Sunday, 31 August 2014

Hello, It's a Miracle!

Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers

"Hello Miracle, my old friend. So good to see you! Long time, where had you been hiding?"

"Hello there! I suppose I could say I was just hibernating, taking it easy, you know! How have you been? I see you look quite hale and hearty, nicely blossoming."

"Yes, it has been a good year so far. I have enjoyed the nice rains we got and also plenty of Sun helped me regain some of my vigour. But you have had a difficult time in the last couple of years, no? We missed you around here."

"It's nice to hear that you have been well. And I missed myself too, if I may say so! Yes, it has been a difficult time for me lately. But that's mostly because of that not-so-smart fellow who kept overfeeding me despite my ill-health, and didn't even bother to check what I actually needed. And those people who hired him, I mean the couple who own this property, sometimes I think they are also not very smart despite all their education and stuff. They got me to their home, parked me here in this corner and probably just forgot about me. What kind of people do that, hun? I wasn't getting proper attention, and as you know I am not really that demanding. I was barely managing to survive, but that was thanks to my inner strength and hardiness. I tell you, when times get tough, that's when you realize your own will to survive and keep going. I managed to do that, and look now, I am finally recovering after all this time and even beginning to blossom a little."

"That's great! I am very happy for you. And I am so proud of you. You know, I was missing your company. I used to look longingly toward your corner and really hoped that one day the 'Miracle' will happen! Isn't that a nice turn of the phrase, eh? And look now, it has. You have opened up and we all can enjoy this beautiful vision of the blue-purple blooms in our corner."




"Thank you so much, dear! It means a lot to hear this from my fellow beings, my neighbours and friends."

"And I must tell you this. It is not for no reason that you have been given this name 'Miracle'. Just by the way you have shared your experience right now, you have helped me learn an important lesson in life, and work further towards my Perfection: to rely on one's inner willpower, to be able to dig into that hidden reservoir of inner strength and pull oneself up and renew oneself. But tell me frankly, was it easy to do?"

"Oh no! It wasn't easy, but then what choice did I have? It would have been much easier to give up. But something in me resisted and wasn't ready to give up. And I thank all the gods for that! This part kept going somehow, kept the flame of life burning within, kept digging for greater strength, greater willpower and eventually created an opening of some sort which was enough to receive that Higher Light or Force or whatever one may call it. And voila! It worked. I could slowly heal my wounds, and eventually as you say, renew myself. I suppose it is a Miracle, in a way. Otherwise if it were up to these fellows, I would have probably been dead by now!"

"Now come on...they aren't all that bad. The rest of us have been doing okay, no? They do take care of us and also of things around here, for the most part. I agree, sometimes they get lazy or neglectful and things go a bit out of control or somewhat unruly, here and there. But they do come around and do what is necessary."

"You are right, they do. I was being a bit judgmental, I think. Maybe this new-found beauty of mine is going to my head! I must watch out for it. It is true that when I look around and see you all doing well and hale and hearty, I feel happy and content to be in your company. And I suppose I shouldn't hold on to these silly grudges, especially when I am standing near something that is so much more Psychologically Perfect than me. I salute you, my friend, for your aspiration for that inner perfection. Perhaps it was also because of this sense of wellness around me that made me survive all along and keep at it...there is much to be said about the environment in which one lives."

"You really have become very wise, maybe it is your experience that has made you so."

"Wise? Who, me? O no, I am just sharing what little I have learned  from my experience. My two cents' worth, as they say."

"Your two paisas' worth, my friend! Remember, these people now live in India, so let us get our currency right!"

"Right you are!"

(Laughter).

*****

The above conversation happened between two plants in a corner of my garden. The Ironwood (also known as Delek Air tree, Anjan; botanical name: Memecylon umbellatum) and Frangipani (also known as Plumeria, Temple tree, Champa) were chatting and enjoying each other's company one late afternoon when I happened to pass by. Hiding behind some over-grown bamboo trees I overheard this conversation and found it so enlightening. I hope my readers will also find it so.

Ironwood or Anjan is given the spiritual significance of Miracle by the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. 

Frangipani is given the spiritual significance of Psychological Perfection.

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

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Linking this post with Write Tribe, Wednesday Prompt: My two cents' worth

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Linking this post with ABC Wednesday H: H is for Hello, Healing 




Friday, 29 August 2014

Do We Really Need the Board Exams?

Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers

First published on Newsinsight.net
Click here to read the article, The Art of Questioning - 3





A meaningful student assessment is essential for a robust and rigorous education system. In a country the size of India with its huge student population spread across millions of schools, the problem of summative assessment offers serious challenges, especially in senior classes when students’ decisions for college education are at stake. The situation is aggravated because of severe shortage of “seats” available in good colleges, creating cut-throat competition (and extreme stress for students and their parents). 

How to ensure that all students are fairly assessed for their “learning”? Following the British model, we have a system of large-scale public examinations which are conducted by different “boards” at the Central or state level. Students attending classes X and XII in schools affiliated to the respective board must take the “board” examinations at the end of the academic year. A few years ago, students of class X in schools affiliated to CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) were given a choice to opt out of the public examination. 

Conducting these examinations is a massive exercise in planning, organizing and implementation. But a tough question must be asked: Are these examinations really able to assess the students or are they simply being used as a means to narrow down the pool of contestants for the very limited seats available in “good” colleges? 

To read the full article, click here.


Image source: Google

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Is it Really the Culture? (No to Generalization, Yes to Grounded-ness)



I am inspired to write this post in response to Rachna's post - Culture, Really? I am, however, not responding to any specific observations she makes in her post, but rather sharing my opinion and understanding about the larger issue, as I see it.

For some reason I find it quite troublesome when people confuse culture with some particular social behavioural pattern of individuals or small groups of people in a society.

To illustrate, I take the same example as Rachna about forming a queue.

Some Indians don't value the purpose of waiting in queue when they have to get their work done, say, in a bank or a government office or anywhere else. Not only that, when there are many people waiting to get their work done, some of them may not hesitate to shove and push their way through. This is by no means a general or generalizable observation. But we have all seen such behaviour, haven't we?

At the same time we have all seen (or at least I have seen) plenty of Indians in various contexts — government offices, banks, shopping mall, department stores, religious ceremonies, ashrams, charitable organizations, hospitals, doctors’ clinics, and many other situations — patiently waiting for their turn in queue. Not only that, we have perhaps all come across situations (or at least I have) when people have let some total stranger to stand before them in the queue because they were in a greater hurry or were senior citizens or some other factor. Such kindness is also quite commonly seen in Indian collective settings.

Both realities exist, simultaneously. Is one pattern a greater representative of Indian society than the other?

Somehow in my observation, those who don't prefer this queue business or those who go out of their turn in the queue are generally those who feel they are entitled to some special preference. And this sense of entitlement can come because of some real or perceived social or economic status they have assigned to themselves. What leads to such a sense of entitlement? This is a matter of individual/social behavioural psychology, not necessarily a characteristic of a culture.

Another possible reason why some people don't mind pushing or shoving to get their work done, at any cost, could be simply that they don't want to wait or they don't have time to wait for their turn. Or they may somewhat wrongly assume that only their time is precious, and other people waiting there have somehow more than 24 hours in a day. Or that only their work is important and others' works don't matter. What leads to such misguided assumptions? This is again a matter of individual/social behavioural psychology, not necessarily a characteristic of a culture.

Social behaviour is the result of many factors including but not limited to: individual and collective levels of literacy and general education in civic or collective life, the environment of upbringing, the sheer size of population (not to mention the mind-boggling diversity on all possible indicators that a census bureau can ever imagine), the extremely fast pace and mind-less nature of urbanization, the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the systems and organizations, and many others.

But the larger issue here is how we understand a culture. Culture is not social behaviour, culture is something much, much deeper.

In an earlier post, I shared the following definition of culture, given by Sri Aurobindo, the great Mahayogi of 20th century, who was also the pioneering Integral seer encompassing the completeness of everything in his spiritual realizations, and expressing the implications of this integral truth through all the possible domains of intellectual activity ranging from philosophy, sociology, cultural study, education, literature, poetry, arts, politics, everything.

Culture, according to Sri Aurobindo, is an expression of a consciousness of life which formulates itself in three aspects:
- Thought, ideal, upward will and soul's aspiration (philosophy, higher thinking, religion) - this is the SOUL of a culture
- Creative self-expression and appreciative aesthesis, intelligence and imagination (art, poetry, literature) - this is the MIND of a culture
- Practical and outward formulation (social-political-economic structures) - this is the BODY of a culture
Culture is about collective life. But it is also about individual life. It is important to understand that the Indian view of society or any collective group is same as her view of an individual.

In the Indian view, an individual is first and foremost a soul, a portion of the Divinity, a conscious manifestation in Nature of the universal self and spirit. This individual self or soul is enwrapped in mind and body. Mind and body in this view are important not because of themselves, but because they are the outer coverings and instruments of the true being inside, the soul.

In a way, this spiritual view of reality assigns much greater importance to the upkeep of mind and body, but the reason assigned for this upkeep and care is different from a materialistic view which altogether denies the existence of anything invisible like soul. (It is also important to understand that the soul is not simply deeper emotions, deeper thoughts, or a very high intellectualism or emotionalism. However, that is not a discussion meant for this post.)

Similarly, according to the Indian view, a society too has a group-soul which manifests or expresses itself through its outer formulations of group-mind and group-body.

According to the Indian view of things, when we want to understand a culture, including and perhaps especially our own culture, we should look at all its three aspects and the harmony among them. We should first aim to grasp how the soul of a people, their highest aspiration and thought are expressed through the best efforts and accomplishments of their collective minds and imagination, and through the outer forms, societal systems, organizations and structures of society.

It is true that in India for the last several centuries the outer BODY has suffered many serious damages and blows, an unbiased reading of India's history for the last 1000 years or so would reveal that. Some of these blows have been so severe that they left strong impact on the MIND too, and we are still suffering from those.

But there is something deep inside the SOUL of Indian culture which has time and found a way to exert its influence and revive the almost-hidden spirit of India. This revival hasn't been fully, or in some cases even partially, expressed in the outer body or even the collective mind of India. But to say that no change is seen in the outer form would also not be true. India's way, however, has always been — inner first, outer next. Only when the inner spirit is truly newly and harmoniously organized, the outer forms will begin to change and organize themselves. Only when the inner shines forth, the outer will renew itself.

Some of the outwardly chaotic and disorganized societal behaviour patterns that we see today are nothing more but a projection of the badly damaged and partly-revived outer BODY of the Indian spirit.

A study of inner history of India reveals that the deeper, truer Indian view of life which values the outer life because of it being the support, the base, the aadhar of the inner, truer life, suffered a serious setback when a certain spiritual truth of 'Illusionism' (Mayavaad - all world is Maya, so why bother with it) took hold of the Indian psyche. This led to much neglect of the outer life and became an important factor for the decline of Indian civilization. The outer historical events of frequent invasions and conquests that happened concurrently or subsequently added much to the ongoing decline, resulting in a severe damage to the Indian body and mind.

It is also true that in some other parts of the world we see examples of much more organized outer life. We also find there highly efficient systems in place that work almost automatically and make the day-to-day lives of citizens easy and convenient. This could be because of various historical reasons. And this could also be because the cultural view of life in these societies has perhaps put greater emphasis on the outer life of individuals and groups. Outer organization has outweighed the inner organization of life in these other societies. This is merely to point out a difference, not to place any value judgment. In a way, this diversity of views of life is what makes the life of humanity richer and allows for a richer and multifaceted manifestation of that One Eternal Life that is behind all life.

Certainly, the truly Indian way would be to learn these best practices from elsewhere on how to organize outer life, and to make the best possible use of them to revive the Indian outer body. But this must not be done at the cost of enslaving Indian mind and psyche to such 'borrowed' forms. Instead the outer forms must be adopted to the inner truth of Indian mind and spirit. That would be a true Indian revival.
India’s ancient and mediaeval political, administrative, military and economic organisation was no mean achievement; the records stand and can be left to contradict the ignorance of the uninstructed and the rhetoric of the journalistic critic or the interested politician. There was no doubt an element of failure and defect, almost unavoidable in the totality of a problem on so large a scale and in the then conditions. But to exaggerate that into a count against her civilisation would be a singular severity of criticism which few civilisations watched to their end could survive. Failure in the end, yes, because of the decline of her culture, but not as a result of its most valuable elements. A later eclipse of the more essential elements of her civilisation is not a disproof of their original value. Indian civilisation must be judged mainly by the culture and greatness of its millenniums, not by the ignorance and weakness of a few centuries. A culture must be judged, first by its essential spirit, then by its best accomplishment and, lastly, by its power of survival, renovation and adaptation to new phases of the permanent needs of the race. In the poverty, confusion and disorganisation of a period of temporary decline, the eye of the hostile witness refuses to see or to recognise the saving soul of good which still keeps this civilisation alive and promises a strong and vivid return to the greatness of its permanent ideal.
~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Volume 20, p. 120 

One final point. But an important one. Many serious problems exist in many parts of the world. Many materially rich and so-called developed societies face the challenges of increasing violent crimes, racial hatred, excessive drug-abuse, neglect of children and the aged, and many many more. The Indian educated class, which generally likes to have an opinion on everything under the sun (and its opinions are primarily formed by others' opinions which are accessed through mass media and its cousin social media), doesn't rush to generalize and say that there is something wrong with these cultures because such things happen there. Why? Because the powerful opinion-makers and commentators keep reminding the Indian educated class (through mass media and its cousin social media) that these problems are not truly representative of the deeper merit or value of those 'other' cultures.

Let me be more blunt.

Have you heard an American opinion-maker cry "something is wrong with American culture" anytime a schoolkid takes a loaded gun to the school and starts shooting his peers and teachers? The commentators find fault with the gun-ownership law, the gun lobby, the school security systems, the parenting style, the profession of psychiatry, medical community, everything. But not with American culture. Maybe they should. I don't know. But in India, somehow we are so quick to criticize our culture for all the problems in Indian society.

A healthy self-critique is a good thing. But it shouldn't be at the cost of a healthy self-appraisal of our cultural strengths and merits. Why can't we see our own problems in the same 'rational' way? Why do we have to jump to a hasty and often ill-formed or mis-informed conclusion that it is somehow the 'Indian culture' that is behind all that is outwardly wrong with Indian society?

A society begins to disintegrate when it is no longer grounded in the timeless spirit of its culture. This is true of Indian society; this is true of American society, any society. This is also true of an individual. Because in the final analysis, the society is nothing more than a group of individuals. The first requisite is to find out how can you and I, individually, be grounded in the spirit of our culture. Only then the society will find its grounded-ness. And only then the outer body, our societal institutions and behaviour patterns will express or manifest the true spirit of the culture.

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Linking this post with ABC Wednesday G: G is for: Generalization and Grounded-ness.

Image: mine    

Sunday, 24 August 2014

12 Most...



So the folks over at Write Tribe have asked us to write something about "12 most...." These 12 could be anything. Anything, they said.

So, of course my immediate thought was about sharing 12 most favourite old Hindi film songs. But I have so many more than 12. Selecting 12 would have been a difficult thing. And it also occurred to me that occasionally I do keep sharing some of them here on this blog. But the moment I started thinking of this "blog" my mind went to those early days of my blog-writing when all I was doing was writing for myself. This was when not many people knew this blog even existed.

And I started going through some of my old posts. Memories of what was going on in my outer and inner life during the particular time which inspired me to write those posts came flooding. It was a good walk down that lane, with mixed feelings about the various moments and memories.

But this post is not about those memories or moments.

This post is about those old posts. Yes, you guessed it: 12 most un-read posts on this blog. Each of these posts remind me of a special moment, a special thought or feeling or a piece of music that was dominating my mind and/or heart at that time.

Why am I inclined to do a post today about the 12 most un-read posts on this blog? Yes, you guessed it again: because after all those writings about Education and Dharma and Reason and Depression that I have been doing all this month, I wanted to do something simple. Not really simplistic, but simple and easy and fun. That's it! And of course, a few more 'hits' on these old posts wouldn't hurt either.

See if any of these catch your attention. Here we go:

A Thing of Beauty

Charles Eisentstein on "Who Will Collect the Garbage?"

We Pray that it will be Done in Beauty

Simplicity, Sincerity, and Spontaneity

Love Immortalized, in Stone and Song

Inner Truth of a Flower

Of Pots and Religions...with a bit of Santoor and Piano Thrown on the Wheel

Giving Up...Letting Go...How?

A Story of an Inner Dawn

"Song is Divine, but More Divine is Love"

"No Construction without Destruction"

The Whole Seed Within


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Linking this post with Write Tribe Wednesday Prompt: 12 Most...

Friday, 22 August 2014

Dharma and Reason

First published on Social Potpourri

This is in continuation to the previous piece -  Of Right, Duty, Dharma and That Inner Voice. It would be helpful if you have read the earlier article.




Dharma is not an easy concept to understand and describe. It has to be actually ‘lived’ as per our level of consciousness and its ascending journey. However, in order to at least mentally comprehend it, we must first develop an intellectual practice and habit that accepts multiple truths co-existing simultaneously.

For example, while Ahimsa (non-violence) may be the supreme Dharma on a very high spiritual plane, it cannot and should not be applied universally as a moral principle on each plane of existence and action. When a soldier kills in a battlefield, he too is following his dharma. Failure to do so will mean abandoning his dharma. When a colonized people start an armed revolution against their colonial masters their action is not adharmic. Passively accepting oppression and unjust foreign rule may actually be against the spirit of the group-dharma which enjoins the group members to live and discover their individual dharma in freedom.

As we begin to see, Dharma is universal and individual at the same time. It is eternal and ever-changing at the same time.

A tiger kills and devours others as per its dharma; a flower gives fragrance and beauty to all as per its dharma. It is only human being, however, who perhaps is often not sure of his or her dharma and feels a sort of evolutionary crisis within. There are times when one must abandon the dharma that seemed right and true at an earlier time or stage in life, and go toward a higher dharma, a higher law of being. And this creates an inner tension of sorts, an inner battleground where dharma alone can help resolve the crisis.

But how?

To read more, go to Social Potpourri

(Dear reader, I would love to hear any thoughts, comments or responses you may have to this article. You may drop me a few words here or at the SP site, as per your convenience and preference.)


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Found. Faded Flowers, Fading Memories.

Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers


Ever wondered what those books behind the glass doors of the cupboard might be thinking or feeling? Ever wondered if they are saying something to you? Yes, to you. And to me too, as we are busy clicking fingers on our laptops, ipads whatever.

Ever wondered if those pages, with that fresh-printed or that old-musty smell, are missing the touch of your fingers from the times you gently turned them over? Ever wondered if there is a look of longing in the stillness with which those old books continue to gaze in your direction as your eyes glaze over the screen of your gadget?

Ever wondered what all has been lost in this transition from books to e-books?

He did. That Hindi/Urdu poet, film-maker, writer, and storyteller. Gulzar, who celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday.

Read what he has to say about those books behind the glass doors.

About those evenings spent in their company, and those nights slept with them. About those dried, faded flowers found in their pages, and the fading memories of the old letters and notes hidden between some others. About the relationships birthed in the game of borrowing and lending books.

About the romance of the books, and where it has gone in today's age.

किताबें झाँकती है बंद अलमारी के शीशों से
बड़ी हसरत से तकती है
महीनों अब मुलाक़ातें नही होती
जो शामें उनकी सोहबत में कटा करती थी
अब अक्सर गुज़र जाती है कम्प्यूटर के परदे पर
बड़ी बैचेन रहती है किताबें
उन्हें अब नींद में चलने की आदत हो गई है

जो ग़ज़लें वो सुनाती थी कि जिनके शल कभी गिरते नही थे
जो रिश्तें वो सुनाती थी वो सारे उधड़े-उधड़े है
कोई सफ़्हा पलटता हूँ तो इक सिसकी निकलती है
कई लफ़्ज़ों के मानी गिर पड़े है
बिना पत्तों के सूखे टूँड लगते है वो सब अल्फ़ाज़
जिन पर अब कोई मानी उगते नही है

जबाँ पर ज़ायका आता था सफ़्हे पलटने का
अब उँगली क्लिक करने से बस एक झपकी गुज़रती है
बहोत कुछ तह-ब-तह खुलता चला जाता है परदे पर
क़िताबों से जो ज़ाती राब्ता था वो कट-सा गया है

कभी सीनें पर रखकर लेट जाते थे
कभी गोदी में लेते थे
कभी घुटनों को अपने रहल की सूरत बनाकर
नीम सज़दे में पढ़ा करते थे
छूते थे जंबीं से

वो सारा इल्म तो मिलता रहेगा आइन्दा भी
मगर वो जो उन क़िताबों में मिला करते थे
सूखे फूल और महके हुए रूक्के
क़िताबें माँगने, गिरने, उठाने के बहाने जो रिश्ते बनते थे
अब उनका क्या होगा...!!

"I often find sentences that seem to me beautiful in writing or in print, but once I utter them aloud, become harsh and unmusical; and sometimes the reverse happens...I have often at first sight condemned a sentence as harsh and ugly, which, when I read it aloud, I was surprised to find apt and harmonious. From this I infer that if a writer's works appear beautiful in print or manuscript, but not beautiful when read aloud, he may be set down as a good artist in calligraphy, but a bad artist in literature, since suggestion to the eye is the perfume of the written, but suggestion to the ear the perfume of the spoken word."
~ Sri Aurobindo, The Harmony of Virtue



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Linking this post with ABC Wednesday, F: F is for Found, Faded, Flowers.


photo credit: Moyan_Brenn via photopin cc

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Listen. Listen Closely to What She Says…

Listen closely. Quieten down all that chattering of your mind and listen to her soft voice. She speaks so softly, almost in a whisper. The Mother of us all, the Mother of our nation, is speaking to us, if we only care to listen....




Bharat Mata Temple, Daulatabad Fort, Aurangabad
(Photo by Suhas Mehra)


My children, tomorrow is 15th August. You will sing nice songs in my honour, offer me flowers and tricolour flags and release birds in the sky. You will do that again next year, and the year after that, and so on. All that is nice, but I want you to know that these are only outward gestures. If you really want to do something  for me, something truly meaningful, open your eyes. Open your minds, open your hearts. Think, and think some more. Think hard. Think deep.

You may not like to hear this hard truth, but as your mother I have to be honest with you. It saddens me to see that so many of you have simply given up on thinking for yourself. You only hear the parrots sing on TV the same tune over and over. Or you are busy blindly following the twitter stars who are more interested in their popularity than the truth. Why, my dear children? Why?

Think for yourself. Read more widely, don’t just follow the trends. Surely you are capable of reading more than 140 characters! Do your own research, do your own thinking. Don’t get swept away by the ‘fad’ of the day. Search for the deeper truth, the truth that has withstood the test of time.

Think. Think hard. Think deep.

Think what makes you my child, what makes you an Indian. Is it only the accident of your birth in this land?

Children, I hope you, each one of you, will discover soon that Indian-ness is not just about the rich variety in cuisine, clothes, festivals, rituals, customs, traditions, though they are all part of it. It is not only about the social-political systems you all have set up, though they too are part of it. And it is also not only about the different religions and ways of life practiced by different sections of my people, your people, though again they are all part of it.

But think about this - is there something like an Indian spirit that binds you all despite all these differences in your identities and ways of life?

Think. Think hard. Think deep.

Now remember this, my child, when I ask you to reflect on the Indian spirit, it is because I want you to understand how important it is to rediscover, rethink and renew this Indian-ness for the present times, and for the new age which is dawning upon us.

I want you to fully understand that I am not asking you to go back to the so-called golden age of the past, but to move forward to a new future that is yet to be shaped by you all. And this future depends on how each one of you understands the essence of Indian-ness.

At the same time, let me caution you, my children, that in this process of rediscovering your essential Indian-ness and renewing the Indian spirit you must not shun anything as irrelevant simply because it is “western” or “modern.”

Remember, if you love me you must understand this fundamental truth about India. She exists in her plurality, and yet India is also One in spirit. India is traditional, pre-modern, modern, postmodern and post-postmodern, all in one, all at one time, all co-existing. Whether you are conscious of it or not you carry all of this diversity within you.

But you must try hard and discover that invisible factor that transcends yet somehow binds all the multiple, outer aspects of Indian identity in such a way that each of the multiplicities retains its individuality yet merges in something larger, something more whole than itself. Can you do that?

Think. Think hard. Think deep.

Tell me this. What may be the deeper source of your connection with another Indian, or with Indian-ness in general? Is there anything like the soul of an Indian? Or Indian soul which helps people who consider themselves “Indian in heart” connect with one another despite the external differences in any or all of the outer identity aspects?

My children, I hope you realize soon, for my sake, for your Mother India’s glory, that this Indian-ness, this essence of being Indian lies in a shared and firm belief in something invisible beyond the visible, something supra-rational beyond the rational, something infinite beyond the finite, something eternal beyond the temporal, something that transcends yet includes All that is, was and will ever be. And that there are many different paths possible to "test" this belief and "realize" its truth within oneself -- perhaps as many paths as there are people on the planet, including the path of questioning and disbelieving this belief itself.

Diversity concerns all that which is outer, visible; Unity concerns the invisible, the inner. It is the inner One that binds the multiple outers. Any attempt to bring unity from the outside will lead to forced uniformity. Remember this truth.

But children, also remember another important truth about life. Some uniformity in the outer mechanisms, structures, social policies, laws and rules are necessary for an efficient and effective outer collective life of the society so that the true inner freedom and unity-in-diversity may prevail.

This fine balancing of the inner and outer, the oneness and the multiplicity needs to be brought home --  in the hearts, minds and actions of you all, my children. Your future as a nation, my future depends on this.

How will you work toward this balancing?

Think. Think hard. Think deep, my children.

Think for yourself.

And so she keeps asking...
Are we listening? Are we thinking? 




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This post is picked as a WOW post by BlogAdda for its Independence Day special prompt: It is the night of August 14th. You are sleeping peacefully until a lady, who identifies herself by the name of Mother India, wakes you up and starts talking. What does she talk to you?


Friday, 15 August 2014

Know Thyself, Know Thy History

Continuing my series on Education at Newsinsight.net


Before I go on to the article, let me share with the readers a picture of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, the grand temple built by Rajendra Chola. This July marked the 1000-year anniversary of the coronation of this mighty ruler of Chola Empire.

Chances are that if you don't live in Tamil Nadu, you probably missed this piece of news. Why is that so? Just this question itself is worth pondering a lot, no? 

In a way, it speaks of the larger issue I try to bring out in my second article in the series on Education I am doing for the magazine, Newsinsight.net


(Photo by Suhas Mehra)



Preface:
UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, 2001 emphasizes dialogue of cultures and civilizations, and asserts that creativity draws on the roots of cultural tradition but it flourishes in contact with other cultures. If we want Indian youth to develop and draw upon their innate creativity, it is imperative that they must have a deep and critical knowledge of their rich heritage and cultural traditions.

Indian spiritual wisdom teaches us that one must consciously try to become aware of different parts that make oneself, and make continuous attempts to live, as much as possible, in accordance with the inner truth that guides and determines one’s path of life. When our self-expression — the line of work we do, our connections with others, our growth through life-experiences, our motivations and intentions, everything — begins to flow from our unique inner law of being, we are on the path to discover our swadharma (the true purpose of our existence in this life). This is certainly not an easy task. But it is the first necessity.

Same is true of the nation. Only when Indian children, youth and people know the inner history of India and its evolutionary march, can they truly be connected to the Indian spirit and work toward manifesting it through their works and actions.

To read my article "The Art of Questioning - 2", click here.

And do come back here and share some of your thoughts, reactions, responses!



Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Daughters as Mothers




"I was thinking of all that you were saying the other day about his emotional state, I have been with him for only a couple of days and I can already feel it intensely, don't know how you dealt with it for so many weeks," she said to her sister on phone as they discussed their ailing father's condition.

"It can be exhausting and even frustrating at times, I tell you, and then of course I used to feel so bad at feeling this anger toward him, I mean I understand that his pain must be very severe and in such a condition it is not possible to register or even sense anything else, but the way he just keeps talking about this stuff - pain, medicine, doctors, tests, more medicines, his illnesses from past 30 years, - I don't know what this all must be doing to him inwardly, to his inner state...and you know that every doctor has been telling him that he is carrying too much emotional stress...I know he misses Mom terribly, he can't say a single thing about her without tears in his eyes." 

"I know...it is really heart-breaking to see him like that, but what can be done, he is like that only, always so emotional and extra-sensitive," said the youngest of the three sisters, in a helpless tone.

"We have to play the Mom with him, I think...make him remember his own strength....when I was with him I occasionally reminded him about what Mom would have said to him, and in her usual strict-but-caring tone, about not adding more force to the illness by talking about it so much; about how Mom would have told him in no plain terms that all this constant talk of disease, pain and suffering actually brings him down, makes him feel completely drained out...but I am not sure if he really buys into all that stuff, or is in a state right now to take it all in."


That evening the three sisters, miles apart, prayed in their own homes to that Supreme Source of Light, the Light in which their mother had merged only a few months ago, to send some healing rays of hope and to infiltrate the emotional darkness that had caught hold of their octogenarian father's weak heart.




Image source: 1: here, 2: Suhas Mehra



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Also linking with ABC Wednesday, E: E is for Emotions

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Art of Questioning

This article was first published on Newsinsight.net




I recently heard of an elite school in Mumbai charging an annual fee of Rs 500,000 for its playschool. I was shocked enough to not want to know its fees for kindergarten, primary and beyond. Nearby you may find a state-run school providing almost-free education (and mid-day meals) for the children of the servants working for families whose children attend the elite school. Such is the spectrum of school education in India. 

We generally and rightly assume that government schools hardly match the most average private schools (known as “public” schools) in academic standards and overall learning experience. But does the school education system as a whole intellectually equip children for today’s challenges? 

Colleges and universities might be similarly interrogated, especially those teaching humanities, social sciences and other liberal arts. The recent controversy over the University of Delhi’s four-year under-graduate programme (FYUP) misses the point altogether. Is the curriculum of either the 3-or 4-year courses rigorous enough? My experience working with graduate and post-graduate students from Indian universities has left me with sufficient doubts about the quality of academic preparation in our institutions. 

To read rest of the article, click here.
(And don't forget to come back and let me know your thoughts!)



Friday, 8 August 2014

Of Right, Duty, Dharma and that Inner Voice

Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers
This article was first published on Social Potpourri 

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.






"Do what feels right to you, to the real you inside."
"Listen to your inner voice, and act accordingly."
"Don't give in to the societal pressure, hear the voice of your soul."

We hear such advice so often these days. From practically anybody and everybody!

But think about it deeply for a minute. Is it that simple to access that inner voice? That voice of the real you which will inspire you to do the 'right' thing?

How many individuals are actually able to organize their lives according to the law of their truer/inner self? Only the rarest among rare are actually able to live in their true self that is beyond their emotional and mental selves and their demands. Rest of us, the vast majority are driven by impulses, preferences, biases, prejudices, instincts and perhaps a bit of rationality too in our saner moments.

The ancient Indian visionaries/Rishis knew very well about this problem of human nature. So they came up with the ideal of Dharma - which covered basically all natures, all aspects of life, all situations and stages of life, and even allowed for maximum freedom, continuity and greatest possibility of contextualization, adaptation and adjustment.

We find that there is an individual dharma (different for different roles, functions, and stages of life), group-dharma (dharma of an organization like a guild of craftsmen or a regiment of soldiers or a gurukulam/educational institution) kula-dharma (dharma of an extended family lineage), jati-dharma (dharma of a collective of lineages), yuga-dharma (dharma appropriate for a yuga or time – implying that dharma changes with time, what is appropriate today may not be relevant tomorrow). Dharma also varies by the varna (varna does not mean caste), and by the stage of one’s life (dharma of a householder is different from dharma of a social recluse/ascetic or from dharma of a student).

The point is that the society was meant to be organized around this ideal truth of Dharma and the idea was that if people truly acted and lived according to the truth of their dharma they would be able to live harmoniously with others and eventually work towards their own self-fulfillment gradually coming closer and closer to discovering their swabhava, true nature and swadharma, the deeper purpose of their life. This gradual progress in one's life and living by the dharma appropriate to age, station and place in life and society, helped one grow inwardly and spiritually.

Thus Dharma ensures stability and continuity of the society. But in the imperfect human hands/minds, it can also lead to society’s stagnation by restricting individual freedom and free expression and by pushing people back in their fixed 'place' if they tried to transcend their so-called dharma.

Dharma is a concept difficult to describe, much less comprehend. Given below is a clear and powerful description given by Nolini Kanta Gupta:

To read more, click here.

And after you have read the amazingly helpful description given by Nolini-da and contemplated a bit on the truth that Dharma has to be first and foremost lived, as per our level of consciousness and its ascending journey....  

....next time you hear the clichéd advice – listen to that inner voice – remember that it takes a whole lot of silencing of other voices of Right, Duty, Law, Religion, Rule, Standard etc. before the voice of the inmost consciousness can even have a chance to be heard.

But then the question arises - what to do till we are able to hear that voice?

Maybe we will take it up in a follow-up article on Social Potpourri. Stay tuned.

*****
For all posts in the Satyam Shivam Sundaram series, click here.
For previous post in the series, click here.

******
Linking this post with ABC Wednesday, D: D is for Dharma




Monday, 4 August 2014

Cholamandal on the Blog, again

Have you been to Cholamandal, an artists' village near Chennai? 

Did you miss this post about the village? No issues.

That post is now a part of the current issue of an e-zine, Tamarind Rice. Click here to read a small write-up on Art and Society, inspired by a visit to Cholamandal.


http://tamarindrice.in/tamarind-rice-july-14/


http://tamarindrice.in/tamarind-rice-july-14/


Do visit Cholamandal whenever you visit Chennai next! I will be doing the same.
And click here to read the post.


*****
Linking this with ABC Wednesday: C, C is for Cholamandal



Sunday, 3 August 2014

Rains and Pains

And it rained that night. Again.

Rains are grace from the gods above. Renewing life. But pausing the life in me.
When will the Sun bathe me in its healing light? My old, aching bones need drying. Badly.

My grandfather said this in his prayers to the Sun-God. That was when we had real monsoons.

Things changed in the last few decades, global warming’s side-effect for old arthritic me. But in my 80th year, I experienced rains and pains, the way my grandfather did.

If rains are grace from the gods above, what are pains?

My grandfather believed. Do I?





*****
Linking this with Write Tribe, 100 words on Saturday, Prompt: My grandfather said
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.


Friday, 1 August 2014

A Personal Kind of Post, and With Gratitude

Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers


So many observations. So many thoughts clouding the mind, so much churning in this thing we commonly speak of as heart.

About life and its pressures, aging and mortality, family, relationships and their impermanence. About expectations and frustrations, silences and unspoken words, words and why we need them, or not.

About love that is human - oh so human that it can even become almost unrecognizable as love. About pampering and way too much pampering. About caring, non-caring and not caring enough.

About appearances and only appearances. About what is behind appearances. About fake and the unreal.

About the big city life and the life I have come to prefer in a small city. About spaces and their vibes. About home and what feels like home. 

About the mind and its workings. 

About rains that bring so much joy and also so much suffering. About pain. And more pain.

About rich and poor – money wise. And otherwise – in sincerity, genuineness and authenticity.

About why sometimes you just want to escape from it all. About why you can’t. Or shouldn't.

And about that one long exhale that makes it all go. Let go. At least for a few moments.

Could have written many posts on these and a few other things. But I won’t. At least not now. At least not till I get an inner and objective distance from my initial reactions and reflections. Not till I sense the truth – however distorted – that may be hiding behind what has met the outer eye or the outer walls of the heart and mind. Not till I see the inner beauty that may be hidden in the outer experience.

Aah…that long exhale! Let it all go.

But what I will write about today is Gratitude. Gratitude for the experience. For all its mixed-up nature.

Gratitude for that moment when I decided I will only write when that ranting voice in the head has been hushed. Sufficiently.

Gratitude for this moment when the mind is not running unnecessarily over unnecessary observations and feelings and emotions. For this moment when I felt inspired to write about what I don’t want to write about!

Gratitude for remembering that someone had asked me if I can recall a few posts by fellow bloggers which had touched something in me. Gratitude for having read those writings, for experiencing the moment when the vibration and ‘feel’ of the words written by these wonderful writers made its impact. And strongly enough so I can still recall those writings easily. So I can still re-experience the joy of re-reading them.

Listed below are a few of those posts, in no particular order. Do take the time to read these. You too will be grateful. I am quite sure of that.

Passion Room by Dagny Sol of Serenely Rapt 



Desiderata by Vidya Sury of Going A-musing




I am of course grateful for the time you took to read this post. 

Can I really call it a post? O well.