Sunday, 28 September 2014

Of Homesickness, Hemant Kumar & Geeta Dutt







There is something about spending a few weeks in your hometown, not really doing much but just being in the home where you came of age, where you lived for about 18 years and which was always your go-to place even after you moved away.

Don't get me wrong. I am not being melodramatic or overly romantic about this experience of being back in one's childhood home. Like most adults of my age I have my own inner and outer struggles to deal with when it comes to matters related to family, home, and family home. Homesickness and longing for my present home is definitely one of those struggles. Because of some difficult circumstances during the last year and a half I have had to spend a lot of time (A LOT!) in my childhood home, either taking care of some tough situations or simply being around when things were beyond me. Such experiences bring up their own set of challenges. Some easier to deal with, some not.

But there is one interesting thing I have discovered during the last year and a half. For some reason, being in this space called childhood home makes me especially long for old Hindi film songs. Especially those songs that I haven't listened to in a long time. Weird? Maybe. But perhaps not so weird, because after all it was in this very space that I discovered my fondness for old Hindi film songs. It was this space where I developed an appreciation for those melodious compositions and those heart-stirring lyrics. All that and more, thanks to some wonderful conversations with my father.

Being in this space reminds me of those lovely weekday evenings and those lazy Sunday afternoons, listening to oldies on the radio. For many of those songs my father would share some interesting tidbits -- who was the composer, which was the first song composed by that composer, which lyricist was the favourite of which composer, which singer had refused to sing for which composer, etc. He would remember such trivia for so many songs. As a child I used to marvel at his memory.

I still do, actually. He is very good at memorizing and recalling on demand many details on which I would rather not spend any time or any part of my mental energy - bank account numbers, PAN card numbers, passport numbers, voter registration numbers, all those numbers that are part of modern living. And he doesn't remember such details only for himself, but also for all his children (perhaps, even his grandchildren I believe, though I need to check with him on this last point.)

But I was speaking of music. Old Hindi film music. Obviously, my taste in Hindi film music is to a large extent influenced by the kind of music my father admired. Though it doesn't mean that we have exactly identical tastes. In fact, there are many, many songs that he enjoys but I don't care about. However, we certainly agree on two things - Hemant Kumar and Geeta Dutt. We both enjoy pretty much every song these two talented singers ever sang in their lifetimes.

Maybe that's the reason whenever I am back in my childhood home and feeling homesick for my current home which is about 2300 kms away, I find myself falling in love once again with some of the old favourite songs in the melodious voices of Hemant Kumar and Geeta Dutt. In a strange way, listening again and again to some of those old songs actually works as a cure for the feeling of homesickness. Perhaps listening to those songs somehow puts me back in touch with that forgotten feeling of "being at home" which I used to always experience in this childhood home of mine, many, many, many years ago. Perhaps listening to those songs brings me home in a way.

The song that did this two days ago was this one:


Singers: Hemant Kumar, Geeta Dutt, Composer: Mukul Roy, Lyricist: Shailendra 
Film: Detective (1958)


And if you want to know which Hemant Kumar song did the same trick yesterday, click here.

Photo: A little corner of my home, one particular morning


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To check out the previous post in the series "All Music is...", click here.
To check out all the posts in this series, click here.



Thursday, 25 September 2014

Knowing by Grace

A special post for Navratri

A new post in the series - When a Picture Leads





Stifled by her own fears, trapped in her own powerlessness, and caught in her own vulnerability, she didn't even realize how deep she was getting into a pattern of life that would soon be an all-enveloping, a kind of a vicious circle that will be almost impossible to break.

Till one day in that very rare moment when all had become so very quiet within…in that moment when she got a glimpse of Her, looking radiant, resilient, self-possessed, self-assured, blissfully happy with no care in the world, yet with eyes that spoke the language of care, compassion and kindness.

And she instantly knew this was a moment of Grace; this was no chance meeting.

Whom she saw was none other but a vision of what she too could become; in fact She was none other but she, without all the veils, all the masks.



Then in another moment of Grace she knew exactly which way to steer the wheels of her life, she received the knowledge to begin the journey to slowly turn the vision into reality, she knew the masks that must be gotten rid of, she could sense the truth which needed to be unveiled slowly, layer by layer; the Shakti was waking up.





Pictures taken by Suhas Mehra 
Event: Dance Drama titled Naari (Woman)
Venue: Sri Aurobindo Auditorium, Auroville


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To read previous post in the series, click here.
To read all posts in the series, When a Picture Leads, click here.

To read last year's Navratri special posts, click here and here


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Linking this with Five Sentence Fiction, Prompt: Wheels
Linking this with ABCWednesday, K: K is for Knowledge





Tuesday, 23 September 2014

My Update and I


The other day some random questions came to me. 

To start with, why does Facebook call it "Update Status"?

What is a Status? What is an Update? And of course, what does it really mean when one 'updates' one's 'status'? Not on Facebook, I mean. But in the real world. This needs some serious pondering.

But all that is left for some other day.

Facebook also keeps asking another question - "What's on your mind?"

Sometimes I just want to say - Everything. Or Nothing. Or simply, Mind Your Own Business.

Oh no, I don't mean I will ever give these answers to Facebook, no matter how often it keeps asking that question. These answers are only meant for myself, when my mind asks me the question - what's really on your mind?

Who is this me who is supposed to answer this question? And is it different from my mind? More pondering needed.

But all that is left for some other day.

Today happens to be one of those days when all this me can write is an update of sorts. Update Status, in its most simple meaning. Or simplistic. Whatever that means to you. Or to me. Whatever me means.

So here I go. Or should I say - Here I (e)go.

Two of my old blog entries have recently been published in two different e-magazines.

One of them is especially near and dear to me, because it is a very personal piece, based on what my mother remembered about one of the most terrible events in modern Indian history, Partition of India.

A few days before August 15, 1947. She was hardly eight years old when she made this horrifying journey to a new home. Leaving behind the only home she knew. The only home her parents knew. This piece is now re-published in a slightly different form in the September issue of Writer's E-zine.
As a daughter and granddaughter of refugees from Pakistan, I have always been interested in learning more about Partition. But it is not necessarily the ‘official history’ about the events that led up to the Partition that interest me. It is the narratives of people whose fates were decided by a line drawn on a map. More specifically, it is the narratives of people that are closest to me that interest me the most.
Growing up I heard many stories from both my grandmothers about what their lives were like in what is now Pakistan. Some of these stories were also about Partition and their families’ journeys to India. I wish I could remember much about those stories but memories about past fade as children grow up and get busy with the mundane and not-so-mundane of the present. I remember hearing some stories from my aunts and uncles, but sadly I don’t remember much about the pain in those stories. What I remember most are the stories I heard from my parents, because these were often repeated and discussed as details would often vary from one telling to the next. In these tellings and re-tellings, my parents who at the time of Partition were only 13 and 7 constructed their stories from their selected and fading memories of that time and from the ones they had heard from their parents and other relatives.
To read more, click here.

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Another blogpost of mine, based on a Hollywood movie called The Monuments Men, has now been thoroughly revised and expanded into an article and is now published in Next Future, the e-zine of Sri Aurobindo Society, under the title On Movies, Art and Culture.

The film’s premise, especially the true historical events which inspired the film, really provoke the audience to reflect upon the value and necessity of all possible efforts that must be made to preserve and conserve the highest accomplishments and achievements of a culture’s creative self-expression and aesthetic imagination. 
It compels the audience to think deeply on the need for an aggressive defence of a culture and its highest accomplishments against all barbarism, whether it is an invasion from outside or a parasite from within. It certainly made me recall this important word of caution given by Sri Aurobindo: “The culture which gives up its living separateness, the civilisation which neglects an active self-defence will be swallowed up and the nation which lived by it will lose its soul and perish.”[2]
That is what the art-enthusiasts in the film were trying to do. They were trying to protect and defend that which made their culture living and unique. They were ready to sacrifice their lives to protect and defend the finest accomplishments of their civilization which were under grave danger. An idea like this in itself makes the film worthwhile in my subjective view.
But at times a film can be much more than a mere movie one watches for entertainment. It can become a thought-provoking and reflective exercise if we are willing to go a bit beyond the film’s original narrative.
Three other lines of thought, that make this particular film even more interesting for my analysis here, are actually not in any way part of the film’s story-line or narrative. Yet they deserve some attention and reflection in order to better appreciate the premise of the film.
To read more, click here.

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And finally, here is another update, related to the two updates shared here.

I have added a new page on my blog, titled Made It Elsewhere. This is where I have compiled all the blogposts that have been revised and re-published in other internet based magazines and journals. Some of the publications listed on this page were specifically written for those e-zines, and then later posted on the blog.

So there you have it folks, an update on my status. At least, on the status of this thing the writer in me may call my W-Ego. Is it something like Lego style building blocks? Or simply a block? These are some more questions that deserve some serious pondering.

But all that is left for some other day.





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Linking this post with Write Tribe Prompt: I Me and Myself



Saturday, 20 September 2014

A Teacher's Work



The last of my series on Education for Newsinsight.net

How should a society prepare its teachers? We often hear about the sad state of teacher education in India. In answer to the criticism, a teacher eligibility test (TET) was introduced some years ago; the cure, I believe, is worse than the disease. TET as a measure of teacher preparation is based on an extremely narrow and “industrial” view of what education really is and what teachers should do in the classroom.

On 15 August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked Sri Aurobindo in his address to the nation whose birthday coincides with India’s Independence Day. Sri Aurobindo said that the first principle of true teaching is that “nothing can be taught”. If nothing can be taught, what is the raison d’etre for the education system? What is being proposed is perfectly sensible. Teachers are meant to be helpers and guides (some have used the term ‘guide on the side’ instead of ‘sage on the stage’) and not instructors or task-masters. Teachers ought to suggest, not impose; guide the learner to acquire knowledge for themselves than to impart it. This principle could be applied at all levels and ages.

To read rest of the article, click here.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Because I Must...

They suggested I should write about writing.

Writing, in this moment, means only one thing – to express what fills my heart.


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It has been more than 10 months. Soon it will be a year.

Her presence is everywhere, in each corner of this home.

Her presence will be till the home remains. But perhaps time has to come to say goodbye to the house. The children insist.

After 40 years I’ll move house. She too will move with me. To our new home.

Home will be where her presence is and will be.

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I write, because I must.



Image: Google, altered


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Friday, 12 September 2014

Current Events 2: Seeing Anew







Why had Kareem-bhai and his friends bombed the army-camps? They were wrong.

The soldiers who rescued me, ammi, and thousands in our flood-ravaged village weren't the enemy.

Who was?


“I’ll join the army, protect my people,” 14-year-old Hamida suddenly beamed.

Inshallah, may more children see the light,” said her ammi.

Image: Source 


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A post dedicated to the victims of devastating floods that ravaged the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
And to the brave soldiers of Indian Army who bravely rescued thousands of people.

To read my previous entry in the Current Events series, click here.

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Linking this to the Fiction Challenge ‘From 15 to 50′ hosted by Shailaja at The Moving Quill. Word prompt: Perspective. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Diamond in the Cave






For a long time she simply stood there, outside the cave, unsure of herself, weak in mind and heart, going over and over in her little head -- should I enter this cave, or should I go back and forget all about this, what should I do, who can guide me?

What will I find there if I enter, will it all be dark and gloomy and scary, will there be some deeply hidden secret stuff that I would rather not discover, will I be able to accept whatever it is I find inside the cave?

What if I am stuck there and can't find my way out of that darkness, who will I call upon for help to rescue me, who can I rely upon, who, who, who?

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After what seemed to her ages, she felt she heard a very soft, almost-inaudible voice, a voice which seemed to be coming from nowhere, or perhaps from somewhere within her, a voice that seemed to be saying - "how else will you find the diamond if you don't enter the cave?"

As if this was the cue she had been waiting for all this time...she not only found the courage to start the journey into what at first sight appeared to be a dark cave, but as she continued to go deeper and deeper and deeper, that same sweet voice coming from somewhere deep inside her also became her constant companion and the source of Light, assuring her that one day she will find the shining diamond, within.




Picture credits: Suhas Mehra

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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Bring Back the Joy to School


Yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his interaction with students spoke about the importance of a joyful childhood, of children experiencing joy and thrill of learning something new, of children being children. A few days ago, one of my articles on education focusing on this very aspect of bringing joy back to the school was published in a news-magazine.

First Published on Newsinsight.net as part of an ongoing series, 

Do a small experiment. For a week closely watch children walking to school or waiting for their school buses in the morning. You would have a slim chance of seeing bright young faces enthusiastic about school and learning.

Where has all the joy gone from education? Has school become an institution like any other? Have schoolbags with weighty books and notebooks for subjects that most children will never find real-world applications become a burden? Has pressure peaked to score in exams to launch professional careers? And is there additional constraint to compete with friends to get ahead in a cutthroat world? Perhaps it is all these things and more.

The results are appalling. At an age when children should be joyous, curious and questing to know, the system sucks out all the happiness of learning. Today’s education follows an industrial model synonymous with training. Learners are trained; “good” schools and colleges train rather well. Primary considerations are acing in exams, sailing through job interviews, and winning promotions. What about training for happiness? Sorry, that is not on the curriculum.

It should be. Schooling is a critical aspect of childhood and adolescence. It should be blissful, nurture the spirit, and lead to the discovery of life and the world. Reasoning, insight, creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit derive their early foundations there. 
To read the full article, click here.

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Linking this with Denise Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday, J: J is for Joy

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Story Behind the Image on the Blog Header


I met her (virtually) in April during the month-long A-Z blog challenge, and we connected well because of our common interest, India and her culture! Eli is a wonderful blogger who has made Mumbai her home for the last few years and is happily enjoying the rains, traffic, and all the sumptuous street food the mega-city has to offer. Originally from Norway and having lived in Greece for many years, she enjoys traveling and exploring new places and is now definitely on her way to become a Mumbai-wali. She writes a beautiful and highly enjoyable blog about her expat life at Expatliv - in Exotic India.

Sometime ago Eli so kindly asked me to write a guest post for her blog, about something interesting in Pondicherry. It can be anything, she said. I considered a few ideas that came to mind but rejected them all. And then one day as I casually looked at the header image on my blog, I knew what I wanted to write. 

Dear reader, have you ever wondered where this header image is from? It's from... let my guest post on Eli's blog tell you a story and you will know the answer. 


The Legend of Irumbai and Greening of Auroville
(Guest Post for Expatliv - in Exotic India)




Once upon a time, maybe 500 years ago or more, there lived a highly evolved Siddha, a Yogi (Self-realized person) known as Kaduveli Siddha. He lived in a small village presently known as Irumbai, about 10 kms from Pondicherry, near Auroville, the international township with a deeper aim to realize the inner unity of humankind. 

Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.
To read more about Auroville, visit: Auroville.org
To read Auroville Charter, click here.


Back to the story...

During a time when the village and nearby areas were not getting any rains and the drought was making life difficult for people and other creatures, Kaduvella was busy performing his austerities and spiritual practices (tapasya) sitting under a peepal tree. He was so fully concentrated in his tapasya and the intensity of his physical and spiritual heat (tapas) got so strong that soon an anthill started to rise up around him. People thought that the drought was getting worse because of the tapas generated by the Siddha's intense tapasya and austerities. But they didn't know how to break the yogi's concentration, especially when they saw the anthill grow bigger and bigger with every passing day. 

Suffering because of the drought and resulting deprivation, the villagers approached the king who agreed that the Kaduvella's ongoing tapasya must be 'broken' in order to bring down the intensity of the 'heat'. But he too didn't know how. A temple dancer, named Valli, a woman of enticing beauty and a devotee of Lord Shiva, decided to do her best to get the attention of the yogi, and to rescue the King and people from the adverse effects of his tapasya (penance). 

To read rest of the post on Eli's blog, please click here.


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Linking this post with ABC Wednesday: I, I is for Irumbai, Image

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Current Events


In a dilapidated hall of what was once a prestigious college in a small city of the troubled border-state that had seen many decades of ethnic cleansing and terrorism, the young, energetic and dynamic cabinet minister of the newly elected central government was speaking to a large audience of students, teachers, soldiers and out-of-work businessmen.
"We must build roads, factories, schools, colleges, dams, bridges, hospitals, vocational institutions, skill-training centers, and invest in many such projects if we want to bring in more employment opportunities and provide a real boost to the development of this state; we don't want the youth of the state to experience any longer a sense of alienation, hopelessness and despair, because we have seen how severe deprivation makes them an easy prey to the destructive ideology being regularly fed by the separatists and other extremists.
But let me also say this to everyone present here that our government will have a zero-tolerance policy toward all kinds of terrorism and extremism, and we will do all that is necessary to eradicate this poison, using all constitutional and law-enforcement means available to the government.
We believe a two-pronged approach is needed: development of the state is most essential to bring a sense of hope and optimism for the future, and dealing with the terrorist groups and other anti-national elements  is like cleaning the house in the present...."

While the photographers present in the room got busy clicking their shots amidst the thunderous applause and cheering of the audience, there was no one to witness the gut-wrenching sight of two teenagers, a boy and a girl, being blown away to pieces as a bomb exploded in what used to be the college library, the spot where the young lovebirds had been hiding to steal their first kiss while their friends and peers were occupied with the minister's speech.




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Linking this with Five Sentence Fiction, prompt: Conflict



Dharma and Offering



First Published on Social Potpourri




This is the concluding part of the 3-part article on Dharma. If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2, please read them here and here before reading this concluding part.


We saw in the Part 2 of this series, Dharma and Reason, that most often the best way to address a dilemma as to what is the right thing to do is to step back from the contentious situation for a while and apply the calm light of reason. Once we have made a decision in the highest light of our reason, we must remember to offer it to the Highest Source.

But what is meant by ‘Remember and Offer’? And how does it help us get closer to our understanding of what is the dharmic thing to do?

Remember that the true being inside whispers to us very softly through the light it shines upon its outer instruments, the mind being the instrument of concern at present. Let us remember to put all our trust in the hints we receive, the light we receive in our mind and its reasoning capacity. Let us, without any bias or preconceived notion, accept the voice of this reason.

Once we have made our decision, let us remember to offer it in all our sincerity to That, which in truth is the Source of all the answers. With full faith in our decision and complete trust in That to which we have offered all our actions and difficulties, decisions and dilemmas, results and failures, let us act. And leave the consequence of the choice, decision and action on That alone.

If we could remember That Source at every moment and if we could offer everything that we are outwardly engaged in, every act, every choice, however mundane it may seem, how easy the life-path would become!

What is it that prevents us from practicing this advice of “remember and offer”?


To read more, click here.

I would love to hear any thoughts, responses you may have to this article or the whole series on Dharma. Please do share a few words in the comments below.