An Arrant Illusion (Reflections: Part-IV)

Adapting to the utter rationality and fast-pace of the west is one thing. Imbibing a foreign culture in its truest terms is a second thing, may be even supplementary to the first. Respecting and carrying forward the refined tastes of one’s own culture is altogether a different aspect.

Let’s not mix up !

A simple “Hello” or a sincere “Good- Morning /Afternoon /Evening /Night” are customary ways of greeting in most of the western countries. While doing so, they neither exaggerate on emotions nor suppress it below minimum display. Its cordial.

But today in India, we are in a complete illusion somewhere ! It is very common nowadays to hear a “Hi” but it is usually deprived of sincerity; sometimes the person does not even look at you while greeting thus. Then there are instances of addresses like “Hi Aunty” or “Bye Uncle” in a tone of disrespect; kids here now speak to their friends or even to their seniors in unhesitating terms as “What’s up, dude ?” or “Hey baby !” or “Hang on, man !!” or “Ohh shit !!!”, etc. Labelled slang or not, I find all these extremely impolite, particularly while relating to any typical Indian culture.

I strongly believe that my thoughts here have nothing to do around adaptability or acceptance of our changing times. That is what I clearly noted right at the beginning of this article. Otherwise, the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” would have never existed. For it generally means that when you go as a visitor to a different place, you advantageously adapt its ways or politely abide by the customs of that society. It does not say that being a Roman and in Rome, you change your Roman ways, whatsoever be the reason- that’s not adaptability !! That would be either a political compulsion or a social blunder !!!

On similar grounds, I shall also not appreciate such greetings when as an Indian and on social occasions, I meet a fellow countryman or an NRI, whether in India or in a foreign country. Rather, I would yearn to see the original chords of cultural ties reverberate, wherever.

Issues as these sometimes awfully bother me; many a times, I experience some sort of disconnection with my own ‘modern’ society.

It therefore makes me wonder if we could possibly together go back to our customary ways ! For example, revert to greetings as Namaskar /Sasriyakar /Vanakkam /As-Salamu Alaykum /Adaab and the like. Are these not things to be valued ?… Let’s admire with due respect that many foreigners visiting India read and learn a lot about our customs and culture even before they actually land here; and as expected of them, almost everyone observes the rules maximally though they may opine otherwise. But what eludes us, the desi folks ?

The other trend is that many parents here communicate with children to such an extent in English (at home, on the playground, public places) that they forget to teach them the wonderful values of their own culture and sometimes, even their native language- call it mother-tongue or whatever. They are superficially proud of that seemingly big ‘English achievement’ (a mis-conceptualized ‘high status’ or ‘elite society’ by many desi folks), and absolutely indifferent about not been able to teach their kids about their own cultural aspects, let alone any sense of loss at it !!!

Unfortunately, the polished outlook, mannerisms and etiquette of a gora saheb (usually meaning an English gentleman) are rarely observed !! I much agree to the concerned views expressed by Jug Suraiya in his blog titled Mimic Man.

A very few parents /guardians observe and inculcate the young with Indianness in the real sense, even though they have rightly adapted the western philosophy (mostly as a wonderful means) on certain justifiable grounds. That is a good balance which must be well-recognized and highly appreciated.

Well… It is definitely good to learn different languages and cultures. Because apart from seeking answers to the scientific quests on man’s evolution, such respectful learning also shows our liberal spirits and progressive minds. But it should never be at the cost of one’s own cultural values !! How can someone be not excited about the timeless, good aspects of one’s culture or custom ?… Without due regard to it, I am afraid, that way certain cultures and languages of the world shall become obsolete down the line; our own scripts and lawful practices or customs would appear strange to us !!! That would be the dead-end of this arrant illusion which most of us now continue to ignore with vanity.

Wish a healthy balance is maintained…

Old Habits Die Hard – et in hoc !

Unless one writes short and crisp, nowadays it is quite uncommon that someone will read it- be it on Facebook or a blog or a book.

Always not because people don’t have time !

We have quite lost our Reading culture as a hobby mostly because we have taken to easier and glittery channels of entertainment, whether or not it is constructive. Trapped in various rat-races, we are more than happy to simply please our worldly senses; we rarely brood on the ‘food for thought’, whether it a write-up, music, dance, painting, theatre or any other form of art.

To add further, you too shall observe and agree that nowadays, an article or a post-on-Facebook which has embedded in it an attractive picture or a short video-clip or catchy phrase-liners, has more chances of being read than one without it. The same tactics is commonly followed in routine journalism and children’s books too.

The concerns run similar to this- when you get a ‘Like’ on such an article in your blog-site or a post-in-Facebook, you don’t really know whether the message in it was appreciated or merely the accompanying colourful picture or video-clip or decorative phrase-liners !! 😦 Sometimes, you can make it out from the comments that follow. Your reply in turn may bother some viewers (I shall not address them as readers ! 🙂 ) who attempt to justify their own jerky opinions since they have not read a single line of your write-up, or it shall leave others unmoved or unembarrassed. The latter group of people seem not to care for anything on Earth, not even in saving their own faces !! 🙂

Such negative trends are not only demotivating factors for a write-up to be well-thought and neatly composed but also aches the heart that values literature and art in all its forms, even if it were not to ever pen down a single composition… Thoughts then appear to quite lose their ‘food’ ! 😦

Very briefly going back to our school days, one definitely remembers this- there used to be a ‘picture composition’. Nowadays, we are more a fan of the reverse of it; that is, where the picture says it all ! Not sure what we call it- a ‘composed picture’ ? 🙂

Well, nothing wrong in that- that is also an all-time great expression of art. But a picture or a video-clip can never convey discrete information or detailed analysis pertaining to the core sections of a subject or topic ! More so, if the subject is a debatable one. Therein comes the necessity for one to be at least a good reader, if not an avid one.

All I mean to highlight is that it would do all of us good if we could go back to our old Reading hobby (at least to some extent), mainly based on the significance of the topics or substance or relevancy therein; and not merely based on pictures or video-clips or colourful, bold phrase-liners. Pictographic representation does not help every time and it may even convey the wrong message at times !!!

Irrespective of age, like writing is a great art, having correct information and gathering vast, good knowledge is a great wealth ! It cannot be accumulated overnight; it has to be done bit by bit. Moreover, only a gradual process of accumulation of such immeasurable wealth is gratifying as we learn about the evolution of the human mind and art over thousands of years. Certain texts that we read may not be at all linked with our profession or even our lifestyle. But we must still learn about it in order to understand mankind or the various facets of the society. And writing is undoubtedly one of the best methods to record our emotional space, spirits and times.

And to keep the process of evolving psyche and the arts in good continuation and truly educate our next-generations, we must inculcate in them this Reading habit or hobby, right in their formative years. As obvious- the earlier it is, the better .

On a lighter note… Look, our fore-fathers started written communication with cave-drawings, the very first pictographic script; and that is still followed in some form in few modern languages and quite preserved across many tribes of the world. Perhaps, this very basic psychological inclination is somehow inherent and therefore, one of the reasons why even a modern day write-up accompanied by “an attractive picture or a short video-clip or colourful, bold phrase-liners” becomes a quick hit affair than one totally devoid of these !!!

Hmmmn, guess…… Old habits die hard – et in hoc !?! 😉 🙂

Aamjunta– what do you say?

 

 

Shadows of Height (Reflections: Part-III)

In a qualifying round of a beauty pageant, on being asked about the adequate height of a woman, a contestant had famously responded thus – ‘The height of a woman should be sufficient to reach her father’s mind and her husband’s heart’ !

I am not certain if it was her original answer or a quote… but it was indeed, all beauty and brains. 🙂

Now here’s my reflection on height, in general, which I gathered over the weekend during which I was advised to take a small rest.

Heights can be a blessing or a curse !

Once we are into this world, then to consider height either as a blessing or a curse, first we must understand two aspects. “Physical” height that depends on our physical environment and situations, and “abstract” height that depends on our ambitions and social status.

First aspect is pretty obvious. To briefly explain the second aspect, here is one quick example- “abstract” height is a blessing when a rich person gets anything he/she desires and when a common man has nothing to lose; it is a curse when a tall figure in the society has to search a niche to hide when badly blamed for something and a common man trying to reach for the stars bears lot of obstacles, even undue ones.

My experiences (situational) with my average Indian female “physical” height has been interesting.

Blessings : always invited to the front rows in an audience or photoshoot; having played a mischief in childhood, managing to hide in the dark shelter under the ever-protecting cot :-); getting the maximum options to shield myself during a hide-and-seek game; drawing kindness or mercy of elders during hard physical assignments or punishments; saving on length of cloth and cot :-); easily treading paths and sort of crouching myself in places where others can’t even imagine; etc.

Curses : unable to pluck mangoes or steal Grandma’s pickles single-handedly, which implied prompt sharing :); sitting in the front-rows in a very disciplined school- totally devoid of participation in pranks and fun :-); usually being the first one to face a question from the Teacher; being the first one to be called for running small errands; getting awfully suffocated in any crowd; unable to well-exhibit flowing gowns, Anarkalis and Sambalpuris /Kanjeevarams /crisp Hand-loom apparels; difficulty in playing certain sports; requiring block-heel sandals for lending pose and poise typical of certain outfits and match-fixing (shaadi) purposes :-); etc.

My latest story follows.

Last mid-week, in a big solo cleaning-drive, I had over-stretched to dust corners of the walls, curtain-holders, unused dabbas (containers) in top shelves, to oil far-fixed hinges, to rearrange books, and once had to manually wash-off pigeon droppings from the huge drying bed-sheet. Yes, manually because I did not want my washing-machine to be deprived of its pavitrataa (sanctity) ! 🙂

Nateeja (consequence) : my ribs had to bear wear and tear (not fracture) of some binding tissues… I woke up with excruciating pain one morning, unable to turn sideways or simply lift my hands !! The episode lasted 2-3 days with mild fever now and then, as my body struggled to apply a patch on the tissues by virtue of its natural defence.

I got relief with the Doctor’s anti-biotics and a few pain-killers; and now continuing with extra dosages of vitamins to speed up the recovery. And for the unfeatured but gracious part in this episode, my generous husband played the motherly role of also managing the kitchen amidst his busy schedule ! …… Ohh ! And whhaaat – appreciation for my solo cleaning-drive ? Could I have asked him more ? 🙂

But the first realization of the pain due to my unweighed attempts in rendering a shine-bright look to the household, was indeed dreadful – it pierced right through my heart, giving me jitters of a typical early morning heart-attack !!!!

Hmmmn… here too, same lesson of life learnt: there are odds in life but unless we practice things regularly, stars- whether big or small, cannot be well-achieved. I say ‘well’ because after we achieve it, we or/and our kith and kin should also be in a position to preserve it good. And fruits of at least some labour are definitely to be dreamt and cherished by us too- the sole or solo performers like me in this case :-), unlike inherent preachings of the great Karma Yoga !!

toh phir kad ho ya kaddu, kuch cheezein “haule-haule” hii sahi hote hain (so whether its height or achievement, certain things prove right or form well only gradually)…

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Ripples of a Summer Night (Reflections: Part-II)

How I so much miss sleeping on a jute cot under the calm, starry nights,

Dark yet holding the promises of a thousand dreams !

Wisps of clouds drifting here and there as if to fulfil some wish of the Lord;

On some days, the radiant Moon occasionally peeping to say ‘I am here’.

The myriad and entrancing Madhumalatis adorning the green alleys like glossy locks of a lovely lass,

In the merry mist, moistening the shiny white bed linens and my gamey tender toes.

The melodious Nightingale enthralling a dozen breezy hearts

Amidst yet another captivating flute notes of the ever vigilant night-watchman.

Bit by bit, the celestial shade giving way to the soot of the earthen lamps;

The flames of which mustered to brace against sporadic gusts

Scurrying through the rustle of dry leaves and stacks of hay,

Momently creating an eerie of a hiss to baffle the midnight trespasser at bay !

The only other mystery of the unceasing night – the mewing cat and the squeaking rat fight,

Quite refereed by the croaking frogs beside the perpetual well and the elusive lizards around;

And much to the seeming delight of the lightning bugs in the bushes.

The cattle resting in their sheds, masticating on residual grass and fodder of the day,

Sometimes thudding their hooves to drive the whining mosquitoes away;

The dog with its belly rotund with warm country-bread, now sat wagging its tail;

Keeping an eye out on the green glare of some small, pawed intruder perched on the swaying branches,

Beneath which its master unwinded from the tiredness of a long, hot day !

As my wise grandma charmed me with nearly fifty tales of the mind and the soul,

I followed it with occasional turns on the left and turns on the right, done with my queer might;

Then came along a pat here and a pat there,

And with a treasure of hugs and solace on my forehead;

Led by promises of a new day, as alluring as the umpteen sun-baked, sweet mango pancakes,

I was lulled into honey summer-slumbers ringed by a mother’s eternal love.

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– Dedicated to all my Readers on the 6th “happy birthday” of Aamjunta ! 🙂

Should we Approve this Space Redefinition ?

Like many of my folks, I would love to live in a villa or mansion with most modern amenities, a sprawling garden, a customized swimming pool and good parking space.

Money matters but it is not the real determinant !

For after the routine confrontation with SPACE and POLLUTION around, I am not in favour of even owning a four-wheeler (in fact, I am still avoiding it !). The Apartment concept is a wiser choice in many aspects and as a family even, we are also comfortable and happy travelling in autos, Volvos and taxicabs.

We are happy because we spare space and prevent pollution – all very little but that is what we still manage to contribute. That gives us some sort of joy within. And of course, we do not have the headache of maintenance, licence renewals or manoeuvring in traffic when we actually look forward to solely enjoying the time.

Three years ago, we planned to get bicycles but there is still no appreciable bicycle lanes across the city. And the metro rail tracks too do not utilize the underground space… Anyway, if ever we much need to own one vehicle, then we shall restrict it to minimum usage to release space-on-roads and prevent air-pollution at least.

Of late, the ‘villa culture’ is the latest style-and-status statement in the city. Millionaire home buyers, particularly in Bangalore are even seeking out helipads and four-car parking areas !!! (This entire article is a must read; every bit of information contained in it sounds so alarming to me that I could not figure out what to highlight and what to ignore !)

Moreover, irrespective of the number and quality of roads, there are huge ads and flashy show-rooms everywhere to promote sale of varieties of fashionable cars and SUVs.

So this is how it goes – we observe Earth Hour, Save Trees, Prevent Pollution, Stop Industrialization, Environment Day, etc. But we go crazy with these $million /$billion investments, mostly to satisfy our ego – why ? Surely we can jolly good afford but are we being honest with ourselves ? Why can’t we start practising some sort of contentment, despite few odds at the beginning ? …It can be done in various ways – big or small, right ?

It troubles my heart more to see how some of my folks who have well-flourished in their career abroad are now heading home not really to bring in brilliant ideas to rebuild or serve their country but to mindlessly secure a high-flown niche in a city that holds promises of multifarious entrepreneurship and where mercury levels are relatively less drastic !

I therefore strongly believe that some of such detrimental features both of the Real Estate and the Motor Vehicles industries should be “absolutely unacceptable” to a society ALREADY DEPRIVED OF CHILDREN’S PLAY AREAS EVEN IN SCHOOLS – everyone is kind of getting choked at the rate things have already deteriorated !!

Otherwise, I am afraid there may come a situation in the near future, when we would not be able to spot space on Earth to even mark our own foot-prints, literally so !!!!

Aamjunta – what do you say ?

Scene of a Real Drama – Request: “No Repetition Please”!

One year, Durga Puja was a real vacation for me after a long gap – after some 8-10 years.

We have the usual Puja celebrations and in addition, we have a cultural function on the last day of the vacation – on the Poornima (Full Moon) day. Kids, young school/college going girls and boys, and even senior citizens of our village including our guests and relatives participate in that function. Small skits, competitions, cultural shows, quiz and many more events are arranged to celebrate the evening.  Like every year, that year also we had that great function.

The evening and the events were going on smoothly. I was asked to be a part of the organizing team but I opted to be an observer. The reason – “Drink “- every one in the organizing team were drunk, literally not on their feet; they were drunk so badly that they were not even able to speak coherently. They had beer, whisky, vodka etc. as a part of the “organization arrangement”. Initially I thought of raising a protest, but whom to speak? No one was in a mood to listen; every body was rather drinking. I maintained silence and was keeping an eye on the event.

More than 500 people (of which 60% were below the age of 12) were attending the event. Suddenly some one from the organizing team entered the dais and started shouting on the microphone. Shouting in fact is not the appropriate word !! He was abusing the anchor with all kinds of vulgar words. To that, the anchor (who was drunk too) started reacting – retaliating with equally vulgar words. In a fraction of a second, the dais became a battleground, the cultural evening became a farce and a travesty of what people name as “culture”. Audience watching the show tried to pacify the matter but in vain. The other organizers too tried their best (with their so called ‘wisdom words’) to pacify this. Nothing happened… no one stopped and we all were watching helplessly.

Finally they were taken away forcefully by the guests. Later, the chief guest, who happened to be a retired Head Master and a seasoned artist rose to the occasion and gave his gandhigiri speech which had the following content:

“Like many good and bad scenes of a drama, this (abusing scene) incident is a real scene of a real drama. However, the taste of this scene is bad. And there is a public demand, ‘no repetition please !!!’.”

Not only that, he took two Rs 50/- notes from his pocket and awarded the two battling organizers for their scene – for their action, their show in the drama, and the function continued smoothly afterwards.

But what surprised me then and now is the deteriorating social and cultural ethics. This is not the only story of one village… This is the common story of many villages and cities. No marriage ceremony or reception can be arranged without these bottles and their side-effects.  Not a single election can be thought of without the so-called ‘feast and foreign brand bottles’.

Just wondering… is this called modernization and development ? Is this the baton we are passing to our future generation ?

Aamjunta – think of it…

Abhishekam and The Hungry Feeds

In olden days, Rajyabhishek used to be performed for royal coronation in some kingdoms.

But Abhishekam or Abhisheka is a custom still practised routinely in some religious institutions around the world, either as a ‘bathing ceremony and anointing of the deity being worshipped’ (sanctification) or as an ‘esoteric transmission’ (empowerment of the disciple).

Depending on the type of Abhishekam, the libations on deities could be holy-water, milk, yoghurt, ghee, panchaamrutam, honey, sesame oil, rosewater, sandalwood-paste, etc. Among all these items, it terribly hurts us to know and to see buckets of milk being poured on the deities. It ultimately goes down the drains, leaving both the calves and the children hungry on the pavements, some right in the temple’s premises !!

Moreover, this milk comes from cows that are considered as the most sacred of animals and even worshipped as ‘divine mothers’ (gow-mataa) as per certain beliefs and customs. By pouring all those milk for Abhishekam and keeping the calves and our children malnourished, aren’t we being dishonest, selfish and treating our gow-mataa disrespectfully ?

Many argue that the milk and other liquids are collected after the Abhishekam. Even if it is somehow done and converted into ‘Prasadam’, hygiene cannot be guaranteed ! And token amounts of such offerings by each one of us shall lead to a huge wasteful quantity at the end !!

Folks- is preserving such rituals meaningful than filling the empty stomachs of the calves and feeding the hungry mouths of teeming millions ?

As the human race holds big conferences to eradicate hunger and poverty from the whole world, why can’t we sensibly contribute by altogether doing away with offerings of milk (and its derivatives) and similar practices ? Like ‘money saved is money earned’, ‘food saved is also food generated’.

And with increasing or unresolved demographic, economic and environmental crisis, that is what Time also now demands of us…

Let us engage ourselves on a little introspection and thoughtfully hear our Conscience……perhaps the Lord’s answer lies within !!!

Aamjunta – what do you say ?

 

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