Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Am Not Against War. I Am For......

The following is the artcile that I posted to WritersBlend in the month of April when the Leit Motif was "War"

“When you want something in life very genuinely, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it.”
That was Paulo Coelho in Alchemist.

One of the modern theories gaining popularity of late is the law of attraction. (I do not know if it really is modern. For all you know, it could be one of those reinventions of the wheel.)

The following is the law of attraction in a nutshell.

Our thoughts decide what we are. We are today, whatever we are because of the thoughts we had yesterday. Our thoughts of today determine what we will be tomorrow.

Everyone in this universe can get what they want. All they have to do is want it earnestly. And it will eventually come to them.
That said, one should always think positive.
Think about what you want and be sure that you will get it. And it will come to you.
Think about the situation you want to be in; not as if it were future state but think about it as if it were happening at present. Close your eyes. Savour it. Do this exercise for a few minutes every few days and live all your dreams. They will eventually turn to reality.

If you want to become the CEO of a company, conduct yourself in all situations the way a CEO would conduct himself. If you want to go to Switzerland, put up pictures of Switzerland and the Alps on the walls of your room, look at them and imagine you are already there, enjoying the beauty of the place.

“So what’s the catch?” asked Nagaraj, one of my friends. “If it were as simple as that then everyone in this world should have what they want. Why are there so many unhappy, dissatisfied people in this world?”

There are several reasons. Most of the people do not know what they really want. Try asking 10 people (chosen randomly) what they want from life at that present and you will know.
They will either give you generic answers like “I want happiness, peace of mind” or complain about their problems and miseries. They will not be able to tell you what exactly they want because they don’t know what they want.

Most of them will actually tell you what they don’t want.

A few months ago during my stay in California, I was disturbed because of the cold, distant and political behaviour of some unsavoury characters that had come with me from India. A friend who noticed my unhappy state asked me, “Why are you unhappy? What do you want from this assignment and from your stay in the US in general?

I said, “I don’t want these people to behave the way they do”.
“I don’t want this roomie to bang the door each time she walks in and out of the house.”
“I don’t want these managers to do micromanagement and policing”
“I want these non vegetarians to stop being so insensitive about the sentiments of vegetarians”.

He said” These are things you DO NOT want. WHAT DO YOU WANT??”

After much contemplation I said,
”I want to acquire some domain knowledge from this project”
“I want to travel extensively”
“I want to make friends”

He said, “You will get it”.

That I believe is the key. The moment you know specifically what you want, you will get it (supposedly).

Another catch is this. Most of the people who know what they want are not happy when they get it. How many of us are grateful today for getting what we wanted from life yesterday? How many of us even remember what we wanted yesterday?

Today, I am a software professional. I have enough money. I have the best of food, clothes and accessories. I am independent. I have a mobile phone. I have a 30 GB iPod and a lovely collection of music among other things.
But how often do I think that these are the very stuff my dreams used to be made of once upon a time? How often do I jump in the air and shout “Yeah, my dreams have come true! My wishes have been granted!”? Not very often. Most of us take for granted what we have today.

To say more about the law, I am told it works. How? Vibrations attract like vibrations. Happiness attracts more happiness just as sorrow attracts more sorrow. If you are cheerful and believe that what you want is coming to you very soon, then it will come to you.

If you doubt, it will take a long time to come.
If you hope, then it will come to you, but slowly.
And if you know it will come, then, it will come in no time.

If you crib and complain all the time about your miseries, you will only bring more misery into your life.

While practicing this however, one must concentrate only on the final result, not on the strategy. Think about what you want, not about how it should materialize. The universe will take care of the how.

On our way home from office, my friend asked, “What do you want now?”
I said, “I want people to stop driving one man cars in Bangalore”.
“Why? What do you want to achieve by that?”
“Because of so many vehicles, roads and flyovers are being constructed. To make room for construction, more and more trees are being cut down. I don’t want trees to be cut down”
“So what you WANT is a GREEN BANGALORE!”
The point is, focus on the end result not on intermediate strategy.

And remember, two negatives don’t make a positive.
I stumbled upon this cartoon in which one guy says “I am anti-war, anti-drugs, anti-pollution, anti-commercialism, anti-deforestation”. The other guy says “Hmmm… Quite positive!”

When Mother Teresa was asked to join the anti war rally, she responded by saying “I will not join the anti war rally. But if there is a peace rally, I will surely join it”!

Don’t strive against what you don’t want.
Strive for what you want.
There is a difference. Your mind should not dwell even for a moment on the negative. It should be filled with positive thoughts only.

Whether or not you believe in the law of attraction, it acts upon you all the time. It is like gravity. Even if you don’t believe in gravity, it will still act upon you.

Skepticism raises it’s hood every now and then. But for now, I will try to believe in this law.
And then, all it takes to practice it is incorrigible optimism which is a good thing indeed!
By now you know what I want to say. Don’t you?
According to the law of attraction, we bring upon ourselves, all the thoughts that our minds dwell upon. By writing about war, thinking about war, talking about war and fighting against war we will only succeed in having more war; simply because, in all these actions it is war that we are preoccupied with and not peace.
That’s why, I am not against war. I am for peace.

And why do we always think about war between nations?
There is more war in the lives of us civilians than the soldiers across the borders. Everyday is a struggle. We fight our parents, fight with a manager and fight the busy traffic - mouthing profanities at careful and careless drivers alike.
Instead of trying to find peace in a solution, we become better fighters day by day. We devise newer strategies to defeat the purpose of a perceived enemy. Competition is the buzzword of today, not cooperation.

Anxiety, unrest, frustration, vehemence, intolerance are more venomous than explosives. They corrode an entire generation, rendering the minds infertile.

The struggle that you see outside is a struggle inside. The war that you see outside is a war within. Try not to see war, try to find peace.
Think about peace, live peacefully and be at peace with yourself.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mouse and Positions

Saturday 5th April
Troupe - The First City Theatre Foundation, New Delhi

My first ever play in Rangashankara after 4 years of staying in Bangalore. Better late than never. Mouse and Positions is not one play but 2 plays in sequence by the same troupe. 125 minutes.

Mouse – is about a play (A play within a play!). There are 2 characters. The director and the mouse (a guy playing the mouse). The director is a finicky woman giving too many instructions to a diffident mouse during a rehearsal. She is a perfectionist. The mouse tries to please her carrying out all her orders but in the end, he can’t take it anymore. He expresses his exasperation by messing up the sets. At this point, the director realizes that she has been too harsh and mellows very suddenly, giving him all the freedom to play his role the way he likes. The play ends with the director holding a torch far behind on the stage, and the mouse dancing away merrily. The viewers can see the silhouette of the mouse dancing against the bright light of the torch.

You may think what is so interesting about it. There is subtle humour from the start till the end. There are just 2 or 3 characters. The girl has done a wonderful job. She had so many lines to memorize! All of them delivered with perfection.

The second play is called Positions.
Six short plays or rather scenes. Some interesting and humourous; some seemed weird. Perhaps I missed some nuances.

Catch it if it’s showing in your city.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Nishkriti - Sharat Chandra Chatterjee

Nishkriti means deliverance.
Deliverance for a woman in a joint family from a relationship that had begun to hurt. It has been translated by Malobika Chaudhuri. Since I could not find the cover picture for this book, I have posted a picture of the author himself :)

It is a story of a Bengali household with three daughters in law; the second daughter in law succeeds in creating a rift between the first and the third daughter in law who are very close; finally the second DIL’s family moves out of the house to settle in the village.

52 pages. A simple story. About a family feud. It is about those days when joint families were predominant. The sacrifices and compromises made by members, of their accommodative nature, of their endurance, of the strong bonding in spite of petty disputes… totally unheard of in today’s time where personal space is something we cant imagine having to live without. The air is resounding/reverberating with “It’s my life, mind your business, personal space, who are you to tell me?” etc. Such stories remind us of the fact that “once upon a time, there used to be such times…:-)”

It is a Sharat Chandra tragedy. But in the end, the author has shown a ray of hope; thankfully. Wont spoil the story for you by revealing the climax.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Just A Span Of 100 Years

My first love, the man who taught me how to love is breathing his last somewhere. He has not told me about it because it is my wedding today and he does not want anything to upset this special moment of my life. I close my eyes and there is a silent prayer on my lips. In my next life I want to be married to you.

After years of hide and seek, I arrested the terrorist. How many innocent people died in that bomb blast which he masterminded! My sister was one of the victims. How many children he kidnapped for a ransom! I derive an animal satisfaction as I beat him with a hammer and tear him into pieces with my own hands. I beat him more as he screams louder.

They sent my father away. They told me he was a bad man. I hated him all my life. But he used to wait outside my school everyday, just to get a glimpse of me. When I grew up, I resolved to reform him. I had to fight with the whole world. Now he has given up alcohol. As he enters my home today after years of exile, I hold his hand and stand next to him. My father was not a bad man. He deserves respect. The reunion is tearful.

My childhood friend has cancer. I am a doctor. He has come to me with the hope that I will be able to save him. But I know I cannot. There is no cure for this disease. I feel helpless and desperate. I have sent Ramu to the temple in my village to get some holy water that is supposed to be miraculous. All my life I condemned such superstitions, for I was a science student. Today for the first time, I want to be proved wrong. I am hoping the holy water will save his life.

I am one, but I am many people. I am one, but I am many people……

I am absolutely free to step into the shoes of anyone I like and live the life I want… for three hours. Just three hours, but in those three hours I have laughed in mirth, wept in sorrow, burnt in separation, united in bliss. I have ruled a kingdom, died in a war, saved someone’s life, fought for a cause. I have clinched a business deal, shot a gangster, and sacrificed my life to save my loved one….. I have flown to outer space, danced with a fairy, won a lottery, lost my heart……………

So what if a span of one hundred years is not long enough to allow me to experience the spectrum of all emotions of the human heart? There are thousands of people out there working day and night to offer those emotions to me on a platter…

We all lead such incomplete lives. Life passes by as we stand there endlessly weaving many dreams and desires. But only a few of them find a landing point. We desire to experience everything under the sun in just one life. Too bad we cannot. But once inside this enclosure called the cinema hall, the silver screen becomes larger than life, painted with a plethora of colours, characters, music, magic, mystery, madness, laughter, humour, glitter, glamour, sorrow, silence…..

Justin once said, “Movie making is the greatest gift bestowed upon mankind”. How true! Cinema has to be the most creative and the most comprehensive form of art. For it is the confluence of several forms of art. The imagination of the story writer, the poetry of the lyricist, the music of the composer, the skill of the make up men and costume designers who create such beauty on the screen, the talent of the actors and the vision of the director.

A lot of people watch cinema with detachment…but that defeats the whole purpose I think. I for one become completely involved.

Movies take me incredibly far from reality in a matter of minutes; my spirits soar high and plunge into depths…

Eyes are wide open but what I see is no different than a dream. I know it’s a dream but at this moment, it is the only reality….I have no control over my tears as I weep over the death of a son that I do not have…. I have no control over the ecstasy that’s overwhelming me as I unite with my husband that I am not married to…..And I love this loss of control… my intelligence and my judgment retreat before the man who wrote the story, the poet who wrote those sacred verses, the romantic who added music to the poetry, and the visionary who gave his soul and spirit to make it a movie full of life. I bow to thee…for helping me ride the wave of emotions, taking me from one end of the spectrum to another….. Showing that colour of the spectrum which reality would never have shown me…. I bow to thee…

Friday, April 18, 2008


What do we think when we see children (not babies, but children) in public places causing trouble to the general public? We see them everywhere. Buses, trains, family functions, shopping malls….
They may be talking, jumping, running around noisily, spilling food all over, grabbing other peoples’ property, dropping this, breaking that…
When we come across kids like that, we think that parents should teach their children some manners and not let their kids be a nuisance to others. Right?

Now how different is the rule for people who own dogs? It is not very different. It only gets more stringent.

I have nothing against dogs. But I like them at the zoo. I know they don’t keep dogs at the zoo. But that’s exactly my problem. Why don’t they keep them at the zoo? Why are they all over the place?

Anyway, coming back to what I was trying to say, ……….I am very very afraid of dogs. They scare the hell out of me. I grimace when they touch me, or worse lick my feet or hands.

The other day this dog woman (this woman who owns a dog), who stays in the same apartments as I do, was walking her dog as usual in the evening. What was unusual about it was that she had not chained it but set it free.

After a long and tiring day, I was on my way home after a short stop at Nilgiris to buy some midnight snacks.

I entered the premises of my apartments and this dog came running to me. I stopped walking and stood still hoping it would get scared. I hoped that Dogwoman would come running behind and stop it after I had made it obvious that I was not interested in her dog in the least.

But she walked leisurely as if in a trance. The dog tried to sniff my cover. I held it up high and grimaced hoping that at least now Dogwoman would do something. But she continued her pleasure walk.

The creature began licking the fingers of my right hand. Now I was disgusted. God knows what the hell it had had for lunch. Perhaps meat. And I, a vegetarian had to put up with this sickening incident because of this stupid woman.

Not able to bear it any longer I appealed to her in a loud voice. “Can you please hold it? I am scared of dogs.” Guess what she did! To my utter shock and disbelief she yelled at me “Are you a two year old?” Such audacity and insensitivity on her part!

Her snarl was worse than that of her dog. I hope she does not bite too.

I did not want to say anything and quickly ran inside hoping that her dog would not make a run for me.

How often do we come across such owners who do not chain their dogs and let them pounce upon everyone in the street, scaring the hell out of them?

The presence of 45000 stray dogs in the city is menacing enough.
Do we have to be threatened by the neighbour’s dog also?

We who do not own dogs are already exhibiting enough tolerance.
Firstly, they seem to bark to glory all the time without a necessity for them to do so.
Their bodies are a sanctuary of a zillion bacteria. And they are contagious!
The driveway is all dirty because of dog poop. These days, when it rains, there is a swimming pool of water in the driveway. I have to wade my way through the waters carefully avoiding dog poop which is floating all around. Yuck!

But when the owners set their dogs free and watch them running after people scaring them or snatching their bags and covers, that is the last straw. Do they even realize that their barking and chasing could prove fatal to heart patients?
Sheer callousness!

Dog owners, your dogs may be very dear to you. Keep them by all means. Pet them, kiss them, lick them by all means. But for Gods sake, keep them to yourselves.
Don’t assume that everyone in the neighbourhood is craving to be licked by your dogs.

Thank you for reading this crib blog.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nandi Hills - March 2008

16th March 2008

As I have said earlier “That’s life. A journey of perpetual neglect towards what you have and unending pursuit of what you don’t have……”

From the peaks of Himalayas to the shrines in Kanyakumari to the wilderness around Seattle… I have soaked up more than my share in a span of 28 years…
Interestingly (or rather sadly) it’s been 5 years since I came to Bangalore and I had not seen Nandi Hills until recently. It was high time I visited the place, for my own sake.

I and Smruti set out early in the morning. (My early morning being 8 o’ clock:-)).
The weather was lovely. Ah! The Bangalore weather! The 60 kilometer drive made me see the one thing that I needed to see so much. Bangalore is still green. What an assurance it was. I had been loosing sleep over Bangalore’s depleting greenery. This March has given enough respite to my worrying mind.

The uphill climb was rather short. Even on a Sunday morning there was hardly a crowd (Thank God!). The Chamundi hills in contrast are so crowded. I can’t help the comparison as I visit the Chamundi so very often. Nandi hills are higher than Chamundi.
Also, Nandi is a lot cleaner and better maintained.

After reaching the top, we strolled through the well maintained garden indolently. We got some rare views of all the hills around. There were so many monkeys and they were all so fearless….

The rocky hill at the far end with its temples is beautiful in its own right… the edge of the precipice invites you… you approach the edge and try to look below, it is the winds that you should beware of …. One strong wind can bend your body in the wrong direction and then there is no salvage…..

The pictures are here for you…

Nandi Hills

Monday, April 14, 2008

Breathtakingly Beautiful Bangalore

Wrote this 2 weeks ago when it was still raining in Bangalore…...

My office is in white field and I stay on Airport road. I commute by bus. For the first time in all these years, I look forward to the bus journey in the evening. I leave office between 4:30 and 6:00 and each day the evening is a new picture, a new painting.

There sky is embellished with clouds…
Clouds soaked in honey, milk, rose water, sandal
Drenched with Silver, gold, saffron and lilac
Sprinkled with turmeric, lavender and vermillion
Against a canvas of ink, cobalt, ashes
Or a solution of copper sulphate

The sun is also mild…

Even the glass finished concrete buildings look so beautiful. Part of a building is glowing in the evening sun and part of it under the shadow of the clouds…

I wonder if you could see such a sight anywhere other than in Bangalore.

After enjoying a five minute walk to the bus stop, I get into the bus. Absent minded as I am, I have always been oblivious to the pains of traveling by buses. But now it’s not my absent mindedness but the beautiful evening that engulfs me and I am unaware of what’s going on…

I usually find a window seat. I crane my neck to look out of the window. It’s the colourful clouds that fascinate me. The bus takes a turn here and then onwards, I am facing the setting sun.

A kannada song begins to play on radio city.

Ee Sanje Yaakagide Neenillade Ee Sanje Yaakagide
Ee Sanje Saakagide Neenillade Ee Sanje Saakagide

Why is the evening so beautiful, when you are not here with me?
This evening is beginning to hurt, for you are not here with me…

The road is flanked by Jackeranda trees on both sides. There is purple and pink blossom on the trees and no leaves at all. Further, the 3 kilometer stretch towards airport is flanked by trees on both sides forming an arch over the road. Here there is a mango tree, there a Gulmohar and there a grove of Ashoka tress. From parrot green to bottle green, Bangalore offers a superfluity of greens. I have fallen in love with Bangalore all over again.

The thick clouds have covered the sun completely for sometime. And then the winds blow, the clouds drift and the sun reveals itself in all its magnificence. I feel like clapping my hands. This happens again and again. The game of hide and seek.

The clouds are really thick and dark now. It begins to drizzle and then it starts pouring. While I enjoy the sight, the next song begins..

Minchagi Neenu Baralu Ninthalliye malegaala
Bechhage Nee Jotheyiralu Kootaalliye Chaligala
Virahada Bege Sudalu Yedeyali Besigekala
Innelli Nanage Uligala

When you come to me, like a flash of lightening, that moment, the rainy season begins for me
As you cuddle up next to me, there is winter all around
When I burn in your separation, there is summer in my heart…
Love has happened.
Where is the hope for my survival…

There is a smile on my face and a tear in the eye…my heart feels a wrench…

For a moment, I become consumed in self pity at the realization of having no one in my life to share this all with. The sun has set ….but that special someone does not seem to tire of playing hide and seek with me… whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope you get tired soon… I hope the winds of my destiny will cause this separation to drift and I hope you reveal yourself to me in all your magnificence… I hope this lifelong wait is going to be worth it......

Some pictures for you....
A rainy evening lit by sodium vapour lamps on Airport road. Can you see the rain falling in sheets?
Ah!What a photographer!! :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Only Song Of It's Kind...

I have grown up listening to Hindi film music, mostly old. I feel very privileged to know most of the songs that have been made in the history of Hindi cinema. Having stayed in the north for some time, I know Hindi very well and feel proud about it. I can understand the lyrics. When there are some Urdu words that I don’t know, I note them down and find out their meanings from my Muslim friends.

I love these songs not just for their music but for lyrics as well. Sometimes, just a single line contains a philosophy of life. There is a song for every situation that one can think of. Trust me…

A man wooing his love, a lover burning in separation of her beloved, a brother’s care for his sister, a lullaby for a child, a mourning over death, a girl pleading a boy to leave her alone, a goodbye song at a dear one’s departure to a distant land…

A father crying at the time of his daughter’s departure after marriage, childhood friends singing a song of friendship, a song of gratitude, a nature lover singing in praise of sunrise or sunset or the beauty of a forest, a song full of sensuousness, a patriotic song, a song about destiny, fate or fortune having the last laugh, friends teasing each other, someone making a promise, pleading for mercy, begging for forgiveness, an elder giving a piece of advice…

There is a song for the festival of Holi, a song for Diwali, a prayer for Krishna, a song for Ganges, a song for Yamuna, a song to threaten, a song to express anger, accusation, worry, revenge..
A song for a pet animal, a dog or an elephant …

There is no situation for which a song has not been written in Hindi.

That’s what I thought until I heard this Kannada song from the film Mungaru Male.

The situation is one of unrequited love. There are several songs in many languages to express the disappointment of the one whose love has not been accepted.

But this song is different. It is the expression of this woman who is consoling a man whose love she cannot accept. The act itself is one of utmost sensitivity; sensitivity on the part of the woman who is trying to soften the pain she is causing to the man whom she is disappointing. I have not heard a song like this before. It’s probably the first one of its kind. Coming to think of it, sensitivity is rare to find and so are sensitive people…

This is especially true of unrequited love. Most people, when not reciprocating someone’s love for them, simply say a “No”, or shrug, or say sorry and walk away. Their duty ends there. This indifference sometimes gets to a point of cruelty. Not wanting to keep in touch, not wanting to respond to even friendly overtures…

How many are sensitive enough to empathize with the other person’s feelings? How many would go that extra mile to soften the pain they are causing (knowing fully well they are not guilty of it)? How many would try to help the person who is having a bleeding heart by simply being there for him/her? How many would say a few comforting words like “I am honoured to be loved so much by you”, “You will get over it soon”, “Does it hurt a lot?”, “Will you feel better if I promise that we will be friends for ever?” Not many. That’s probably why such a song too is rare to find.

Anyway, here is the song for you and its translation…I have tried my best not to turn an enchantress into a plain Jane. :-) Hope you like it. I am very happy such a rare song was composed in Namma Kannada Kasturi

Araluthiru Jeevada Geleya Snehada Sinchanadalli
Badadiru Snehada Hoove Premada Bandhanadalli
Manasalle Irali Bhavane
Midiyuthirali Mouna Veene Heege Summane

My dear friend, blossom in the garden of friendship
Do not wilt in a bond of unrequited love
Let your feelings remain unvoiced
Like the notes played on the strings of a silent Veena…

Hakkiyu Haadide Tanna Hesaranu Helade
Sampige Beeride Kampanu Yaarigu Kelade
Beesuva Gaaliya Hakkiya Haadina Nantige Hesarina Hangilla
Namageke Adara Yochane
Beda Gelaye Nantige Hesaru Yaake Summane

Birds in the sky sing in anonymity expecting nothing in return
Flowers of the forest offer their fragrances without proclamation
The wind that carries the songs and the fragrances does not ask of the birds and flowers a name for its association with them
Why then do you ask of me, a name for this relationship of ours?

Maatige Meerida Bhavada Selethave Sundara
Nalumeyu Tumbida Manasige Baradu Besara
Bala Daraiyali Bereyadaru Chandira Baruvanu Namma Jothe
Kanuvenu Avanali Ninnanu
Irali Geleya Ee Anubandha Heege Summane

Not all feelings should be clothed in words, some are best left unsaid
Let affection fill your heart, for it will cause no hurt
We may part ways as we tread the path of life
But the moon in the sky will come with each of us
We will see each other in a moon that is common to us
So let this relationship be what it is. Undeclared, unspoken…

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Gitanjali - Rabindranath Tagore

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up
into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason
has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

Gitanjali means song offerings. There a total of 103 verses. Fortunately this work is translated by Tagore himself.

The verses contain no preaching, no dogmas (as one might think) but humble, sincere expressions of the author’s feelings that can be classified as confessions of love, quest for someone, invitation to death and expression of devotion.

Sometimes, it seems he is addressing God and sometimes a beloved. Or is he addressing a beloved who is the embodiment of God?

I would have been able to appreciate the work better if I could read the original in Bengali. Reading a translation is like “reading an enchantress turned into a plain Jane” (a phrase I read in Anu’s blog)

Some verses went above my head. But I could understand most of them (or so I presume!). The beauty of the language, the metaphors, the figures of speech are truly remarkable.
Only a master like Tagore could express the nuances of the eastern world in a language of the west.

One has to be at least an Indian if not a Bengali to appreciate this work of poetry.
When “lotus” is used as a metaphor for instance, an Indian knows the many connotations that the flower brings with it, that it is a sacred flower, that it is the seat of Goddess Lakshmi and so on. An Indian would know why the author has chosen this flower and not any other flower like the rose or the jasmine.
The figurative meaning of a verse would be completely lost on a westerner to whom the lotus is just another flower.

Similarly, when flute is used as a metaphor, one has to know that flute is not another instrument like a guitar or a saxophone but an instrument that adorns Lord Krishna.

That being the case, I am really surprised to know that this work which is so full of nuances of the eastern world, was so very well recieved by the west, that it made Tagore the first Asian to recieve the Nobel Prize.

The Nobel Prize acceptance speech that was an invitation to the west to unite in harmony with the east, was most humble.
I have to visit Shantiniketan someday which Tagore founded and to which he dedicated the sum of money he received along with the Nobel Prize.

I shall post some more of the verses that I really liked...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Beauty or Utility? Home or Office?

The following is the artcile that I posted to WritersBlend in the month of March when the Leit Motif was "Women"

If I ask the question “What is more important in life? Beauty or Utility?”, 99 out of 100 will say Utility, without even thinking. This is almost as if beauty were a negative attribute.

After much thinking about a possible explanation, this is what I understand.

The adjective “beautiful” has been wrongly used to describe so many ugly creations of man, that the mention of “beauty” sometimes brings negative connotations to the mind.

Naked models dressed provocatively, walking a ramp, to offer cheap titillation to lecherous men (and women) for the sake of money, are often described as “beautiful”.

The fair complexion has been “beautified” by those who wish to sell fairness creams.
The cosmetic industry and beauty saloons are selling beauty.
Several “ugly examples of beautification for commercial purposes “can be given but the point I want to make is this.
The ulterior motive behind “beautifying” certain things is so well known to all of us that beauty is seen not as a virtue anymore but as something that is very shallow. The meaning of beauty has been reduced to something that merely pleases the senses and has no greater significance in the affairs of the world.

This can be clearly seen in certain anecdotes that you hear so often.
“Beauty is skin deep. Beauty lies in the eyes of a beholder.” That is what they have been telling us for ages. They sound so irrefutable!
In essence, the true meaning of beauty is forgotten or completely lost.

In the same way, utility or utilitarianism has been glorified and venerated; not by a particular individual or a category this time, but by people in general. The reason is, utilitarianism is caused and fuelled by greed and all of us are greedy. So the glorification was necessary if only to serve as a justification of our greed, if not anything else. In course of time, utility has been associated with necessity, with purpose, usefulness, fruitfulness, worth and with value. The result is that an entire generation is convinced that beauty is mere ornamentation and utility is purposefulness.

It took me a single reading of Tagore’s essays to realize that there has been so much misunderstanding!!! I realized that utility stands for fragmentariness and beauty stands for wholesomeness.

The open spaces, the rains, the trees, the mountains, the people stand for beauty. Harmony, goodwill, peace, cooperation and love are the traits of beauty.
On the other hand, the cluttered offices, the air conditioners, the lorries with their exhausts, the vendors with their goods, the plastic covers stand for utility. Competition, greed, shrewdness, diplomacy, hostility are the traits of utilitarianism.

All things that are wholesome, complete and one in nature are beautiful. It is needless to say therefore that all things that exist in their natural state are wholesome and therefore beautiful.
Utility happens when you break the whole into fragments.

The evergreen forests stand for beauty. The furniture and timbre made from trees cut down stand for utility.
The breeze from the open spaces stand for beauty. The artificial air conditioners stand for utility.
The waterfalls stand for beauty. The power station stands for utility.
Once again, utility happens when you break the whole into fragments.

One may ask the most expected question. Are the offices, the vendors and lorries not necessary for our survival?

Yes. As long as they are driven by need they may be inevitable.
But once they become driven by greed, they begin to destroy all beauty around them and create nothing but ugliness.

Think about this.
The trees in Bangalore are all being brought down because someone there believes that utility is more important than beauty. The lakes are being closed for gain of more lands for construction. Again because, someone thinks utility takes precedence over beauty.

In place of trees and lakes, offices are being built. More trees are cut to build apartments for the people who spend all their time in these offices. In order that the people working in these offices may spend their money to buy goods they really don’t need, some more trees are cut down to build shopping malls.

In summary, man’s preoccupation with utility has converted this entire world into a gigantic office to which the home has become a mere appendix.

What has all this to do with the subject of women?
The connection I am trying to establish is that...
Utility is a man’s preoccupation and beauty, a woman’s.

Nurturing a plant in the garden, cooking for a family, bringing up a baby, decorating a home are all a woman’s preoccupation….. in all of these one can see a woman’s unconscious preoccupation with beauty and wholesomeness.

The cars, the factories, the chimneys, the concrete jungles and their wooden furniture that stand for utility are the production of a man.
Whereas the home, the people in living in them, the love that’s binds them, the paintings decorating the walls, the flowers in the vases, the carefully tended gardens and their plants, the aroma in the kitchen that stand for beauty are the creation of a woman.

Having understood that the office represents fragmentariness and home represents wholesomeness, I am flattered to know, to realize that our society endowed women with the responsibility of home and men with the responsibility of office. The more important one entrusted in the custody of more able hands.

This is not to say that a woman’s place is at home although I am not very sure sometimes. But surely a woman’s priority should be the home over the office. Her job is more important, more difficult and she alone is capable of doing it. I am simply saying that the home is a woman’s prerogative.

In today’s world characterized by hostile competition, greed, consumption of materials, mistrustfulness and a struggle for survival, perhaps women’s participation in office is somewhat necessary if not indispensable. The above fact notwithstanding, women need to prioritize. They are often faced with the question Home or Office?

The torch bearers of feminism, the custodians of liberation, the advocators of equality, all short sighted, shallow thinking people, are sending out the wrong messages. If a man can do it, why not a woman?

It is very difficult to escape the influence of the rhetoric, but one must understand that men and women are inclined to different things by nature. There is inequality in nature which must be preserved.
If men and women were meant to equal one another and had a common purpose to fulfill, there would not have been two sexes in nature. Nature would have created just one sex and there would have been uniformity.

The very fact that the creator has created two different sexes should tell us that we have different reasons for coming into the world, that we have different interests to pursue and that we are unequal.

By aiming at equality, by attempting to do all those things that a man does, a woman only succeeds in relinquishing those special qualities and special rights that nature has bestowed upon her to create beauty and wholesomeness all around her. She is also shirking from the responsibilities that nature had endowed her with.

Every society, every home, every situation calls for some kind of sacrifice to be made for its sustenance, well being and progress.

To substantiate this, I will use Bangalore as an example. If the beauty of this city has to be restored, what should be done? People should stop driving one man cars and use public transport instead, thus preventing the necessity to construct more roads, thus preserving greenery.
People should walk as much as they can and not drive everywhere thus refraining from polluting the atmosphere. In other words, certain sacrifices will have to be made to sustain the environment of the city.
The conclusion is that, the virtue of sacrifice or abstinence preserves beauty and wholesomeness, whereas indulgence necessitates utilitarianism and results in fragments.

This was an example from the environment scene. But this holds true in every facet of life. Every home, every society asks for sacrifice (mostly in the form of abstinence from indulgence) for its well being, sustenance and progress.

From time immemorial women have found themselves expected to make this sacrifice while men indulge. (This too has evoked much rhetoric from our feminists). This may seem unfair at the first glance and but if you look carefully, you will understand it is a woman who has the more difficult task at hand of creating a home, of creating wholesomeness and it is a woman who has the self control to make the necessary sacrifices.

The biggest challenge that a woman is faced with today is not a man, not discrimination, not oppression.
The challenge is to understand that she has a greater purpose to fulfill in this world than a man and to discover her purpose.
It is to understand that the almighty meant the man and the woman to complement each other and not compete with each other.
It is to understand that her place in the family, in the society is that of someone who holds the reins to unbridled horses.
The challenge is to decide for herself who she is and what she wants even as the feminists try hard to tell her who she is and what she should want.

I would like to conclude by quoting George Bernard Shaw. “If women were as fastidious as men morally or physically, then, that would be the end of the human race”.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

From The 13th Floor

22nd March 2008

It was a Sunday. I met with Ranjana in the evening. It was one of those evenings when we had no specific pre – plans, did miscellaneous things and enjoyed a lot.

First we went to Java city and watched this talented band perform Jazz music, while munching potato chips and mushroom quiche. My friends are trying to introduce me to western music and I am eager. I am out of synchronization with so many people simply because my music is so different from theirs. All my life I have listened to old Hindi film music, Ghazals and Carnatic classical. Western music should do me good.

After that, we walked to Brigade Road where I bought a really cute pink and white top and a pair of black slacks to go with my blue denim frock. It had been 3 months since I had bought clothes. (There has never been such a gap between any 2 consecutive purchases in the last 5 years!).

From there we proceeded to Barton Centre on MG Road. We went to the 13th floor of the building, which has this bar called 13th Floor which has an open terrace and gives you great views of Bangalore. (Did I tell you that I am a teetotaler?).

We entered the place and the Vidhana Soudha was right there in all its majesty…..

The sight of UB city really made the evening worthwhile…..If I did not have these pictures, I would not have posted this blog....

Satisfied, we walked some more, bought earrings for ourselves from the roadside vendors (they offer the best. You will know if you have shopped enough). I bought red pearls and yellow crystals and Ranj bought bronze metal for herself.

From there, we walked to this Andhra restaurant called Nagarjuna on Residency road. I ate more than my stomach could take. The next stop was corner house. Ranj had fresh strawberry with fresh cream while I watched her lick the last drop. :-(

We walked to the bus stop near by where we had a little fight about whether to wait for the bus or take an auto. I for one, hate autos but Ranj won the battle this time and we sped along an empty airport road towards our destination in an auto at 11 in the night!
Quite an evening!