International Yoga Day

In comparison to other designated days that we celebrate, international Yoga Day is relatively very new. Indian PM Modi in his UN address suggested 21st June, the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere, be celebrated as a day to promote Yoga, meditation and their benefit on the lifestyle and UN General Assembly on 21st June 2015 adopted resolution declaring the day as as International Yoga Day.

Benefits of this ancient Indian art are by now well established and there are living examples of exponents of Yoga having conquered their ailments ranging from obesity to cancer. However, the credit must go Yoga teachers such as BKS Iyengar to the more recent Baba Ramdev for making Yoga popular. And a mention must be made of our PM Modi, himself an avid Yoga practitioner, for getting Yoga International stature and repute.

However, I distinctly remember that the first seeds to popularise Yoga were sown by Doordarshan through its weekly telecast of programme on Yoga by Dhirendra Brahmachari. The age defying high profile Guru had several celebrities amongst his disciples, including former PM Mrs Indira Gandhi. He got caught into controversy during emergency and died an unceremonious death in a plane crash, but his contribution can neither be ignored nor forgotten.

While the World is actively taking to Yoga for its health and emotional benefits, we in India are preferring western practices of using gymnasium equipment and drinking protein shakes. Some of the screen idols having enviable bodies are also supposedly using steroids. Let’s resolve on this international Yoga day that we must take 10-15 minutes out of our busy schedules to do simple yogic exercises every morning to lead a happy and healthy life.

Pakistan is conquered but World Cup is yet to be won

In modern day mind games take a precedence over field games. This is especially true for a high profile game between arch rivals India and Pakistan like the recent World Cup round robin fixture between the two sides.

Notwithstanding India’s enviable 7-0 record against Pakistan in World Cup, given the unpredictable brilliance of Pakistani side (the other day only they defeated the strongest contender for the cup and the host country England), the game created euphoria amongst the people of two nations. There were war cries on social media, sarcastic pre match videos (remember spoof on Abhinandan by Pakistan and Abbu thing by India) and all round predictions and speculations that gave a larger than life aura to the game. It’s another thing that the game ultimately proved to be a damp squib with Pakistan surrendering rather meekly to a fitter and more clinical India, making it 8-0. However, the noise refused to die days after the match, with Pakistani cricketers coming under fire from their own supporters and angry exchange of barbs between Pakistani starlet Veena Malik and our very own, Sania Mirza, Shoaib Malik’s wife. The tournament is still in its early stages and clarity on final 4 qualifiers still some distant away; let India and Pakistan don’t start behaving like having won or lost the World Cup but focus on the remaining games.

The trigger for this blog came from beautiful piece by Pakistani journalist Jawed Naqvi that originally appeared in Pakistan’s popular daily Dawn but has been republished by Asian Age in arrangement with Dawn. It talks about Pakistan’s tour of 1960 when Fazal Mahmood and Nari Contractor led Pakistan and India respectively. The tour that dated much closer to one of the bitterest partitions, was played in much better atmosphere and much lesser rancour with each team displaying respect for the rival. The article further deals with the controversy around night out by the players on the eve of the match (the other great Sarfaraz, fast bowler Sarfaraz Nawaz picked up 3 Indian wickets the next day after partying up to late hours the previous night), Indian actress Reena Roy being fondly addressed as Bhabhiji by Pakistani supporters, her husband Mohsin Khan being Jijaji for Indians that was way different from today’s Sania Shoaib relationship, insights out of radio commentary by commentators of the stature of Melville D’Mello that was far more interesting than TV commentary of today etc, which makes it a very interesting read. The writer in the end laments that the joy and bonhomie that was visible earlier was totally missing at Old Trafford.

While passion for the game is a direct function of our interest in Cricket and our reaction to Pak- India fixture probably gets compounded by the ground realities between our two countries, we must appreciate the position of players and pressure on them to perform and at the end should treat game like a game and nothing more! Let’s focus on Virat and his brave hearts lifting the cup rather than entering into rancour filled exchange of barbs with Pakistanis on Twitter!

Divorce – A good riddance or a life long trauma?

Asunder we never shall be,”

Promised Dean to his bride-to-be Bree.

At the altar his vow

Reassured her, but now

They’re divorced via legal decree.

Indian family histories are replete with stories of unhappy marriages. Marriages fixed by parents often led to a union of two totally incompatible individuals who lived in total disharmony thereafter. The objective of marriage, it seemed, was mainly to make babies, settle them and expect them to take care of the parents in old age.

However, with education and awareness, the partners, especially the female, are increasingly choosing to walk out of an unhappy and unfulfilling marriage with or without children. I have come across several cases where females have opted to bid adieu to mental or physical trauma or both and rewrite their destinies. Not all of them have succeeded in re-settling snugly in comfortable homes, but they have definitely been feeling more confident with self respect returning to them.

But it’s high time that we change our mentality, stop treating marriage as a sanctimonious ritual, a union between two unequal and a life time commitment and instead encourage new educated couples to enter into prenuptial contract that equally protects the interests of both the partners in the event of marriage not working out on expected lines.

In the instances mentioned above, all the ladies have suffered post walking out of their inconsiderate and inhuman husbands. They were simple home makers who had to fight for the custody of the kids, start their careers late in their lives against heavy odds, bring up children single handedly, without any financial support and fight prolonged legal battle for an honourable separation. On the other hand, men remarried (in a hurry; they were already in a relationship with their prospective brides), fought tooth and nail for custody (though they had no love for their children or they wouldn’t have abandoned their families), avoided alimony by feigning poverty through fake testimonials and had general gay abandon while the wives underwent trauma.

In the course of writing this blog, I thought it better to give two caveats- unhappiness or incompatibility is not unique to arranged marriages but happens as much in love marriages too and many a times separation is initiated by wives also, though at that juncture they do not expect total apathy from their husbands! But this is the reality that irrespective of whichever party initiates divorce for whatever reason, usually the lady suffers and hence the searing need for prenuptial agreement. If the registration of marriage has been made mandatory, prenuptial agreement should also be made a compulsory requirement so that ladies have a choice of peaceful and comfortable existence post divorce instead of lifelong suffering.

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!