Festival of colours- Holi

All our festivals have a legend or folklore behind them. In ancient India, Hiranyakashyap, the demon king became so powerful that he started considering himself to be God. His son Prahlad, however, refused to treat his father like one and egoistic and snooty Hiranyakashyap decided to teach his son a lesson. He asked his sister Holika, who was blessed not to get singed by fire, to take Prahlad in her lap and walk into a burning pyre. Little did Hirnyakashyap or Holika realised that boon was hers if she were to walk into fire alone. As the story goes, Holika gets destroyed in fire, while pious Prahlad, who all along chanted Lord Vishnu’s name comes out unscathed. Like Dussehra or Diwali, Holi represents victory of good over evil or destruction of evil. Burning of Holika on the eve of Holi is practiced till date.

Of course, the colours of Holi owe their origin to Vrindavan and Mathura where Lord Krishna played Holi with flowers with his mates and gopis.

A festival that has its origin in such a pious and noble folklore and that finds mention in scriptures as being actively celebrated by Gods, unfortunately has become rowdiest of our religious festivals. Use of chemical paints, water balloons, wastage of water and Eve teasing and molestation under the garb of playing festival are commonly observed. People indulge in all sorts of unholy practices, making this extremely ancient and pious festival something that families and ladies like to eminently avoid. Gone are the days, when friendly banter amongst friends and families followed by consumption of Holi delicacies, especially Gujia ( patty filled with khoya and dry fruits) . An occasional glass of mild bhang would not harm anyone.

My friend’s travel company, Marvilla has adopted a unique way of greeting their patrons on festival days and I liberally borrow from their creativity. Their Holi message has been replicated below. Let me wish all my readers and friends a very happy, prosperous and clean Holi.

Christchurch carnage

No place in this world is safe today,

Criminals and terrorists are on the prowl;

Mosques were once upon places of shelter,

Alas, today even mosques have become unsafe.

The above couplet, translated from Urdu appropriately captures the angst at yesterday’s shoot out at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 49 Muslims present there for Friday Namaz.

New Zealand, till yesterday, was considered a highly safe and peaceful country of around 5 million people, including immigrants of various nationalities and religions. However, a fanatic chose to go berserk and motivated to act criminally by some faulty ideology, killed 49 innocent persons in cold blood. And these faulty ideologies are prevalent across the world propagating fanaticism and intolerance. Some youngsters get so much brainwashed by these teachings that they perpetrate acts of barbarism like one witnessed yesterday.

Let countries learn their lessons quickly and destroy all infrastructure on their respective lands that is fostering future fanatics and terrorists. Let no country support such ideologies and infrastructure, whatever be the cause justifying propagation of such ideologies and resultant acts. In today’s times, words like jihad, holy war, dharma yudh etc have no relevance and whether the cause is Kashmir, Khalistan, Palestine or even cow slaughter, no cause is big enough to justify encouragement to such elements. Let the nations of the world unify on this aspect and take vow to uproot terrorism in all forms and of all hues and ideologies to make this world a safer place. Let the entire world become peaceful, beautiful and tolerant like New Zealand instead of NZ becoming a terrorism infested place like several other places in the world.

Developments post Pulwama

Country should never doubt the valour of its saviours, the defence personnel. Their round the clock vigil, utter daredevilry under extreme circumstances, difficult service conditions that keep them away from their families for months in harsh terrains and attitude of ready to sacrifice their lives for the country at the drop of a hat are all the traits that distinguish them from their fellow countrymen.

Pulwama was the most unfortunate occurring when para defence personnel travelling to their post were run into by a fidayeen (suicide bomber). Pakistan based terror group JEM claimed responsibility and the way any self respecting nation should have reacted , India retaliated by destroying terror camps in Balakot by crossing into Pakistani territory. Pakistan hit back next day by sending its fleet of F-16, which were chased away by IAF fleet comprising mainly MIGs-21! There were reported dog fights between Indian and Pakistani aircrafts and Abhinandan’s story is now a folklore of extreme courage shown by the Indian Wing Commander.

For once the entire country stood united, with politicians of all hue and colour speaking the same language. And so did news channels and panelists appearing thereon. Unfortunately, this show of unity was to be short lived. It’s a matter of utmost shame and grief that this act of exemplary courage by our defence forces was blatantly used by political parties to meet their ends in view of the impending elections. Some protagonists, who consider them to be intelligentsia and great champions of human and minority welfare, only added fuel to this confusion. A fight of life and death by our defence forces to restore the national pride by sending strong message to the terrorists and the forces sheltering them turned into a political and intellectual slugfest that was most unsavoury.

Pakistani press and media are agog with failure of India’s Balakot mission (fuelled by bickering in our country only), valour of Pakistani pilots in downing two Indian fighter planes, including capturing an Indian pilot live (vehemently denied by India; on the contrary, on Abhinandan having downed one F-16, the company that manufactures F-16 are investigating this being the first instance in the history of an F-16 going down in a dog fight and that too by an inferior MIG 21), ploy by parties in India to win elections by evoking patriotism of Indians ( fuelled by views and counter views debated by political parties), criticism of India by OIC countries for its handling of Kashmir issue (India’s diplomatic fragility ) and the most recent veto of declaring Azhar Masood as global terrorist by China ( describing Pakistan as its Iron friend). In a way, all these have unfortunately led to puppet regime of Imran Khan being treated as more tolerant and peace loving, celebrating his so called great statesmanship in releasing Abhinandan and defusing tension escalated by purportedly more aggressive neighbour India, with some extreme elements demanding Nobel peace prize for Imran!

It’s naive on part of anyone to believe that by either glorifying or doubting the attainment of end objective of certain mission of our army, airforce or navy, our politicians and pseudo secularists can score any brownie points. Military missions can be successful and at times fall short of the desired objective, but no one can doubt the courage and bravery behind each of such missions. Let electorate of this country show hitherto unforeseen unity and send the right message to unscrupulous politicians trying to achieve their myopic objective and these pseudo intellectual self styled secularists at raising stupid issues at the cost of supreme sacrifice of our soldiers!

Ordinary feats by ordinary folks

Today I received a message from Twitter that I now have 100 followers. Not a big achievement considering number of followers some of the celebrities have, but not very mean either considering that not many in this country have Twitter accounts ( unlike WhatsApp or Facebook) and even those who are having hardly use it actively! I find Twitter to be a good medium of expressing my views on the matters of national and international importance and the causes that are dear to me in few words (length of a tweet is restricted).

A few days ago my blog site advised me that I had completed 💯 blogs! I started amateur blogging to give vent to the writer in me but never thought I would be achieving any major feat or landmark. It started with a school time mate of mine with whom I started sharing first of my blogs. He encouraged me to write more and better and slowly more people – friends and colleagues first and then more unknown strangers who liked my writing- started following my blogs and that I scored a century during the course of this journey I didn’t know till notified by my website that I completed 100 blogs. As a popular Urdu couplet by renowned poet and lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri says:

Main akelā hī chalā thā jānib-e-manzil magar

log saath aate gaye aur kārvāñ bantā gayā

I commenced this journey all by myself,

People kept on joining me till it became a Caravan!!

When shall I have bigger achievements, I don’t know! Whether I shall ever become a celebrated blogger or an author or attain new highs in my profession or emigrate to place of choice or learn playing musical instruments, I have no clue! In this zeal to chase larger dreams, which may never get fulfilled, I didn’t want to miss sharing these ordinary feats with my readers!

My time will come

Read a beautiful post in social media. A child waits to grow up into adult because at time he feels overloaded with the pressure of studies, parental supervision and other nah- nahs. He wants to be free and independent as an adult. He waits for his time to come.

However, youth exposes him to altogether different challenges of seeking and getting an employment of his taste and dreams that gives him enough for him and his family to enjoy the comforts, if not luxuries of life. Most of his youth gets embroiled in this struggle of seeking utopian goals and running in a rat race. He waits for his time to come.

By then, though he does fairly well professionally, demands and expectations placed on him by his family and society make him look forward to the life post discharge of his familial and professional responsibilities. He starts looking forward to life post retirement and waiting for his time to come.

Retirement finds him in the throes of old age. Though he is free of his obligations, he is already grappling with hosts of ailments that debilitate him restraining him from unbridled enjoyment of any form – travelling, eating, dating, mating and what not!

The posts end beautifully! It says that finally his time does come, when the same is announced by the attending doctor!

Life is to be lived and relished on daily basis, as and when it comes. When freedom comes, money is not there, when money comes, time is not there, when money and time both are there, capacity and willingness to live life is not there! The time will never come to live life – it’s already there, always in present ! The time comes for the life to come to an end. Don’t wait for time to come, live it every moment as it elapses!

International Women’s Day

8th March is celebrated as International Women’s Day. In 1917, women were subjected to lot of suffering in Russia and hence 8th March became a National Holiday there. In 1975, United Nations adopted it as International Women’s Day and prior to this it was mainly celebrated in communist and socialist countries.

What’s a woman to us? Is she only a mother, sister, daughter or a wife? Is she inferior to man in some senses? These are oft asked but highly cliched questions! The fact of the matter is that a woman is an independent entity, who, in all senses, is at par with man. Today’s woman is an achiever to be seen everywhere – in corporate world, social sector, civil services as also defence! Gone are the days when an odd Golda Meir or Indira Gandhi would become a State head and inspire awe! Today, whether it’s Angela Merkel or Theresa May in Europe, Aung San Suu Kyi or Sonia Gandhi in Asia or one of the corporate leaders of US, women leaders can be routinely seen in all the fields without anyone raising eyebrows. Till very recently, the Indian Banking sector was being ruled by a troika of powerful female bankers – Arundhati, Chanda and Shikha.

I have personally been exposed to very strong female personalities. Right from my mother – an artist having distinguished career as a singer but a very strict and no nonsense mother, to my wife – speaks her mind, is extremely bold and fearless, to my daughter – fiercely independent, to my grandmas- homemakers with great worldly wisdom and strong ethics, to my friends – tremendous fighting spirit, refusing to cave in to any adversity and the list is quite long. Having been raised and having lived under such strong feminine influence, I may sound a little partial to the fair sex, but it’s not without a reason. I have always maintained that home making is a full time, under rated and underpaid job, but those ladies, who are full time professional and who demand no concessions at work for their domestic chores (which are inevitable) deserve my heartfelt salutation! The male chauvinist pigs do lament about inadequate contributions by their lady colleagues at certain critical stages of their lives- child birth, raising the children, important milestones of children- when they require a break! What they don’t realise is the naturalness of these events (without which the mankind will not survive) and the need to delink such natural events from the overall intellect and professional competence of a woman! My daughter, a thorough professional who has become mother for a second time recently is a live example of someone beautifully balancing professional and motherhood related responsibilities!

Discrimination between son and daughter, foeticide, purdah system, dowry, rituals entailing superiority of male over female are blot on this nation that has always worshipped the feminine manifestation of God as Devi. But these evils are mercifully fast getting abolished thanks to spread of education and literacy. Some heavily patriarchal societies like Haryana. Punjab and Rajasthan are already facing the calamity arising out of female foeticide! For me, as aforesaid, the experience has been replete with instances where females have made the difference or have remained mainstay of the family!

If we go by all the above, women don’t deserve a specific day to be reserved to honour them; they merit honour every day every moment! However, such days do serve a purpose of reminding us of certain special things that we tend to take for granted in our daily lives. As an Urdu couplet loosely translated as under, says:

The world is beautiful because of women,

For they make it lovely and glorious;

Eulogy to them shouldn’t be restricted to a day;

The entire humanity should express gratitude each day!!!

Happy International Women’s Day to all women – not because Durga, Kali, Indira, Benazir, Asma, Rani Laxmibai, Mother Teresa are all women – but because each one of our mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, fisher women and vegetable vendors, household maids , teachers and our office colleagues – all the women whom we meet or deal with in our daily lives without acknowledging their hard work, diligence, effort and contribution!

Mahashivratri

Generally I like writing topical blogs and traditions and folklore concerning Festivals is an area of special interest. Therefore, I ran series of blogs on Diwali and then on Christmas. Mahashivratri has lots of religious significance but is not a festival in a sense Diwali, Holi and Christmas are! However, one of my readers actually enquired whether I would be writing a blog on Mahashivratri and also very generously sent me some material on the significance of the day! I thank my blog follower, an erstwhile colleague and a friend Sanjit for his coaxing me and inspiring me to writing this blog!

Lord Shiva or Bholenath, Shankar, Mahesh, Shambhu, Mahadev and hosts of other names by which he is known as and worshipped by his devotees, is amongst the most popular of the Gods. Forming part of the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, who are creator, operator and destroyer respectively, the question arises that why is the destroyer most popular and more popular than creator and operator? Because he is not destroyer in the sense we understand destruction. He is destroyer of everything negative – energy, thoughts, karma. He is also the easiest to please and therefore fondly addressed as Bholenath or Bholebaba for his this innocence.

Interestingly, Mahashivratri is celebrated not only to herald birth of Lord Shiva, but also his marriage to Goddess Parvati that was solemnised on this day. The long queues out side Shiva temples bear testimony to his popularity amongst his devotees. In fact, Mahadev is a holistic god, who combines the truth and beauty for the larger good giving birth to the phrase Satyam Shivam Sundaram.

His enigma is his charm. While his abode in Himalaya on Mount Kailash is inaccessible (having never been climbed ever), his other abode at crematoriums ( where aghoris worship his destructive form through various rituals) only add to his enigma, endearing him more and more to his devotees.

All the festivals, apart from their religious significance and folklore associated with them, give us a message of peace, sacrifice, brotherhood, frugality and unity and the underlying message should not be lost in the frivolities of celebrations.