Vivekananda was not able to teach students well, he was sacked from his job by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar himself. If not for his mother – Bhuvaneshwari Devi, the world would not have seen Vivekananda, maybe. Like the thousands of Narendranaths from Kolkata, he too would have drowned amongst the crowd.

Vivekananda was from a rich family, but with the untimely death of his father, their ancestral property was swindled by his relatives, leaving the entire family onto the streets. Narendranath was the eldest of the eleven children and the responsibilities of taking care of the family was already on his tender shoulders. While he was unemployed, there were times when he would wander on the streets wearing torn clothes, having no food to eat on many occasions. The fight in a court that was going on incessantly for seventeen years got resolved only a month before the death of Vivekananda.

Shrugging off family responsibilities, Vivekananda renounced the world and took up Sanyasa, passing all of his burden onto his mother. His mother did not loathe him because he had quit the responsibilities of the family in times of deep despair. Instead, she would be proudly talk of her son saying, “My son took up Sanyasa at an age of 24”. After Vivekananda's demise, she lived for another eight years in tremendous trouble, sustaining only on the monthly grant of a hundred rupees from the King of Khitri. Today, the Indian population who are glorifying and celebrating him were of no use when he was alive. He had once lamented, “ Should I always beg to the foreigners”. 
Mother of Vivekananda Bhuvaneshwari Devi
Man of a big heart, broad shoulders, bright eyes...”, are the usual text book descriptions of Vivekananda, projecting him to be the He-Man of Hinduism. Little would the people claiming these know that Vivekananda was always ill and was suffering from numerous ailments. From severe headache to heart problems, he was suffering from 31 health problems. Apart from kidney, liver and throat problems, he was suffering from hypertension, diabetes, asthma, acidity, constipation, weakened nerves, joint pain, swollen legs and was constantly in pain. He had been an insomniac for a long time, and during the end of his days he would sleep as little as a couple of hours only per day. Even a touch would cause excruciating pain in his body. He had written to his disciple Mary Hale at the age of 34, “My hair has grown grey much before my age and my face has wrinkled”. Disheartened by his illnesses once he sighed, “ I have become like a limping horse unable to run the race. At least bestow me peace by granting euthanasia (mercy killing). I can no longer bear this pain”, records Sister Nivedita in her documents.

Even amidst all the ailments, the sharpness of his words hadn't mellowed a bit. Being the foodie he was, he would eat lot of junk food. “I would add chunks of meat in boiling water with some spices and serve a dish to Thakur (Paramahamsa). Whereas, Naren (Vivekananda) would cook varieties of non-vegetarian dishes”, says Sharadadevi in one of her writings. Sister Nivedita has also elaborately documented the culinary skills of Vivekananda, comprising of national and international recipes. The day he died is when the Hilsa fish had entered the Hoogly river; he had got it cooked, had it for lunch and later in the day when he was resting is when he breathed his last that night.

A dull student as per academic standards, ailing from tens of health issues, shaken by family responsibilities, food obsessed common people can also grow to become “Vivekananda”, was proven by Narendranath to the world. While being entangled in these difficulties also, he had studied all the religions and philosophies of the world. He would travel countries and give speeches. He would relentlessly write books and letters. He had thousands of disciples and millions of followers. He started the Ramakrishna Mission in service to his Guru. All of this, he had accomplished within a span of 15 years.
Can a commoner accomplish all of this? Certainly he/she can. One has to be a Vivekananda for that!

PS:  Audio excerpt of Vivekananda's address at the Parliament of World Religions, Chicago in September, 1893

21 January, 2012

Questions as windows to the mind!

Judging people and their intellectual abilities based on the answers they give is ineffective, to say the least. Answers to questions, or solutions to problems can be 'learned', sometimes even 'practiced', and necessarily do not convey the independent intellectual abilities of the person and the mind.

Answering questions is not an uninfluenced act of logic or reasoning; It is a response to the question posed, and because the question has already been asked the premise and context of the thoughts and ideas are made available. Now, it is only a matter of ideating on a given plane of thought, within a frame of reference. It for sure requires a radical mind to answer questions by thinking beyond the given plane of ideological reference. And hence the rarity of radical thinkers.

Whereas, when people are to ask questions by themselves, it is more of an independent and self reliant process. Questions emanate out of the inconsistencies of personal perceptions and understanding. It is also a consequence of the self not being able to decide upon the realms of applicability of ideas it possesses. To come up with a sensible question is by virtue of the adjective prefixed a lot more demanding mental exercise than to come up with the answer itself.

Allow me to take one question as an example to substantiate these claims of mine:

There is God, or there is no God. 
Substantiating either of the claims might appeal to each of the respective diaspora as a radical answer, but, it is not the answer, the question firstly which is more radical
Is there a God at all?
People to arrive at this question would have to go through a more rigorous exercise than the ones taking either the stand of a theist, or an atheist.
This is true, for any question!

It is not answer that has been changing the world, but the questions!

What if we were not created?
Why are blacks not equal?
What if light is a wave and a particle?
What if time is not constant?
What if there is no God?
Why is there disparity?
Why should it be this way, why not that way?

Ponder, and questions reveal the mettle of an intellectual traits than the answers.
Watch out for people and the questions they ask.

19 January, 2012

Interaction with Dr.Binayak Sen

Dr.Binayak Sen
Dr.Binayak Sen, a normal middle class family man and a pediatrician, concerned about his fellow beings, is according to his own sarcastic words different from the rest of the audience in that he has had "the privilege that the majority of the middle class in India have not had: to be jailed and handed a life sentence for sedition".

A senior human rights activist, pediatrician and now an icon of sorts because of the conviction by the District Court of Raipur guilty of 'sedition' for alleged Naxal links and due to the global support his cause received. His work in universalizing health and nutrition in rural India have also gained him wide accolades.

In an interaction at the Indian Institute of Science, Dr.Sen elucidated some of the aspects of his work, the concern he shares with the rest of the population and his take on the current "Sedition Law" in India.

Here is a gist of the interaction:

Malnourishment in India

Dr.Sen being a health specialist and having been part of the Steering committee for the National health policy revealed some data which are hard to fathom.

With about 37% of our population having a Body-Mass-Index less than 18.5, implying malnourishment, India according to Dr.Sen has been in a state of stable famine over large periods time. With this figure today India is the country with the highest number of hungry people in the world.

Deriving from the statistics, Dr. Sen also conveyed the fact that the annual grain consumption per family has declined, and although certain set of people are relating it to increase in consumption of meat, he infers a further worsening impoverishment of the population.

He invokes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent futile sigh about such conditions where in the PM called it "a national shame".

Universal health care

Another important aspect that Dr.Sen has been working in and wanted the audience to ponder about was the access to Universal health care to all citizens.
Malnourishment interleaved with the lack of basic amenities: starting from sanitation to primary health care at affordable costs has been rendering a huge section of the Indian rural population, scheduled castes, scheduled tribe population into the fangs of diseases such as tuberculosis, diabetes meningitis etc.

According to Dr. Sen, there is no resource crunch in terms of funds, but only lack of planning and reluctance in implementing policies such as health insurance, strengthening Public Distribution system, subsidising prices.

People and politics

When the audience recurrently raised questions on what each one of us could be doing to impact the situation, Dr. Sen had a recurrent answer :
"You cannot stay at an arm's distance to politics and say no to politics and still hope for change in the conditions.

People cannot outsource democracy to about 500 of their so called representatives and forget about democracy until once in five years. Ordinary citizens should get involved in active politics.", were Dr.Sen's views. He also made it clear that he was not talking of any party politics, but only active engagement by people in democratic processes and ensuring that the Government would give heed to the request of its people.

Sedition Laws in India

After having handed a life sentence in the name of sedition by a District court, rejection of bail plea by High court and over ruled bail by the Supreme Court, Dr Sen obviously had a critical view of the current sedition laws.

He said,"In an active democracy dissent should be legitimised, only then can a democracy function. But, according to the sedition law 'any disaffection towards the government in power' is deemed as sedition and a life sentence could be rewarded". This according to Dr. Sen is ironic and a flawed take on democracy itself.

In conclusion, Dr. Sen also hinted at the current neo-liberal policies which allow thriving expropriation of natural resources for profit either by the Government, or the Government in nexus with the corporates. Encapsulating this disparity, Dr Sen recollected a Supreme court verdict in which the Judges analyse the Government's vision as:
Tax breaks for the rich, and guns for the poor!

15 January, 2012

You know when you flow

'To Flow' is what I ask people to do. That's my motivation tagline; Yes, it might be that I can't do it as well as the current corporate Gurus, but I preach only what I practise unlike them :)

Culture as a flowing stream and stagnation as a peril, I dealt with one of articles for The Hindu. Now with respect to people when I'm talking of 'flowing', I only imply unfettered living by pursuing ones dreams, without any inhibitions at all. The term 'flow' reminds us of certain adjectives which would do well if observed in our personalities - dashing, hustling, agile, flourishing, moving ahead, destiny!

If that seems cliched, or superficial, you are free to think so :)

My experience is: When you do what you love to do, people love you for you to do; And that precisely is the external metric which one must check up if not contended from within, or is having dubiousness about the life he/she is stuck in.

When actions and thoughts are in synchronism, and efforts are effortless, aging through days transforms into flowing. And flow is always good, for the entity as well as the ecosystem; Be it with respect to Mother nature, or human nature :)

Even if I am to write more lines on these lines I would still only be trying to convey the point that, mere surviving is not a life worth having lived, and to flourish in your life all you have to do is instead of crawl through - FLOW :)

Not really apt, but there's the ocean at the background :P

11 January, 2012

Bhagawad Gita, the fanaticism, education and secularism

I have not been following the recent debate of incorporating the 'mandatory study' of the Hindu religious text Bhagavad Gita in its entirety, but with my little understanding of the issue I directly plunge into proposing my opinions.

Firstly, the notion of India being a secular state has for long time been applicable only to school text books, and not in fact to the day to day activities in its truest spirit. Further, the idea that a Hindutva fanatic political party is ruling the state of Karnataka, and has incessantly been trying to aggravate the already fragile inter religious solidarity is of anything but grave concern.
BJP in Karnataka seems to have nothing better to work upon, except for churning out the 'sentiments' based on Hindutva ideology amongst its people. The recent 'made snana' debate, the increasing saffron mutts which have now attached themselves onto the nexus between politicians and corporate mafia trying to influence the opinions of the gullible population of the state by divine order, and now the issue of The Gita in school curriculum.

Religion in its pure form might not have been harmful, but we are to tackle what it is now and not what it could have been

The issue of introducing the study of a controversial religious text as a mandatory portion of the curriculum (although it is being claimed to be a pilot project) operates directly at weakening  secularism. It isn't just about The Gita - no single religious text must be enforced on the young minds.

I studied in a Christian school, and the extravagant propaganda of The Bible in fact eased my metamorphosis to take my current stand of an atheist, which might not be the case with all young minds. Likewise, although Hindus might be the majority population in India (even in Karnataka), it does not give them the right to tread on the religiosity of other sections of people - be it Muslims, Christians, or atheists. On the other hand because they are the majority, it hands them the extra responsibility of not hurting other religious and non religious sentiments.

In a TV discussion, one sane head made a valid point of religious education: Either it should be kept entirely away from education, or a comparative study of all major religious philosophies and texts must be conducted in an impartial manner. And I seem to endorse this point wholly. Although even a comparative study of it also might be futile, only to help young minds to look back at all the stupidity that has been perpetrating for centuries in the name of religions.

The specific issue of The Gita being imposed is an open atrocity being committed in the name of religion, for direct political gain. The nature of the content in The Gita - the varna system and the justification of war etc, have been already debated intensely. It is not only a sectarian propaganda, it also gives immense room for all the fanatics or the puritans to perpetrate more atrocities in the form of moral policing and of course more of superstitions, because of their conveniently wrong interpretations.

If it is ethics that the Government is keen on teaching its students, let it strip off the brand of religion, synthesize only the essence from all religions of the world: Living a good and honest life might not require volumes of preaching from people who lived ages before us.

And to adamantly stick on to the antiquity of those preachings is that special absurdity in all religions that makes them redundant, even before the debate has started!

Let there be light!

05 January, 2012

Reading The Kite Runner

Well, I knew the genre I was being led into – fiction, but with a touch of reality and I have no complaints, only some reservations. The Kite Runner is certainly no bad read at all. It falls into my categorisation of works which I call the “Paulo Coelho type”, whose only work I have read is The Alchemist.

This genre is smooth to read, meticulous in its descriptions, nuanced in expressing emotions and a light read (for sure does not give a headache!). Although this is what is successful international literature, this genre by itself is a cliché as per me. 

Now, reading The Kite Runner was a nice walk down memory lane, reminscing my initial years of the usual fiction reading. All you Khaled Hosseini fans, I am certainly not disregarding the quality of the writing that has gone into it, but only expressing my disadvantage of being a bad receptor of fiction of his kind.

Things I loved
The Kite Runner is one of the smoothest reads - in all senses; not much to think about, not much to remember, no dictionary look-ups and predictability at about every nook and corner. These are for sure a nice respite from the other kinds of my recent literature. 
The backdrop of the story. It was as if, I was focusing on the unfocused portions of the scenes throughout. So, how did Afghanistan look? Why did the Russians invade? Are the Talibans like the ones I have seen on TV? The mountains, terrains, ambiance.

Simplicity : As simple a thing gets, more the beautiful it becomes! This almost holds good here. To see such a simple work to have that beauty and to have appealed to a really wide audience is a testimony to the simplicity and the beauty.

And not to mention, one of my quickest reads.

Things I did not love (!=hate)

The story by itself is too much of a repetition to what the Indian movies have fed you by the time you decide not to watch any more of them. The sentimentalism about relationships, which sometimes go beyond normalcy are an overdose to me. And I did not for obvious reasons feel very appreciative about the turmoils and guilt the protagonist undergoes.

Like I said, I liked the background better than the main story, for, there is a weak person as the protagonist. Now, it might seem unreasonable, but yes, in fiction, at least I need an inspiration! Else, come on: There is no point of reading!

And the simplicity is too simple; for there aren't many memorable lines too from the book! I like witty or profound lines, and was for sure disappointed to find hardly a few.

I might sound like the hungry critic, waiting to chew some cud about a famous work, but no: These are just my personal views as always. Of all the praises you might have heard for the book, not many would have had a perception such as mine, that could be because of the obtuse nature of reading I am into. 
I look at reading as an investment, and I am not a happy customer this around.

Well I have The Thousand Splendid Suns, and yes will read it, but not in the near future.

02 January, 2012

Accommodating myself amidst people and their expectations

Sometimes I wonder whatever that I am, is it because it was always there in me and I have been only discovering it, or have the people around been operating on me and compelled me to invent these traits in me as seen today ?

I consciously try not to cater to the expectations people would want to adorn me with, although with the truest of their intentions. Or, maybe I do absorb some of their aspirations about me into me, and then try pushing my horizons.

Once I have expanded my boundaries mentally, I then have always tried to fill it with efforts and as it has transpired hitherto, I have been able to expand myself and to fit into those larger shoes, and thus my growth.

Is it that I am trying to position myself in the image other people have envisaged of me – Maybe, yes! But, only when I am convinced that it would be something congruent and natural to what I have already embarked to do. It should simply align to my evolving ethos.

It also happens that sometimes these expectations might bog one down under their burden; While I believe there is a mental threshold which is dynamic, and clips these external aspirations in order to fit the true person I know I am.

This post is not to criticize all the real well wishers I am fortunate to be surrounded with, but only to project out the reality to myself, so that although sweet I don't get deluded in an illusion. These expectations serve as an incessant source of inspiration and for sure keep me motivated.

All I can assure to others, and more so to myself is that I will always strive to get better, with no fixed targets, for, who knows even that might become a dead end and halt my growth.
I will flow, and keep expanding.


Related Posts with Thumbnails