Education is the key

We all relate education to white collared and desk jobs, little realising the importance of education in all walks of life. We may all have heard about the incidents where an educated farmer has not only transformed his and his family’s life but contributed to the transformation of the entire community and village by transmitting better farm practices, water conservation, cleanliness, finances etc.

We all lament about the well maintained cabs and buses, liveried and well behaved cabbies and bus drivers abroad. Why we have rickety, bug infested, smelly and unclean cabs, unkempt and misbehaving cabbies, rude bus conductors and drivers, caring a hoot about traffic rules? Because we associate all jobs outside the domain of executive jobs as being meant for those who are not interested in pursuing any education or any further education! They don’t dress smartly in the prescribed uniform, chew tobacco and spit on the roads, don’t maintain vehicles well , are rude to passengers and other vehicle owners on the road. And this is not only about drivers and roads, general conduct in public places, urinating/defecating in open, Eve teasing, procreating to have large horde of children, water and resource wastage etc all are linked to the education ( and let me clarify not to any religion or caste) or rather lack of it!

Government is trying hard to uplift poor, which should be appreciated. But this monetary aid (DBT, pension schemes, doles) should not be at the cost of investment in the field of education! Minimum academic qualification should be made mandatory for all kinds of professions touching public or community in any form – drivers, labourers, guards, sweepers, courier boys, delivery boys, peons, (farmers I have already touched above – in any case to my mind farming is the toughest and the noblest of the professions and farmers’ education can change the destiny of this country) .. and the list is endless and we shall have a similar pleasant experience of living in India that we have in an advanced country! Also, the country will be cleaner, children fewer, resources abundant and a general feeling of goodness that we currently experience abroad!

Of course, education system itself will also have to be strengthened to stop churning out of educated illiterates- sons of VIPs treating roads and girls as their personal property, affluent classes treating poor and other person from not so privileged class as dirt, religious extremists behaving rabidly, corrupt bureaucrats and politicians …and we can create heaven on the earth! The idea sounds little idealistic but unless we aspire for such utopian India, we shall not be liberated in true sense!

The first shower

India is known for it’s summers. In north, summers are searingly hot, dry and dangerous, with hundreds dying due to heat stroke. In East, West and South summers are characterised by mugginess and humidity that’s most discomforting. In fact, in Chennai the folklore is that the city has three seasons- hot, hotter and hottest.

In the above backdrop, the arrival of monsoon in the first week of June is amongst the most awaited events. As monsoons hit Kerala, other parts of the country await first showers in their respective parts of the country.

This year Monsoon is awaited more than ever , for the country is experiencing one of the harshest summers ever. Delhi today recorded high of 48 degrees, hitherto unheard of . Churu in Rajasthan created new record by clocking 50 degrees. Water resources have reached their minimum levels and almost the entire country is depending on fast depleting underground water.

Today’s first showers of the season in Mumbai are the cause for celebration. Let me unhesitatingly claim that if it rains normally this year, it would be a larger and more significant event than BJP”s victory or anticipated victory of India in the currently underway cricket World Cup! Other things are materialistic; rains are divine because humanity will survive only if water is there! Though not a deeply religious person, I am ready to go any length to propitiate rain gods! Let all temples, churches, dargahs and gurudwaras do whatever it takes to pray for adequate rains! It’s a great agenda for the religions of the country to unite their divine powers for the sake of humanity and country!

Rest in Peace Girish Karnad

Girish Karnad, playwright, actor, scholar, philosopher and historian died this morning. My first memories of Girish Karnad go back to the early 70s, when parallel cinema by Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Mani Kaul etc was making waves. My grandfather, no real film buff, loved these realistic films and while Shabana and Smita were his favourites, I distinctly recall him making mention of several other good new actors like Naseer, Om Puri, Anant Nag, Amrish Puri and Girish Karnad. Of course, Girish chose to free himself from the shackles of any particular genre and played some significant characters in mainstream commercial cinema too.

However, he was a man of varied interests, as aforesaid and he stretched him to achieving other feats. He took to theatre, wrote plays and scripts, took to direction and of course, aired his views and opinions fearlessly. A champion of secularism, he at times created controversies through his views, but his intent was unquestionably patriotic.

Some of the obituaries paid to him on Twitter and other social media are not true representatives of the man’s character and depth and we, as a nation, ought to be more open to accommodating and assimilating contrarian views.

I remember him for his innocent looks, deep bass in his voice, his easy demeanour and of course his natural acting. There have been actors galore, but very few have gone beyond the arc lights of studio and name and fame to try and make meaningful contribution to the society at large (and I don’t count those jumping election bandwagon to reap quick political benefits). Girish’s contribution to literature, arts, drama, theatre, films and above all to society through his frank and independent views will be remembered for long time to come.

RIP Girish Karnad.

Belief, Trust and Faith

Cancer is amongst the most dreaded diseases. What makes it all the more fearsome is it’s wide prevalence! You almost come across a news a day about cancer affecting a member in a family. It’s all piece of information till it chooses to strike your family! You then get the sense of what lies ahead for the patient and the family.

Something similar has struck us too. My wife’s brother, pretty young being in late 50s and with children yet to settle and huge liabilities on his head, is diagnosed being affected with cancer. He has joined us here in Mumbai from his native, for Mumbai is known for the best cancer treatment in the country. PET Scan done over the weekend shall reveal the extent of damage though we have booked an appointment with Dr Advani, father of cancer cure in India. We now sit with our fingers crossed wondering about what will happen over the next few days or months?

Incidentally, I read a beautiful thought that crossed my attention this morning being superlatively relevant to our current state of mind and dilemma. The thought says, ” Belief is what you have in yourself; trust is in others and faith is in God”. Over the next few months the man, my brother in law and the man of the moment albeit in a negative connotation, shall be required to believe in himself and his perseverance, trust the doctors treating him and family members attending to him and have undying faith in the God’s justice, for whatever God has in store for us is probably the best being fait accompli. But this trio of belief, trust and faith hold relevance for all of us , whichever situation we may be in currently!

Eid Mubarak

The world celebrates Eid al Fitr today. After almost a month of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, the new moon was sighted yesterday leading to celebrations of Eid today. Muslims believe that they are commanded by God, as mentioned in the Quran, to continue their fast until the last day of Ramadan and pay the Zakat al-Fitr before offering the Eid prayers.

Eid al-Fitr was originated by the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It is observed on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawwal at the end of the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims undergo a period of fasting

According to certain traditions, these festivals were initiated in Medina after the migration of prophet Muhammad from Mecca. As per the belief, when Prophet arrived in Medina , he found people celebrating two specific days in which they used to entertain themselves with recreation and merriment. He asked them about the nature of these festivities at which they replied that these days were occasions of fun and recreation. At this, the Prophet remarked, “the Almighty has fixed two days [of festivity] instead of these for you, which are better than these: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.”

Like the world over, it’s celebrated with much piety, reverence and gaiety in India. People, dressed in their best, enthusiastically go to mosques in the morning for namaz and wishing their friends, relatives and acquaintances “Eid Mubarak”. Some very fine delicacies, mainly sheer Khurma and kebabs whet the appetite of celebrators as also their non- Muslim well wishers, who throng to Muslim households to savour such delicacies.

Eid reaffirms the belief of faithfuls in Five Pillars of Islam that are (1) belief in the Oneness of God (Allah) and the finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (2) Establishment of the 5 daily prayers (3) Concern for and almsgiving to the needy (zakat) (4) Self-purification through fasting in the month of Ramadan and (5) the pilgrimage to Mecca for those who are able. For others, it’s an occasion to celebrate with their Muslim brethren and enjoy the savouries. May Eid bring peace and prosperity to this great nation that’s currently reeling under sizzling summers and unprecedented pre monsoon drought.

Eid Mubarak to all my readers.

Teachings of Prabhupada

Yesterday, got an opportunity to hear a sermon on the fear grappling us and the ways and means to become fearless by overcoming fear. The speaker was one of the distinguished gurus of ISKCON order and he quoted extensively from the text of Bhagvad as also life of ISKCON founder A C Bhaktivedanta, more popularly known as Sri Prabhupada.

According to the speaker, three main causes of fear are:

(1) Lamentation of the past,

(2) Hankering for the present,

(3) Uncertainty of the future.

He dwelt upon on each one of the above that sounded very familiar to our day to day experience. He explains that we keep on regretting about the missed opportunities and bitter experiences of the past that determine our reaction to the present and future. Our present is distorted by hankering for the things that we don’t possess, while uncertainty of the future (mainly death) keeps us stressed, unhappy, anxious and fearful.

There were some interesting takeaways, including anecdotal, from the Guru’s sermon, a few of which I list out below:

(1) According to a survey, one of the biggest fears the people have is fear of flying, in spite of report after report declaring flying to be the safest mode of travel! This is followed by the fear of losing job, the third major fear being death ( many attendees guessed death to be the biggest fear, but the Guru explained, because death is an unpredictable future ever, people do not recognise it in their day to day existence)!

(2) 99% of the fears either never materialise or are lamentations of our past experiences. Only 1% fears are likely to come true!

(3) On-board an internal flight in US, Sri Prabhupad’s aircraft ran into worst kind of turbulence; while all the passengers were screaming and shouting, getting totally psyched by the fear of death, his mercy sat peacefully chanting the mahamantra ” Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare”. Once the plane was out of turbulence zone, passengers started celebrating with wine and beer, while Prabhupada continued with his chanting!

(4) Sugreeva was mightily scared of his powerful brother Bali and lived the life fearfully, till Lord Ramas special messenger Hanuman introduced him to the Lord. How Lord saved him from Bali is a well known story!

(5) Bodily pursuits of eating, sleeping, mating and defending, gap between expectations and reality and time factor are the factors leading to fear and anxiety .

It was an interesting talk that lasted a little more than an hour and a half but it could be summed up in very simple terms – the panacea for all the evils including the fearfulness is the chanting of the above quoted mahamantra. I think the reason for popularity of the order of ISKCON is it’s simplicity of preaching celebration through dancing and chanting of the mahamantra that liberates humans from all miseries:

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare!!!

Heat and Dust

The above title immediately brings to mind Ivory Merchant movie of the same name released in 1983 that starred our very own dashing Shashi Kapoor with Julie Christie. The movie was based on Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s novel. While it had a complex romantic interludes with two plots running parallel, the title of the novel actually represented the climatic conditions of Indian hinterland – hot and dusty.

It’s been not very long, because I distinctly remember my childhood as also early adulthood, when heat and dust was very evident in cities, leave apart the hinterland. I distinctly recall my school summer vacations that were marred by extreme heat, hot winds called “Loo” blowing, dust storms in the evening bringing some relief. While going out was impossible as one risked being affected by sunstroke, staying indoor was equally agonising due to frequent power cuts. Nights were also muggy and much of the relief would come post midnight, before the morning sun heated up the things again. Bathing would be restricted to maximum a bucket, though on dry days with no supply, even that was a luxury.

We all talk about global warming, with average surface temperatures increasing by 1 to 1.5 degree Celsius. Each year, summers, though getting shorter, are creating new record of high maximum temperatures. Yesterday mercury touched 50 degrees in Churu, hitherto only West Asian deserts of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi experiencing such highs.

But if you ask me, where is the heat and where’s the dust? In Mumbai, we enjoy uninterrupted power supply with virtually zero cuts. Our economic affluence has enabled us to invest in ACs and coolers. So, our houses are air conditioned and so are our offices, cars and malls! I have rarely seen a dust storm afflicting Mumbai, though we do have stormy rainy days uprooting trees. Good societies in Mumbai have running water 24X7 and people can take bath multiple times in a tub or under the shower! If the heat becomes too unbearable, visit to cool environs of Switzerland is eminently affordable.

There’s no heat, no dust, no summers. If you want to experience heat and dust, sit in a time machine and go back to experience the summer of 69 ( not the famous song by Bryan Adams) of Delhi! The tag line of the famous movie , “in everyone’s life there’s a Summer of 42” sounds so romantic, unless you have seen and experience real heat and dust!

We are not experiencing summers, in spite of global warming, though we are definitely contributing to global warming through excessive use of electricity, potable water and AC!