Friday, 30 May 2014

When a Movie is Not Just a Movie

Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers
A few weeks ago I watched a movie called "The Monuments Men". Doesn't the title itself sounds interesting? To me it did. Well, to my husband actually who picked it up from the DVD store. He saw the cover, saw George Clooney on it and he knew I would enjoy it no matter what. And he was right. I enjoyed the film, and not just because of George Clooney (did I say that the film is also directed by him, so a two-in-one kind of treat if you are a real fan), not because it is a great film or anything, but for some other reasons which I will share in a minute. I enjoyed the film even though at times the plot seemed a bit chaotic with too many characters in too many different locations....but then there's always the George Clooney factor. Really. That takes care of many things, at least for me. And if that's not enough, how about throwing in the mix Matt Damon too. Can it get any better than that?

Of course it can. 

If you start going a bit deep into what the movie is telling you.

You might have guessed by now that this is not a review of the film. Those you can read on the net, if you have heard of something called Google. A few reviews that I read after watching the film (I generally avoid reading anything about a film if I am planning to watch it) were a mixed bag, some pointing out the historical inaccuracies in the film's plot (the film claims to be based on true events), some referring to other flaws in the film narrative, the lack of character development etc. But all that is too technical for my specific purpose here.

What I found most interesting in the film was the idea behind the story. The idea that while the whole world was burning under the massive flames of the inferno called Second World War, there was a small but very important concern taking hold of some minds that the War was destroying not only millions of human lives and thousands of cities and towns, but was also posing a great danger to the innumerable pieces of art, architecture and sculpture, one of the greatest accomplishments of any civilization.

Saving art and sculpture in the middle of a gruesome, most horrible war? Can any piece of art be worth more than a human life? Can a group of dedicated art-enthusiasts really save some precious art without concern for their safety? Should they have taken that risk? The film brings out some of these questions. And I, for one, thought that it was worth reflecting on those questions because they challenge us to think about the conflict that often arises between saving the life of human beings and the life of humanity. They challenge us to reflect upon the fact that a culture, a civilization is a living, breathing thing, which must be protected and aggressively defended, even in the middle of a war.
“The culture of a people may be roughly described as the expression of a consciousness of life which formulates itself in three aspects. There is a side of thought, of ideal, of upward will and the soul’s aspiration; there is a side of creative self-expression and appreciative aesthesis, intelligence and imagination; and there is a side of practical and outward formulation.” 
 ~Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Volume 20, p. 106 

The film’s premise and especially the true historical events which inspired the film really provoke the audience to reflect upon the value and necessity of all possible efforts that must be made to preserve and conserve the highest accomplishments and achievements of a culture’s creative self-expression and aesthetic imagination. It compels the audience to dig deep into the need for an aggressive defense of a culture and its highest accomplishments against all barbarism, whether it is an invasion from the outside or a parasite from within. It certainly made me recall this line: 
“The culture which gives up its living separateness, the civilisation which neglects an active self-defence will be swallowed up and the nation which lived by it will lose its soul and perish” (ibid., p. 57).
That is what the art-enthusiasts in the film were trying to do. They were trying to protect and defend that which made their culture living and unique, they were ready to sacrifice their lives to protect and defend the finest accomplishments of their civilization which were under grave danger. An idea like this in itself makes the film worthwhile in my subjective view.


But then there were two other things that made the film even more interesting for me. And these were not in any way part of the film’s story-line or narrative.

One was this thought at the back of my mind which at times even made me feel a little disconnected from the film. As I was watching this wonderful example of how some of the best art and sculpture produced by centuries and centuries of Western civilization was being so courageously protected and defended, I couldn't help feeling a tinge of pain when my thought went to the cruel historical reality that it was the same Western civilization which was behind the massive destruction of so many wonderful human accomplishments – be it in art, sculpture, systems of education, ways of life, languages, religions, – in so many parts of the world.

So many indigenous cultures and civilizations all over the world have had to face the destructive might of the West, in the name of imperialism, colonialism, settlement, civilizing mission, (and now economic globalization). What about all that?  -- a part of my mind kept raising this question. But the other part very much understood that the film was not about that, the story was set in a very particular historical moment, and that’s what it is concerned with.  And yet….

The second thing, which was again not part of the film’s plot or narrative, which made the experience more thought-provoking for me, is related to the first but is particularly relevant to India. A part of my mind wandered to the most violent and brutal destruction that had been unleashed on India’s finest sculptural and architectural marvels. The ruins of India’s glorious heritage and civilization are scattered all over her landscape for anyone to see. Thousands of broken stones and beheaded statues in thousands of Indian temples and cave-monasteries built thousands of years ago speak the story of the massive destruction they had once gone through at the hands of invaders and looters.

Kailash cave-temple, Ellora, photo by Suhas Mehra

They also speak the sad story of how even today India is not fully awakened to the need of protecting and defending this great heritage, these great accomplishments of her culture and civilization. The threat this time is not from the outside invaders, but from the in-house ignorance, apathy, indifference, neglect, and total disregard. The threat this time is not so much from the bullets and machine guns, but more from the home-grown weapons of mass delusion that are launched incessantly by the aggressive marketers of the glories of commercial-consumerist-mechanical-materialistic view of life(style).

Well, you would have never thought that a write-up on a film can be this long, especially when it doesn't even claim to be a review of the film. Let me conclude by saying that while the film as a film may not be that great (yes, despite George Clooney and Matt Damon), it certainly compels the audience (at least it compelled me) to reflect upon a few very important questions about the significance of art and all other highest aesthetic accomplishments in a civilization’s evolutionary march.

The film forces us to ask ourselves if we are doing enough to defend and protect those achievements of our past which have given our culture and civilization a unique stamp. It raises the question whether the future of a civilization depends on the extent to which the present generations can preserve and protect the finest splendours that have been handed over to them from the generations past.


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Designing Mom

A new post in the series - When a Picture Leads
(The difference this time is that the picture is given as a writing prompt by Write Tribe - a wonderful resource supporting writers, bloggers, and wanna-be writers)


One look at the “girl’s room” of the ‘model-home’ in the residential complex where they would soon relocate, and her 10-year-old instantaneously pronounced – “Not even for a second think about doing my room like this.” 

She smiled and felt relieved. Her aesthetic sensibility and preference for simple design had passed on to her daughter. 

“What if she'd wanted some ‘artificial’ décor, like that ‘beach-ey’ poster on the wall in this concrete jungle? Would the designer-in-me agree?” She shook her head as if to not even entertain the thought and walked out, knowing exactly what their ‘real’ home would look like. 



Source: Image 1, Image 2 mine


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To read previous posts in the series "When a Picture Leads" click here.


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Written for Write Tribe 100 words on Saturday Prompt - using prepositions in, on, at, and the picture of the pink bedroom above.


Sunday, 25 May 2014

If Only I Could Go Back

A new post in the series - Things of Beauty

“Things in which we do not take joy are either a burden upon our minds to be got rid of at any cost; or they are useful, and therefore in temporary and partial relation to us, becoming burdensome when their utility is lost; or they are like wandering vagabonds, loitering for a moment on the outskirts of our recognition, and then passing on. A thing is only completely our own when it is a thing of joy to us.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Those big, heavy wooden doors with big hinges and a heavy chain-style clasp to shut them close. The dark hallway leading to the staircase made of some heavy stone, with no handrail but only the thick wall to hold on to as you slowly climb the high steps. Closer to the first floor the darkness begins to thin out, and you see another big heavy wooden door that is almost always open, inviting you into the large open veranda of the main house. 

This is no ordinary veranda or courtyard. This is a multi-purpose room where all the household activity takes place. The part that is open to sky serves as the outdoor living room with two charpoys arranged in an L-shape covered with phulkari-embroidered thick bedcovers, a couple of old rugged wooden stools that serve as perfect tables for all your meals, snacks, games etc., some rustic looking low chowkis that serve as extra seating and also as perfect footstools, and  a few of those round rattan moodahs that every Indian knows. 

On the right side of the living room is a thick stone bench carved into the low wall itself. On one side of the bench, which gets better sun, rest some potted plants, including a couple of Tulsi plants. The other side of the bench is left vacant, to be used for sitting if necessary, but mostly occupied by various things such as those off-white and dull-brown pickle jars and other food items kept out for sun-drying and processing. The bench curves naturally with the wall and leads to the far corner where is found a flower-print cotton curtain hiding the washing area and further down a dark bathroom and a dressing area.

Behind the living room part of the veranda is another staircase that goes up to the roof terrace, which is the preferred sleeping room most of the year around, except when it rains. But lets stay here on the first floor.

Directly opposite from the open-to-sky living room and on the far end of the veranda which is protected from the elements by a ceiling  is the heart of the home, its open kitchen. Thick wood shelves built into the back wall at different heights give a symmetrical look to the kitchen, and hold nicely polished brass vessels and utensils, beautiful in their yellow sheen and soft patina. There are a few new-looking stainless steel utensils too but they seem a bit out of place. On one side of the kitchen are kept two iron stands each holding up a big brass matka for storing water. On the other side is an old cupboard where all the pulses, grains, spices and other food items are stored. In the center is where all the cooking action takes place. In one corner are stacked a couple of low wooden chowkis to sit on while the cooking is being done on a low stove kept on the floor. Everything is spic and span, nicely arranged, sparse and yet rich in its simple beauty. 

In between the living room and the kitchen area are two doors on each side of the wall, opening into two rooms. 

On the right is the formal sitting room, with a diwan against the back wall, covered with another phulkari-embroidered cover and some matching bolsters. In the center of the room are two or three old-style reclining chairs and a couple of side tables. This room also has some in-built shelves displaying a couple of brass flower vases, some old books, some old photographs, prizes won by the children, and other memorabilia of a family life. 

On the left is a very large room - same size as this open veranda - where are stored some charpoys, several trunks full of family members' clothes, bedding, and many such household articles found in any home. There is also a small, nicely decked up puja area occupying two in-built shelves on the long wall of the room. 

This is how I remember my nani's house in Punjab. It was a magical place. Like all nani's houses are. I remember finding so many treasures there - material, emotional and psychological. And I haven't even described the dark store-room on the ground floor near the heavy big staircase, which used to be our favourite place to play hide and seek and to find all kinds of treasures like old glass beads and what not. Or that dried up well in the back of the house. But you get the picture, right! Magical place for any child.

But why do I remember it today, after so many years? 

Because of this picture.




This old-looking pitcher in its simplicity and solidity reminds me today of those well-used and scrubbed kitchen utensils in my nani's house. Especially the large tumblers and pitchers she had for storing and serving warm milk or cold lassi (chai was not very popular in Punjab in those days, or at least not in my nani's house).

She had to leave all those things behind, because the house had to be sold off in a hurry when the state of Punjab was going through a dark period of separatist terrorism. My grandfather had died by that time and my grandmother came to live with us. She never had a chance to go back to that house. Just a few things made the journey with her to her new home with us.

Sometimes she would reminisce about all the things she had to leave behind in her home, she would tell stories about where and how she acquired those big brass matkas for storing water, those big round thalis for serving meals, the shallow bowls and large tumblers, all those objects which make up the memory of a woman, a wife, a mother.

She used to speak of how she had to leave behind most of her good stuff in Pakistan at the time of Partition of India, including some of the things that had been gifted to her by her parents at the time of her wedding. She used to recount how she and my grandfather had to face some very harsh times in the new town, the Indian side of Punjab where they had migrated, and how they struggled to save pennies to buy some of the basic essentials for their new home and kitchen. I used to enjoy listening to those stories and reminiscences, and picturing those objects from my own memories of spending most of my summer holidays there. It was a simple but meaningful walk down the memory lane, for her.

And for me. Over the last several years, somehow I have taken on the role of the keeper and care-taker of many of the old objects that have been in the family from my grandparents' times. I have found a home for most of these things in my home, including several old utensils made of brass, copper, and other metals. I use them for various purposes around the house, as vases, urlis, and also to hold pens, candles, post-it-notes and all sorts of things.

Looking at the picture above makes me feel how I would have loved to own some of the heavy brass tumblers and pitchers that my nani once owned. Oh, they would have been so perfect for arranging flowers.

If only I could go back in time by some trick of magic, I would love to bring back some of those objects of beauty, some of those simple kitchen utensils that are not merely kitchen utensils. Some of those pieces of history - not just my history or my grandmother's history, but history of a time when each object meant something to its owner.

It meant something because it was acquired with a deep mindfulness. It was purposefully utilized, carefully cared for and consciously passed on from generation to generation. It wasn't just one more thing among thousands of useless things found in most modern homes. It was one of the few possessions people had in those times when life was not about possessions. It was one of the few things people proudly displayed on their shelves when life was not about display or exhibition. Even a simple household object, a simple kitchen utensil took on a different meaning.

If only I could experience that kind of magical simplicity in life. If only I could go back and bring back at least that one pitcher from my nani's house. And maybe a big brass matka too.


Certainly, peace, purity and silence can be felt in all material things
- for the Divine Self is there in all. (Sri Aurobindo)
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To see previous posts in this series, click here.

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This post has been selected as a WOW post for Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda, written for the prompt Magic. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Solitude

Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers





She wished she knew that Life isn’t 
          What others say
          Or what her head or heart say it is,
          But Life simply is.

She wished she knew that Love isn’t 
What others say
          Or what her head or heart say it is,
          But Love simply is.

She wished she knew that Life and Love
Are not ‘out’ there but blossom ‘in’ here.
That only in a deep inner solitude 
Love becomes Life, and Life Love. 

She wished she knew then what she knew now.
          She would have loved, lived, and lived love.
          But she will, now.
In solitude. In Love.



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This 100-word meditation is inspired by one of my favourite passages from Amrita Pritam's voluminous writings. I find her juxtaposition of companionship and solitude so enticing and so true. I can try translating it for non-Hindi-knowing readers, but that would take away the beauty of her words. Instead it maybe better to share a somewhat similar thought from an American writer, bell hooks. 


Not exactly the same thought, but still close. Perhaps different cultural perspectives. One speaks of solitude in love that is necessary for the sake of solitude itself, the other for the sake of becoming better at loving. Same difference? Let the reader ponder.


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Linking this post to Write Tribe 100 words on Saturday prompt - She wished she knew then what she knew now.

Also linking this to ABC Wednesday, S: S is for Solitude

Sunday, 18 May 2014

His Excellency, Stop - No Eating Here!




Wondering about the title of this post: "His Excellency, Stop - No Eating Here!"?

This message was conveyed by none other than the great Santoor Maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma at a special concert held in Pondicherry in March 2014. And this message was conveyed to none other than the Lieutenant-Governor of Pondicherry who had just a few minutes ago officially launched a book: "Shiv Kumar Sharma: The Man and His Music." Well, Panditji didn't exactly say those words, but you will know soon what he said. Let me start at the beginning.




This is how it happened. 

The special concert was organized by a group of music-lovers in collaboration with the Department of Tourism, Pondicherry to celebrate the centenary of coming of the Mother to Pondicherry. [The Mother, spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo, first came to India hundred years ago, reaching Pondicherry on 29th March, 1914]. The concert was held at the JIPMER auditorium, and special guests included the Honourable Lt. Governor of Pondicherry and several other high officials from Department of Tourism, Pondicherry.

After the initial ceremonies of lighting the lamp, honouring the special guests and the artists, and the book launch were over, and just before the concert was about to begin, an almost-unbelievable thing happened. This was a through and through Indian classical music concert. No light music programme, no fusion, no popular music, mind you. So naturally a certain dignity and a certain decorum was expected from the audiences. 

The musicians were all on the stage, ready to begin. Panditji was introducing his fellow performers and giving a brief introduction about Indian classical music when all of a sudden entered from a side entrance to the hall a neatly dressed young man with a large tray of eatables and tea. These were meant to be served to the 'dignitaries,' the VVIPs sitting in the front row of the auditorium. After all, it was part of the much-touted Indian hospitality, you see! The organizers must have felt compelled to serve some snacks and tea to the 'esteemed' guests from the Government. Of course, what they didn't realize was that they had no idea of what Indian hospitality really is. 

Indian hospitality is first and foremost about recognizing what is the proper way to do things. And it is about recognizing what is the absolutely wrong way to do things. Serving or eating food and drinks at an Indian classical music concert was absolutely the wrong thing to do. But I am not saying this. The legend himself, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma said so, and rightly said so. In plain words. This programme was not just any musical programme. It was, like any Indian classical music performance, an outer expression of an inner sadhana of the musicians for whom music is not entertainment but a means to connect with the Divine. Divine in them and Divine in everything. Panditji expressed his strong displeasure (but in a polite way) at this misguided and wrong gesture made by the organizers and explained to the audience why it was so. 

He spoke for a few minutes about the sacredness of all music, but especially the Indian classical music which has been acknowledged from times immemorial as a means to grow in spiritual sadhana, and used in that way both by musicians as well as the serious listeners. He said that while it is a common practice to eat and drink when enjoying popular music performances, and noted that this has become the worldwide trend now with music clubs everywhere, in Indian classical music concerts such a thing is completely intolerable. 

The musicians invoke the Divine Presence through their music, the stage is their temple, the audience are the gods for whom they perform, the audience on their part try to become one with the music and go inward...in all this sacred work going on where is the room for any interference like that of snacking? Panditji explained further. He said that Indian classical music is no ordinary music, it has come from the depths of the souls of seekers, the heights of the spiritual ecstasy realized by the rishis. And for him and many other Indian musicians, music has always been first and foremost about an inner seeking, a spiritual quest, a means to get in touch with that touch of divinity within. 

Obviously while this beautiful explanation was being given by the Maestro, the server slipped away quietly with his tray though he was for a couple of minutes confused about what to do, how to retreat. But I am sure this was an embarrassing moment both for the organizers as well as the VVIPs who would have probably picked up their plates had Panditji not spoken up. I do hope however that more than an embarrassing moment, this was taken as a real learning moment both by the 'esteemed' guests and their 'hosts'. 

Panditji got a huge applause for saying all that he did. For the wonderful lesson he gave everyone on the Indian classical music and the sacredness of the whole experience - of performing and listening, for the musician and the audience. 

As mesmerizing and deeply meditative as the whole music performance was at this concert, this little bit of extra added so much to the whole experience. It really did. 

"The role of music lies in helping the consciousness uplift itself towards the spiritual heights." 


It is perhaps most appropriate to end this post with this....





Photo credits: 1: Suhas Mehra, 2: Painting by Pieter Weltevrede


For the previous post in this series, click here.
For all the posts in this series, click here.


Friday, 16 May 2014

Telling It Like It Is

A revised version of this post was re-published in at Newsinsight.net
Click here to read the article



Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers
Bharat Mata by Abanindranath Tagore


Some things are easier to write. What I am feeling today for my country is however not easy to describe. So while I thought this would be an easy post to write, it turns out it isn't.

I am happy that the vast majority of Indians have chosen for a stable government; a mish-mash of too many sideline players forging a coalition government might have been a disaster at this point in India's journey. We need a strong, firm, stable government that can deliver good governance and a strong sense of hope for the future. We need a leader who could stand up against the harshest tests of time. And nobody can deny that if there has been one person in India who has withstood the harshest and severest and sleaziest of scrutiny and investigations it is the person who will be India's next Prime Minister. The sheer strength of character it takes to rise against all that calumny and hate-attack speaks something about the person.

What he is able to deliver, only time will tell. But I want to fervently hope that a new future is now shining upon the country. And I, for one, would hope that Indian polity is ready to give this person and what he believes he can accomplish, a fair chance. He has said in many interviews that it is not a time for divisiveness and fragmentation but for unity and healing, not a time for revenge but for sincere work. I hope and pray that he lives up to his words. For my Mother India I hope that he does.

I am not the kind of person to get easily impressed by anyone, and certainly not by a politician of all the people. I had my own biases and doubts about him, my own prejudices maybe. But in the last several years I have also read and understood much about how the so-called intelligentsia-media nexus works in our country, how the agendas of some intellectuals and media houses are controlled by forces outside India. I have read diversity of views and made my own conclusions.

I have come to an understanding of how words like secularism, communalism, liberalism, fascism, anti-this, pro-that, etc have become useless and empty rhetoric and nothing more than that, at least in the context of Indian democratic process. I have learned that so much of rot and filth stays nicely concealed under these high-sounding jargon. I have learned how people in professions like journalism and academia can be easily bought and sold. I have learned that the same people begin to sing different tunes in public when the power shifts.

I have learned that as long as the media and media-walas are driven by money and ratings they will never give the complete and objective picture. I have learned that money talks loudly in Indian intellectual circles too. I have learned how universities' agendas are determined by politics and money power, not by a true quest for knowledge and truth.

I have learned that unless I learn deeply about the Indian spirit, what makes India unique and different, I will never be able to understand Indian politics or anything else Indian for that matter. I have learned that only a person who truly loves this country can effectively lead this country. This person can belong to any party, doesn't matter. As long as the person is in touch with the spirit of this country, he or she will be able to give hope to the billions of Indians. But if this person is driven by a narrow agenda, a selfish motive, a desire for absolute power, a chauvinistic attitude toward one community and a disregard for the great diversity that makes India India, there is no hope.

I have learned that unless we Indians – no matter which religion we belong to – learn about what is true secularism, and how is it deeply embedded in the Indian spirit itself, we may have no hope to permanently rise above the narrow, fear-based, vote-bank politics that has been going on in this country since Independence. I have learned that unless we learn that what India needs is not an imported understanding of the term secularism but one that is rooted in the Indian spirit of sarva dharma sambhava or sarva pantha sambhava, we will be stuck in the totally irrelevant secularism vs communalism debate going on for decades, something that has only created more divisions than ever before. Same goes for concepts like feminism, liberalism, socialism, etc. But for now I am not going into all that.

For now I am hoping and praying that the new change that has been ushered into the country, driven by the hopes of a billion plus people, almost one fifth of humanity, does turn out to be a positive change for India’s future march. For now I am hoping and praying that my fellow Indians continue to un-burden themselves of the several false notions that have been thrust upon them since independence – either through mass media or carefully orchestrated propaganda.

Some of these false notions to be abandoned are: a) ruler giveth and the ruled taketh; b) government is the mai-baap and the governed are helpless poor living on the doles thrown by the mai-baap; c) pro-this automatically means anti-that; d) pro-development automatically means anti-environment; e) pro-industry automatically means anti-agriculture; f) only a certain type of ‘educated elite’ can lead this country; g) an exception to f) would be those who have mastered the art of vote-bank politics in the name of religion or caste, because they don’t need to be English-medium elite types, given their mastery in other kind of politics their vernacular origin is an advantage; h) if you are not part of the chosen 'educated elite' as described in f) or if you don't belong in the exception as described in g) then you must be fanatic, communal, divisive, polarizing or something like that; i) only the 'elite' or so-called 'liberal' media knows what is right for the masses and vast masses of this diverse country are all hypnotized fanatics not knowing what is right for them; j) there are many more such false notions, but for now I have said enough.

For now I keep hearing in my mind the words I posted as Facebook status earlier in the day -
"...the future is mightier than the past and evolution proceeds relentlessly in its course trampling to pieces all that it no longer needs." (Sri Aurobindo)  

Vande Mataram!

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This post is linked to Write Tribe Wednesday Prompt - Freewrite. The post does not use 10 filler words as per the given prompt. A freewrite is essentially a process of free-flow writing, that comes without much interference of external or consciously formulated thought.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Remains of the Moment




Quietly they came and took him away. 

What remains are the moments, moments before and after. The images, the words spoken and unspoken, that's all that remains. That's everything. Yet nothing but words.

Does it only feel like or was it really yesterday? 

She can no longer hide herself from the truth, she has to let go. Let go of the moment, the pain and the agonizing helplessness, for the new life breathing within. 

This moment is all there is. That's everything. Yet nothing but words. The truth is in remembering that nothing remains but the remains of the moment.


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Linking this post with Write Tribe 100 words on Saturday prompt: She realized she could no longer hide the truth. (I have taken the liberty of slightly re-interpreting the prompt).

Linking this post with ABC Wednesday, R: R is for Remains

Photo by Suhas Mehra



Monday, 12 May 2014

A Family Teatime Tradition

Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers



A little behind-the-scene look (I am really beginning to like this sort of thing):
This is one of those writings that I wasn't not really planning on doing, but somehow it happened. When I first came to know of an ongoing prompt at Write Tribe about using 6 body part idioms, I was quite sure that this was not my cup of tea. I couldn't see myself using an idiom-filled expression, that is just not me I thought. But somehow a few days later came this little idea from somewhere which somehow didn't mind expressing itself through an idiom-filled language. And there you have it…

I feel like I am back in my English class in middle school, but it is fun being back there. I enjoyed my English classes :)




The two often didn't see eye to eye on many things.

Most of the mornings during their teatime on the veranda…

…she would tell her that real world of business was not what was taught in the management schools. One has to learn by experience how the game is played, learn the rules of the game, and then also learn how and when to break the rules. This, she would say, was the only way to keep moving up.

…she would tell her about those hard times when she got a real kick in the teeth, and that too from colleagues she thought were on her side.

...she would tell her about an important lesson she had learned in her 20+ years in the world of big business - one must always walk with an ear glued to the ground so as not to be caught unaware.

…she would tell her that sometimes the best thing to do in some pesky situations at workplace was simply to do nothing or drag one’s feet at the most.

…she would tell her to protect her self-interest at all cost and not get involved in things like personality clashes and inter-personal conflicts, because while the clever ones get away unharmed it is generally the more idealistic ones who end up with egg on their face in such situations.

She knew her words often went unheard. Deep in her heart she didn't mind being ignored. But still she had to speak of those things...


And today her daughter was forced to resign from her job after just a few months, because she wouldn't let go of her idealism. “Like father, like daughter,” she mumbled as she kept her phone down and got ready for her next meeting. As a senior vice president in the same company, she couldn't let a silly thing like idealism come in the way of her upcoming promotion. Even if it was her daughter’s idealism.

That night when she reached home after 11 and saw her 23-year-old daughter sleeping soundly as if nothing is wrong with the world, she had a gut feeling that all would be well with her child. She closed gently the half-open book 'Management by Consciousness' resting on her daughter's quilt, kept it on the bedside table and switched off the light. And she smiled at her dead husband’s picture in her room, mumbled “like father, like daughter” and picked up her laptop for a video-call to the US.

She and he too could not see eye to eye on many things, her mind wandered to those morning teatime conversations with her husband as she waited for others to join the call.



“The pragmatic intellect is only sure of a thing when it finds it realised in Power; therefore it has a certain contempt for the ideal, for the vision, because it drives always at execution and material realisation. But Power is not the only term of the Godhead; Knowledge is the elder sister of Power…” 
~ Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Volume 13, p. 112

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Saturday, 10 May 2014

That Fragrant Beauty



Smiling through the frame is an endearing and charming beauty, just like those fresh fragrant lilacs which always spread delight and joy.

Smiling through the frame are clear and twinkling eyes, just like those tiny semi-open blossoms that will soon open and reveal their full glory to the world.

Smiling through the frame is a loving and delicate face, just like that unadorned, freshly painted surface against which everything and anything looks more beautiful.

Smiling through the frame is an experienced and wise personality, just like the fragrance of the lilacs that fills up the whole space around it and yet remains invisible.

Smiling through the frame is she; gone today six months ago, but very much visible because her fragrance fills me up the mom-ent I think of her.





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Lilacs are given the spiritual significance "Distinction: Of a refined beauty, sufficient to itself." 

Image credits: 12 (The Dark Hedges, Ireland)



http://forum.blogadda.com/discussion/329/wow-this-ones-for-momThis post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAddawritten for Mother's Day special prompta five-sentence piece with the word Mom in the text). 






Thursday, 8 May 2014

In a Quandary about Blogging Awards: A Personal Take




This is a post that was not easy for me to write. For various reasons. For the last several days I have been really thinking hard on whether to write this post or to simply let it be. Yes, I have been in something of a quandary. Let me explain.

I begin with the picture above.

Today, this picture speaks to me of much that has been bestowed upon me in the last several days/weeks in my a-little-more-than-a-year-old blogging life. So many good wishes, so much goodwill, so much appreciation and yes, several nominations for blogging awards. All that has lit up and made my blogging experience joyful, much like this beautiful chandelier in its very natural, organic and earthy beauty.

Today, this picture also speaks to me of a very specific feeling. Feeling of hanging in the air. That's where the quandary business comes in. You see, I am deeply, deeply thankful to all the bloggers who have nominated me for the awards (I will list them at the end of post), and truly acknowledge the honour they have given me through these nominations. And yet at the same time, if I want to stay true to the purpose, my purpose for which I started this blog I must humbly decline the awards. Hence the quandary, and hence the difficulty in writing this post. And hence the feeling of sort of hanging in the air.

This may need a bit more explanation.

This blog, for me, is a work that I do purely for the joy of writing and becoming better at it. It is inspired by my love and devotion for the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, and I constantly try that everything that I write here is in some way connected to, influenced by, or is touched by my admittedly limited understanding of their highly profound Vision for Life, Learning, Love, Beauty, Knowledge, Individual, Society, Nation, Future, World, Humanity, Divine, Everything. I don't and will never claim to know much of their infinitely wide, deep and high philosophy and wisdom. Their published works alone comprise 54 volumes, some comprising of more than thousand pages each, and each one of them filled with profound truths and thoughts. I am only a lover of their works, and especially those words that help me un-learn and then possibly re-learn a few things about some aspects of life and knowing that are important to me at this point in my journey. These are the ones that either have a connection with my personal life, my inclination, temperament, nature (as I am beginning to understand it), or have a bearing on the few specific areas that have shaped my intellectual journey in my educational and academic career. That is my entry point into the Vast Ocean of Wisdom of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. I have merely tasted a few drops so far, but that has been enough to convince me that each drop carries an endless ocean within itself.

And this blog is merely one small way to help me make a deeper sense of the little that I am beginning to understand of all that I have been reading and reflecting upon in the last several years. As someone who has spent most of her life in the world of learning and teaching, researching and writing, I have learnt one thing about myself. That is, that when I express or communicate something to another in writing, a real or an imaginary reader/listener, I know better, I learn better, I think better. That's how this blog came to be. So that I would keep up a regular habit of writing and articulating more clearly - first to myself - what I am learning, reflecting, thinking, understanding. [And this is also the reason why I feel I need to write this post - to know better for myself why I write this blog, and why I want to continue to write this blog.]

Even though this blog is inspired by the Eternal Words of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, I have tried my best to not make this blog into a mere compilation of their words and wisdom that have touched me. Rather my attempt has been to express my understanding of those words and wisdom as applicable to the Life and World "out there" or/and "in here." It is the constant interplay of the outer and inner lives that we live, the outer and inner worlds that we inhabit that has been my primary motif in almost all of the writing I have been sharing on this blog. For many of the posts on this blog, the connection between my inspiration, as felt by me in the words and thought and vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and what actually appears as written text here may not be fully obvious to the reader. But to me it always is. Otherwise I would not post it on the blog. That is one simple criterion I am trying to follow on this blog. And yes, this is also true of all those posts in which I share some music, film songs, or something about some movie (which reminds me, there is a post coming up in the near future about a movie, the idea is still brewing up in my mind :))

So why am I writing all this long explanation? This brings me back to the blogging awards matter.

Any post that I may need to write about the blogging awards, accepting the award, nominating other bloggers, etc will not fulfill the one simple criterion that I have stated above. It will lead me away from the deeper and truer reason for why I work on this blog. And I have a feeling that all those very kind and well-meaning blogger friends of mine who have so kindly and generously nominated me for the awards will not like to see that happen. I am quite sure I am right in feeling this way.

On two separate occasions in the past I had politely declined the blogging awards by writing individually to the bloggers who nominated me, giving a brief and simple reason. Today I felt the need to write this longer post for two reasons. First, as stated earlier it would help me know better why I should decline. And second, it helps me express on this public space my sincere thanks to those who have nominated me.

Let me once again express my heart-felt thanks to my blogger friends for appreciating my work, liking it, supporting it and commenting on it. Let me also offer my sincere apologies to those who have nominated me for the blogging awards, because I won't be able to accept them and do the needful that is part of the award acceptance procedure. I also offer my sincere apologies to anyone out there who after reading this post might have felt, in any way, some kind of hurt or offense. That is not my intention at all. I am merely writing this to express and share my point of view and a decision I have made for my blog. And that decision is simply that this is an awards-free blog, as of now.

Thank you everyone for reading this yet another long post. [Next one will be a short and sweet one, I promise :)] I need to learn from Damyanti how to write short posts. I bring up her name here because she wrote a post about the blogging awards some months ago. And if I remember correctly, that was the first post on her blog on which I commented. Perhaps because it spoke of something that had been on my mind even back then as I had already politely declined two award nominations. And going by the number of comments on that post, perhaps this issue has been on the mind of many other bloggers too. It would seem that way.

This post, as the title says, expresses strictly my personal take on this issue of blogging awards, as applicable to me and this blog that I write and why I write it. In no way does it try to be anything other than this very subjective explanation of my personal choice and the reason behind it. And I hope I have been able to do justice to my point of view.

One more thing. I am really grateful and happy that even though this blog started out with a very personal motivation, some of what appears here has been resonating well with many readers out there. Perhaps there is an over-arching universal Truth found in all wisdom traditions, spiritual philosophies and deeper thought that acts as an inner, invisible thread bringing together like-minded and like-hearted seekers of life and learning, regardless of their outer diversity. I pray and hope that such a resonance continues in future too.

Thanks once again!

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Here are the generous bloggers who have nominated me for blogging awards. Please visit their blogs and read some of the cool stuff they write about a variety of topics ranging from daily life, college memories, fairy tales, personal challenges, life struggles, social issues, movie stars, festivals of India, good deeds, book reviews to many more things under the sky including some drawing and painting.

Usha Menon: Sunshine Award
Ananya: Sunshine Award
Vishal Bheeroo: Sunshine Award
Michelle Stanley: Liebster Award
Birgit Bedesky: Liebster Award
Preethi Venugopal: Liebster Award
Usha Menon: Liebster Award
Anusha Judith: The Versatile Blogger, The Most Creative Blogger, Reader Appreciation Award, Most     Influential Blogger

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I am tagging this post under the ongoing series on my blog - Reminders to self, for the obvious reasons as explained in this lengthy post.

To see the previous post in this series, click here.
To see all posts in this series, click here.

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Linking this post with ABC Wednesday Q: Q is for Quandary



Tuesday, 6 May 2014

It's the Season for Thank You's

Now that I have had a chance to sit back and reveal most of the "behind the scenes" kind of mental action (here and here) regarding my motivation and interest in participating the A-Z Blogging challenge, it is time to reflect some more on the experience of writing and what came next.

#atozchallenge2014Well, after all those "self-talks," once I started writing the A-Z posts all those noises of doubt and uncertainty gradually disappeared and a sort of an enthusiastic yet quiet sort of energy took over, and the posts kept coming together one after another. I managed to write down about half of the posts before April 1, though some final editing and formatting was done just the day before the posting date. But the remaining posts were composed during the month of April itself.

On the whole, it was a wonderful experience writing these posts on a topic that is very important to me. There was a rush of creativity which wasn't overwhelming or anything, just very fulfilling and gratifying in an understated sort of way. It was as if I was experiencing writing as a way to clarify my own thinking, becoming more sure of the thoughts going around in my head. And typing them out became a way to organize and refine those thoughts. Seeing those thoughts come out in the form of sentences, sentences that became paragraphs, and paragraphs that connected back to one another and formed a coherent piece of writing was a blessing of sorts. I could feel something like an inner guide helping me throughout, and leading me to the appropriate references, citations, photographs, videos, and other resources that would help me make the argument stronger and more substantive. I am grateful for this experience, immensely grateful.

And I am grateful to the moment when I first came to know of the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Thank you Damyanti, who was my first "in" into this blogging fest. It was through a post on her blog that I came to know about this worldwide festival of words. And after a few days of thinking and reflecting and self-talking I signed up. And then of course you all know what happened!

No, you don't know it all. Then somehow through some other blog, can't remember which, I came across this writing motivational blog called Write Tribe. And came to know about Corinne, who then informed me about a Facebook Group that had been put together to help support some of the bloggers taking part in this challenge. She was kind enough to enroll me into the group. And there I met some blogging enthusiasts whose support and encouragement throughout the month has been tremendous and a big motivator to keep going with the challenge.

In this group they brought up questions - technical and others - and gave answers, all of which really helped clarify many of the tips and tricks of the blogging world. They listened patiently whenever someone shared some sort of a trouble in their "blogging lives", acknowledged and offered words of consolation and/or advice if necessary. They read their fellow bloggers' works and encouraged them through appreciation, comments, gentle suggestions. I particularly found it helpful that they encouraged individual expression, even if it meant taking liberties with some of the commonly held conventions or written/un-written rules and practices prevalent in the blogging community, especially the ones that are often recommended during such large-scale challenges or marathons. All this and much more. A big thanks to Corinne, Vidya, Shilpa, Meena, Bhavya, Richa, and Shailja who kept the group working smoothly, and kept encouraging and helping the newbies.

I owe many more thanks. Let me list some of them here as my mind recalls, in no particular order: Usha ji, Eli, Sunila, Suzy, Jayanta, Birgit, Dagny, Rajlakshmi, Shesha, Sheela, Afshan, Nabanita, Shine, GuilieCsenge, PhenoMenon, Damaria, Debbie, Kathy, Carol, Sonia, Vishal, Maniparna, Preethi, Michelle, Srilakshmi, Marie, Jyotsna, Vinodini, Sheethal, Titli, Angela, Nisha, Tulika, Loni, Ida, Gauri, Danny, PsychBabbler, Aditi, Ananya, Arpita, Sushree, Nikita, Tom, Shiva, Monica, SherryCarrie-Anne, Seeta, Debi, Inderpreet, Sreeja, Sugandha, Shalini, ProactiveIndian, Sitara, Anusha, SulekhaPam, Prapadhya, Jemima, A Wrter, and many other bloggers who either regularly, almost regularly, frequently, or often visited my blog, read and thoughtfully engaged with the material I was sharing in the rather long A-Z posts. Their comments kept encouraging me to do better, and it was gratifying to see that some of what I was writing was actually resonating well with many readers.

My apologies to all those whose names I have missed - there were many others among the worldwide A-Z challenge participants who visited and commented -  I express my heartfelt and sincere thanks to them.

A big thanks to all the 'non-blogging' regular readers of my blogs - family, extended family, friends who remain anonymous but whose constant support and encouragement keep pushing me to do my best.

I must confess that at times a part of me felt I should have taken up a "simpler" theme (whatever this word "simpler" means), a theme which might have led to shorter posts with not so much "serious" material (whatever this word "serious" means). But then, this part was quite easily silenced by the encouraging words from my readers, and most importantly by the other part of me that kept reminding me that all outer work is done for an inner purpose. Keep that inner purpose in front of you and you will be fine!

Ultimately, all my gratitude goes to That One who is always looking after me, even when and especially when I make blunders and get a big-time ego-boost with all the praises and words of appreciation. She is the One who makes me remember that I must keep my feet on the ground when my head begins to bloat. She is the One who gently reminds me why I write this blog in the first place, and that I should not be distracted from that purpose.

And if you are somewhat familiar with this blog, you know that music and things musical get their fair share in this space. So it makes perfect sense, as I see it, to end this reflection post about my most "prolific" month of writing (so far) with a song. Now I should add right away, that this is a bit mushy kind of a song, but with a good message - of course about education. What else did you expect? I spent a whole month thinking only of that :) And somehow today I am liking this song quite a bit, mushy or not.


I am quite certain, even non-Hindi knowing readers will be able to relate to the song...sometimes words are so un-necessary. Right?

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Linking this post with Blogging from A-Z Challenge Reflection post.






Monday, 5 May 2014

Priceless are the Moments....Part II

Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers



A new post in the series - When a Picture Leads


To read the first part of the story, click here.

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He had offered her a life of beauty, a life with nature, trees, flowers and butterflies. She had said yes, a big happy yes. That's exactly what she had wanted too.

But something changed. What? Why?  

Maybe she was wrong. Nothing had changed. They did have a beautiful life, at least that's what everyone she knew said, about their life. They had a good life, a luxuriously comfortable home, big backyard with lots of trees and exotic plants, a little pond with waterlilies, flowers of almost every imaginable colour, and yes, butterflies too. 

This last part she assumed. Because she hadn't really seen any butterflies. At least not in the last few years. She just didn't have the time. Wall Street kept her busy and busier. 

She looked again at the picture on her ipad and remembered those moments. Those moments when all she needed was to lay down with him under a shady tree and close her eyes. And she would dream of butterflies and flowers, flowers and butterflies.



She knew what she had to do. She looked again, this time at the ring she was holding, her actual engagement ring. And walked to the little shed in her backyard. 

This was his place. A photography studio he had built for himself, with all his cameras - old and new, lenses, tripods, a computer, printer and all other paraphernalia an amateur needs. He had kept up his love for nature photography, even if it meant working part-time. She envied him now, for this.

He was cleaning some old lens. She walked up to him and gently placed her hand on his shoulder. He looked up inquiringly. She just kept quiet and smiled. Something in her eyes told him. He knew that she had seen the email. He knew that she remembered. They just kept looking in each other's eyes. Silently.

And then he saw it. Dangling on the chain around her neck was the ring. 

The ring he had made for her. With those tiny little seeds that he had found on one of their walks together in the woods. She had no idea what he was going to do with those, and she didn't ask. After all it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. They always gathered dried leaves and little pebbles and seedpods and what not...and most of the times those priceless riches went to either his place or hers. She used to love these little treasures from Nature and decorate her room, bookshelves with those. She had filled up many old jars with such treasures.

But that was back then.

He now saw the seed-ring dangling on the chain on her neck. After all these years, she was actually wearing it. It wasn't really a ring that she could wear. Or anyone could wear. And they had laughed about it when he gave her that as their engagement ring. But she had loved it. Loved it absolutely. And he had loved her laughter, and joined in as he tried to place the ring awkwardly on her finger. It was a ring that spoke of their shared love, their love for each other and their love for the woods, the nature, the trees, the flowers. And the butterflies.

But that was back then.

And now here it was, dangling on the chain around her neck. Her finger casually circling it as she stood there smiling with her eyes. In silence. And he knew. He knew that their love was back. 

He stood up and held her hand. They walked out of the shed, into the backyard. Holding hands in silence they kept walking back and forth, around the trees, around the lily pond and just back and forth. 

And then she saw. After several years, she saw a butterfly. Really saw it.




Yes, they were there. They had always been there. It was she who had gone missing. 

He looked at her. She was smiling. And remembering. Those priceless moments. And he knew. He knew she was back. Their love was back.

They continued walking, in silence, making their moments priceless. Once again they were in love.

~ Photos by Suhas Mehra

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To read the first part of this story, click here.

To read all the posts in the series, click here.