Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wishing all my readers a very happy Diwali

A festival of lights
Is an opportunity
To light the dark corners of our hearts
To light the dark lives of others
To spread good cheer among the joyless hearts
To infuse strength among the weak and oppressed
To share what we have with those who are not as blessed
To snuff out the burning desire inside us to harm others
To burn the monsters of envy, greed and anger
To attain peace, contentment and eternal light
To renew our pact with knowledge and wisdom
To make life little more bearable for the ones we care
To serve Him by serving those who are left unncared 
To renew our promise to our Creator
To keep His eternal flame alive in our hearts and minds
To make sure that no heart bleeds in neglect
To make sure that no mind slips into darkness
To live life just the way He wants us to live
To continue to light one torch with another
And spread so much of light through the year
That 'Amavas' is shamed into hiding and quietly disappears.    

By Rana Nayar 

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Song, Unsung

Not very long ago, we had moved into the first floor of this new house. One day as I stood, looking out of the window, a large beri loomed into sight. It stood in one corner of the park facing the house, silently, unobtrusively. Its thick, leafy canopy sprawling over its twisted, angular branches almost had a human presence. I don’t know why, on seeing it, I had been reminded of my overprotective mother who always insists on fussing over me even now when I’m on the wrong side of forty. Perhaps, in this season of autumn, I was thinking ahead of the gruelling summer, when scorched by the heat, the birds shall return to its protective arms. Looking at its strong, brawny roots, a sense of calm reassurance had surged through my being.

A few days later, when I got up one morning, I was somewhat surprised to see a litter of polythene bags around its roots. Rather than become a cradle of the singing birds, the tree had fallen prey to the decaying menace of garbage. Initially for a few days, these questions did come back to haunt me: who is defiling this tree? Why is it being used as a dumping ground? With the stink constantly on the rise, will the birds ever be able to return to its yellowing branches? Disturbed by these simple, rather naive questions, I did make an abortive bid to track down the culprit(s). But was it easy? With each passing day, the bags continued to multiply in number. So much so that now the stink had almost ceased to offend our nostrils. It was as though the entire neighbourhood was participating in a silent ritual of decay.

In winters, when the beri had already shed some of its leaves leaving the branches almost bare, a family moved into a house adjacent to ours. Right from day one, for some inexplicable reason, our new neighbour appeared to loathe this tree. His antipathy was obvious from the way in which he often looked at it. It was as though the presence of beri in direct line of his house, was a thorn in his eye. The day his telephone was to be installed, he was standing and watching outside. Though the telephone wires were in no way disrupted by the spread of its leafy crown, he ordered, rather imperiously, that a few of its branches be maimed to prevent the wires from getting entangled. Being a lawyer and a man of straight vision, he perhaps fears all kinds of angularities and puts them out of sight wherever he sees them. The thought of summer or that of the impending return of the birds couldn’t have possibly crossed his practical mind. After having presided over the chopping of the branches like some dark, sinister priest, he ordered them to be lugged into the middle of the park for everyone to view.

And the branches had lain there for several days, rotting away like the garbage around its roots. Not a single voice tore into protest. Everyone appeared to have accepted his authority rather demurely. Perhaps, this is what had emboldened him even further. One evening, he stepped out of the house along with his brother and son. With murder in their eyes, three of them marched towards the tree. While he stood watching with his son, his brother started hacking at the convoluted roots with a pickaxe, rather mercilessly. Despite repeated assaults, the tree refused to fall, holding on to its right to defend its dignity. After his brother had cut a deep, fatal wound into the main stem, he stepped over it, pushing it down, jumping over the half-cut branch. And when the main branch finally severed itself from the root, an umbilical cord snapped, sending a silent scream up the sky. Standing upon the severed branch, he had flashed a sudden smile of satisfaction, something you often see on the face of a mid-wife after a successful delivery.

Now waiting for the season to turn, each time, I look out of the window; a lifeless lump is what stares back at me. Who knows how many summer-songs lie stifled inside its dried-up sap?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Review of BEING INDIAN -- a book by Pavan K. Verma

What does it mean to be an Indian? This question is bound to haunt and intrigue all thinking Indians at one point or the other. More so now when Indianness is no longer a matter of consensus and has become truly problematic. Crisis of the nation-state, endemic institutional collapse, growing corruption of money and power, economic and political dominance of the Hindu majority, fast changing caste and class equations, and the rise of coalition politics both at the Centre and the State have put a big question mark over the stable notion of Indian identity. It’s up against this background that Pavan K. Verma’s latest book Being Indian must be seen and read.
By engaging with this eternal question, Pavan Verma has stepped into the rare hall of fame presided over by such luminaries as Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Tilak, Gandhi and Nehru. While his predecessors sought answers within the philosophical, civilizational frame, Verma’s effort is guided by more contemporary trends in social sciences. Following the methodology of ‘thick description’ recommended by Clifford Geetz, a well-known anthropologist, Verma brings together a wealth of information through a strange amalgam of “inference with anecdote” and “deduction with personal experience”(p. 16).
Conscious of both history and his own position in contemporary history, he negotiates his way out, displaying tact and restraint of a typical career diplomat. Poring over the vast intellectual resources available to him, he often comes up with statements one can neither totally afford to agree, nor disagree with. For instance, the self-contradictory nature of the Indian reality or identity has never been in serious doubt. Historicizing this notion, Verma sees nothing contemporaneous in this ‘culture of ambivalence,’ for he traces it all to sources as diverse as Arthshastra, Mahabharata, Upanishads, and folk tales, et al. By the same logic, one wouldn’t really like to question his understanding of classic Indian obsession with class, hierarchy, trappings of power and wealth. It doesn’t take a specialist to proclaim that such an obsession is a spin-off of our caste system, a legacy of our feudal past that has pulverized our present as well.
Verma’s real contribution is that he has been able to find a new context, not new meanings, for some of the ideas we’ve almost grown up with. That we Indians are a power-worshipping nation of self-demeaning sycophants is borne out by our daily, work-a-day experiences. That we have always had an obsession with icons of power and wealth (technology being the latest fad) is also not drastically radical. But it does take Pavan Verma to ground all these ideas into social/political/cultural practices of our ‘functioning democracy,’ in our search for a new economic order and technological transformation.
The overall impression this book creates is that the more India changes, the more it is appears to be the same. Questioning the popular, rather mythical self-image of Indians as idealists, dharma-driven, non-violent, otherworldly people, he does manage to put in place a more realistic and less flattering image of Indians as pragmatic, corrupt, amoral and violent people, grounded in empirical facts. But the flatness of his conclusions rattles and jars as much as do the stereotypes he’s trying to escape.
Writing with a sense of inwardness, even passionate involvement, Pavan Verma often manages to sweep the reader off his feet by his awesome reading. It’s another matter that high seriousness of his self-posturing does unsettle the reader occasionally, especially when he assumes the tone of a professional sociologist, which he isn’t. On such occasions the book does begin to resemble a well-dressed, well-groomed gentleman who has nowhere to go. Otherwise, it makes for a demanding, even a compelling read.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh: A Few Impressions

THE HUNGRY TIDE by Amitav Ghosh is a novel to remember. All along, while reading it, I had this strange feeling that Ghosh was pushing a story little too far, and that too, unnecessarily. Rather, he was trying to stretch a 'story' into the frame of a novel. But once I had finished reading it, my view changed radically. It is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest novels I remember having read. And now I'm sure, it's going to stay with me much longer than most novels do with us, often. In a way, this novel belongs to the ultra-Bengali tradition of a river novel, and in a way. it is our answer to Melville's MOBY DICK, Mark Twain's THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLE BERRY FINN or Hemingway's OLD MAN AND THE SEA. It certainly ranks with some of the best sea-narratives that have ever been created in the world. A reductive reading might tell us that it is a novel about the dolphins, the Sunderbans, ecology et al. It's all this and yet much more than all this. It's one of the most sombre, if not poignant, tributes, ever paid, through a narrative, to the resilient spirit and triumphal march of the 'dispossessed of the earth.' It is the story of the 'dispossessed,' their endless struggle against the hostile forces of nature, and an unjust, manipulative human and social order. It is an anthropological exploration into the myths, legends, customs, life-style and struggles of the anonymous, unsung inhabitants of the Sunderbans. It is a complex narrative that weaves personal memoirs with several strands of local histories, juxtaposes past and present to create a mosaic of human lives which are remarkably memorable and unheroically heroic. Piya and Kanai, Nirmal and Nilima are only fishing nets that help Ghosh trawl vast, sea-like surge of humanity. The real hero of this narrative is the most unheroic figure of them all, the least articulate and the most stoically silent of them all -- who else but -- the inimitable FOKIR.
This novel is strongly recommended to Aravind Adiga and the likes of him, so that they could learn a lesson or two, if not more, into how one could create a sensitve, engaging, compassionate and heart-wrenching narrative about the dispossessed, too. In such matters, one doesn't always have to be gimmicky the way Adiga was in his first novel THE WHITE TIGER.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Shankaracharya's SHIVOHAM

Manobuddhiahankar Chittani Naham
Na Cha Shotrejivhe Na Cha Grannetre
Na Cha Vyombhoomir Tejo Na Vayu
Chidanandaroopa Shivoham Shivoham (i)
Na Cha Pran Sangyo Na We Panchvayu
Na Wa Saptadhaturna Na Wa Panchkosha
Na Wakpanipadon Na Chopasthpayu
Chidanandaroopa Shivoham Shivoham (ii)
Na Mein Dveshrago Na Mein Lobhmoho
Mado Naivya Mein Naivya Matsyarbhava
Na Dharmo N Chartho Na Kamo Na Moksha
Chidanandaroopa Shivoham Shivoham (iii)
Na punyam na papam na sokhyam na dukha
Na mantro na tiratham na Veda na yagna
Aham Bhojanam navya Bhojayam na bhojya
Chidanandaroopa Shivoham Shivoham (iv)
Na mein Mrityushanka, na mein Jatibheda
Pita Naivya me Naivya mata na janam
Na bandhur na mitram Guru naivya Shishya
Chidanandaroopa Shivoham Shivoham (v)
Aham Nirvikalpo Nirankaar Roope
Vibhuvyaaya Sarvatre Sarvendriyani
Sada Me Samatavam Na Muktirna Bandha
Chidananda Roopa Shivoham Shivoham (vi)

So says Kabir:

When you seek, you find in a while
Says Kabir, O my sadho, in every breath of yours
Where do you seek me, I’m there within you

Sunday, April 26, 2009

An interesting question OSHO was asked and an equally interesting ANSWER!

Question –
If you were to come here now to this Ashram as a young unenlightened man, how would you respond? Would you become part of the Ashram? What work would you do? Where would you sit?

Answer –
Even if I was unenlightened, I would not be so unenlightened to come to this Ashram. That much is certain. I would not that much unenlightened.
Second thing you say - "Would you become part of the Ashram?" Even now I am not part of this ashram. I can not be part of any institution or any organization, even my own.
And if I had come as an unenlightened man, naturally the Ashram will not be mine, will be somebody else's. I can not be part of even my own organization, so how can I be a part of anybody else's organization? Impossible.
And then you ask - "What work would you do?"
I have never done any work. I am the laziest man in world you can find.
And the last you ask - "Where would you sit?"
I would escape immediately! I would see any organization, some Ashram and I would run! You are asking - "where will you sit?" I will not sit at all!


I remember the time I became interested in spirituality;
Everywhere spiritual window-shopping, trying every modality;
Tried the old thought, as well as the "New Age";
Read many books, turned many many a page;
Found a "Guru", sought the wisdom of that sage;
False it was, trapped myself in my own cage,
Disillusioned, disappointed, broke out in rage,
Healed my anger, the wisdom from the experience my wage.
Still I continued on my heroic quest;
Spent much time to sit, think and rest;
And discovered that all my window-shopping, my search
Hand-me-down from others, even the "New Age" church,
Was the wrong way to look upon a spiritual quest;
It is neither the discipline of the East, nor science of the West;
It is simply the mastery of an art in my own way..,
Be, learn, step along my path, even in the way I pray.
Simply allow my talents, my flower within
Grow, flourish, and bloom, purify me from sin;
Embraced by divine light, or any other means
Purge my dross, my morality I cleanse.
Spirituality is not something I achieve, attain or reach,
It is a way of life that I can learn, but not teach.

NOTE: I do not identify myself as the author of this poem. This poem was sent by a student/friend Ramnita Sahni. I simply posted it for those of my friends who want to enjoy it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why don’t you dance inside me?

I have seen little atoms of dust dancing
A dance of life
They bob up and down
Round and round
As if caught in a chakravyu
They move in their own concentric circles
Without disturbing each other’s rhythm
Dance through the haze of my vision
Dance through the swirling waves of Time
Dance as though life would never end
Whirling dervishes
Spinning around their axes
Moving from axis to the rim
And then back to the axis
Their movement is a spiral of stillness
Slowly winding down the dark stairs
Edging closer to the heart of the matter
The eternal naad resounding deep within
The waking hours of zikr turning into songs of lament
Oh! Why don’t you dance inside me?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why don't you become the ocean?

Thoughts are like colorful fish
Inside the aquarium of mind
They float and dive
Skirting around what looks somewhat like
The green moss on wild hedges
Resting on tiny, white pebbles
Moving upstream, downstream
Propelled by an inner urge
Searching for scraps of food
In eternal restlessness
Their beady eyes darting all around
Sometimes hitting against the glass frame
Returning to self-limiting enclosures
You be the spectator outside
Perched on the shores of silence
Watch them till the glass frame breaks
And fishes leap out of the splashing waters
To return to the ocean

Saturday, February 14, 2009


That evening
We had thought
We’d make memorable
Shall sit across the smooth edges
Of an elliptical table
Stretch out our close-fisted palms
In warm handshakes
Tease the yawning years
Into easy wakefulness
Dip our frail fingers
In dewy silences
Seal the loneliness
Of weary hearts
By toasting drinks
We had thought
Time would shrink
To the size of our memories
And vast deserts
Shall drown
In the moist, liquid eyes
We had thought and hoped
But nothing of the kind happened
We remained marooned
In our silences
Our several voices trapped
In the crisis of selfhood
Crooned endlessly
Mise en scene
Of some surreal film
The warm handshake
The dewy silences
The moist, liquid eyes
Hung across the pallid wall
Like an old painting
Out of sight, forgotten and dust-laden
Vast deserts
Edged closer to our hearts
Memories reduced to a junk-heap
Lay crumpled under the table
Shared past
Danced in the shadowy background

Yes, it was
A Walpurgisnacht of vagrant souls
Floating helplessly
Inside a liquor bottle.

Frozen Moments

A watery smile
Flickering across your silent lips
Laced with the pain of yesteryears
Is a memory
I’d much rather forget
A testimony
To disquieting nights
When you sobbed endlessly
Through the darkness
As I lay by your side
Dreaming of two little cuckoo birds
Nestling and cooing thro’ the rain
Drab and insipid days
Stretched between you and me
Separating us
Like two shores of a stagnant pool
Whirling and gurgling
In its own scum

I could wipe the pain
With my silent gaze…
Sing the cuckoo song
Across the drain…
Or make the stagnant water
Rush again.

Meeting Point

In day time
We walk side by side
Like two earth discs
Rotating around their axes
Hallowed by piercing light
Trapped between sun and moon
We resemble a solar eclipse

At night
Moon walks miles ahead
And earth folds up
Layers of light
Into a tight embrace
Our shadows lengthen out to meet
To overlap
And cut across
The barriers of identity.

Friday, January 2, 2009


Dear Friends
I'm posting this poem by Harindranath Chattopadhyaya today. It was sent
to me by a friend of mine, Simar Omkar, and it sums up my thoughts on the
first day of 2009.
Here it goes:

In days gone by I used to be
A potter who would feel
His fingers mould the yielding clay
To patterns on his wheel;
But now, through wisdom lately won,
That pride has gone away,
I have ceased to be the potter
And have learned to be the clay.

In other days I used to be
A poet through whose pen
Innumerable songs would come
To win the hearts of men;
But now, through new-got knowledge
Which I hadn't had so long,
I have ceased to be the poet
And have learned to be the song.

I was a fashioner of swords,
In days that now are gone,
Which on a hundred battle-fields
Glittered and gleamed and shone;
But now I am brimming with
The silence of the Lord,
I have ceased to be sword-maker
And have learned to be the sword.

In by-gone days I used to be
A dreamer who would hurl
On every side an insolence
Of emerald and pearl.
But now I am kneeling
At the feet of the Supreme
I have ceased to be the dreamer
And have learned to be the dream.