Gratitude begets

Grateful that my father-in-law introduced me to reading Maugham. What one of his character says, hit me very hard, and stays with me: “Oh, my dear boy, one mustn’t expect gratitude. It’s a thing that no one has a right to. After all, you do good because it gives you pleasure. It’s the purest form of happiness there is. To expect thanks for it is really asking too much. If you get it, well, it’s like a bonus … it’s grand, but you mustn’t look upon it as your due”.

In some ways, this was a part of my upbringing. My parents always taught that the opportunity to do good is it’s own reward. In school, we were told नेकी कर कुये में दाल (Do good and forget about it). Doing good is always a responsibility and a privilege. I have elsewhere written about the Zen monk, who on receiving a huge donation from the King, gave him an even more valuable lesson, “It is the Giver who should be grateful.”

Denali National Park in autumn, Alaska, USA, North America

Unfortunately the human condition is different. The normal experience we all have is…even the people who do very little, expect others to acknowledge and compliment. And if others have not recognized their contribution, people are unhappy!! The sheer & pure joy of having done a good deed is a fast passing fancy! Rather, it is as though unless others acknowledge and compliment, my good deed is not “complete”. And I will  somehow or other find a way to showcase my “good deed”, my action and point to others my nobility, in having gone down to the level of the hoi-polloi, and made them  benefactors of my munificence!! My endeavour is to prove that I am next only to God, as omniscient & as compassionate,  as giving & as forgiving, such that, really, people should hail the second coming of the Christ!!

Sounds familiar? In smaller or larger degree, we all carry this seed of thoughts and feelings. And always feel wronged…at being misunderstood, at being undervalued, at not getting our due!!! Superior to all others, we keep wondering when will they wake up to our greatness? when will they understand how wrong they are? when will they kowtow to the superior being who is amongst their midst?

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Again, the fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves. What we need to do is just change our mindset, change the lens through which we look at the world…and it will flash upon that inward eye that I am the supplicant, I am the receiver, I am the beneficiary, I am in the debt of forces and people around me who are giving me this living experience. They contribute in innumerable ways to make my life and my living richer and fuller!! I should be grateful for all that I am receiving, and continue to get, day in and day out.

Albert Einstein captured this thought so beautifully: “A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.” This quote disabuses my ego, and reminds me that without the contributions of others I am nothing. I get support from hundreds of others to enjoy the life as I do.  I stand on the shoulders of so many giants, people far better and more learned than me, who contribute to helping me understand my real situation. In front of all these, it is foolhardy for me to expect that others should thank me. Rather the fact to understand and learn quickly is, I must be grateful, I am the beggar, and my bowl is always over-full if I develop my eyes to see this. As the Hindi song goes: एहसान मेरे दिल पे तुम्हारा है दोस्तो , ये दिल तुम्हारे प्यार का मारा है दोस्तो.

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Piglet in Winnie the Pooh by A A Milne showed us the way to be: “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” Can we learn from Piglet?  As soon as we are able to see things and people around us with gratitude, the world around us blooms and blossoms. Recollect all the happy people in your life. You will see clearly that they are grateful. Grateful they are alive. Grateful they have another bright and shining day unfolding before them. Grateful for the very chance to be happy and alive. As they say, we can complain that rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice that thorns have roses!! Long long ago, Epicurus cautioned us:  “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”  Remember whatever your condition, what you have today, is the dream and aspiration of many others who are hoping they would reach your position/condition. Blessings have to be counted. Unfortunately our habit is to hunger for things one does not have. But once received, we quickly undervalue it and think this was only your due….and hunger now for something more, something different, something always beyond our grasp. Can we change gears and learn to be grateful instead?

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So start every day with a grateful heart. Grateful that you are alive. And look forward to the new day unfolding its’ gifts and treasures before you. Everything that happens in your life is an experience. See it positively and learn its’ teachings. The Greek philosopher Seneca obviously had a great insight, when he wrote:  “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing.” 

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Why go that far back. Our modern master Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth: Awakening to Life’s Purpose) reminds us an eternal truth: “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” We have it within us to be happy. To be happy, be grateful!! Gratitude. That is all we need to bring heaven on earth!! That is why Hindu scriptures always said: It is all within you. You hold the Keys of the Kingdom. Meister Eckhart had the last word on this: ” “If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” 

 

पोटा पुरता पसा पाहिजे नको पिकाया पोळी देणाऱ्याचे हात हजारों दुबळी माझी झोळी                                         (I need just a handful of grains to fill my stomach, not पुरण पोळी. There are thousands of hands ready to give, but my alms-bag is too flimsy to hold all that I receive).

Thank you all for being in my life: vikas

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Badla…..Revenge

The latest Bollywood whodunit. Exceptionally well enacted and produced. Creates a lump in your throat very early, at the very start. And that lump in the throat becomes a heaviness in the heart, and then soon a tight ball of tension in your stomach….and all three of them continue with you till the very end of the movie!! So certainly not a movie for the faint hearted who enjoy Bollywood’s standard tree-n-song fare. But for all others, a MUST SEE.

What else can you expect from the Director of Kahani, Sujoy Ghosh? Kahani may arguably be THE BEST THRILLER Hindi cinema has made. And Taapsee Pannu, Amrita Singh and Amitabh Bachchan (in that order, Numero uno, deux & trois) help Sujoy create another unforgettable cliff hanger. Seeing the movie, it is apparent that the tightness of the script, the sheer economy of words and characters, the restrained use of the locales….cannot be a pure Hindi movie maker’s brain. I learnt later this movie is based on a Spanish thriller The Invisible Guest, and apparently Sujoy has stayed very close to the original. All the better for us, the audience.

Most of the action takes place indoors, in a room, where the lawyer Amitabh is parrying and thrusting with Taapsee, who is a murder accused, to get at the truth. Of course, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth as AB tells Taapsee often. But like a great fencer, with every thrust and parry he reveals one more layer, peels off another subterfuge of Tapasee and keeps pushing till he opens the blindfolds of Justice. ( Another image he keeps reminding her about.) While AB’s histrionics gets limited by the physical space of sitting at a table, taking notes, and looking at papers 70% of the time he is on screen, AB still manages many emotions and nuances, through the effective use of his fabulous voice, and his glances and gestures. But even when pitted against an AB, Taapsee Pannu comes out with flying colours!! The way she emotes and changes her hues and colours, with every new information & revelation, shows great mettle for this young actress. She brings out all the subtle nuances of her character and throughout the movie you are guessing whether she is a blameless victim…only because of her stellar performance. In my opinion, she outshone the great Amitabh! (There I have said it, and made millions of enemies for myself, I am sure!!)

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The story, which I will not reveal and spoil the suspense for the reader, is a murder mystery. Two bodies. One in the open. One in a closed room, a la Agatha Christie. With the missing stranger, the “Invisible Guest”,  who has wielded the murder weapon with deadly accuracy. An extra marital affair gone sour. Both parties wanting to escape the relationship. And how circumstances entangle them more and more, tighter and tighter is what the story is about.

AB’s comments make the viewer question what is TRUTH. He tells Taapsee “जो तुम मुझे बताओगी वही मेरे लिए सच्च होगा”. With all that we hear from Taapsee, we see multiple truths, and changing truths, with such alarming speeds that we are really confused with what is the true truth? And then we come to the point where we realise with AB & Taapsee that सच वही है जो साबित किया जा सकता है. That is the time where I understood the significance of the blindfold on eyes of Justice! In all these twists and turns, we careen blind-folded!!!!

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Amrita Singh is the surprise package in the movie. Playing an aggrieved mother, searching for answers and for her son, she puts in a tour de force of a performance. She has played so many roles while portraying the character that you cannot but doff your heart and hat to her. The effervescent, helpful woman in the forest. The doting wife. The concerned mother. The persistent questioner.  The scene where she is challenging Taapsee when she is receiving the Businesswoman of the Year award. All pure gold. Great cinematic presence. Superbly executed role. You keep hoping more directors understand her talent and use her capabilities. The Filmfare critic put is so well….”Amrita Singh … acts as its moral compass and brings a human face to the tragedy.” And so,  in my opinion, she is a clear Second to Taapsee, pushing the respected AB to third place in this movie!!

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The movie is songless, except for the track which plays along with the opening credits. But the locales in gloomy, wintertime Glasgow deserve a special mention. As does the cinematography. Though majority of the action takes place in one room, with just 2 characters huddled around a table, the way the shooting has been done, you feel like the proverbial fly on the wall, watching and experiencing everything. And when the shooting is outdoors…glorious is the only word!! The locales are chosen well  and shot beautifully. I made a mental note to be on the lookout for other work of Avik Mukhopadhyay.

All in all, Badla is a superb thriller, executed well with some stunning performances by all its 3 protagonists. The pace of the movie is so tight and fast that your attention can hardly waver in the 2 hours. Badla leaves you hoping that Bollywood directors travel this thriller route more often.

As AB says in his rich baritone “बदला लेना हर बार सही नहीं होता….लेकिन माफ़ कर देना भी हर बार सही नहीं होता”.

Can only say heartfelt thanks to Sujoy for his बदला !! : vikas

The Most Unforgettable Character I have ever met

Purushottam Waman Khandekar…. popular as PWK to one and all whose lives he touched…is no more. With a person like PWK मृत आत्मा को शांति मिले  need not be said at all!!!! Here was a soul so much in peace with himself and so wonderfully in sync with all his surroundings, people and environment, that he would certainly be in peace and joy!! This is my eulogy to the most unforgettable character I ever met in my life.

I was selected for a job in Siemens by him, when he was the Personnel Director in Siemens. Even in that selection, there was a Khandekar touch!!! All Section Heads in Personnel were internal promotees & career Siemensites. Some of them had picked up formal HR qualifications, while in the job, doing part-time studies. PWK wanted to bring about a radical change, in the way Personnel department thought and behaved !! And his approach was to recruit high caliber, young professionals from the best schools and introduce them as catalysts or petards under the chairs of the traditionalist Section heads. That was my entry into Siemens India, along with 2 other young turks from TISS and 2 from XLRI.

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Coming from IIMCal, of course, I had a chip on my shoulder; but soon I realised, whatever I had learnt outside, had to be foregone & I must sit at the feet of a practical master (PWK was actually called “मास्टर” in Siemens, in Marathi, which meant school teacher) and get qualified in the Khandekar Practical School of Management.  And after 36 years, I proclaim proudly that am a proud graduate of that school!!!

PWK began his life as a unionist: he was an office bearer of the Bombay Dock Workers’ Union. A major strike was called when he was a junior office bearer. Suddenly the authorities swooped down and arrested the labour leaders. Since he was inconsequential and too young, he was not arrested. And abruptly PWK found himself thrust into the leadership of a major strike. Never one to baulk down at challenges, PWK played the role thrust on him with elan, & skillfully led the tough nosed dock workers to a successful reconciliation. When the senior leaders came out of jail, they knew that a new star leader was born!!!

Restless to the core, PWK soon found new pastures for his intellectual desires. He leveraged his language proficiency and his communication skills, to land a job in British Council as a Labour analyst. Seeing his potential, BC sent him to England to meet unionists there. Besides the international exposure, PWK picked up a British life partner!!! He got married and had 2 daughters there. But his true-blood Indian roots brought him back to India. And he joined Siemens as an Editor for Siemens Sansar which was Siemens India’s internal magazine.

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PWK was a good artist and loved to paint nature. His was not the casual flirtation with the canvas. His oil paintings could easily have adorned the most rich and famous walls. Had he pursued this as a career, he could have given the likes of Padekar, Souza & Gaitonde some real tough competition. No formal meeting in Siemens was complete without PWK sitting and sketching in the Board Room. Seemingly totally absorbed in his sketching, head down, his ears were tuned to the proceedings. And whenever he was ready, he would interject with his most pithy and hard hitting comments; proving beyond doubt, that the sketching was only helping him concentrate and his sharp brain was absorbing all that went on, and could incisively enter in the discussions at his will.

Siemens in India has a huge debt to PWK. While an internal magazine Editor, Siemens factory saw an eruption of a violent strike and the management was at a loss to understand how to handle this. Comes a suggestion: here is PWK who has led a strike in the past, so he would certainly know what workers want and can talk to them in a different manner. This was how PWK got inducted into HR. Being an out and out people’s man, PWK took to this assignment like a fish to water and created a new history of congenial human relations for Siemens. Much later in late 70s, when Datta Samant made a violent bid for the leadership of the internal union, PWK again handled it in his characteristic decisive style. There was widespread violence:  in the plant, at the bus pickup points and at workers’ houses. Most managers were given police protection and were afraid for their life and limbs. And here was PWK moving around without fear. There were times when there was police protecting his house entrance door at Bandra, while the people who were supposed to be the perpetrators of violence (& Police was supposed to keep out of harm’s length) were inside PWK’s house, being served tea and biscuits in PWK’s living room and chatting up with PWK himself, rather than hurting him as Police feared!!! Such was the charisma of this वामन मूर्ति !!!

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During the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi in 1975, PWK openly came out in protest. He was close to SM Joshi, George Fernandes and the likes. Mrunal Gore was actually arrested while hiding in PWK’s house. PWK was also arrested and put in jail for his anti-Establishment leanings. Those were the days when neighbors feigned ignorance and refused to recognise you as there was fear of being tarnished by the same brush, & be considered anti-Emergency. And here was PWK, a senior management executive, of a German MNC, in jail for harboring “public enemies” of the State. PWK felt he had no right to put Siemens India in jeopardy, for his personal political leanings. So our man penned his resignation from Siemens and sent it to the-then MD Mr Salge. At a time when relatives and neighbors crossed the road on seeing an anti-Emergency protestor, Salge actually went to meet PWK… in the jail!!! He tore up PWK’s resignation and said his job was waiting for him when he came out of the jail!!! Siemens actually promoted PWK to a Director position on his return!! For this one act, Siemens deserves  तहे दिल से सलाम !!!!!

PWK was the one who taught me to carry a pen and a pad whenever I attended a meeting. He would say: See, every engineer carries his calculator to the meeting. HR is the only guy who puts his hands in his pocket and enters any meeting. Be a professional, he guided us. PWK was the one who encouraged us to have an opinion about everything: and express it fearlessly. Remaining silent is the worst thing you can do in a meeting, he taught. PWK told us all: always keep your resignation in your pocket. And take positions in important matters, in a manner you can pull out the resignation and walk off anytime. Never, but never compromise your conscience was his teaching. PWK encouraged everyone to keep an updated CV in his top right hand drawer of the office table. And once in a while float your CV around and attend interviews outside, he averred. This helps in 2 ways, he taught: either you get a better paying job, you can leave and be happy OR you realise you can not get a better paying job, so better be happy where you are, put your head down and contribute!!!! Either way you are happy!!! Great advice which I have myself told many others later!!! PWK once told me : we managers have a future, but a worker only has a past. Learn to respect his past and work hard to create a new future for him!!!! A gyan I have tried my level best to live up to, and benefited greatly from. It was often said PWK comes to office to play chess. Yes all lunch breaks, all evenings, all Saturdays were spent playing chess. But along with playing chess, he gave decisions, discussed hard issues, debated politics, and mentored and monitored the workings of his department and his company!!!

The office corridors of Siemens reverberated with many legends re PWK’s brilliance and solution orientation. My personal favorite was from a Finance person who complained to me one day: “You know the problem with PWK? if you go to his room, he will ask you to take out a 50 paise coin from your pocket. He will then take it in his hand. And then in the next few minutes he will convince you it is one Rupee. You go out of his room, happily holding the new Rupee in your palm. Only when you reach home and try to tell your wife about the 1 Rupee, she sees the coin and and tells you, what PWK convinced you was wrong and it is indeed just 50 paise. Only then you remember PWK had taken the 50 p coin from your pocket, to begin with!!!”

Now that the शेंडी मास्टर has reached his final destination, I wish him as many friends, and as much joy out there, as he has left admirers and fan-boys back here. I for one look forward to moving on, and being in his benign presence again, enjoying his loud laugh and recounting his आख्यायिका.

Thanks PWK for teaching us the way to live: vikas

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Reality: Yours? or Mine??

In my 60+ years of living, 40 years of marriage and 35+ years of working there have been many thousand occasions when I have wondered whether the other person is listening? Am I making my point understood? Are we understanding one another? or are we seemingly together, but really on totally different planets?

Am sure you all have also experienced this sheer chasm…and wondered who is to blame? Am I not able to explain properly? or am I speaking to a blank wall? Communication, by definition, should enable transfer of meaning and sharing a common understanding. But actually, the mind maps and pictures of the speaker and the listener are so diverse that we might as well be sowing seeds in the wind. Even when we are going through a common experience together, your experience and mine, your reality and my reality are the proverbial East is East and West is West and Never shall the Twain meet!!!

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It is not by chance that Javed Akhtar wrote that beautiful song: ये तेरा घर ये मेरा घर, किसी को देखना हो गर, तो पहले आ के मांग ले, मेरी नज़र तेरी नज़र. I am always taken in by the irony: the movie is Saath Saath, so we are supposed to be together, and yet Deepti and Farooq realise that if anyone else has to see my reality (my house, in the lyrics) then they must give up their own नज़रिया , their own perspective, their own sight – if you will – and be willing to see with my eyes, my perspective, my नज़र.

In today’s times,  we all have our own weltanschauung, our own world view and … as the Bard says, “Ah!..Therein lies the rub!”. Can you identify 2 people or 2 groups or 2 communities or 2 countries who see eye to eye on everything? Do people have the same reality? Dr Raghuram Rajan resigns…media erupts with opinions and interpretations. Dr Urjit Patel is appointed…the same. Urjit Patel resigns…nothing different…millions of contradictory opinions… Mr Das takes over….even his graduation and post graduation specialization is up for scrutiny. History will bear me out, when Sir C D Deshmukh took over as the first Indian RBI Governor in 1943 there were enough detractors who questioned that appointment. Look elsewhere, you see more of the same.

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Is the Prophet’s birthday to be celebrated as a holiday and an Eid or not? You will get different answers if you ask a Sunni or you ask a Shia. Leave aside festivals, the fact that Shias and Sunnis have been at loggerheads for generations is because they do not share a common worldview. Lenin, Stalin and the Bolshevik Revolution.  Chairman Mao  and China’s Great Leap Forward campaign to aggressively move China from an agrarian society to an industrial one might have been driven by a positive vision of Mao for his countrymen. But how can we forget, it resulted in the biggest famine in history between 1948 and 1952, resulting in deaths of  20 to 45 million people. Even these numbers differ, depending on whose reality you trust?? All the Wars & the Crusades, Hitler’s genocide, today’s terrorist attacks are living examples of how everyone’s reality is different, and how far a human being is ready to go to champion and profess his own point of view. Against these backdrops, we must also acknowledge the Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings and Nelson Mandelas and Aung San Suu Kyis who drove a positive weltanschauung  for themselves and for their brethren being driven by their own  reality, marching to their own different tune. And yet all of them have been opposed in their times.

So I conclude that we all live in our own worlds, surrounded by our own realities. There   is precious little that we can share because we just do not share the same space, the same reality, the same worldview. And the classic thing is :  we are all Hitlers and Mussolinis and Steve Jobs and Jack Welchs  in our own right!! We believe our own “reality” and believe our “reality” is the best interpretation of the Absolute, (मेरी साडी तेरी साडी से सफ़ेद कैसे)  and all must follow our “reality” and those who don’t, well….!!!! Our efforts to convince others of the “real reality” (of course, our pet version) increases and that to me is the genesis of all the violence;  whether in thought or in acts, between individuals or teams, between groups or communities, between religions and countries.

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It would be good for all of us to understand quickly and then remember…. there is NO objective reality out there!!! We all are really like the famous five blind men who are trying to “see the elephant”. We all have our own different perspectives and small “pieces” of reality and have convinced ourselves that we know it all. But the fact is none of us have really an overview of the entire elephant…objective reality is much too larger for us to grasp. This would still be alright, were it not for the fact that we are too full of ourselves, too much in love with our own experience and too dismissive of the others’ perspective. and not sensitive enough to the others’ experiences and their own brand of “reality”.

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I heard from SN Goenkaji an anecdote that helped me see this conundrum in a new manner and clarified many a confusion. Let me end by recounting this story. There are 2 friends – one blind and one lame – who would beg together to fill their stomachs. Comes a day when the blind beggar is very sick and cannot go out to the village with his lame friend to beg for their dinner. The lame friend moves around alone seeking alms. He is not lucky till he reaches the last house, where the lady tells him, she had made खीर ( sweet rice porridge) the earlier day and can give him the leftover. She asks him if he has any utensil to receive the खीर in? When the beggar says he has none, she asks him to make a bowl by cupping his hands together and pours the खीर into his cupped hands. The lame guy cannot carry the खीर in his hands back to his friend and so he eats it from his cupped hands and finishes it all. When he reaches back to his blind beggar friend, he confesses that he had only got खीर and since it was dripping out of his hands, he ate it all.

The blind man has never seen or eaten kheer before and so asks ” What is  खीर?” The lame friend replies it is white and sweet. “White? what is white?” Now how does the friend explain white to a blind man. Fortunately the man sees a swan fluttering around. He catches the swan and thrusts it in the hands of the blind friend and says, “this is white.. the kheer is like this”. The blind friend feels the curved back of the swan and gets a flash of brilliance, and says, ” Now I understand. तेरी खीर टेढ़ी है !!!!”

We all are alternately playing the role of the blind man and the lame. Unfortunately the lame is NOT leading the blind. Each is stuck to his own reality. And wonders why it is difficult for the other person to “see the obvious”!!!

The earlier you understand, तेरी खीर टेढ़ी है the better off we shall be: vikas

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Vipassana

Vipassana  विपश्यना  is एक विशेष तरीके से देखना

Vipassana, seeing things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for all ills, an Art of Living!! Unfortunately, this knowledge disappeared for many centuries from India. SN Goenka learnt this technique in Burma, where it had survived in a pure form; and brought it back to India. It is now taught at various Vipassana centers all over the world.

This technique in the Theravada Buddhism tradition involves concentration on the body or its sensations, and the insight that this provides. In Vipassana , or insight meditation, the practitioner consciously explores the body and mind. The goal is to be साक्षी an observer with complete equanimity and stay away from being भोगी an indulgent participant, buffeted by your experiences. One works towards going beyond attachments and angst, for the final experience of Impermanence: understanding that all experiences, all attachments, all anger: finally, अनित्य है, नश्वर है !!!

Vipassana enables self-purification by self-observation. One begins by observing the natural breath to concentrate the mind (आनापान meditation). Then, with sharpened awareness, one proceeds to observe the changing nature of body and mind and experiences the universal truths of impermanence, suffering and egolessness. This truth-realization by direct experience results in mental purification.

I went for a 10 days’ retreat to Igatpuri to learn and practice Vipassana meditation. During these 10 days, the meditator must observe आर्य मौन Noble Silence: no communication at all with anyone. No talk, no phones, no gestures or expressions at all: total withdrawal from all things external. You try & establish a deep rapport with what is happening inside you : observe, meditate, reflect, think!! You wake up at 4 am and are up till 930 pm: in this 12 hours are earmarked for meditation and 5 hours are intermittent breaks for daily ablutions, washing, eating, and walking exercise, if you so desire. Tough and serious work. Intense concentration. Introspection. Plumbing the innermost depths. All in grand isolation.

Many friends questioned me & pinched me to write about my Vipassana experience. I was very, very hesitant. Vipassana is so  experiential that I really wondered how will I be able to explain someone, who has not been through that experience, as to how I felt!! Imagine meeting someone who has never eaten a mango in his life. He asks you to describe : how does a mango taste? Can you explain that in words? will he ever get what you are trying to convey? You can describe the color, smell , look, size: all external parameters. But the flavor, the taste? To understand that, your friend has to eat the mango himself!!! Nevertheless, I will attempt here to describe some of the external dimensions which really impressed me.

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As administrators, the Vipassana Dhammagiri, Igatpuri folks take the cake. You need to register online. The confirmation comes to you in mail. When your reach the venue, accommodation allocation happens effortlessly. And that evening there is a precourse talk, just to make you aware of the timings and locations and then the course starts. Someone in this batch asked how will we know what to do when. The answer was disarmingly simple: “When the bell rings, if you are in your room: go to the Dhamma hall (Meditation Hall). If you are in the Dhamma hall, go to your room. That is all!!!”

Simplicity and frugality typifies it all. Residential areas are functional but complete. Water Coolers and Toilets are provided all over the campus. Dining area is clean and well maintained. In silence you go in a que: there are clean thalis and spoons, food is spread out, you help yourself. The food was simple but tasty. Not once was anything inadequate or not available on time. Seamless administration!!

Every meditation session begins with an audio recording of Goenkaji, where he instructs what we have to do today. And then the rest of the day you sit & practice what has been told. If there are queries you can reach out to the live teacher during the breaks. All other times you practice what was instructed. In the evening, the last session is a video recorded lecture of Goenka where he takes stock of what we did today, what are the bases for it, and what will we do tomorrow. In these sessions, I realized they have brought down the meditation technique to a matter of science; with perfect  timelines and predictability. That is why Goenka is able to speak specifically to the 3rd day experience, 5th day experience and what are you going through on 7th day etc. Human experience is indeed common!!!

Goenkaji is an amazing speaker. He brings to life even a dry and dull subject like Dhamma or Religion. He talks of Shuddha Dharma, something which is much more fundamental to the human condition, beyond any of the isms like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity or Islam. Using simple day to day examples Goenka builds on his theme of Shuddha Dharma and exhorts you to give it a try. He quotes from nearly every religion and every major saint to support his thesis of the universality of pure Dharma.

Per Goenkaji, Dharma is like the universal laws of nature: applicable to all, without exception. Pure knowledge. Not theory nor intellectual argumentation;  ना वाणी विलास, ना बुद्धि विलास, just experiential knowledge प्रज्ञा. Beyond all the religions and isms is this प्रज्ञा Pragya which is nothing other than प्रत्यक्ष ज्ञान something which you experience.  I will illustrate this with an example from Goenkaji’s own discourse. 

Knowledge can be of 3 types: श्रुत प्रज्ञा Shrut Pragya; चिंतन प्रज्ञा Chintan Pragya & भाविक प्रज्ञा Bhavik Pragya. Shrut is what is reported, what you have heard. Chintan is what you understand intellectually. Bhavik is what you learn by experience. Think of a person who hears of a new restaurant which reportedly gives excellent food. He reaches that place and sees the menu card which describes all types of exotic dishes. All this is Shrut Pragya. He then looks around and sees others eating with great gusto. Smells the lovely flavours. Sees the expressions of satisfaction on others’ faces. So he feels this is indeed a good restaurant. This is Chintan Pragya. But when he orders the food, gets it delivered to his table, samples it, and experiences himself that indeed the food is very good: that is Bhavik Pragya. Vipassana invites you to the journey of Bhavik Pragya. For sure it will change your life, the way you think!!

Before leaving for Vipassana, I had written a piece Does God Exist? The answer I got after my Vipassana course is that Yes God-lihood exists…within you. The Good Book tells us: Seek and you shall Find.  Kabir says ‘तेरा साईं तुज्झ में, जागि सकै तो जाग।” What you seek is within you, you need to bring it forth.

Do not be like the person Kabir describes: जिन खोजा तिन पाइया, गहरे पानी पैठ,
                                                                              मैं बपुरा बूडन डरा, रहा किनारे बैठ।

So eat the mango yourself, and experience the taste: vikas

Explore:      http://www.giri.dhamma.org/

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Does God Exist?

You are reading the blog of a confessed agnostic. But life has taught me to remain silent about matters of the faith. I do not champion any point of view and keep my own counsel when these matters are discussed. But I was not always like this…

Earlier I was a vocal atheist. I felt it was my bounden duty to show the “right” path to my misguided and “blind” brethren. I would challenge and argue, try to convince by logic : in matters of the heart!! Needless to say, a la the Bard, it resulted in “much sound and fury, signifying nothing”. I do not think I managed to convince and change the heart of a single believer! Rather they showered pity on me: I was a misdirected soul for them!!!

Earlier than that, like all others, I was a Believer once. Those were the growing up days, when whatever your parents/elders said, and what you saw all around you – the social espoused reality – was the way to be. Then in the growing up phase, one questioned everything, challenged all things and then decided to bury God, Faith, Religion …whatever did not stand to empirical proof was a no no; scientific temper ruled!! One attended the lectures of Jiddu Krishnamurti in JJ School’ sylvan premises, and bought & devoured his books. Though one understood nothing else, one phrase caught on…“Let us question…”. So alongwith JK we intellectualised, debated, and with JK tried to “go deeper to understand and see it clearly” and found no proof of God !!!

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Then the phase of rabid atheism where one took joy in asking awkward and difficult questions. And though the Believers did not squirm or go red under the collar, we still felt morally and intellectually superior after every argument. So then what made me go silent? why did I stop arguing on matters of faith?

I went through 2 experiences which showed me how shallow and foolish I was. I understood that I know so very little that I must remain silent, rather than open my mouth, & prove to the world what a complete idiot I was.

As I plan to go for 10 days Vipassana course from today, I am again accosted with the question: how come a guy like you wants to do a meditation course? Is this really your cup of tea? What do you expect to get out of this? These questions made me go back to those 2 “moments of truth” in my life, which gave me a feeling that I understand very little in this space.

The first of these Faith Moments of Deep Learning was when 2 colleagues from Johnson & Johnson took me, forcibly, to Tirupati. They were avid believers and felt if I am in the presence of Balaji, I could not but be impressed. Most reluctantly I reached there, went to the  330 am Kakad Aarti. And when the doors opened, and we went into the sanctum sanctorum, the presence and the vibrations in the inner room were so strong that I felt something very different. Try as I could , I could not look into the eyes of the idol. The peace and solace I felt, was totally out of the world! I never wanted to go out from there!! Fortunately our “guide” told us we could stay back between the 3 aarti darshan tickets he had bought. So literally from 330 to 9 am we were in the Holy Presence. In between, the doors would open & shut, and some people went out and another group come in. But I was totally lost to the world, for the entire duration. I have never felt that comfort and joy I felt there. Even when we finally came out, I was a zombie: not knowing what was happening around me. I felt like someone had entered me and expanded me so much that I was striding the entire world!!!!

reaching

The second Faith Moment was in Shirdi in Saibaba Sansthan. Here we took the darshan and then were taken to an ante-chamber. There was a bed against the wall and a black & white lithograph of Saibaba standing under a tree looking straight at you. Looking straight into your soul. Apparently Baba slept on that bed. Though there was a sofa opposite, I felt like squatting on the ground. Again the vibrations in the room were so strong, that I was totally shaken up. I felt I was being buffeted by sea waves; I was riding the winds. I truly felt omni-present and withdrawn from my body & my physical limits and felt that I was enmeshed, one with the entire universe. What a powerful feeling! I just shut my eyes and floated….

Both these experiences taught me that my knowledge, my brain & my body was severely limited. There are many things beyond me. I do not understand so many things. And so why argue or reject?? Just say I do not know and keep quiet. Absorb and feel; rather than analyze and understand.

J Krishnamurti had said: “Belief has no place where truth is concerned.” I realised these are non-overlapping circles, and each stands glorious in its own space. More recently Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev observed; “If you believe there is God or if you believe there is no God, you are both in the same boat : you believe something that you do not know!”

fun guy

We know MK Gandhi often took recourse to fasts to solve issues. Once Nehru asked him, “how will your fasting help? There is serious rioting going on and how do you think your fasting will help?” Gandhi’s reply was करके देखो” “Do it yourself and see the result” 

My advice to those who question me for Vipassana is the same: करके देखो. There is no way I can explain what one goes through, the feelings and the experiences one gets…करके देखो!!! The 10 days of Arya Maun or Noble Silence purifies you. Takes you to a place where there is no negativity, no angst, no jealousy, no ill-will. Pure brotherhood. Joy. Sheer heaven on earth!

Rather than belief, I am with Sadhguru who says “If you say I do not know, the longing to know will arise within you; if the longing arises , the seeking will arise; and if the seeking arises, the possibility of knowing exists.” Be open to that possibility. Vipassana will certainly create that opportunity for me…

As Vipassana’s teacher SN Goenkaji puts it “Bhavatu Savva Mangalam!” : May all beings be happy. To which dear readers you can reply with me: “साधु साधु साधु “. So be it!! Let all be happy. 

Bless me that I may have the longing and seeking: vikas

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Upbringing: a blasphemous view

“Upbringing (noun) : The degree of damage your parents do to you.”

A hoarding on Patrick Melrose proclaims to the world at large from the Bandra bridge. How many of you dare to agree? There are many “adults” around me who cannot lead their own lives, as they are perpetually under the shadow of their parents!!! in some cases, parents are long dead, but the “children” still cannot live independently!!!!! Hence upbringing as damage that parents do…. I endorse this definition wholeheartedly. Both as a son as well as a father!! Let me explain.

My parents were upright, educated, middle-class, who strove to give their 3 daughters and me (the only son) all that my father could afford on his LIC salary. Remember this was before the  Fourth Pay Commission, so salaries were enough to get by, but by no means lavish. Moreover my father was the eldest son in a large Konkani Hindu family. This meant he had to first provide for his siblings’ education, sisters’ marriages and some support for his father who was a freedom fighter, journalist. His own nuclear family thus was never the topmost priority. Hey, we never slept hungry or went unclothed, but luxury was merely a concept for all dependants of my father. My mother managed the family budget with many a stretch, but still we regularly had visitors & guests; dinners & lunches. Once a year we had a small holiday. All in all, a typical middle class Konkani household.

All the right values were also imbibed into the children: Respect elders. Do not talk back. Listen to others’ advice. Read good books and literature.  Fear God. Follow norms.  Smoking & Drinking is bad. Cinema is escapism. Am sure you get the point, as most of you , dear readers, have undergone the same treatment.

Quotation-Joe-Orton-I-d-the-upbringing-a-nun-would-envy-Until-I-61-54-74

What all this meant was that as one grew up: there was just too much that you had to unlearn. eg Why should I wash my feet every evening, pray and then touch the feet of all elders in the house? or Why should I not eat non-veg food that we love on Monday or festival days? Why only one cinema in a month, when they release multiple new ones every Friday? Why follow others’ advice? why can’t I think for myself? and do as I damn please?? And the worst one of course was: why is drinking bad?

I had beer and soon realised after the first distasteful after taste, actually drinking is fun!!! anyway you drink for the after effect and that is uniformly, always good.

emotional-baggage

Point I started resenting was, it took a lot of unlearning and de-conditioning to convince myself that drinking is not bad. Exorcising all the conditioning done during growing up  by my parents was not easy to bypass.  I think I could start enjoying my drink and not get into guilt trips, only after I was 20/21 years of age.

And I  was truly angered thinking of the time I had lost, the mental agony I suffered, overcoming guilt trips, and convincing myself it was not wrong to do what you enjoy doing. Drinking is just an example, albeit  my favorite. The same ratio applied to many other things I was taught: why are elders considered a priori more knowledgeable? Why should we listen to others? Who gave others a right to opine about me and my behaviour? to rule my life? to make decisions for me?

drin

And viola!! the next major insight was: I gave them that right! I believed my parents were always right!! I felt what others say was important. I thought that their views and opinions matter. I was giving them the cudgel to bludgeon me!!!!! So whom can I blame, except myself, for my situation?

The logical next step was to throw over the yoke of “upbringing” and all that I was “taught”. Question everything! Challenge!! Validate through own experience!! (Even if it meant trying out drugs to “see what happens, it can’t be bad if so many others are doing it”. And thereafter concluding I am better off without them!!) Finally coming to the formula that today’s generation comes onto very intuitively: “My life; My rules”.

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This Gen Y  proclaims it from rooftops, and zealously guards their “Personal Space”. And that is good. They will have less to unlearn than what I had. Their thinking is more iconoclastic, because there are no “holy cows” that they feed. They are more free as they carry little baggage, of their past or of their parents and friends. Theirs is indeed a very federal democracy: you are my bro, till we can get along. If we cannot, you go your way and I go mine. We all know so many couples who have parted, but continue to be friends!!!! No one path is mandated. Every person’s point of view is respected for its’ uniqueness and internal clarity. The lack of any shibboleths to over turn is the new religion. Welcome, genuine freedom.

Please do not get me wrong. My parents were great parents. They genuinely had our good at heart. They always encouraged and supported us. They gave us a core of peace and security at home. We had great childhoods, my siblings and I. Normal material comforts, no struggle for life’s necessities. We could have ice creams when we wanted. We lived in largish houses. And were taken around in  my father’s car. So what exactly am I complaining about?  It was just the “I  know better than you” and “you listen to me now” and “I am telling you this for your own good” attitude of all our elders.

I am using parents as the “punching bag” here but actually I resented every elder (or junior, for that matter) who tried to run my life for me.

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So what did I do with this angst? I decided I will be different as a parent, as an “elder”. With my daughter, I have always tried to be her talking partner…not a father. Have tried to help her analyze alternatives, but shied away from recommending any path. Have tried to impress on my nephews/nieces and all the younger folks in my life, that mine is just one opinion, just another point of view. Have tried to give them all the confidence that they can take whatever decision they want in their lives. I am here to help them debate and understand. But the final decision has to be theirs. Finally it is their life….and I do not want to live their life. ( I am fed up to the gills with my own anyways, he he!!!).

Many times this appears like disinterest, like not caring enough. That time I tell them that I am always there to pick up the broken pieces if there is a fall: but they need to run, walk, fall on their own steam. Only by making their own calls will they be in control of their ship. And a choppy sea always makes great sailors!!

That is the true upbringing  according to me.

As Sant Dyaneshwar put it: जो जे वांच्छिल तो तें लाहो । प्राणिजात ॥

Not MY will, but THY own will be done: vikas

PS: especially obliged to my fav niece in Mumbai who sourced the Patrick Melrose quote: Upbringing is the damage your parents do to you. Though, I am sure, she believes otherwise: she still listens to me!!!!!!!

happy

 

 

 

 

Stark, Harsh, eminently watchworthy…Manto

Being a Literature aficionado, of course one knew of Manto. No recounting of  great short stories can be complete without the mention of Guy de Maupassant, O Henry, Hemingway, Jack London, Balzac, EM Forster, Chekov and our own Mulk Raj Anand, Munshi Premchand….and of course Manto. So since the time one first heard of the Nandita Das biopic on Manto, I eagerly awaited the September release. Felt doubly excited to hear Manto was premiered at Cannes Film Festival this year. It is a great introduction to Manto, the person.

One had read some stories of Manto and admired the man’s clinical control of his craft. Every story of Saadat Hasan Manto always leaves you gasping, shaken, stirred & exposed:  to the core of your being. Nandita Das’ second movie (after Firaq, on the aftermath of the Gujarat riots) Manto does the same.

The movie is set a few years before Partition and ends, just 7 years after 1948, with Manto’s death, when he was just 42 years. While talking of this small slice of Manto’s life, the movie manages to etch in your heart Manto’s love for Bombay, his difficulties with both the “Establishment” in the Bombay film world; his fierce independent stands, amongst the Progressive Writers of the pre Independence days; his dependence on alcohol which would eventually lead to his ruin; his monetary challenges and debts; his total disdain of the editors who sat in judgement of his writings; his friendship; his love for his children; his abrupt decision to shift to Pakistan. Alongwith all these, you see the Manto who exposed himself to the underbelly of dark side of the human condition. Manto explores what people (his fictional(?) characters) experience: prostitution and debauchery on one hand and the  harsh pangs of Partition on the other hand. Religious bigotry and one sided thinking is exposed and challenged. And in doing all this Manto suffers, as you do, bleeding while experiencing the movie!

Das has used a very clever trick of interleaving some of Manto’s stories like Thanda Ghosh, Khol Do, Boo, Toba Tek Singh into the recounting of Manto’s life. Indeed these two are inextricably intertwined! What the author Manto saw, the man Manto experienced!! Possibly, writing about all these pains, and that of Partition, was in no way cathartic for Manto.  Rather, he sinks deeper into brooding depression and deeper into drinking, progressively moving away from his family and descending into a personal hell. Das depicts this very realistically and logically. She has been aided in this task by an ensemble cast which  includes some really fabulous actors like Rishi Kapoor, Ranbir Sheorey, Divya Dutta, Gurdas Mann, Javed Akhtar and Paresh Rawal who recreate Manto’s life and experiences so starkly that it leaves the viewer gasping, and struggling for breath!!

Counterpoint to such a heavy dosage of clawing reality, are two positive side stories: of Manto’s friendship with Shyam (played by Tahir Raj Bhasin) an upcoming actor-star who makes it big; even as Manto’s star is descending on the horizon. Secundo is Rasika Duggal, playing the suffering wife Safia, a true soulmate who understands what Manto is going through, tries her best to build bridges between their daughters and Manto, even understands and condones (?) his excessive drinking binges. But both these positives cannot negate Manto’s self-curse… driving him deeper and deeper into a self-created inferno, which finally ends in his oblivion.

For me 2 sequences stood out and will haunt me for a long long time to come. One was Manto’s speech challenging religious bigotry by both Hindus and Muslims alike when he is invited to speak at a forum for authors. His impassioned arguments turn your own thinking upside down and force you to re-evaluate your own stance on religion and Partition. The second one, is his impassioned defence before the Pakistani court where he has been hauled for obscenity of content and language. His arguments make you revalue what is literary and what is obscenity; what is an author’s responsibility to reflect his experience and external “reality”; what is right;  and who can be a judge of what is right??? Some pithy questions raised there. It is interesting that Manto is more hurt by Faiz Ahmed Faiz’ comment that Manto’s writings are not “literature” grade; least bothered that Faiz actually supports his case against obscenity.

Obviously this is Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s place under the sun. His portrayal of the brooding Manto is heart-wrenchingly true to character. The artist’s descent into hell and beyond, is realistically enacted by Nawazuddin. Resultantly the viewer would end up with a better appreciation of Manto the man, Manto the author, Manto the father, Manto the friend, Manto the husband as Nawazuddin has really got under the skin of Manto the character.

As Manto noted: “आखिर में  अफसाने ही रह जाते हैं,  और उनके किरदार” In the end, all that remains are the stories, and their characters.

If you are a connoisseur of good & serious cinema, vote with your feet: go see Manto!

जिंदाबाद Manto जिंदाबाद!! जिओ  Nandita Das!! : in supplication, vikas

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Heartbreaks…they go on…

Last I wrote on how skinned knees are easier to cure than broken hearts. I got some shocked reader feedback….how can I bare all about my broken heart on a public platform??… is it not too personal a story??…etc etc

Till people read my examples and understood that am talking of intense disappointments and let downs…whether done to me …or done by me…and then got what i mean by heartbreaks. It was not a bare all, no holds barred story of unrequited love confessions a la Hollywood style, but rather the day to day jolts and falls we all go through.

Am reminded of the famous Sardarji joke. Santa slips and falls off a banana peel one day. The very next day when he sees another banana peel lying on the road, he curses aloud,“धत्त तेरी की!!! आज फिर गिरना पड़ेगा!!” (Oh Heck no!!!! Now today I will have to fall again!!!!)  

Life is all about facing disappointments and pain, and carrying on despite it all! Napoleon had remarked that there is no brave soldier…one who is not scared…all soldiers are scared in the throes of battle…but a good soldier is one who is scared and still retains his ability to fight and follow his orders. Life’s battles continue to prepare us to be better soldiers…one who retains the ability to fight back and continue despite all the setbacks, the knives in our backs, the large let downs, the broken expectations and the unfaithfulness of our friends. Sara Teasdale (The Collected Poems)  put it ,well,“It is strange how often a heart must be broken/ Before the years can make it wise.”

heartbreak

I, for one, tried to follow other smart people’s advice and suffered the same fate as Agatha Christie who noted: “Everybody said, “Follow your heart”. I did, it got broken”. Or see the immortal love queen Marilyn Monroe’s famous musings:  “This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up. Girls will be your friends – they’ll act like it anyway. But just remember, some come, some go… As for lovers, well, they’ll come and go too. And baby, I hate to say it, most of them – actually pretty much all of them are going to break your heart, but you can’t give up…” Rather, I have reconciled with the view that the heart was meant to be broken and the road to true happiness is paved with many sad events, disappointments and longings.

The present crisis in my heart’s journey is seeing my daughter off… as she goes abroad for further studies! The feeling that she will not be around daily is disconcerting and disturbing. That she will be alone in a foreign land, fighting her own battles, resolving her own issues and far, far away from my watchful eye is heart rending. But alongside this feeling is the basic question: am I unhappy because she will be away? or am I more disturbed by the fact that she may actually not miss me at all? She has a new life opening up before her. So will I be redundant in her life? The dilemma is similar to that of any father at the time of marriage of his daughter…while he wants her to be happy in the new household that she is going to be a part of…there is also a sadness and grief of the emerging gap in your own life, your own family, your house, your own heart…. Mineko Iwasaki knew his stuff when he observed: “Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.” 

knew what

All of us who have loved and lost know: Once you had put the pieces back together, even though you may look intact, you were never quite the same as you had been before the fall. Augusta Webster sings of this state ” we two shall still meet day by day,
But never more shall heart respond to heart.
Two stranger boats can drift down one tide,
Two branches on one stem grow green apart.
Farewell, I say.”

Farewell. God Speed. All the Best. I for one aver and understand: we must open our hearts and be ready for the fall. Know our heart will break, but expose it anyways. To complete Marilyn Monroe’s earlier quote: “…Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie? So keep your head high, keep your chin up, and most importantly, keep smiling, because life’s a beautiful thing and there’s so much to smile about.” 

So to my daughter and all those who regularly and routinely break my heart, to my sisters, brothers, friends and lovers, to all my well wishers and ill wishers, I say what Augustus Waters tells  his lover Hazel in the Hollywood blockbuster The Fault in Our Stars: “It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you”.

ways to die

The quintessential philosopher of today’s nihilistic times Albert Camus has the last word on this: “It is necessary to fall in love – the better to provide an alibi for all the despair we are going to feel anyway.” This appeals to my misanthrope heart and mind. But for you, my dear positive readers, I end with our favorite ABBA

Chiquitita, you and I know
How the heartaches come and they go and the scars they’re leaving
You’ll be dancing once again and the pain will end
You will have no time for grieving
Chiquitita, you and I cry
But the sun is still in the sky and shining above you
Let me hear you sing once more like you did before
Sing a new song, Chiquitita
Try once more like you did before
Sing a new song, Chiquitita

 

So dear daughter,and all my heart breakers, I end echoing Nayirrah Waheed:              “you                                                                                                                                                      not wanting me
was
the beginning of me
wanting myself
thank you” : vikibaba

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Skinned Knees, Broken Hearts

Sometimes I wish I were a little kid again!  Skinned knees are easier to fix than broken hearts!!!

It is still raining in Mumbai;  and on my daily morning walk, I managed to slip/slide/glide over a largish speed breaker and found myself descending to the road surface, with great speed! There was nothing I could do in the seconds that intervened, between my insight that I was falling, and my landing unceremoniously on the wet street, face down!! During the fall, I had bent forward, landing hard on my left knee, which slid down the bump. The first thought was that this will result in a bruised knee and shin: which will pain for days. Curiously the second thought was : this pain and hurt will be much better to bear than a broken heart!!

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Being 62 years of age, one has had ones’ fair share of falls,  and broken hearts!!! Lives there a man who has had a charmed existence, happiness and success always, and nary a broken heart? I doubt it very much! Expectations and desires (despite the Learned Buddha’s exhortation to avoid them) are a part of our make-up and human story/history. And so breathes there a soul who has not experienced the pain of a broken heart?

This sharp pain of a broken heart begins early in our lives. As kids, it is the refusal by our parents to buy the new toy we have taken fancy to. Why, it may even be our Mother’s refusal to take us with her, when she is all decked up and leaving for a formal dinner. My heart also broke when my elder sister refused to take me in her playgroup as I was too small, and worse, I was a boy! The first unrequited crush on the English teacher. The fair girl in class whom I dared not speak to! My new cycle involved in an accident; with me tearfully looking at the mangled frame. My father’s job transfers which made me say Good-bye to friends made with great difficulty. Losing my first Chinese ink pen. A friend refusing to trade the WWF picture card, that he already had a duplicate of !!!! How many times has the heart broken? How many times one suffered the ignominy of “defeat”, of missing something that your heart desired and wanted so badly?? It was a sweet time of grieving- your heart was broken, but your life was changing. Many times you counselled yourself: “It is ok Vikas, life will be different when you grow up! You don’t have to depend on others. You can take decisions yourself. You can get (or take) what you want”!!!

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Then you grew up. And then the heartbreaks continued. Unstoppable, the heartbreaks were now more severe. Took longer to get over. The young roly-poly Bengali History teacher whom everyone in class had a massive crush on. Not getting admission in the academic course you had set your heart on. And to make it worse, your friend securing admission and he and his family consoling you, “Surprising how Raghavan got in? You were always better in class and we always expected you will walk in with flying colors. So sad you did not get through” Adding insult to injury; breaking, nay crushing your heart even more. Not getting a job offer from your dream company on campus. Being turned down for promotion. First time you get an average performance rating when you believe you have excelled in all projects that year. Your BFF letting you down. Girl issues. Boys’ issues. Heartbreaks galore. Making the logical you, ask a fundamental question: What is stronger than the human heart, that shatters over and over again, and still lives?

Zelda and F Scott Fitzgerald, illustrious litterateurs,  had a most tumultuous marriage. Their very public confrontations were full of accusations, cheating, nervous breakdowns all fuelled by generous dollops of alcohol. Zelda observes ” No one has ever measured, not even poets, how much a heart can hold”. When F Scott died, they were estranged. Another brilliant author, Oscar Wilde was in love with Lord Alfred Douglas. In 1891, this was looked at in askance and Douglas’s father disapproved of his son’s liaison. Oscar was accused of acts of gross indecency and convicted for homosexuality. Wilde concludes in one sentence, “The heart was made to be broken”.

In Invisible Monsters, Chuck Palahniuk has a great insight to share:“The one you love and the one who loves you are never the same person”. But how many of us understand this fundamental truth? Rather we are enamoured, star-struck, infatuated; sometimes with the very concept of love. Edgar Allan Poe captures this well, “We loved with a love that was more than love”. In India we are all brought up on the Bollywood version of all sacrificing love, which stands tall when all around is crumbling, and is still able to belt out a heartfelt Laila Majnu or Heer Ranjha song. What we ignore is that the line after तेरा मेरा प्यार अमर is the earthy  फिर क्यों मुझको लगता है डर? The English poetess Emily Dickinson who never married or had children summed it up, “If I can stop one heart from bleeding, I shall not have lived in vain.” 

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In The Wizard of Oz, young Dorothy gives great advice to Tin Woodman, “I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.” Is it hard to let go? Would you rather hold on to something that was not real anyway? No matter how bad your heart is broken, the world does not stop for your grief – it moves on, and expects you to move and play your part down the road. In the hoary Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet B Stowe puts it so well,” Of course, in a novel, people’s hearts break, and they die, and that is the end of it; and in a story this is very convenient. But in real life we do not die when all that makes life bright dies to us.” Look back on your own life, all the heartbreaks you experienced over the years, only made you wiser, taught you life, showed you how to live. Remember Nicholas Spark, “The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it…”

So let us sing alongwith Jaidan Taylor:

Cause, baby, I could build a castle/Out of all the bricks they threw at me/And every day is like a battle/But every night with us is like a dream

Baby, we’re the new romantics/Come on, come along with me/Heart break is the national anthem/We sing it proudly

Concluding with Violeta Parra: “Don’t cry when the sun is gone, because the tears won’t let you see the stars.” : vikas

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