Monday, 31 March 2014


For this first day of Vasant Navratri....


They had brought her back home. They could feel it in their hearts, the inevitable could happen anytime. They all sat around her, quiet, together, not knowing what to do.

She bent over her mother’s face to listen to the faint sounds. The words couldn't come out, no strength left. The struggle to breathe was unbearable for her frail body. Was she asking for something? A miracle drug? One last pull of life? A message? A last wish? What?

A new homecoming.

She picked up her mother's bhajan diary and began reciting. Slowly, she felt her heart begin to heal...

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Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Blue Period

Sometimes that's all you need....a little blue rose and some great music to put you in that mood.

You know, that slight mood of blues that is not really sad and depressive type of blues but only with a little tinge of melancholy that doesn't feel bad, it actually feels like just the mood you want to be in. And who better to put you in that mood than the amazingly versatile Ustad Shujaat Khan with his sensational Sitar playing and singing of some Amir Khusrow classics.

Perhaps it is for music like this that T.S. Eliot wrote those lines...

" heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts."

Such soulful music puts you in the moment, with the moment, and yet with an awareness that this moment is both temporal and eternal. Such music envelops you and puts you in touch with that deep feeling inside... something that feels like sadness yet isn't quite sad, that feels like pain but isn't quite painful either. It is not ha-ha happy kind of feeling but still carries within it something that makes you feel quietly content and full. You may name it whatever you like. But in its essence it is nothing but a tiny taste of bliss, I feel. Bliss that carries within it a strange blend of feelings that may feel like love and longing, togetherness and loneliness, union and separation, all thrown together, but is actually none of these. Bliss that is perhaps a result of all of these feelings and more, and yet transcends all of them. Bliss that is of that one moment, the moment that will last for ever. One small taste of bliss, that will last for all moments to come. 

Yes, that's the kind of blues I am talking about.

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Linking this to WriteTribe's Anything Goes on Sunday - 4

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Mr. Keats and Ms. Brawne

Remember this post I did about a beautiful photograph? And how on some quick search it turned out that the photograph is a still from a film called Bright Star based on the love letters written by John Keats to his beloved Fanny Brawne in the last four years of his life? Well you may read about all of that discovery process here if you have forgotten. I, of course, remember the photograph and where and how it led me, very clearly in my mind.

Yes, I also remember that I also wrote at the end of that post that I may do a follow-up after watching the film. And this is that follow-up post, finally :)

I watched the film soon after that post, in fact watched it twice in the same week itself. Yes, it is that good. Beautiful actually, if you ask me. The beautiful love story between the brooding and aloof English poet of beauty and his lady love, the charming and full-of-life Fanny Brawne. The way their love begins, blossoms and matures, the pain of separation and the depth of longing, the tragic loss of one's beloved to disease and death, the frailty of emotions and the delicacy of the moment, all is captured beautifully by Jane Campion.

And oh, all that beauty of English countryside around them! Campion has masterfully created a visual poetry in this film, with some valuable help from the beauty of Keats' poetry as well. May be it is her feminine sensitivity or her love for Keats' poetry or Romantic poetry in general, whatever it is the result is an absolutely delightful treat. As a reviewer wrote, "if Campion intended to inspire an appreciation and rediscovery of Keats' poetry, she has not only succeeded but herself created an artistic monument to his life, love, poetry and soul". The way the change of seasons is depicted through the changing colours, light and all other moods of nature is absolutely gorgeous and brings such a sense of deep beauty all over you. You just have to watch those scenes in silence and let the beauty take you by hand into itself.

I am not exaggerating. If you have seen the film, you know that already. And if you haven't, you may see for yourself in some of the still shots I share below. (And I hope by now you have already seen the photograph with which this whole journey of discovering this beautiful film started for me. So you already have some idea of what to expect).


John Maguire in his review of the film captures beautifully the beauty of the film in these words:
[Fanny’s] emotional journey becomes the engine of the film, as the poet and his poems fill the wondrously detailed background. This delicate treatment extends to the intimate pacing, which is carefully graduated to allow the chaste lovers to come together naturally. We know their love affair will not last, but Campion presents their joy in each other in such a precise and vibrant manner, that knowledge doesn’t intrude on the story.
There are poetic graces too in the telling, with Campion’s static camera searching out stolen frames of everyday life in the household, piling on the detail to create an immersive world. These moments are counterpoised with grand dramatic sweeps that climax in heaving gulps, a sun-dappled kiss, a heavy loss, a long separation. Campion favours a striking image to a page of dialogue, so conversations are short and sparse. Saying that, there is a fascinating scene early in the story where Keats responds to Fanny’s sincere questions about the proper understanding of poetry that seems to capture the meaning of the film itself. “A poem needs understanding through the senses”, the poet tells her. “The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore; it’s to be in the lake. You do not work the lake out. It is an experience beyond thought”. It’s not being overly lyrical to suggest that the same is true of Bright Star. 
Yes, it is true. The film does feel like an experience beyond thought. At least to me in felt that way. As I am about to end this post, I am thinking that it might be time to repeat that experience...soon. And maybe another post will follow!

In the meantime, let me re-read Keats' poem, Bright Star.

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art-- 
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death. 
~ John Keats

(All pictures courtesy of Google)

Linking this poem with ABC Wednesday, K is for Keats.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

So Far So Good....

A new post in the series - Reminders to self

Readers may recall an earlier post in which I had spoken of my ongoing effort to facilitate some kind of peaceful co-existence between two pushy creepers in my garden fighting over space. I figured it is now time to update on the “harmony” building exercise. As the post title says, so far so good. I have been able to keep check on the more aggressive Passion Flower vine by some regular snip-snip, and the somewhat shy Rangoon Creeper is now getting its chance to grow and blossom. It feels so good to go out in the garden in the morning and see the beautiful blossoms of Rangoon Creeper in their shades of pink gently swaying up on the garden wall. To hold gently a few of the slightly drooping bunches in my hand and take in their mild, sweet fragrance is a delight. I can actually see the blossoms from my chair on the dining table too while having my meals. Yes, the vine was strategically planted or my chair was carefully picked – either way, the view is quite nice!

And sometimes the harmony comes inside too, inside the home…like in the pictures below:


And hopefully this outer exercise will keep working its way inside…slowly and gradually….inside me, inside the real home within, and help quiet down the restlessness some more, help silence some of the noises inside, bless me with greater faithfulness toward a deeper aspiration, and grant me a greater inner harmony. (Silence is the spiritual significance for Pasiflora/Passion Flower, and Faithfulness for Rangoon Creeper. I also have another vine in my garden, almost ready to bloom, the flower of which has been given the significance, Harmony. I may write more about that when the blooms show up.)

For now, with a prayer in my heart, I share a piece of music that exemplifies how beautiful harmony is possible when the greats come together. There is a lesson in there somewhere about inner harmony too, about making each part within greatly refined and developed for a more beautiful harmony. This piece of music is from "Call of the Valley" which is perhaps the largest-selling album ever in the Indian classical music genre. The first of its kind and the best there is. Feel the harmony of santoor, bansuri and guitar, and enjoy in silence!

This is my 100th post. I thought for a few days about what I want to write for my 100th post, but nothing seemed more true and right than this theme of harmony.

I thank all my friends, readers and visitors who have kept me motivated and going with this blog. So far it has been a wonderful journey - outwardly as well as inwardly, and I hope the journey to the next 100th post will be even more gratifying.

My deepest gratitude and reverence for that inner guide, that inner seeker who is gently leading me on to this search for inner beauty, beauty that is everlasting and that expresses the eternal spirit of the thing. 

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Sunday, 23 March 2014

Taste for Beauty

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.

Sometime ago when surfing on the net, I came across a rather interesting quote from Paul Gauguin. It was one of those things that you just can't keep to yourself, so I shared it on my blog's Facebook page. 
"There is always a heavy demand for fresh mediocrity. In every generation the least cultivated taste has the largest appetite."

Days passed. And I almost forgot about it.

Then the other day while re-reading Sri Aurobindo's wonderful essays on "National Value of Art", the following caught my attention: 

"The mind is profoundly influenced by what it sees and, if the eye is trained from the days of childhood to the contemplation and understanding of beauty, harmony and just arrangement in line and colour, the tastes, habits and character will be insensibly trained to follow a similar law of beauty, harmony and just arrangement in the life of the adult man. This was the great importance of the universal proficiency in the arts and crafts or the appreciation of them which was prevalent in ancient Greece, in certain European ages, in Japan and in the better days of our own [Indian] history. Art galleries cannot be brought into every home, but, if all the appointments of our life and furniture of our homes are things of taste and beauty, it is inevitable that the habits, thoughts and feelings of the people should be raised, ennobled, harmonised, made more sweet and dignified.
"Between them music, art and poetry are a perfect education for the soul; they make and keep its movements purified, self- controlled, deep and harmonious. These, therefore, are agents which cannot profitably be neglected by humanity on its onward march or degraded to the mere satisfaction of sensuous pleasure which will disintegrate rather than build the character. They are, when properly used, great educating, edifying and civilising forces."

Perhaps some hints to the answer to the problem that Gauguin might have been concerned with, namely, how to cultivate taste and rise above mediocrity is to be found in Sri Aurobindo's words cited above. But only hints. Because ultimately the question will have to be asked - what is beauty? 

Sri Aurobindo delves deep into that question in his play, "The Harmony of Virtue". And as delightful and thoroughly enjoyable a read that 70+ pages-long play is, I also find a small passage of his just as delightfully engaging and thought-provoking when it comes to begin appreciating what might be truly beautiful. The small passage I am thinking of is titled "The Beauty of a Crow’s Wings."

"It is not only that the sable blackness of the crow’s wings has in it wonderful shades of green and violet and purple which show themselves under certain stresses of sunlight, but that the black itself, sable of wing or dingy of back & breast has itself a beauty which our prejudiced habits of mind obscure to us. Under its darkness, we see, too, a glint of dingy white."

Image credits: 1. Watercolour on paper by Bindu Popli; 2. Sourced from here

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Linking this post with Everyday Gyaan-Anything Goes on Sunday-3

Friday, 21 March 2014

A-Z of Indian National Education

Introducing my A-Z Blogging Theme:
Putting India back in Indian Education

I am participating in a blogfest called A-Z challenge which means I will be posting 26 blogposts in April, one for each letter of the English alphabet. This post reveals the theme that I have chosen for this fun but challenging blogfest. Looks like I will be doing a lot of writing in the coming month. 
And when you have to do so much writing, you obviously pick an area that is most meaningful to you. That's what I am going to do in the month of April, write about something that I have a deep interest in learning and reflecting about - for my own growth as well as for the potential it has my country's future. It is a huge topic, which means I must gear up for some major writing. I tried to come up with some alternative themes which could have been lighter for me, but none of them seemed as correct to my inner calling at the moment, as this one. So that is how I settled at this theme.

With a prayer to the gods of the blogging world I say, let the show begin!

A true national education is the need of the day. Education that speaks of the Indian spirit, that is grounded in the Indian philosophical-cultural-psychological conceptions of human being, of human life and destiny, of the nation and humanity, and of the life of human race.

It is quite sad to see that nothing much has changed in terms of the debate on what should be a meaningful and truly relevant national education for Indian children even after all these years since independence. As they say – the more things change the more they stay the same! Earlier it was the British government which tried to impose a certain view and system of education. Today it is our democratically elected but selfishly driven governments which try to intervene in autonomous educational institutions through their own political ideologies and interests. Earlier it was the domination of the ruling classes, and now it is the domination of market forces that determine how or what kind of education finds popularity among the masses.

Indian education must be rooted in the developing soul of India, to her future need, to the greatness of her coming self creation, to her eternal spirit. A truly nationalist education and curriculum are always inclusive in nature, and mindful of the great diversity that makes One India, United India. Indian Education must help children and educators develop love for their nation and a wide, universal appreciation of the diversity in the nation and the world.

In the context of Indian national educational scenario one thorny issue has been regarding the idea of “secular” education as opposed to anything that has to do with “saffronizing” or Hindu-ising of education. We must clearly understand that this very debate is based on our wrong understanding of what Indian cultural traditions are all about. Based on our badly borrowed mis-understanding of the words ‘secular’ and ‘spiritual’ we seem to have become blinded by the dominant intellectual ideology of our times, according to which schools as secular organizations are supposed to not have anything to do with matters of the spirit. Education has, therefore, become concerned only with matters of material life (eventually leading to commodification).

Independent (post-1947) India tackled this issue of secular vs. spiritual education (or shall I say, not tackled it at all) by simply following the Western (particularly British) model of education that was imposed on it. Which means that the schools have remained the domain where education ends up being a means to learn and develop certain skill sets and gather knowledge of certain content areas that will help children secure their economic and social futures. Subject matter is presented and learnt in snippets using variety of methods including lecturing, discussion, comprehension, analysis, test-taking, essay-writing, oral examination, and other standard practices. The matters of spirit have been relegated to private sphere - families, home, community, religion. 

This dichotomy between 'education for social success' and 'education for spirit' must go if we want to make Indian Education more relevant for the future of India. Education needs to become more integral, more complete through a meaningful synthesis of the two. 

Through this A-Z challenge, I am making a small and humble effort of introducing 26 ideas/topics/themes - each for a letter of the English alphabet - that I would like to see as guiding, shaping or becoming part of an Indian National Education. These themes, in my view, speak of some selected aspects of the essential Indian spirit and perhaps even shed some light on the forms through which this spirit could express itself in educational practice. As I see it, a thoughtful incorporation of these ideas or themes may help Indian education fulfill its many key purposes. It will help instill in the young minds and hearts a quest for self-knowing and self-discovery, a growing awareness and acceptance of the Indian spirit, a healthy pride and love for their motherland, a genuine respect and critical appreciation of its glorious heritage and ancient civilization, a keen understanding and awareness of its contribution to the past, present and future of the world and humanity, and a wider and deeper connection with the larger world around in all its diversity and richness. 

If for no other audience, I wish to take up this exercise for all my nieces and nephews, ranging from age 2 to almost 20 (even 20+ when counting my larger extended family). These kids and young adults living in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and other places are typical urban Indian kids of 21st century. And like most young people of their generation are the products of the modern Indian education system that is presently, for the most part, not really Indian in spirit and form. This is one of my ways of expressing my love for them, and my concern for their future learning and growth in life. 

Starting with A and going through each letter of the alphabet, I will introduce a specific idea or theme and provide some very brief comments, which may indicate my understanding and views on the theme. Some of these could be more of interest to educators and/or parents, while others may give educational thinkers some food for thought. For some of these topics, I may include some relevant quotes and inspirational words as well as some links to web-based material (text or audio-visual).

It is important to clarify that through this exercise I do not claim to do any thorough philosophical analyses or make concrete pedagogical recommendations or provide any ground-breaking curriculum ideas or prepare detailed lesson-plans or put together any extensive list of resources for these selected themes. That is not my intention. Nor is it possible to do any of that via a blog. 

I will be merely listing 26 ideas or themes, with brief hints or comments about each of them, with a hope that some educators, educational thinkers and parents out there may find them thought-provoking, helpful and perhaps even inspiring. And most certainly, these 26 themes do not by any means make an exhaustive list. These ideas, themes, topics, are based entirely on my subjective selection and the influences and inspirations that have shaped my thinking and understanding. In other words, they speak of my inclination and preferences. Some of them speak of the need for rethinking the philosophical foundations of an Indian National Education; others may provide hints on specific themes or topics that could be part of an Indian curriculum; and some others may offer more of pedagogical ideas or suggestions. 

I do this exercise in gratitude and memory of all my teachers - past, present and future - who have shaped me into what I am today. And I offer this to That One Teacher who is Present in All.

The exercise begins April 1, 2014. Stay tuned!

Top picture sourced from here

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal Blogfest for the April 2014 A-Z Challenge.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

2 Objects of Joy

That's enough. I give up. I am giving in to the temptation. The temptation of wanting to possess. Beautiful objects, beautiful things. Not for me, but for my home. (Same difference?).

When I started this blog almost a year ago (it will be a year on April 14) I had decided that I would never want this blog to promote or have any role whatsoever in promoting a mindless "buy more, consume more" mindset. Even though the inspiration behind the blog does recognize and accept the inner beauty of form, I didn't and don't want this blog to become a vehicle for showcasing pictures of beautiful objects from exclusive designers or expensive brands. So far I have also been able to avoid the trap of writing blogs on topics or themes sponsored by product brands and other companies interested in promoting themselves for free via the blogger community.

But the temptation is now too great. In my frequent travels through virtual world, I see such beautiful pictures of beautiful things on different websites or blogs I visit. So what about my resolve? Well, okay, I am still not going to start writing my posts to promote different product brands. That will be totally against the spirit of this blog. But once in a while one is permitted some indulgence, no?

Plus I have a reasonably good reason to give in to the temptation, at least that's what my mind tells me.

You see, I have a casual interest in creating harmoniously beautiful living spaces for myself and my family and I have my own ideas on how to do it. And it is this interest that also drives me to browse through some interior design and lifestyle blogs. I don't follow any particular design trends (I find them too limiting and I like freedom), nor do I like to spend exorbitant amounts of money on beautifying my living spaces (mostly because I don't have it). I just go by what feels right to me, what feels beautiful and comfortable and creates a harmonious and serene ambiance.

I try to follow as much as possible the advise of the Mother about taking care of material objects,*** which requires that I don't keep too much stuff in my house which I know I won't be able to take care of. I must keep a check on how much stuff I accumulate, because stuff always has a tendency to accumulate! For the most part I am able to go by my self-made rule which goes something like this - "practice restraint and mindfulness and not allow the spaces and objects in those spaces to overwhelm the people living in those spaces". So while I try to satisfy my desire to make my living space beautiful I also try to be mindful of how I do it. While I give in to some temptation, I also try to practice some restraint and self-control. At least as much as I can.

But today I am giving in to the temptation. Partly or fully, mindlessly or mindfully, let the reader decide.
“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. ” 
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

I am starting a new series today - Things of Beauty. I did a post earlier with the same title (in singular), the opening sentence of which actually provides a good inspirational and philosophical context for this new series. I had opened that post with a quote from Rabindranath Tagore:
“Things in which we do not take joy are either a burden upon our minds to be got rid of at any cost; or they are useful, and therefore in temporary and partial relation to us, becoming burdensome when their utility is lost; or they are like wandering vagabonds, loitering for a moment on the outskirts of our recognition, and then passing on. A thing is only completely our own when it is a thing of joy to us.”
This new series will showcase some objects which I would very much want to possess for the sheer joy of having them around, near me, so whenever I want I can see them, touch them, feel them. Some day, whenever that some day might be.

Because I am not into brands or labels, I will try to ensure as much as possible that almost all of the objects showcased in the series are what marketing people call as "unbranded" least to my knowledge. Or let me put it this way, because I don't see myself going out to expensive boutiques or exclusive stores - real or virtual - to verify if these objects are some big-ticket designer items or their replicas, I will consider them as "unbranded". My only criteria for picking these objects will be whether they appeal to my sense of beauty, and if they are the kinds of things that I would perhaps some day like to acquire for my home. And because something in me tells me that these things of beauty will bring me joy for ever.

Let me also add that if at all this series promotes "buy more, consume more" mindset I sincerely hope it will be a mindset of mindful consumption, the definition of which I leave it upon the reader to decide. For I personally like to go by the advice of the Oscar Wilde - "To define is to limit." And as I said earlier, I like freedom when it comes to decorate my living spaces!

So with all this long preface, rationalization and justification for starting this new series, I feel I am now happily ready to share two such "things of beauty" for this first post in the series.

The first...

What a cute little planter this is! I mean, look at it. How can anyone say no to this one? It is one of those things that every gardener should have it! Well, I don't know about every gardener, but I should definitely have it, I think. Actually I am quite sure that I should have it...I will have it some day. If I keep saying it like this with such hope, one day it will appear in my home! Obviously because it is a natural object made into a planter with some human handling, mine will not probably look exactly like this. Depending on the size and texture of the pumice stone used for making my planter, mine will perhaps look even better. Or at least I can hope it will :)

The second...

Now, isn't that a great looking wind-chime? I already have...let me count...5 wind chimes (including a very special one from Svaram) in my outdoor living space - made of 3 different materials, but I would love to have this one too. I don't have one made out of little seashells. But that's not the reason, or at least not the only reason for wanting to have this wind-chime. I am taken in by the sheer charm and simplicity of this piece. The little touch of wicker on the top adds so much beauty to it, I think. And since I live quite close to the sea, I think it would make perfect sense to have such a wind-chime making its pleasing sea-shell sound in my courtyard. Now that I have also discovered a rational argument for possessing it, what more can I say in my defense? Done...this wind-chime too goes on my "must have" list!

O alright, their reasonably decent look-alike might also work.

Well, folks, that's it for this joyful post. Two objects of beauty on my "must-have" list for my, actually. Objects that will surely bring more joy to my home and garden!

One last, but certainly not the least, thing before I close. It is more of a disclaimer, actually. By saying what I have said in this post about my personal decisions regarding what I don't do through this blog, I do not, in any way, intend to make any judgmental comment on any of the blogs which review, endorse, promote or write for various product labels or brands. Some of these writings serve good purpose, I am sure. I am merely stating my personal preference, my personal bias, if you will, about what I think I should or shouldn't do via my blog. To each his/her own, that's how it is in the blogging community as I am beginning to understand it a little bit. No judgments of any kind, no imposing of personal biases of any kind. Completely democratic, completely free. That's what keeps this whole exercise of blogging meaningful and relevant - for bloggers, readers and the larger social-cultural context. Having said all this, let me also offer in advance my apologies to anyone who might have felt any sense of discomfort or displeasure at reading any part of this post.

More objects of beauty and joy to come in the future posts in this series...whenever inspiration strikes!

*** Here is the Mother's advice:

"Not to take care of material things which one uses is a sign of inconscience and ignorance. You have no right to use any material object whatsoever if you do not take care of it. You must take care of it not because you are attached to it, but because it manifests something of the Divine Consciousness."
~ Collected Works, Volume 14

Linking this post to ABC Wednesday: J is for Joy.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

That Long Wait

A new post in the series - A Poem and A Song
It is actually quite amazing when you find the same thought being expressed through a picture, a poem, a song, or even a gesture. Perhaps it happens because the thought has sunk deep into you, at least for the time being, and you just view a certain picture, read a certain poem and hear a certain song as expressions of that singular thought. 
Or perhaps they really are conveying the same thought, but in different shades and hues. 
And it just so happens that when that very thought captured your attention, certain pictures, poems and songs also appeared before you allowing you to delve deeper into the thought and let it reveal its deeper essence to you. 
Regardless of how it happens, it is always a moment to relish and cherish the beauty. The beauty of the picture, the song, the poem. The beauty of the experience. The beauty of the moment.

She waits. And waits. Will he come this evening? What if he doesn't come? What will I do? How will I bear more waiting?

But wait a minute, what if he actually comes? Is the garland ready? Is the lamp lit? Am I ready? Even worse, will I recognize him?

And so it goes. Every evening, every night. New morning, same old waiting. Old love, a new kind of waiting.

She waits. And waits.


The song I came to sing 
remains unsung to this day. 
I have spent my days in stringing 
and in unstringing my instrument. 

The time has not come true, 
the words have not been rightly set; 
only there is the agony 
of wishing in my heart….. 

I have not seen his face, 
nor have I listened to his voice; 
only I have heard his gentle footsteps 
from the road before my house….. 

But the lamp has not been lit 
and I cannot ask him into my house; 
I live in the hope of meeting with him; 
but this meeting is not yet.
~ Rabindranath Tagore

Click here for the previous post in this series.
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Linking this with Everyday Gyaan - Anything Goes on Sunday-2

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

India on My Mind

This post was re-published in a revised form at
Click here to read the revised article.

I am not really interested in writing about politics. And I am certainly not knowledgeable enough to say anything about Indian political scenario. I haven't read enough or thought enough or understood enough to offer any reasonable view or judgment or even some thoroughly informed opinions. I don't watch news channels so I am unaware of the day-to-day antics of various political parties. Newspaper I only read very casually, and not very regularly. But I do try to read a little bit more widely than what is promoted by the particular ideological stance of the newspaper - doesn't matter which one you subscribe to, they are all sold out, to different degrees!

I only have a few personal observations, or you may call them gut feelings or hunches which really don't mean anything much in the marketplace of political commentaries and expert opinions. Or maybe they mean a little something to me, that's all. And this being my blog, I suppose it is alright if I express a few of those things that are on my mind, especially since the coming elections carry such great importance for not only the future of Indian democracy and polity, but also the future direction for India's self-finding and self-becoming.

So it is because of my love for India that I write this. 

I should re-emphasize that these views are strictly mine, subjectively shaped by how I understand, make sense of and feel about some of the things I see, read and hear.

Elections 2014 will see three competing ideas of India at war with each other.

Idea I

One idea of India is based entirely in the view that India is only its physical geography and people, but it is not the 'One Land and One People' kind of view. It views Indian geography divided into different parts, each with its own set of political, economic, social (perhaps in that order) units which impacts the vote-bank-worthiness of that part and finally determines whether or not that part belongs to the winnable category. It views people too in a similar fashion - divided by their multiple identities of language, caste, religion, economic status etc - to assess which groups should be thrown which crumbs to win them over to its side and make them shut up for at least next five years. Some adherents of this view are champions of group-appeasement that is intricately linked to political mileage, while others are champions of political ideologies that are breathing their last. This view does not encourage Indians to look at themselves as Indians first and anything else next. Nor does it in any way facilitate the cultivation of a sense of healthy pride, love, and the idea of working for the motherland. How can it, when it doesn't even motivate people to work for their upliftment, it only tries to 'save' them by handing out doles and giving them a false sense of entitlement and...more entitlement? It thrives on the ruler-ruled, us-them, this-that, rich-poor, capital-labour, group I-group II, and several other dichotomies and divisions - real as well as artificially constructed. Its favourite dichotomy is secular-religious without an iota of understanding what these words may actually mean in the Indian cultural and philosophical context. This view of India does not recognize the Oneness in the Many, does not accept the Sacredness in the Physical Motherland. The idea of an Indian soul or Indian spirit is as alien to this view as some of the top leaders representing this view are to the country called India - either by birth, ideological affiliation, or simply a complete lack of knowledge and non-interest in learning about Indian cultural history.

Idea II

The other idea of India is...well, perhaps not even an idea. It is merely a "today this, tomorrow that, day after something else" type of political mumbo-jumbo masquerading as vision but is in fact nothing more than a fad-of-the-moment or fashion-of-the-day that gets cheers and cheap publicity because of its screen appeal and anarchic thrills. Such an idea-less view of India is so flimsy, empty and hollow that it must be (and hopefully will be) swept aside with a mere swish of a 'broom'. But as my mother often told me some dirt is very obstinate, it may take several rounds of cleaning to get rid of it entirely. This idea-less view of India is perhaps even more dangerous than idea I because it is openly against the spirit of India (though it uses Indian terminology because of its sound-bite value). India has always believed in an evolutionary change - inner, outer, individual, societal. This idea-less view only sells revolution, but it is not a real revolution because that would mean actually working for one. It is a revolution carried forth only by meaningless words, catchy slogans, flashy gimmicks, and dirty brooms. The proponents of this idea-less view are often seen in streets, with their brooms and all, but instead of digging deep into what clean governance may look like they are merely selling the idea of a political anarchy which sadly has some momentary appeal to some sections of the disgruntled educated elites. The torch-bearers of this group desperately try to position themselves as different, but only for the sake of difference in order to gain popularity among the bored audiences of 24x7 news channels. On second thought, they are perhaps different because they are....well, perfect material for nursery-school style show and tell, and that too when done for TV. After all, when a group of 'educated' people can come up with an image of a broom as a symbol to represent their idea of the future that they may like to facilitate for their motherland, does one need to say anything more about the level of mental consciousness from which such ideas emerge? (I read in the paper yesterday that some other bunch has now come up with the symbol of 'chappal'. I mean, how low can things go now?)

Oh, I just now realized I wrote so much about the idea of India that isn't even an idea!

Moving on...

Idea III

The third idea of India is based in the view that India's future self-finding depends on how we see India with an inner eye. It compels its adherents to not just get carried away by what is on the outer surface and instead look for that which makes India India. It acknowledges India's rich diversity but only as a phenomenon of Nature which abhors uniformity. It thrives on this diversity in forms and simultaneously recognizes that these diverse forms must struggle and strive to find their deeper Unity and Oneness in spirit. It views India not only as a physical mass of land but a sacred geography which acts as a unifying force - visibly and invisibly. It accepts that the outer India is not shining, at least not yet, but the glow of the eternal Indian soul can not remain hidden for long. It acknowledges that the path is not easy, work ahead is huge and problems are plenty; but it also knows that when given a new hope under a decisive and firm leadership the Indian spirit (which has probably suffered some serious setback because of bad leadership, poor governance, meaningless dole-giving and handouts) will rejuvenate itself in no time. It asks Indians to work for themselves, not be passive receivers of sops from governments - theirs or others. It asks Indians to recognize their potential and thoroughly prepare themselves to work for their self-finding, and through that for India's self-finding. This idea of India holds Indian spirit to be the ultimate truth of India, and believes that time has come for Indians to start discovering and identifying with that spirit. This idea of India discourages a dichotomous or divided view of society and polity and instead promotes a mutually-fulfilling and effective struggle for achieving harmony without appeasing one group at the cost of others. It does not accept the dichotomy of Rights and Duties, it harmonizes them in the high and lofty ideal of Dharma of an Indian (and eventually of India too), which can be discovered only by first discovering the dharma of a leader, dharma of a citizen, a worker, a teacher, a student, a doctor, an engineer, a clerk, a manager, an officer, a soldier, an industrialist, a cleaner, an artist, an artisan, a mother, a child, a woman, a man, everyone who goes by the name Indian. This idea of India, therefore, first asks you and me to discover ourselves.

Does this third Idea of India really exist? I mean, is it really the basis of any political party's view of India at the moment? I am not so sure. The proponents of idea I and idea II are certainly millions of miles removed from it. No hope there. Perhaps it is time we start figuring out if there is any idea of India presently being sold to the voters that slightly resembles this idea III or at least takes some inspiration from it. Go on, start thinking people!

I also wish to add that if idea III does have some truth behind it and has a potential to chart out India's future that is true to the Indian spirit, perhaps some political party should take it up seriously and throw all its political and ideological might behind it, instead of tiptoeing around it by making some political adjustments here and some alliances there. Instead of making silly attempts to make itself more like-able to the perpetual nay-sayers, publicity-seeking activists and hyper-active rebels looking for a cause, the political party who is most sympathetic to this idea of India should focus more on making this idea a reality.

Let me conclude this very long post by saying that I sincerely hope and pray that my fellow citizens will make their choice wisely in the coming elections. That's all I can do!

Picture credits: 12, 3, 4. 

This post is linked to ABC Wednesday: I is for India.


This post has been selected as one of the posts for Blogadda's Tangy Tuesdays, March 11, 2014 

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Women AND Men

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.

Photo by Suhas Mehra

A special post for International Women's Day

In his volume on social philosophy, Sri Aurobindo writes that an individual
“is not merely a social unit; his existence, his right and claim to live and grow are not founded solely on his social work and function. He is not merely a member of a human-pack, hive or ant-hill; he is something in himself, a soul, a being, who has to fulfill his own individual truth and law as well as his natural or his assigned part in the truth and law of the collective existence....[A]s the society has no right in suppressing the individual in its own interest, so also the individual…has no right to disregard the legitimate claims of society upon him in order to seek his own selfish aims.”
A truly complete, an integral approach to feminism will emphasize the individual’s need for inner development and growth instead of only existing to fulfill society’s demands. It will allow complete freedom to the individual soul to grow and evolve in a multi-faceted and harmonious way. It will be primarily concerned with: 
  • the evolution of consciousness in the individual woman, at the same time recognizing that this evolution is also an integral part of the evolution of societal consciousness. 
  • the integral development and transformation of inner and outer nature of all individuals - women AND men. 
Only a truer and deeper connection between individual and collective in the evolution of consciousness can be the basis of equality and liberty for all individuals. But the first and foremost thing is to consider oneself as a human being, to get acquainted with one’s innate humanity. What comes first is the human being and not man or woman.
"Let woman liberate first her human being within, thereafter the time will come for her to understand and decide that she is woman." ~ Nolini Kanta Gupta

Because ultimately, as the Mother explains: 
"The problem of feminism, as all the problems of the world, comes back to a spiritual problem. For the spiritual reality is at the basis of all others; the divine world…is the eternal foundation on which are built all the other worlds. In regard to this Supreme Reality all are equal, men and women, in rights and in duties; the only distinction which can exist in this domain being based on the sincerity and ardour of aspiration, on the constancy of the will. And it is in the recognition of this fundamental spiritual equality that can be found the only serious and lasting solution for this problem of the relation of the sexes." 

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Friday, 7 March 2014

Die I must

Source unknown

I am not ready to die a legal death; my papers aren’t in order. Not ready to die a social death; my attachments (detachments?) aren’t in order. Not ready to die a personal death; my inner being isn’t in order. 

But die I must. Death doesn’t wait.  

I died yesterday. 

Must learn now to live. 


Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Of Happenings, Harassment and Hope

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.

Botanical name: Jacquemontia pentantha; Spiritual Significance: Hope, paves life’s way.

We have all been there.

In moments (though they feel much, much longer than moments at the time) of hopelessness, feeling harassed by circumstances and happenings that feel suffocating, depressing and unbearable.

We have all done that.

Ask questions like - why do these things happen to me? Why me? Why now? When will all this harassment end? Why o why?

And we have all done this too.

Search for Answers, grope for Light, seek for Calmness in the middle of the turmoil.

This is what I am doing today...through these words of the Mother. Words that I was inspired to search for because someone I love very dearly who is several thousand miles away needs to hear them. Words that I must remind myself everytime I am in one of those moments or ask those questions.

Words that speak of Hope and sincerity, Optimism and patience, Perseverance and progress, Elimination and purification. Words that feel like Truth.

This comes back to the question why the adverse forces have the right to interfere, to harass you. But this is precisely the test necessary for your sincerity. If the way were very easy, everybody would start on the way, and if one could reach the goal without any obstacle and without any effort, everybody would reach the goal, and when one has come to the end, the situation would be the same as when one started, there would be no change. That is, the new world would be exactly what the old has been. It is truly not worth the trouble! Evidently a process of elimination is necessary so that only what is capable of manifesting the new life remains. This is the reason and there is no other, this is the best of reasons. And, you see, it is a tempering, it is the ordeal of fire, only that which can stand it remains absolutely pure; when everything has burnt down, there remains only the little ingot of pure gold. And it is like that. What puts things out very much in all this is the religious idea of fault, sin, redemption. But there is no arbitrary decision! On the contrary, for each one it is the best and most favourable conditions which are given. We were saying the other day that it is only his friends whom God treats with severity; you thought it was a joke, but it is true. It is only to those who are full of hope, who will pass through this purifying flame, that the conditions for attaining the maximum result are given. And the human mind is made in such a way that you may test this; when something extremely unpleasant happens to you, you may tell yourself, “Well, this proves I am worth the trouble of being given this difficulty, this proves there is something in me which can resist the difficulty”, and you will notice that instead of tormenting yourself, you rejoice—you will be so happy and so strong that even the most unpleasant things will seem to you quite charming! This is a very easy experiment to make. Whatever the circumstance, if your mind is accustomed to look at it as something favourable, it will no longer be unpleasant for you. This is quite well known; as long as the mind refuses to accept a thing, struggles against it, tries to obstruct it, there are torments, difficulties, storms, inner struggles and all suffering. But the minute the mind says, “Good, this is what has to come, it is thus that it must happen”, whatever happens, you are content.
~ Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 4, pp. 353-354

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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Art and Society

This post was re-published in Tamarind Rice, July 2014

A new post in the series - When a Picture Leads

A post inspired by some late night browsing of old pictures; 
this time from a visit to Cholamandalan Artists' Village near Chennai

In today’s world where art has become another peg in the mighty wheel of commercialism and consumerism, we have experts -- art critics, museum and gallery wallahs, art dealers and others -- who tell us what is “beautiful” art, what is more “valuable” and what is “priceless.” They do this through their selection process and via picking up the art they believe can ‘sell’. In some sense they are not only reading or guessing society’s aesthetic sense; they are also shaping it. 

While there are serious drawbacks to this process of erecting an industry out of and for art, I am wondering if this can be, in some way, seen as an 'interim' solution to the perpetual question of how the society supports the arts? If as a society our sensibilities are more consumption-oriented and commercialistic at this point of our collective evolution, our approach to supporting the arts will also be along that line.

How might this change in a future society that has evolved to a higher level of individual and collective consciousness? 

Perhaps some hints of an answer to that can already be seen in the emerging trends of community-level art fairs featuring local artists, artist cooperatives which manage galleries and organize exhibits, and artists’ villages. Certainly there are examples of such ideas being translated in practice in many parts of the world. 

In my neck of the woods we have Cholamandal, an artists' village near Chennai, which has grown "without any funding or support from the government, quasi-governmental bodies, charitable foundations, art bodies like Lalit Kala Academy or persons apart from the small grant that it is entitled to, like any other art organization in the country." The village welcomes visitors to enjoy their permanent gallery of paintings, sculptures as well as the display of art and craft work which are available for sale by the artists themselves. Go on, click on their website to know more.

Perhaps this is a sign of things to come. Perhaps change is already happening, societies are evolving, art is evolving, artists as discoverers of Divine through Beauty are evolving, as they are searching and discovering new forms of collective living and working which doesn’t in any way inhibit or limit their individual creativity and work. 

Perhaps I am being too optimistic. But why not?

All photos by yours truly.

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Linking also with DailyPost Weekly Challenge: Threes

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