It’s not vacation time!

Came across an interesting take on Covid in social media. Titled Corona Holidays, it goes beyond social distancing, wearing mask and washing hands frequently. It talks about making use of the break provided by Corona virus.

As the article goes, it exhorts readers to use this opportunity for something gainful other than eating junk food and watching television. Amongst the activities, the article lists reading a book, learning a new skill – be it as quaint as learning to cook a dish – and exercising the body. However, what makes the write up very unique is it’s suggestion to adopt daily office routine even if one is working from home. One should get up at the same time as he or she used to during office going days! After finishing daily chores, one should dress up properly as if one is going to office. It warns readers against wearing shabby lazy clothes throughout the day – shots, vest, nighty et al. In fact the article suggests that men should shave regularly and women should focus on personal upkeep.

The above is an entirely new take on Corona holidays. It’s a force majeure but we should not go into an inertia and take to lazy and unhealthy way of life. I have myself experienced change in mood and in fact, performance efficiency when I have treated work from home at par with work from office in respect of start time, breaks, end time and proper dressing. This lends the required seriousness to the office chore that it deserves.

We, the white collar types, who have our jobs and salaries protected, opportunity to work from the comforts of our luxurious homes, wherewithal to stay indoors without any problem and without having to worry about daily grocery and provisions, should thank almighty for this. Covid pandemic has rendered millions jobless and penniless, facing severe challenges in meeting their day to day essential requirements. Who knows when will factories resume normal functioning, infra sites resume developmental work, daily wage earners start getting labour contracts and other menial jobs will be available again? We the privileged ones, instead of treating this break as a holiday, should treat it as an opportunity for self introspection, improvement and improvisation so as to emerge better human beings.

Corona pandemic is not a vacation,

Rather it’s an opportunity for self introspection;

Eating and sleeping are not the only aims,

Learning something new can change the game;

Millions are hungry and without proper work,

Let’s help such needy and not shirk;

In adversity communities should unite,

If we look other way, our conscience will bite;

Let’s do something for ourselves and our brethren in need;

Because we are Indians, known world over for our noble deed!

Death is the most powerful

He announced his ailment in May last year. Came to Mumbai in June for treatment. In 3 months time it was concluded that the strain was incurable. We were advised to try out alternative medicines. We took him to Bhilwara for Ayurvedic treatment that claimed cancer cure by following a regimen. He went back to follow the regimen. When the pain became unbearable, he returned in December. Various treatments were tried that gave him relief albeit temporarily. He was stuck here for 7 months due to Covid lockdown. Doctors advised us to take first flight home as soon as flights resumed. He went back in July and breathed his last this morning after losing battle to the dreaded cancer.

He was God’s man. Was he religious? No I don’t think so! Did he visit temples and Gurudwaras? Again the answer is no! Did he observe festivals and rituals associated with them? The answer is a firm no! Did he pray? Not that I know of, unless he was saying his prayers silently! Then how could be God’s very own man. Because he was selfless, gentle, honest to the core, unpretentious, out of any rat race for chasing materialistic goals and never said a bad word about anyone – not even for his worst enemies, which he had none! He lost more money than he earned in spite of working very hard, yet he had no rancour for his business partners who short changed him!

It was his first visit to our residence for which we had to wait for more than 32 years into our married life and that too under the most unfortunate circumstances. He was shuttling between hospitals and doctors yet we had good days to enjoy life. As he summed up most innocently – “ I might have come to Mumbai for treatment of a terminal ailment, yet I have had the time of my life.”

All forms of treatment, all sorts of prayers and mantras, magic potions and miracle cures prove ineffective for the death is all powerful and the ultimate destination and nobody can defeat or delay the destined moment!

A son, brother, father, husband and a friend is gone, but for the family, his memories will linger on for all times to come. So many people prayed for him and wished him well! He was too shy and reticent to convey his thanks for he knew no formalities! I fulfil this unfinished task on his behalf!

Rest in peace Jasmit! In death you have found deliverance from your woes! Gods will throw open the gates of heaven to welcome you because you were such a noble soul!

His last birthday at our place in April 2020

Ganpati Bappa Moriya

I distinctly remember the year. It was 2001 and we were only a couple of months old in Mumbai trying to come to terms with life in the city that was known the world over for the speed at which it moved. 7.45 morning bus to Andheri station to catch 8.15 am local so as to reach Churchgate by 9 am and my office at Cuffe Parade by 9.30 am. Ditto routine on the way back.

And then it was time for Ganesh Chaturthi. Our neighbour suggested that we should go to Juhu beach to see immersion of 1 and a half day idols. It was an exhilarating experience, something never seen before! Hordes of people chanting “Ganpati Bappa Moriya “ totally saturated in the love of their favourite elephant God who, after being their guest for 1.5 days, was going back to his mother’s lap but in the process taking all the woes of his devotees and blessing them with yearlong happiness!

I and my wife were totally flabbergasted with this experience and decided from the following year we would also bring home Lord Ganesha as our guest, celebrate his stay at our place and then immerse him in the sea.

And indeed we fulfilled our dream, a tradition that we have been consistently observing non stop for last 18 years or so. Bringing the lord home, preparing special food ( Prasadam), inviting our friends and neighbours for darshan and Prasad and seeing him off next day is a celebration that we eagerly wait for each year.

This year, however, my wife is nursing her brother, a terminal stage cancer patient living his last days and is not in Mumbai. However, she doesn’t want this tradition to break and I will be doing all the aforesaid celebratory rituals albeit on a smaller scale ( actually all by myself, sharing Prasad with security and other helping staff of our building)!

Life’s realities are unpredictable. We are thankful that we got an opportunity to celebrate this traditional festival for so many years non-stop, shall be doing so this year albeit mutedly.

While personal problems and grievances are part of one’s life, let’s collectively pray to Bappa to take this coronavirus with him so that the entire mankind can relive this beautiful world full of lord’s largesse blessings. We may not be able to meet Lalbagcha Raja, who is giving his audience a miss after 84 years or go pandal hopping or celebrate the festival with traditional gaiety and fervour with our friends and relatives like always, hopefully this Ganesh festival will end our woes and the next year’s festival will be back with all its traditional glory!

Ganpati Bappa Moriya!

Uncompilable list

Came across this beautiful piece, reproduced below in Hindi on as is basis ,on what we earlier used to call a “housewife” but like everything we now address with a slightly more respectable name – “homemaker”.

In the current Covid times, social media is replete with the new trend of working from home and how this new normal is dragging menfolk into daily household chores – cleaning, doing dishes, cooking and managing children. Needless to say most of these are in lighter vein and homemaker, if anything, has only become harder pressed with the office goer making his home his office and expecting all the office comforts at his home office.

I don’t believe in gender bias and in fact, so many women are also working from home and in fact balancing their professional and personal responsibilities far better. However, the fact remains that we have all grown up in society that’s predominantly patriarchal and though all of us would have come across strong characters in our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, wives, daughters etc, admittedly such cases are fewer and the scenario is largely that of lady as the homemaker and man as the bread winner. Many working women of super talent are also expected to sacrifice full time job to shoulder familial responsibilities.

Times have changed and several of the younger couples have based their relationships on the underlying principle of equality and are sharing all domestic responsibilities including raising children by being equal partners. However, the reality for larger percentage of families is still a lady being the homemaker. While I personally respect the role of a homemaker as I find it tough full time and exhausting, we can definitely make it more beautiful by acknowledging the effort and underlying sacrifice. I came across this prosaic cum poetic piece in social media and it touched the strings of my heart immediately forcing me to ponder over the sacrifice and selfless efforts by my mother, grandmother and wife, which we all tend to take for granted. The piece reads-

कभी बनाना लिस्ट…क्या क्या बनाया है बीवी ने…

वो कहती है बनाने में घण्टों लगते है…
और खाने में पल भर …

कभी कुछ बड़े जतन से बनाती है…
सुबह से तैयारी करके…
कभी कुछ धुप में सुखा के…
तो कभी कुछ पानी में भिगो के…
कभी मसालेदार..
तो कभी गुड़ सी मीठी…
सारे स्वाद समेट लेती हैं …
आलू के पराठों में, या गाजर के हलवे में, ऊपर बारीक कटे धनिये के पत्तो में, या पीस कर डाले गए इलाइची के दानों में…
सारे स्वाद समेट देती हैं एक छोटी सी थाली में…
न जाने कहाँ कहाँ से लाती है…
ना जाने कितना कुछ तो होता है …
कभी लिस्ट बनाना …
बीवी ने जो कुछ भी.. कभी भी बनाया है…
तुम बना नही पाओगे…

हमें भी बस खाना ही दिखता है…
पर नही दिखती…
किचन की गर्मी,

उसका पसीना,

हाथ में गरम तेल के छींटे,

कटने के निशान,

कमर का दर्द,

पैरो में सूजन,

सफ़ेद होते बाल..

कभी नहीं दिखते…,,

कभी तो ध्यान से देखो ना,,उस की छोटी से रसोई में… कोई दिखेगा तुम्हे ,,

जो बदल गया है इतने सालो में… दांत हिले होंगे कुछ….
बाल झड़ गए होंगे कुछ…
झुर्रियां आयी होंगी कुछ तुम्हारे मकान को घर बनाने में,,,,,
चश्मा लगाए, हाथ में अपनी करछी, बेलन लिए जुटी होगी…
आज भी वही कर रही है.. जो कर रही है वो पिछले पच्चीस तीस सालों से, और तुम्हे देखते ही पूछेगी
“क्या चाहिए?”…

कभी देखना उसके मन के कुछ अनकहे ज़ज़्बात, दबी हुई इच्छाएं,,
जो दिखती नही..

क्योंकि जो दिखती नही, उन्हें देखना और भी ज़्यादा ज़रूरी होता है…

जब रसोई से दो बिस्किट या रस हाथ में लेकर निकलता हूँ,, कभी उसकी गैर मौजूदगी में…

तब उसकी बात सोचने पे मज़बूर कर देती है… क्योंकि उसने सिर्फ खाना ही नहीं बनाया है इतने सालो में…
तुम्हें भी बनाया है…
खुद को मिटा के…
और याद है न…
बनाने में घण्टों लगते है..ख़तम एक बार में हो जाता है …पूरा घर बनाया है…
दिन रात मेहनत करके…
कभी बनाना लिस्ट और क्या क्या बनाया है बीवी ने…

लिस्ट बन नहीं पाएगी
कोशिश करना ..
कभी बन नहीं पाएगी🙏

I agree that all the work by homemaker is unlisted, unacknowledged, unpaid and thankless. Let’s all take a moment out of our busy schedules to pay our heartfelt gratitude to these daily warriors.

We bow in obeisance Pandit Jasraj

Just came to know that the doyen of classical Hindustani music Pt Jasraj is no more. He breathed his last at US and died of cardiac arrest.

He belonged to mewati gharana and had an illustrious lineage. His father Pt Motiram was a doyen himself as were his elder brothers Pt Maniram and Pt Pratap Narayan.

Pt Jasraj had a charm around him, the way Pt Ravi Shankar had that attracted music lovers towards him, who would listen to his performances spellbound for hours. Though a torch bearer of his gharana, he was not a stickler for being a purist and experimented a lot in his lifetime. He sang bhajans, semi classical and other forms such as Multani and Sufi with equal aplomb. Highly honoured in his lifetime, Panditji got his Padma Vibhushan in the year 2000. But his greatness was not slave of any honour and his contribution to Hindustani classical music goes much beyond any recognition or honour.

While I have witnessed his performances umpteen number of times on TV and YouTube, I had the rare opportunity of listening to Panditji’s performance live at a musical evening organised at the Kolkata residence of Suresh Neotia, promoter of Ambuja Cement, a diehard music lover himself. I was held spellbound by several greats like Girija Devi and Panditji’s performance was an icing on the cake.

His children Durga Jasraj and Shaarang Dev are music exponents in their own right and his extended musical family includes famous music duo of Jatin Lalit, Sulakshana Pandit, Vijayeta Pandit, Devaki Pandit and late music director Adesh Srivastava.

Panditji leaves behind a rich legacy in the form of his work as also his disciples, including his children and other family members. However, the chasm and vacuum created by his death will be very hard to bridge for talents like Panditji are not born every day.

MSD – the stuff legends are made of

It can be argued whether Dhoni timed his retirement well. There’s never a right time for such things. And these discussions happen irrespective of whenever a player of substance opts for retirement . It happened when Gavaskar, Kapil and Ganguly retired.

Arguably India’s most successful stumper and keeper, what cannot be argued is the fact that he was indeed Mr Cool. A man with nerves of steel, he had the uncanny ability to give his best under the most trying circumstances. And what he and before him Kapil and Ganguly could be credited with is teaching the Indian team the killer instinct that was sadly amiss in the earlier years.

The only wicket keeper captain to win all ICC championships in all three formats, he could change his style of playing depending on the circumstances and game format. That’s what gave him longevity in today’s competitive times. 18 years in official cricket is helluva lot of period in today’s times. Credit must be given to his fighting spirit, fitness and hunger for winning.

Social media groups are agog with needless discussion whether he was greatest ever. Such discussions happen and feelings experienced every time a legend calls it a day – it happened when Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Kapil, Dravid, VVS called it a day.

While wicket keepers and stumpers play an important part in a team – they keep wickets as also uplift the morale of the team – in India, spinners have always played an important role. Whether it was Vinu Mankad or trio of Bedi, Prasanna and Chandra or Dilip Doshi, Maninder, Shivlal Yadav, Hirwani, Kumble, Ashwin et al – role of wicket keeper as a stumper becomes very critical. Therefore, Dhoni and before him Engineer and Kirmani, acquired almost cult status adding that extra edge to art of Indian spin bowling.

Whether it was leading India to World Cup victory or ICC T 20 or as long serving member of CSK – Dhoni’s memories are going to last for long long time to come amongst the cricket lovers of this country.

It’s a bit of an irony that Dhoni decided to hang his boots shortly after his screen portrayer Sushant Singh Rajput chose suicide as an option as a solution for his depression. While there is speculation on his suicide, there’s no speculation on the fact that Sushant immortalised MSD in the film of the same name. How a small time boy from Ranchi went all the way to acquire cult status and become one of the most adorable darlings of cricket fans is the stuff folklores are made of ! Musharraf loved his hair style, few loved his helicopter shot, a few others loved his captain cool image, but no doubt everyone loved the man MSD and will continue to love him as long as the game of cricket is played. In a sense, Dhoni immortalised Sushant the way Sushant immortalised him on the screen ! Playing Dhoni became silver lining in his short career whose long career is the silver lining on the game of cricket in India.

Who will keep his cool in trying times?

Who will hit those sixers ?

Genuine talent like MSD is rare;

In today’s times of fixers!!!

Stay happy MSD in whatever you do in your next innings. Good wishes and love of millions of cricket lovers will always be with you.

Between the two Independence Day’s

Last year Independence Day coincided with Rakshabandhan and there was general joy and gaiety with two important festivals – one national and one traditional – falling on the same day. I remember our society had organised Independence Day celebrations with unfurling of National flag followed by some patriotic music and refreshments.

While celebrating last year’s festivals nobody would have foreseen what kind of difficulty the nation and the world were to face in the days to come. It started with the ordinance of Citizenship amendment being passed as a bill in both Houses of Parliament thereby becoming an act, CAA. It started nation wide protests with a peaceful sit in by women at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi that was to last for months together. Delhi also witnessed its worst communal riots after a long hiatus and these coincided with President Trump’s visit to India. While the things were settling down, we heard about a highly contagious strain of virus having affected Wuhan province in China, which became a worldwide pandemic over the next few months. As I write this blog, India is in severe grip of the pandemic, recording highest number of cases day after day and the overall infection here being third largest in the world after US and Brazil. In these tough times even the Mother Nature didn’t spare her fury and we saw two of the worst cyclones on the East and West coasts of the country. Currently monsoons are causing havoc in several parts of the country, Mumbai itself is experiencing highest rainfall in decades. Ironically, Mumbai is also facing water cut as catchment areas of its lakes are not having sufficient rains to stock water requirement of the city for the entire year between two monsoons. In fact, this is the pattern of rain in most places – either excess rain and floods or drought like situation.

All our festivals just came and went by. Institutions of learning are shut down. Railways and flights are shut. People handling essential services, our Corona warriors, are on the field risking their lives while others are facing problem of a different kind – more psychological – due to extended period of work from home. While we saw several celebrities falling victim to Covid infection, lockdown led to increased cases of depression, domestic disharmony and suicides.

As if all the above was not enough, we saw ugly clashes with China at Galwan valley that saw India losing 20 of its bravehearts, while for Pakistan, it was business as usual with skirmishes on LOC and that country fuelling the fire in Kashmir with false propaganda. Nepal only complicated things further.

In the face of all negatives, the country saw some positives too. Decades old dispute of Ramjanmabhoomi got peacefully settled with both sides respectfully accepting the legal verdict. In the in unlockdown process, the Government and RBI came out with huge financial impetus to facilitate restarting of commercial activity in the country. India managed pandemic better than several advanced countries. The valour of our bravehearts in Galwan has been taken note of by the entire world and while China has been isolated, other enemies have also got strong message of India’s strength. Good monsoons are likely to fill country’s granary. People have imbibed learning from Pandemic to start new style of living.

As a country, we have faced it all and worst – wars with enemies, internal strifes, inflation, natural calamities, hunger and poverty, corruption, crime, and if we could come out of 200 years of oppressive British rule, I have no doubt that the future belongs to us. Whether it’s honge kamyaab, India shining, Aatmanirbhar Bharat or any other slogan to be adopted as per the need of the hour, we should all face current down slide with strength and optimism, contribute to the nation building and join hands together to lead the world. The past is past – the period gone between the last and this 15th August was fait accompli. But the period between this and the next 15th August is future and we can definitely shape our future by being united in our fight against all monsters – enemies, pandemic, economy, communal frenzy, unemployment and hunger.

Happy Independence Day.

Rahat Indori – RIP

Corona continues to give one shock after another, it’s newest victim being famed urdu poet, lyricist, painter and teacher, Rahat Indori. He died yesterday at a hospital in Indore after getting two massive heart attacks. He was admitted to hospital for he was tested Covid positive.

A doctorate in Urdu literature, Rahat taught urdu literature and was interested in pedagogy. He collaborated with famous Bollywood producer and director Vidhu Vinod Chopra to give us some memorable numbers in movies such as Mission Kashmir, Munnabhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munnabhai and Kareeb.

He was one of those fast vanishing breed of poets who did not fear calling spade a spade. He was the lifeline of mushairas and Kavi sammelans and as famous personality Gulzar said in his tribute, “ woh Mushaira loot lete they” literally meaning he was a show stealer. Of course, apart from the quality and depth of his poetry, his stage presence and delivery were equally impressive. His following poem is being remembered all over in social media and press today:

हमारी तरह हथेली पे जान थोड़ी है

हमारे मुंह से जो निकले वही सदाक़त है

हमारे मुंह में तुम्हारी ज़ुबान थोड़ी है

जो आज साहिब-इ-मसनद हैं कल नहीं होंगे

किराएदार हैं जाती मकान थोड़ी है

सभी का खून है शामिल यहाँ की मिट्टी में

किसी के बाप का हिंदुस्तान थोड़ी है.

The above is loosely translatable as:

We are ready to sacrifice our lives and we speak truth and not political language. Governments come and go, but India, built by all the Indians with their sweat and blood is no one’s personal fiefdom.

His satirical take on politicians regaled the audiences at mushairas, especially the following piece:

Nationalism and Indianness were inherent to his personality and while he was equally at ease with almost all the genres, his poetry on patriotism lifted everyone’s morale. He wrote:

बस ये बात हवाओं को बताये रखना,
रौशनी होगी चिरागों को जलाये रखना,
लहू देकर जिसकी हिफाज़त की शहीदों ने,
उस तिरंगे को सदा दिल में बसाये रखना।

He also wrote:

मैं जब मर जाऊं तो मेरी अलग पहचान लिख देना, लहू से मेरी पैशानी पे हिन्दुस्तान लिख देना ।

The country would do well to imbibe his lessons of brotherhood, patriotism, nationalism , truth and honesty that will be the best obituary to one of the finest poets of our times. He will rule the hearts of lovers of Urdu poetry for long time to come. He leaves an indelible mark on the scene of Urdu poetry in this country.

Rest in peace sir!

Krishna Janmashtami

While the flavour of the season is Lord Rama and the entire country is currently soaked in his pious and sacred name, today is Krishna Janmashtami and while Lord Rama is having his moment under the sun thanks to laying of foundation of Ramjanmabhoomi Temple, Lord Krishna cannot be ignored, especially on his birth anniversary day.

Actually, while different parts of the country adore different Gods like Vaishnodevi in North, Ganpati in West, Ma Durga in East and Lord Murugan in South, Rama and Krishna are the two pillars of Hindu faith. I am told that Rama on stand-alone basis or as a prefix or suffix is the most popular name, followed probably by Krishna and his several names. While Namaste or Namaskar is our prescribed form of Greeting, I don’t know how many of us greet each other by saying Ram Ram, Jai Shri Ram or Jai Shri Krishna!

Both are incarnations of Lord Vishnu- Rama in treta yug and Krishna in Dwapar yug. Ram’s lifetime is vividly captured in Valmiki’s Ramayana or Tulsi’s Ramcharitamanas, Krishna’s colourful lifetime is resplendently explained in Mahabharat and Bhagvad. Lord Rama is Maryada Purushottam , an ideal man, who can do no wrong and is obedient, respectful, just, fair, straight and truthful, Krishna’s Leela’s are mystic. At times he appears scheming, trickster, naughty, diehard romantic, split personality et al, but there is a deeper hidden meaning in all his leelas.

There are two final thoughts that I would like to share with my readers on the occasion of Janmashtami. The first being a WhatsApp message that I received, which is very contextual. Corona virus tells Lord Krishna, “ I am a small virus but I have put locks at the gates of all your temples. How can people celebrate your birthday?”. Lord replies, “ You have rendered a great service dear Corona. By putting locks on thousands of temples, you have actually established millions of temples in the households of my millions of devotees.” A very beautiful thought! Second thought is what I read somewhere one of these days, where an author while explaining and comparing lives of Rama and Krishna concludes, “ While I want to be like Lord Rama, I like Lord Krishna.” This beautifully captures the essence of the two pillars. We should imbibe the qualities of the perfect man that’s Ram, but we can’t help loving the life, time and leelas of Lord Krishna. That’s what makes Janmashtami so special.

Hare Ram Hare Ram Ram Ram Hare Hare

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare!

2100 – End and start of century

Just a week back or so, our boss posed an intelligent question to all his teammates – what would be the population of India at the end of this century in 2100? The question took all of us by surprise and it started a spate of guesses? From 175 crore to 250, there was not a number that was not conjectured. Most of us couldn’t believe when the actual answer was shared by the questioner ! The answer was it would be lesser than what it was today!

While people googled to find the rationale and logic, today’s Times of India actually has details of study conducted by Lancet. According to the study, India’s population after peaking at 160 crore in 2048 will start shrinking, ending at 109 crore by the end of the century in 2100. China will peak much sooner in 2024 and its population will be 73 crore in 2100. This phenomenon will be repeated for most of the countries resulting in “ jaw dropping” decline in population.

The study further observed that female productivity at 2.1 barely replenishes population and any fall below this leads to decline. Increased life expectancy cannot make up for decline on account of lower female productivity. By 2100, productivity of Indian women is expected to decline to 1.29.

The study further predicts tremendous adverse consequences of declining young working population and corresponding increase in older population above 60 that will be burden on the states.

Isn’t it a big irony and dilemma that today countries are fighting to control the population explosion fearing shortage of food, residences, resources and above all potable water? In future, when population starts declining after reaching the peak, such a scenario will pose challenge of a different kind, as explained above.

Population explosion is a challenge,

Countries are working to control it;

Very soon population will start declining,

Have patience and just wait and watch it.

Lower population will also be challenge,

With fewer youngsters and more oldsters;

What can man do other than to look skywards

For where will he dump these oldsters?

It seems human life is nothing,

But a never ending saga of struggle and problems by tens and hundred;

The man strove to survive in Stone Age ,

And he will face a different challenge on twenty one hundred .

Just to conclude, let’s plead to the divine power that we need no pandemics like Corona to reduce our numbers; as it is we will be considerably reduced by 2100 , but continue to look up to divinity for different reasons.