Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Visit To The House of God

The sun beams from behind the huge structure of the temple gate.Shadows play in and out of the intricate ornations adorning it.Gods and goddesses look down,stirred from their divine slumber,upon mortals walking in and out of the temple .everyone is all pious and perfectly righteous as they wander in, in search of redemption.They are all promised just that,regardless of gender,caste or faith.But not everyone goes in,some like me linger on outside.Confused on whether they ought to go in or stay on,about where their loyalties lie.As usual,my eyes wander to search for the worst part of such a holy place.There are beggars sitting outside the gates,waiting for some good soul to come out and offer somthing to them.I order a cup of tea from the tea vendor,who seems scarcely bothered that he is sitting right outside the house of the most powerful non-human on earth.I watch as the days proceedings begin.

There are scores of beggars that are lying outside that place.They are in all sizs and types.Lepers,blind,handicapped and lame.Some really pitiable and others faking it.Little do they care or know that behind those gates lies an omniscient being that knows everything.They raise voices,hark out to anyone who would hear.They call out to them in his name,invoking his blessings on those who are generous enough.Of course,there is no doubting the generosity of humans in such places.They are so generous some would drop everything in their pockets,but at what exchange.I am a cynic,yes,but it seems to be thoroughly illogical to me that you come out of the presence of the omnipresent,omnipotent and all pervading spirit;having paid your obeisance to him and asked his favor and yet go on to ask the poor soul outside to invoke blessings for you in return for his morsel of food.But,not all things that hppen in this world are thorougly logical.Or else could someone explain to me how George Bush gets elected to the White house a second time.

The beggars are obviously not the most popular people around the temple.No poor soul likes being hankered after coming from a peaceful meeting.I'd rather they prefer the peace and quiet of himesh's songs.The priests are always on the alert from beggars.They never like competition.Understandably,as the common man's budget doesn't seem to fit an offering to both priests and beggars on the same day.Which is why they are always wary of these creatures.But working in the house of god always comes with certain 'Terms and Conditions Applied'.That is being good,kind,righteous et al.so the government steps in.Sometimes an irate havaldar would shoo off these guys ,and go on to be......err... for some offerings from fellow shopkeepers.All this while,a poor all powerful being watches jis creations display the full prowess of their mighty intellect.

As I was watching,the shopkeeper on the premises of the temple got terribly irritated with a few beggars.After a small argument,the head priest joined in and soon a crowd gathered.The beggars were left with no choice but to vacate their job for the day.As they left the shore,one-by-one, the last man stayed on for a while.He was a old blindman.After a while,he got to his feet,joined his hands and bowed the final time before the almighty(who i think was having his afternoon siesta)and decided to retire for the day.

As he walked away from the great house,he sang in his unique and rankling voice a song,that i had heard many times before.I do not know the entire song to heart,but the last couplet i heard stayed on in my ears.They were

" Anaathanchya Naatha Hari, Asa Dayavant
Vitthalachya Paayi veet,zhaali bhagyavant"

It roughly translates to this
"THe great god of the orphans (Hari) is so kind and munificent
that even the brick beneath his feet is liberated/ and hence is lucky"

The blind man saw the irony in the song.And the great god did too.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A Journey To The Deep Side Of my Heart

I settle down into my seat and turn over to the page of the book where i last stopped reading.the train slowly jerks into motion as I slip from a real to a virtually real world.A few minutes later,two tiny hands scratch at my knees.I do not look up,just nod negatedly and continue reading.They are stubborn business men.They tug at my elbow.I look up annoyedly.Two hungry,sleepless eyes stare back deploringly at me.And suddenly i am captivated.It is not always a very pleasant experience to look into someones eyes and feel what they feel.Not if it is hunger,pain and poverty.My hand hypnotically moves to a pocket and rummages for change.It comes out with a two rupee coin.I drop it into the expecting hands,and watch them gleefully pocket it.

I look around and find that she is not alone.Her two younger brothers trail along behind her,shyly and bashful.Together the sum of their ages might add up to 12 years,if i am right.I watch as she goes along to the next passenger and does what she does for a daily job.MY neighbour looks at me and says "You shouldn't give them money.Their parents force them to beg if the earn more."I look back at him.He looks like a mediocrely rich comfortable guy sitting in the train snacking on a Parle G.And the voices of my friends run through my head.I always was a sucker for emotion and passion.They always cursed me for thinking from my heart.I wondered if i could do that.Would that 'beggar girl' do that? Could she just think about herself? Could she do what she aims,or earn back a lost age of innocence and joy that might forever continue to haunt her?I wonder if my friends know that.I wonder if she cares,unlike them,that the sensex has just recovered from a bad day.does she know that Sanjay Dutt has been released on bail? Would it matter to her if the Indo-US nuke deal got through?I guess not.But she would rejoice in it ,that i am sure of.

She gets down at the next station.I follow my neighbour out to my destination platform.HE sits down on a bench and throws his remaining crumbs of biscuits down.Soon a few strays gather round and begin snifing him.He looks embarrassingly at me," I love dogs".I nod hesitatingly.The trio has just taken their position at the invisible side of the bookstall.The eldest sister ,puts her hand inside her torn dress and lifts out what looks like a wasted chapati.She unbiasedly divides it into three and distributes it to her younger siblings.The youngest one splits his share and offers it to a mother bitch and her pups that have taken guard near him.The boy hangs on playfully to the bitch's ears,while the pups gather round him.An irritated tug sends the boy cartwheeling backwards.He gets up,shakes his head and turns his eyes at me.soon,they gleam with a mischievious smile.

What world is this,i think? I am reminded of the Amitav Ghosh's words in 'The Hungry Tide': "What kind of people are these that are willing to sacrifice us for the sake of animals?Where do they live?Do they have families,children?Do they know what is being done in their name?It is as though the entire world has turned into an animal and our fault,the only one,is that we are still human".And i know i have fallen into one more of my rambles.

MY eyes shut into the darkness.And i hear a smile.A gentle,innocent smile that keeps growing till it is a laugh and does not stop.The laugh grows in tempo,baritone and manner and soon it has a derision to it.IT becomes the kind of laughter you laugh when your friend gets slapped by his GF.It keeps gaining momentum.And becomes a mad,evil cackle.One that keeps ringing in your ears,that advertise a jealousy,hatred and mockery at the hypocritic world that i live in.And then it stops.As abruptly as it began.The alarm goes off somewhere,and my mom nudges me to wakefulness.The next day has begun,and will soon end.Soon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Freedom To Be - Aazadi Dil Ki

ON the night of our 61st year of independence,i sit in an enclosed room with the screen inches away from my face and wonder what is the hype all about.It is just another year.Well,at least for me.I am one of those guys who attended independence day anniversaries in school only b'coz of the chocolates.The best part was the teachers always thought that i was a fair kid and would distribute the things correctly,when i always ended up pocketing some of the packets.I never valued ideals much.For me the thought of people shedding their lives for their children to survive was a silly thought.Now,as i think back upon those years of innocence and carefree courage,i am thankful somebody did that.

I wasn't born anywhere near the troublesome days of India's history.Life has been very easy for me.I have never known hunger,strife or fear.My parents have struggled to keep my thankless soul well-fed,without letting me know what they were going through.So the idea of a freedom bought at the price of struggle is unknown to me.Freedom means a different thing to every person.To Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi it meant a non-british government.To Bhagat Singh it meant a secular socialist state.To you it might mean a Harley Davidson,tank filled and 25000 $ in cash.To someone else it might mean life,to me it might mean death.Though we all speak of it in a different manner,one thing is sure.We all need it.We love it like we love to live.

Freedom is a necessary essential a human being requires to be human.We were lucky enough to be born with it.Some still have to work it out,in order to achieve it.Men have shed blood ,lost lives ,fought their brothers to achieve it.All of us want it.But what do we do when we get it?The westerners often thought that a nation like ours,with its varied geographical,cultural,linguistic diversity would fall as soon as they leave us.And yeah,we didn't get freedom free.It was like those contracts with the greatest details hidden in a miniscule "Conditions Applied" in the end.We had riots,arson,poverty,famine.The british would have patted themselves for leaving this god forsaken country.But like the stubborn weed,that refuses to die after being denied nutrition we survived.We were lucky we had intelligent people at the helm,who refused to give up.Who were careful enough to put every single possible law into writing.Nehru was respected,Gandhi worshipped but there were a lot more unsung heroes who worked tirelessly to script the survival of this country post independence.As our nation now realises maturity in world politics,those people would smile from dusted shelves at their success.

Sure we have had riots.We have no dynamic infrastructure change since '47.We have lacked in developing literacy,reach to our most interior parts.But we have succeeded in protecting the most important gift that was given to us - FREEDOM.What is freedom?I searched for this answer for a long time today.I,like or unlike the most of you,have had a very comfortable childhood.I knoww not hunger,poverty or even pain.So how would i know what the value of freedom is?I learnt it in the most unconventional manner.

I met my friend at the railway station.I took his newspaper,opened it and found that the shiv sena had thrashed another weekly.I scoffed at the irony of the act being committed on the occassion of independence.He swore that these( i won't use the right words,i like my life too dearly)were people who interpreted independence the wrong way.Then it struck me.Freedom is not free-dom.It is liberty to do what you love.It does not necessarily mean that you can go and thrash any stupid nincompoop that you hate,but it allows you an opinion.NO matter who you are,what your sin is;regardless of caste,creed,gender and status your opinion is valued.That is freedom.To be able to express without fear,hesitation,or even remorse.To be respected as a human,valued as one and treated as one,for me that is freedom.

People have stayed on in this country not because we are the best place in the world with the cheapest cost of living,but because we have given them that power of freedom.The power to be right and the liberty to be wrong.And we will never give up this power for any other thing.And that is how our nation was formed.To put it in the words of a famous poet

" To be sowed,cared for,and shaped,
Generation after generation,until
It stays in our hands,in our eyes
And it is us and ours. "