Chalk and cheese

Fine nuances are not unique to any language though world’s favourite language, English, is replete with such instances. Of course, there are so many words and their different usages that it may require one to do years of research to dig deeper. However, to put across the point on the subtleties of English language and it’s very fine nuances, I composed some sentences using similar sounding but differently spelled words.

(1) He gave his assent in a language laden with heavy accent that made me ascent to a different level.

(2) I couldn’t accede to his request to allow him to exceed his limits.

(3) It was great of the chef to grate extra cheese on the pizza to make it tastier.

(4) Descent of a decent person from the pedestal happened due to his dissent with the process.

(5) Don’t expect her to accept your gift blindly except for roses for she loves roses.

(6) It began to affect my health though after effect of medication was even more severe.

As aforesaid, to showcase all such possibilities existing in English language one may have to do extensive research. Thus dilemma is brought out beautifully in the following limerick that says:

Why the two words sound so similar?

That I get flummoxed though they sound familiar;

Why can’t they be different as chalk and cheese?

It will then be so easy to dig one’s teeth!

Self image & Overanalysing

This would have been my third experience of listening to the discourse by His Grace, Ramrupa Prabhuji, Head Priest ISKCON, Juhu. I was unlucky to miss this golden opportunity to enhance my personal value, but ever generous and gracious hosts , Vidhi and Sushil converted my misfortune into boon by sending me full recording of Prabhuji’s superb knowledge session. As always, he started with a beautiful story about a disciple who asked his guru that how come in spite of attending to so many of Guru’s discourses, he had learnt or retained nothing? Guru asked him to go and buy a bottle of liquor; disciple was shocked but he went ahead. Guru then asked him to take a swig repeatedly but ensure that not even a drop went down his throat! Disciple kept on taking swigs and spitting. When the bottle was finished, Guru asked disciple whether he was feeling drunk, which the disciple was not for he had not taken even a drop inside! The same happens when we hear a Guru’s sermon, but imbibe nothing. Prabhuji gave a very humorous connotation of ISKCON, applicable to many – Is Kaan (ISKCON) se suno or is kaan se bahar kar do!

His class or knowledge session covered two themes – (1) Self image and (2) Overanalysing

(1) Self image – Those with low self image need approval of others. This point was beautifully explained by Prabhuji by citing characters from Mahabharata most effectively. It was wonderfully explained that why Dhritarashtra, Gandhari, Duryodhana and Karan had low self image, while Yudhishthira, Arjuna and Krishna had high self image. Prabhuji then explained as to how positivity and self confidence led to the high self image. As he quoted Vyas Dev’s quote in Sanskrit from Harivansh Puran, aptly explained in English:

If you want to avoid fight, stay quiet.

If you want to escape fear, remain awake in self realisation

If you want to avoid hunger and thirst work hard

If you want to get rid of all sins, chant Hare Krishna.

Difference between love and attachment is that love empowers you, attachment weakens you.

Those who came in contact with Prabhupada experienced love. “If you’re happy, I will be pleased,” Prabhupada told when his disciples asked him what they needed to appease him.

Attachment shapes one’s self image and mirrors desires to seek approval from others. Love shapes one’s self image and mirrors extreme self confidence and empowers one.

To sum up, unconditional love for people around us without seeking any return enhances one’s self image and listening to good thoughts by holy men or in the company of a Guru one attains this objective.

(2) Overanalysing

When Rama was told by Kaikeyi to go to forest for 14 years, Rama took it in his stride and he just smiled ready to obey. He didn’t overanalyse and accepted her diktat as a non negotiable reality.

When Arjuna went to Swarga to meet Indira, he saw Urvashi! Urvashi misconstrued Arjuna’s state to be his interest in her, though Arjuna was staring in wonder how the wife of his ancestor still looked so young ? As he viewed Urvashi as his mother-like, he rejected her offer to enjoy. On being rejected, she cursed him to become eunuch. He accepted curse of Urvashi as gift of life. He neither overanalysed Urvashi’s offer nor her curse.

4 ways to deal with people:

Apathy I don’t care

Sympathy I feel for you I don’t do anything

Empathy I feel for you share your suffering

Compassion- I see you see, your suffering and want to help

When we act with compassion, we act from our heart and avoid overanalysing.

I take it as a great blessing that time and again our neighbours and hosts provide the residents of our complex with this unique opportunity to hear Prabhuji’s pearls of wisdom that have so much relevance in our day to day lives. I exhort all the residents to benefit from these sessions the way I am reaping.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

We shall overcome

Chandrayan 2 is not a failed mission, but a moment of glory for a proud nation. Only triers succeed and our great scientists will make ISRO’s space quest a great success, the nation has no doubt. Overwhelmed by this entire episode, I have composed a few lines in the honour of this great effort. It’s called “Chandamama door nahin” (Moon is not far):

CHANDAMAMA DOOR NAHIN

When Armstrong landed on the moon,

India was still struggling to fulfil basic needs;

While the countries of the world improved their GDPs,

Reaching for the moon was still distant indeed.

But India’s aim was unambiguous and clear,

The basis needs were not to be forgotten;

Not at that cost of technological advancement,

But come what may, moon was to be begotten.

And Bhabhas , Kalams , Kasturis & Sivans the sharp minds,

Put their best foot forward with whatever they got;

Indigenously developed rocket technology to put satellites,

And they aspired to reach the moon one day, who thought?

And then that day came in all it’s glory,

From SHAR station Chandrayan took off to go there;

Not only to reach moon, where mankind had already reached,

But to the Lunar South Pole, no one had been to where!

Finally the journey commenced on July 22nd,

Days of hard work by scientists bearing fruit;

And Chandrayan cruised to the nation’s pride,

Crossings all its milestones as per schedule.

A nation in anticipation of a great event,

Was ready to go rapturous in celebration;

But the sudden loss of communication,

Changed elation into grief for the nation!

But why cry Sivan and company,

India is destined to go places;

Nation will always stand with its brilliant minds,

Chandrayan 3 will bring smile on our faces.

Salute to all the scientists led by K Sivan! Jai Hind

Influence without affluence

Heard a very moving story of our own great Sindhutai, rightfully known as “Mother of Orphans”. She was born in a village of Maharashtra in a poor peasant family. Instead of sending her to school, her parents asked her to take out buffaloes for grazing. At the age of 8, she was married off to a 30 years old man and by the time she turned 19, she was already a mother of 3, pregnant with the 4th. That’s when she raised her voice again a village strongman exploiting poors. This rattled him, leading him to Sindhu’s husband. He told him about his wife’s loose character that she was sleeping with many men around and that child in her womb was not her husband’s but the strongman’s. He advised the husband to kill such a characterless woman. Her husband beat her mercilessly , including kicking her stomach and thinking her to be dead, dragged her to the cowshed to concoct a story of her having been trampled by cows, buffaloes and oxen ! An unconscious Sindhu was protected by a cow, who stood over her to save her from being trampled. Sindhutai miraculously gave birth to a girl there and cut her umbilical cord using a piece of rock. Totally broken and with an infant in her lap, she started her journey of epic struggle. Totally distraught, she decided to commit suicide by lying on the railway track with her infant. That’s when she heard a cry from a totally disabled person in great distress. Taking it as a call from Lord Krishna, the supreme Godhead, she got up, helped the old disabled person and started taking care of him along with her baby by asking for alms. She realised that Lord Krishna had some higher purpose in life for her. That’s when out of the alms she collected, she started taking care of orphans and urchins. As it is said, rest is history, with Sindhutai earning the sobriquet of “Mother of orphans”.

The story doesn’t end here but has a twist! One day she saw an old, haggard, sick and almost disabled person at her doorstep asking for her help. With difficulty, she could recognise the man to be her husband. Being magnanimous and large hearted, she agreed to admit her husband into her orphanage, but as her son and not husband. Today she introduces him as her eldest son. Of course, a large number of her orphan children are today professionals and highly paid individuals, including her daughter born in the cowshed who is a Medical Doctor.

While Sindhutai’s story is now well known, hearing it from Swami Radhanath, the inspiration behind ISKCON’s free midday meal for 1.2 million school kids across India, and instrumental in founding the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai, the story brought about a very different perspective of Lord’s wish and life’s higher purpose. His use of the phrase ” Influence without affluence” that so aptly applies to Sindhutai’s struggle and work clearly establishes superiority of compassion and purpose over money.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

Move aside Shakespeare Shashi Tharoor is here!

Earlier, the standard of excellence was Shakespearean English. However, the old bard is no longer a role model idolised by the connoisseurs of English language as he seems to have yielded way to our very own Shashi Tharoor and Tharoorian English seems to have replaced Shakespearean English.

The ideation for this blog came from a WhatsApp post forwarded by a friend of mine that beautifully describes a very humble food item, soup, in a highly embellished English that reads:

“Glutinous admixture of herbaceous viands, succulent meats and pulverised legumes daintily stewed over a benignly blazing flame.”

Whether the above is actually said by Shashi or not is a matter of conjecture, but what is almost certain is the presence of all the above in his vocabulary.

Much before Tharoor’s ornamental English caught fancy of the folks, I used to get enamoured by extremely artistic description of food items in the menus by elitist restaurants. A few examples that I readily recall are:

“Dumplings of farm bred tender chicken marinated in the choicest herbs and spices and then cooked in simmering heat in hand churned buttery sauce with fragrant ingredients.” – Butter chicken

“Organically grown okra in the green farms and cherry picked by our Master Chef and cooked in virgin oil with most luxuriating spices and tender slices of shallots and green chillies.”- Humble bhindi.

“Tender aubergine filled with most aromatic spices through a fine slit and curated for hours before shallow fried in a pan on slow fire to capture all its taste and essence”. – Poor brinjal or bengan.

It’s said that language has the power of creating magic from ordinary situations – ordinary stuff such as bhindi, bengan and chicken! While credit has to go to writers like Shakespeare, PG Wodehouse and now Shashi Tharoor to bring to the fore finer nuances of embellished language to commoners, this, though more evident in English, is not unique to it. Another language that has the capability of creating magic out ordinary is Urdu. It’s nazakat or finesse is such that it can connect you to the God almighty through most earthy things ! In a beautiful Urdu punjabi humour by ever dependable Anwar Masood that captures conversation between a gentleman and his cook, humble bhindi is beautifully described as “long and slim, fresh and crisp and stuffed with goat’s mince” making it a real royal dish in the imagination of the listener/ reader! Long live the power of language and linguists unveiling this power!

Happy Teacher’s Day

On this day i.e. 5th September of the year 1888 was born a great philosopher and statesman, who went on to become the second President of India, Bharat Ratna Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. Having taught philosophy in Madras Presidency College, Universities of Mysore and Kolkata and University of Oxford, he was appointed Haskell lecturer in comparative religion at the University of Chicago. His philosophy was grounded in Advaita Vedanta and he influenced worldwide understanding of Hinduism. He believed that “teachers should be the best minds in the country”. It’s for all these inherent strengths of his character that we have been celebrating his birthday as Teacher’s Day since 1962, the year he assumed the office of President of India.

In our school, Teacher’s Day meant a day of rest and introspection for teachers. Senior students used to double up as teachers and teach junior classes. Other activities such as debates and dramatics also used to be a feature of Teacher’s Day celebrations.

Today, when westernised way of thinking and life dominates our day to day existence and Google knows it all, the importance of Teachers is becoming understated. In any case a Teacher is more of a source of information on subject matters rather than a messenger of worldly wisdom that earlier stood by an individual during the thick and thin of his or her life. But I am firmly of the opinion that if we aim to produce next generation of law abiding, cultured, tolerant and achieving youngsters, the institution of school and teachers teaching therein must be strengthened and projected and not understated. Teachers will have to assume the mantle of Guru to get back that respect from pupils and status in the society. A guru goes beyond the subject knowledge to inculcate virtues of truthfulness, honesty, respectfulness etc to produce a pupil who is not only subject matter expert but a life expert!

Teacher’s Day, which is different from Guru Purnima, has its origin in Dr Radhakrishnan’s birthday and importance bestowed by him on education and teachers whereas Guru Purnima has its origin in our shastras and is part of our culture and tradition. Now that we don’t have Gurus of yore, the onus is on modern day teachers to take on the mantle and help producing next generation of top class citizenry that takes our nation to newer heights!

I bow as mark of respect to all my teachers who contributed to making ma what I am today! This blog is dedicated to all the teachers of this world! Happy Teacher’s Day!

Afterlife

This blog is not about the mystical afterlife – near death experience (NDE), journey to heaven or any such thing that we are all always eager to know about! This is inspired by an article about how one is put on a high pedestal posthumously and all the terrible flaws and vices one is panned about in his or her lifetime are all forgotten after one’s death. As they say, epitaph and obituary contain lies and more lies and nothing but lies! The article very deftly captures how the shortcomings of a person suddenly become his strengths once he ceases to exist physically on this earth!

Nasty disposition becomes no nonsense attitude refusing to be taken for granted, overindulgence in food and liquor responsible for person’s heart ailment and liver cirrhosis become epicurean and connoisseur of good things in life and the evilness of scandal mongering becomes the quality of need to connect with society. It’s not all. One’s reservedness becomes choosiness about the company the dead man kept and miserliness becomes rare type of generosity making those rarest occasions very precious. Lastly, he won’t be missed becomes forever present in our hearts!

And though death is a permanent parting of company, this eulogisation is actually true in all sorts of parting. Once while bidding adieu to a colleague who had superannuated, people paid glowing tributes. This person in his farewell address very uncannily mentioned ” I am sure this is a gathering of most brilliant, virtuous and honest people, but I am yet to come across an occasion when the whole set of such distinguished people are all speaking lies at the same time!”

As another view goes, death being synonymous with end of a person, it’s an occasion of great relief and joy for the people to have gotten permanent ridden from a pest! No wonder it entices the best of oratory filled with most fervent passions for it’s said that obituaries are generally the finest speeches!