Friday, 19 December 2014

The Questions of Why and When

A New Post in the Series - Satyam Shivam Sundaram
A series featuring inspiring words from various sources, words that speak of timeless truths, words that remind me of the deeper and hidden truth behind surface events and phenomena, words that shine light when all seems dark, words that are just what I need 
for this moment and for all times to come.

Shanti (Peace) by S. H. Raza

Where is this world going? What is happening to the world? What kind of human beings can do such a horrendous thing? Is the humanity dead? Is civilization dead? Questions like these and many more have been floating around in many people’s minds, hearts as well as their social media accounts for the last few days.

Why are we not asking the question – Why? Why is the world the way it is now? Why is it all happening? Why is the humanity dead? Why, why, why? 

Perhaps because a part of us knows that we don’t want to hear the answers for they may be too uncomfortable for our preferred sensibilities and ideologies. Perhaps because a part of us knows that we will not be able to face the answers for they may totally destroy our cherished illusions about human nature and the world reality. 

Perhaps because a part of us knows that we don’t have the right to ask the ‘world’ outside this ‘why’ question without first asking it of ourselves. 

Or perhaps because we don't even know that underneath the ‘why’ question lurks the most uncomfortable ‘what’ question – what if this is all there is to the Existence? Or perhaps we do know this, albeit vaguely, and that’s why we don’t ask – why? Or perhaps because we feel that this question of meaning of the Existence is too ‘out there’ meant for philosophers and abstract intellectuals, not for our sensitive little hearts and politically correct mind-sets.

But the children in Peshawar, Pakistan in 2014, the children in Kaluchak, India in 2002, the children in Beslan, Russia in 2004, the children in Chencholai, Sri Lanka in 2006, the children in Oslo, Norway in 2011, the children in Qabak, Iraq in 2013, and many more children in many other parts of the world whose lives, laughter and innocence were brutally silenced and snatched away in the most barbaric way compel us, no, demand from us that we ask the hard question – why? 

The children who became silent victims of ruthless violence, perpetrated by any nation, any group, any theology, any ideology – the bombings in Middle East, the communal riots in India, the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan, the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits, the genocide unleashed on Yazidis, and many more including the war on terror — force us to face the most uncomfortable truths about human nature, and ask the question – why? 

Why has the world become so barbaric? Why is the world becoming more inhumane with every passing decade? Why have we failed to do anything about it?

When will we ask the question – why? Of ourselves, of the world?

When will we get rid of our illusions? 

Man’s illusions are of all sorts and kinds, some of them petty though not unimportant,—for nothing in the world is unimportant,—others vast and grandiose. The greatest of them all are those which cluster round the hope of a perfected society, a perfected race, a terrestrial millennium. Each new idea religious or social which takes possession of the epoch and seizes on large masses of men, is in turn to be the instrument of these high realisations; each in turn betrays the hope which gave it its force to conquer. And the reason is plain enough to whosoever chooses to see; it is that no change of ideas or of the intellectual outlook upon life, no belief in God or Avatar or prophet, no victorious science or liberating philosophy, no social scheme or system, no sort of machinery internal or external can really bring about the great desire implanted in the race, true though that desire is in itself and the index of the goal to which we are being led. Because man is himself not a machine nor a device, but a being and a most complex one at that, therefore he cannot be saved by machinery; only by an entire change which shall affect all the members of his being can he be liberated from his discords and imperfections. 
One of the illusions incidental to this great hope is the expectation of the passing of war.
So long as war does not become psychologically impossible, it will remain or, if banished for a while, return. War itself, it is hoped, will end war; the expense, the horror, the butchery, the disturbance of tranquil life, the whole confused sanguinary madness of the thing has reached or will reach such colossal proportions that the human race will fling the monstrosity behind it in weariness and disgust. But weariness and disgust, horror and pity, even the opening of the eyes to reason by the practical fact of the waste of human life and energy and the harm and extravagance are not permanent factors; they last only while the lesson is fresh. Afterwards, there is forgetfulness; human nature recuperates itself and recovers the instincts that were temporarily dominated. A long peace, even a certain organisation of peace may conceivably result, but so long as the heart of man remains what it is, the peace will come to an end, the organisation will break down under the stress of human passions. War is no longer, perhaps, a biological necessity, but it is still a psychological necessity; what is within us, must manifest itself outside.  
… Only when man has developed not merely a fellow-feeling with all men, but a dominant sense of unity and commonalty, only when he is aware of them not merely as brothers,—that is a fragile bond,—but as parts of himself, only when he has learned to live not in his separate personal and communal ego-sense, but in a larger universal consciousness can the phenomenon of war, with whatever weapons, pass out of his life without the possibility of return. Meanwhile that he should struggle even by illusions towards that end, is an excellent sign; for it shows that the truth behind the illusion is pressing towards the hour when it may become manifest as reality.

~ Sri Aurobindo, War and Self-Determination

To see previous post in the series Satyam Shivam Sundaram, click here.
To see all posts in the series, click here.

Linking this with ABCWednesday, W: W is for Why, When

Monday, 15 December 2014

Current Events 4: Letter of Concern

This was first published in

To whom it should be of concern: 

Yes, that’s you; and you on the other side of the aisle. All of you. This should be of concern to all of you. 

You thought my job was done after voting. Wrong. I am not sitting quiet while you do things you have always been doing. Which is basically “doing nothing” and “not letting others do anything” either. 

Enough of this. 

Aren’t you tired of squabbling over non-issues? Why can’t you be constructive? Why blow up things that would naturally subside because of their larger utter redundancy? 

Why persist with your grandstanding on “votebank” issues? You don’t care about them. You shout that “democracy is under threat” and “secularism is dead” because shouting is all you are capable of. 

Don’t you realize the more you shout slogans, the more it gets reported by the media? Why give them fodder? You know they have to fill their pages and screens with such stuff, truthful or otherwise. A celebrity wearing a low-cut gown on TV is as newsworthy as your slogan “sanskriti bachao”. 

Yes, I am talking to you too. Stop pretending you alone are concerned about protecting and preserving culture. You don’t help speaking of things you don’t understand. You hurt voters who trusted you to change things. Don’t insult their intelligence. Do not provoke controversies on issues needing thoughtful handling. Do not make casual and insensitive remarks because you have power and the command of the microphone. Both are given to you by people like me for a limited period with the hope you will usefully employ them. Do right by us. 

To read rest of the letter, click here.

"We should be absolutely unsparing in our attack on whatever obstructs the growth of the nation, and never be afraid to call a spade a spade. Excessive good nature, chakshu lajja [the desire to be always pleasant and polite], will never do in serious politics."
(Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram)

To read more posts related to Current Events, click here, here and here.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Voice of the God...प्रभु अपने मुख से गायी...

Hanuman is the Colour, by Ashwin Mamidi

भक्ति में लीन एक भक्त को अपने प्रभु, अपने इष्ट देव की आराधना करते हुए तो शायद सभी ने सुना और देखा होगा। पर यह तो केवल संत तुलसीदास का असीम प्रभु-प्रेम है जिसके वरदान में उन्होंने अपने भगवान श्री राम को अपने परम प्रिय भक्त की आराधना करते हुए देखा और सुना।   

जब प्रभु राम अपने छोटे भाई भरत को बताते हैं कि वो अपने भक्त हनुमान से कभी उऋण नहीं हो सकते तो शायद ही कोई प्रेम भरा ह्रदय हो जो अछूता रह सके। जब पंडित जसराज अपनी भाव-पूर्ण आवाज़ में संत तुलसीदास के इस भजन को गाते हैं तो शायद ही कोई नेत्र हों जो प्रेम से भीग जाएँ। 

ऐसी आराधना प्रभु की अपने एक भक्त के लिए, ऐसा प्रेम ईश्वर का अपने एक प्रेमी के लिए, इसकी कल्पना केवल एक ही सभ्यता में की जा सकती है जो उस भूमि से उपजी हो जहाँ देवता भी जन्म लेने के लिए तपस्या करते हैं। 


Everyone has seen and heard of the devotees and the faithful praising and glorifying the Lord.

But only a bhakta-poet like Sant Tulsidas can ‘see’ and sing of his Lord Rama praising his lover-bhakta, his supreme devotee.

When Sri Rama tells his younger brother Bharata that he can never ever repay his debt to Hanuman, which heart can stay untouched? When Pandit Jasraj outpours his love and devotion for the Lord through his rendition of this most beautiful Tulsi bhajan, which eyes can stay dry?

Such intense love of the Lord for his devotee, such glorification of the devotee by the Divine, this is only conceivable in this civilization, this land where the gods also long to be born.

"Others boast of their love for God. My boast is that I did not love God; it was He who loved me and sought me out and forced me to belong to Him." (Sri Aurobindo)


To see another post on this blog in the glory of Lord Hanuman, click here.

To see previous post in the series - "All Music is Only the Sound of His Laughter", click here.
To see other posts in the series, click here.

Linking this with ABC Wednesday, V: V is for Voice

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Untitled Meanderings

A few weeks ago, a friend and I had a brief exchange of thoughts on Facebook about Raja Ravi Varma's style of painting. I had said to him that I don't really care much for that kind of artistic work, and an interesting discussion ensued about Indian art, the inner and outer dimension of art, personal aesthetic preferences and a few other things about culture and human motives in life.

That exchange sort of inspired this post. I was hoping to go deeper into some of the points my friend and I had briefly touched upon. But as I started writing, the post took on a life of its own and it has now become something totally different.

That's okay, I go with the flow.


Antaryatra (Inner Journey): Painting by Bindu Popli

Like I said in an earlier post, I am not an artist. Unless one considers writing that I do on this blog as some sort of "artsy" work. I highly doubt that. But I deeply admire and respect the artistic process that artists, sculptors, poets, creative photographers, writers experience - from that first inspiration to the final work of art they consider as done.

At the same time, like everyone else I know, I have my personal preference and taste in art or what I consider artistic. I am not fond of what may be called as realistic art or art that captures reality as is. For me, that piece of art doesn't say much if the only thing it says is an imitation, no matter how good and perfect, of what is found in nature or life. A perfectly done portrait of a person or an inanimate object is not really my preference in art. Where is the mystery, my mind and heart ask. Where is the hidden, my mind and heart search.

All bad art comes from returning to life and nature, and elevating them into ideals. Life and nature may sometimes be used as part of art's rough material, but before they are of any real service to art they must be translated into artistic conventions. The moment art surrenders its imaginative medium it surrenders everything. As a method realism is a complete failure, and the two things that every artist should avoid are modernity of form and modernity of subject-matter.

Over the last few years I have also come to a realisation that realism in writing also doesn't do much for me either. I am discovering that I don't care much for the kind of writing that is merely a documentation of what is observed or heard or experienced. I used to do such writing as part of my social science research training and professional work. Such writing serves an important purpose in advancing our collective understanding of outer human experience and I know from experience it isn't easy to do.

But that was then.

Now I am more inclined toward writing that doesn't merely reproduce the various 'facts' or 'realities' of life and nature as experienced by the subject(s) or character(s) in question. I am touched by the writing that makes room for the unseen, the invisible, the 'un-real' almost. No matter how enjoyable the turn of the phrase and how masterful the wordsmithing, a piece of writing that is only about 'what is' doesn't really move me. I am moved by the writing that seems to invite me to explore 'what isn't but could be', the writing that compels me to 'see' the invisible behind the appearance, to 'hear' the silence between the two audible words, to 'experience' the stillness behind all that is in motion.

That's the kind of writing I aspire to do someday.

No, not fantasy. Not science fiction. Neither fiction, nor non-fiction. Not abstract philosophy. No, no.
O Poet, O Artist, if thou but holdest up the mirror to Nature, thinkest thou Nature will rejoice in thy work? Rather she will turn away her face. For what dost thou hold up to her there? Herself? No, but a lifeless outline and reflection, a shadowy mimicry. It is the secret soul of Nature thou hast to seize, thou hast to hunt eternally after the truth in the external symbol, and that no mirror will hold for thee, nor for her whom thou seekest.
I hope to write of life and about life, but life that isn't only lived on the outer surface. I hope to write about nature, but nature that isn't only seen with the outer eyes. I wish to engage in an experience of writing that tries to seize something that is only vaguely expressing itself, or hiding itself, through the outer expression of words, sentences, paragraphs. The writing that engages with the invisible behind the visible, the eternal behind the temporal, the spirit behind the form.

If I had the Midas touch, that's the kind of writing I would like to do...

You may also like a few more posts on writing - On Writing in English,  Blank Pages No More, Light is All You Need, Why Should I Write

This post has been picked as a WOW post by BlogAdda. The topic this time is - "If I had the Midas touch...."

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

For My Mother, My First Teacher

She taught me to read and write. She taught me to love. She taught me to live. She taught me to be me.

My mother, who was a teacher to thousands of students, in her 35+years of teaching career, was my first teacher. She will always be my teacher and mentor, wherever she is.

I am not sure how good a student I have been, but I will continue to try. Because she also taught me to learn, and keep learning always. Learn from my mistakes and learn from others' mistakes too. Learn from my failures and learn from my accomplishments too.

It was in 1998 when I wrote my first "book", aka my doctoral dissertation. All 200+ pages of that book were dedicated to my parents.

Years passed and I wrote many things -- essays, book chapters for academic volumes, articles for academic and other journals, print and online magazines.

And then the time came to write another book. It gives me a very special joy when I open the first few pages of the advance copies of my newly released book, ABC's of Indian National Education and see this:

 To my Mother, my first teacher

Dear readers, I am happy to share that my book on Indian Education is now available for purchase at Amazon, where you can also read a brief overview of the book. And don't forget, you can always contact me, the author, for any thoughts you may have about the book.  

Regular readers of the blog may recall the A-Z series I did on Education in the month of April. This came together as a result of those blog posts, so my sincere thanks to all the readers of that series who encouraged me to think beyond the blog. 

I was fortunate enough to get some generous endorsements for the book from some esteemed teachers, colleagues and writers:
This book is a call for an educational approach that values the Spirit and builds upon India’s timeless wisdom of a life-affirming and living spirituality.  
Dr. Jane Brown
  Faculty Emerita, Antioch University Midwest, Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA 
An educational policy bereft of the grand civilizational values of India reduces citizens to humdrum workers aspiring to nothing more than material security. This book provides the grounding essential to make Indians not just masters of the knowledge of the external but keen pursuers of knowledge eternal and internal.  Literally covering the issue, from A to Z, Dr. Mehra lays the groundwork for rethinking and re-framing India’s educational policy.                    
Dr. Ramesh Rao
Professor, Columbus State University, Columbus, Georgia, USA 
This book speaks of infusing Indian education with the Indian spirit. While it is inescapable that children have to pick up future careers, the author is opposed to making education strictly careerist, where childhood is suppressed and learning becomes mechanistic, soulless and joyless.    
N. V. Subramanian
Editor,, Writer on politics and strategic affairs, Novelist, Delhi, India 

This book compels us to take a closer look at some of the fundamental issues regarding Indian education. Presenting the arguments with a modern approach, the book is deeply influenced by Sri Aurobindo's insights into the essential spirit of Indian culture and Education. All those interested in the future of Education in India and elsewhere will find it thought-provoking.
Kittu Reddy
Sri Aurobindo International Center of Education, Pondicherry

Click here to order

As I look at the book jacket and flip through the pages I see some errors, and after the first few minutes of self-criticism I remember what my mother always used to say -- 'now that you have finished your work, let it go, don't think too much about it, nobody can get it all right, learn from your mistakes and move on.' 

And so with this book done, I move on to other projects and other works, remembering her love and with full assurance that she is blessing me from wherever she is. My mother, my first teacher whose love for learning and teaching inspired me to do my best as a teacher, remains the reason for my passion for Education.

I wrote this book in gratitude and memory of all my teachers — past, present and future — who have shaped me into what I am today.

I offer this to That One Teacher who is Present in All.

Linking this with ABC Wednesday, T: T is for Teacher

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The Voice that Quietens

Sometimes all you want to do is stay. Quietly.

Stay with the memories. Of that face, that smile, that voice, that presence. Because in that staying is where you find the presence alive and living.

Memories make you relive the moments, again and again. Reliving brings pain, the mind says. Yet, the heart wants what it wants.

Hush, you mind.

The heart doesn't want pain. The heart seeks healing. But it also wants to go back. Quietly. To that moment when the presence was there in physical form. In the form that you knew as yours.

You know that the form is transitory, it always was. The real thing within takes a new form when the old form is tired and weak and ready to leave.

But all that, the heart doesn't want to hear. Not in this moment when all it wants is for the voices to quieten. So it can hear. That one voice.

The heart wants only to hear that voice. Once again.

That voice with which you grew up, the voice that comforted you, the voice that corrected you, the voice that helped you see right and wrong, or right and right, the voice that helped you discover your own voice.

The heart wants that voice.

The mind says - you have that voice. With you. Saved. Listen.
The heart says - I know. I know that voice. Without listening. I hear it. It is.

The voice stays.

And so you stay. Quietly. With the voice. Because in the voice she lives.

In the voice is the healing. Quietly.

Lyricist: Gulzar, Composer: R.D.Burman, Singers: Lata Mangeshkar and Bhupinder

Photo credit: Suhas Mehra
Spiritual significance of the flower:Vital Protection
Surrender to the Divine is the best vital protection


To see all the posts in the series - "All music is only....", click here.
To see the previous post in the series, click here.

Linking this with ABC Wednesday, Q: Q is for Quiet

Friday, 31 October 2014

A Poet and A Painter: एक कवि और एक चित्रकार

"Poetry raises the emotions and gives each its separate delight. Art stills the emotions and teaches them the delight of a restrained and limited satisfaction..."
~ Sri Aurobindo

आज से ९ वर्ष पूर्व ३१ अक्टूबर २००५ को भारत की एक प्रसिद्ध कवियत्री और लेखिका इस दुनिया को छोड़ दूसरी दुनिया में जा बसी। अमृता प्रीतम की दर्द भरी कविताओं और संवेदनशील कहानिंयों एवं उपन्यासों ने भारतीय साहित्य के अनगिनत प्रेमियों के दिलो-दिमाग़ में अपना एक विशेष स्थान बनाया है। उनकी भाव-भरी रचनाएँ और उनके शब्द उनकी स्मृति को सदा ताज़ा ही रखेंगे, और साथ ही उनकी और इमरोज़ की अनूठी प्रेम-कथा साहित्य-प्रेमियों को एवं उनको भी जो प्रेम से प्रेम करते हैं आने वाले एक लम्बे समय तक अपने रंग में डुबोए रखेगी।

अमृता और इमरोज़ के एक दूसरे के प्रति प्रेम और समर्पण-भाव की कुछ झलक हमें उनके पत्रों द्वारा मिलती है, जिन पर आधारित एक पुस्तक भी अब पाठकों तक पहुँच चुकी है। अंग्रेजी भाषा में प्रकाशित पत्रों का यह संग्रह, जिसका शीर्षक है - "Amrita and Imroz: In the Times of Love & Longing"  दिल को छू लेता है। एक पत्र में इमरोज़ लिखते हैं - प्रेम ही दुनिया में एक मात्र स्वंत्रता है। तो दूसरे पत्र में हम अमृता को यह लिखते हुए पाते हैं - तुम ही तो हो मेरे १५ अगस्त।

उमा त्रिलोक की पुस्तक "अमृता-इमरोज़: एक प्रेम कथा" भी इस कवि और चित्रकार के अनोखे प्रेम एवं ४० वर्षों के संबंध की एक करीबी छवि प्रस्तुत करती है। इस पुस्तक की एक समीक्षा आप इस लिंक पर पढ़ सकते हैं।

लेकिन इन दोनों से परे है वह एक कविता जो अमृता ने लिखी थी, बीमारी के दिनों में अपने प्रेम के लिये।  मैं तैनू फेर मिलांगी (मैं तुझे फिर मिलूँगी) - पंजाबी भाषा में लिखी इस कविता का हिंदी अनुवाद भी उतना ही खूबसूरत है।

मैं तुझे फ़िर मिलूंगी
कहाँ किस तरह पता नही

शायद तेरी तख्यिल की चिंगारी बन
तेरे केनवस पर उतरुंगी
या तेरे केनवस पर
एक रहस्यमयी लकीर बन
खामोश तुझे देखती रहूंगी
या फ़िर सूरज की लौ बन कर
तेरे रंगो में घुलती रहूंगी
या रंगो कि बाहों में बैठ कर
तेरे केनवस से लिपट जाउंगी
पता नहीं कहाँ किस तरह
पर तुझे जरुर मिलूंगी

या फ़िर एक चश्मा बनी
जैसे झरने से पानी उड़ता है
मैं पानी की बूंदें
तेरे बदन पर मलूंगी
और एक ठंडक सी बन कर
तेरे सीने से लगूंगी

मैं और कुछ नही जानती
पर इतना जानती हूँ
कि वक्त जो भी करेगा
यह जन्म मेरे साथ चलेगा

यह जिस्म खतम होता है
तो सब कुछ खत्म हो जाता है
पर चेतना के धागे
कायनात के कण होते हैं

मैं उन कणों को चुनुंगी
धागों को बुनूँगी
मैं तुझे फ़िर मिलूंगी !


Nine years ago from today, on 31st October 2005, an eminent Indian poet and author left this world to make her abode elsewhere. With her emotion-rich and heartfelt writing Amrita Pritam has made a special place for herself in the hearts of countless lovers of Indian literature. While her heart-touching poetry and sensitive portrayals will keep her memory alive, the one-of-a-kind love story of Amrita and Imroz will also keep enthralled, for a long time to come, the lovers of literature as well as all those who are in love with love.

The special bond of love and surrender to each other that Amrita and Imroz shared can be seen through the numerous letters they wrote to each other over the years. A book based on these letters is now also available for interested readers. Published in English, this collection of letters titled "Amrita and Imroz: In the Times of Love and Longing" is a delight. In one letter, Imroz writes to her - "Love is the only freedom in the world," and in another we find Amrita writing - "You are my 15th August".

Uma Trilok's book "Amrita-Imroz: A Love Story" presents a rare account of the unique love between a poet and a painter, and a special bond they shared for about 40 years. The book is available both in English and Hindi. A Hindi review of this book may be read here.

But beyond either of these books is that poem penned by Amrita herself, while she was very sick in later years of her life. The poem titled, Main Tenu Phair Milangi (I will meet you yet again) expresses so tenderly and beautifully what love meant to this poet-painter couple. Here it is in English translation, done by Nirupama Dutt.

I will meet you yet again
How and where
I know not
Perhaps I will become a
figment of your imagination
and maybe spreading myself
in a mysterious line
on your canvas
I will keep gazing at you.

Perhaps I will become a ray
of sunshine to be
embraced by your colours
I will paint myself on your canvas
I know not how and where —
but I will meet you for sure.

Maybe I will turn into a spring
and rub foaming
drops of water on your body
and rest my coolness on
your burning chest
I know nothing
but that this life
will walk along with me.

When the body perishes
all perishes
but the threads of memory
are woven of enduring atoms
I will pick these particles
weave the threads
and I will meet you yet again.


You have now read the poem in Hindi and/or English. But nothing beats listening to the poem in its original language. And nobody recites Punjabi poetry better than Gulzar.

अब आप हिंदी अथवा अंग्रेजी में इस कविता को पढ़ चुके हैं। पर कविता का वास्तविक आनन्द तो उसकी मूल भाषा में ही मिल सकता है, और वो भी अगर गुलज़ार जैसी शख्सियत की आवाज़ में उसे सुना जाए। 

Image source: here
Linking this with ABC Wednesday, P: P is for Poet, Poetry, Painter