Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"The Land where the Sun Shines Mildly"...Kalhan

Kalhan,Kashyap,and Kalidas would not recognize (in the year 2009), the land they wrote so lovingly and beautifully about. A land torn with strife, wracked with pain and guilt, defenceless against death and violence. A land which was the birthplace of Shaivism and a favorite with the greatest Sanskrit scholars of the time is drooping with pessimism. A land famously known for it Sufi traditions, a rich fabric of interwoven faiths today would be shamed even by its own shadow.

A people exiled, a people at war, a people trying to find a voice of their own....the Kashmiri Pandits, Kashmiri Muslims, the Dogras and the Ladakhis.

The state and its people stand man's terrorist is the other man's freedom fighter. Wars have been waged at its frontiers, and the war within has gone on for too long.

Bharat Mata ki Jai clashes with Jeeve Jeeve Pakistan and Ragda Ragda ( a war cry that was invented by the separatist elements last year, to be shouted while stomping on the Tricolor). Is it the same state I ask where at the border 10 years back the cry of 'Dil Maange More' became famous? But then the Nation almost forgot that war too.

The cries of Muzzafarabad Chalo last year were deafening, as is the silence on that route today. No fruits being traded through that route. So what was the drama about?
The Poonch-Rawalkote trade route which is used more by the Dogra traders is also losing its pace because of a fear of money being blocked in the barter system of the trade.

The Shopian case caused a furore and rightly so but is the silence over the killing of a 3 year old by the terrorists not telling? Human Rights have been taken for a toss in some very obvious ways. Then there are lesser heard of stories which also speak of loss of rights and dignity.

We can always rely on the politicians to amp up the levels of disturbance when they seem to wane. Amarnath Issue was nothing more than a malicious gossip (to achieve a specific purpose) taken way out of proportion and given such a color that the country at large still is not sure what it was all about. When our claim to the Title of The Most Disturbed State seems threatened the politicians (State and National) pitch in to defend the title. After all considering the amount of money being poured into the state, a lot is at stake.

From the Jammu region the demand for a separate Assembly has arisen. The Jammuites are tired of the Bandhs and the lack of development in the sate which is driving their young away. The valley to them it seems has gotten used to the strikes and minimal working days. The state exchequer is burdened but the people are guilt free for drawing salaries for almost no work. The whispers for a separate State - Duggar Pradesh are also picking up volume.

When the Kashmir issue is discussed at any forum we wait with baited breath for a Solution. Sometime back I believed that the end was in sight. But as of today I know its not coming soon... if it all it is coming.

I have grown up hearing stories of valour and peace. I have grown up seeing the beauty of its people and its geography. Last year during the Amarnath issue I as a Dogra understood what it feels like to scream and yet not be heard.
I got to know many Kashmiri Pandits ...angry, hurting and seeking revenge.
I also got a chance to interact with many Kashmiri Muslim youth in particular I fought with, argued, and debated with for hours. I finally befriended him. He is like a brother today (the rakhee has been duly sent to Baramulla) and we discuss spirituality. We avoid discussing his much desired Azadi and my love for an integrated India. Much in common yet a fundamental difference.

What unites us is our mutual respect for faith,intertwining cultures,love for the people and the land and prayers for peace.

We have also agreed upon one thing...Victory to the Righteous...words not spoken but implied. I only wish that this 'game' ends before leading to another 'Dharmyuddh'.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Language and Legacy

Definition of Legacy : Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past
Definition of Heritage : Something immaterial, as a style or philosophy, that is passed from one generation to another

Is language just a means of communication or is it sometimes more?

Does it matter if things change if the things that are dying are the things which teach us life lessons and humility, tolerance and universal brotherhood?

If a beautiful animal, monument, climate are to be protected why should a language which teaches us co existence,reverence for all human beings and has solutions to ALL life questions be allowed to disappear?

Do we stop moving forward if something which is old but aids our movement, in the right direction is relied upon?

Do some basic instincts of nature and nurture and fundamental issues like peace, harmony, love, wisdom, healthy family and social life change with time?

Something of extreme value, which has been abused and perceived as defunct today(functionality unfortunately depends on the ability of 'X' to earn money and position today) should be thrown away without any second thought or reform?

I saw the Fatehpur Sikri and Taj Mahal and I wanted to preserve it.
I saw the Golden Temple and I was happy that it was restored after Operation Blue Star.
I saw the Bengal Tiger and I became a fan of the Save The Tiger Campaign
I visited the beautiful Goa churches and I hoped they would be well taken care of.
My favorite books are duly noted down in a list meant to be given to my children when they are of age.
I read/listened to a fraction of Geeta, Ved, Upanishads, the stories of our sages and I so badly want to pass it on to my children...all children...future generations of my country and the world.

Am I being silly? Am I fighting against the inevitable? I guess I am wishing for what many wished for and acted towards too. If not then, something which is as old as it is, would not have still been around. I am not talking about The National Language. I do not believe in having One National Language or some such title in a linguistically rich and diverse country. It is as symbolic and purposeless as having a National Bird/Animal/Flower, and this only ruffles many a feather and hurts many a fragile ego.

I am talking about preserving/protecting/promoting Sanskrit the language of our scriptures. (The understanding of the difference between forcing and promoting/preserving is assumed here.) The language which enshrines our intellectual and spiritual heritage. A language which is respected and revered by scholars world over and tragically garners diminishing interest within its own country of origin. Oh by the way did the 'practical' people tell what a waste of time and effort it was for the Jews to revive their dying language.(Hebrew has been revived as a literary language several times as a matter of fact)

I know many things die their natural death but don't we try to keep something alive as long as possible which is dear to us and nourishing. Case in point is seed banks. A beautiful tree or an essential food grain may die but we do save its seeds for our future generations. Do we not protect and make efforts to preserve Sanskrit and any other language which offers us valuable insight to our history, and which is responsible for our very essence? What we have taken for granted or for inherent 'Indianness' from Yoga and Ayurveda to the famous Indian Hospitality (Atithi Devobhava) is a legacy handed down to us. It makes us who we are. It should not be confused with the infamous and politically incorrect word 'Religion'. Its a Way of Life. An Indian way of life. And anything which is uniquely us, beautifully us, should be saved.

Every best-seller self-help books and those propounding some great philosophy contain ideas which are not new. It is a fraction of what is there in our scriptures. But then one ought to have seen and fallen in love with a Gulmohar Tree to want to save it somehow, for our children and grandchildren. We do our best to save our Grandmother's unique recipe and how easily we give up on these gems. For if you cannot read and understand how long will it be before it disappears? We are still lucky to have some great Teachers of Vedanta but for how long? If there is a general indifference and ridicule for the language, any language which is more than a means of functional communication it is the death of a culture, be it Bengali, Tamilian, Marathi, Indian Muslim. The smaller but essential arms of the Big Beautiful Indian Culture.

As fellow (American :)) blogger says "It saddens me that translations are taken to be the 100% pure meaning of the original text. :( Anytime something is translated, its original meaning is changed. That's why translators are listed after the author -- because they've colored the entire topic, intentionally or unintentionally."

Surely when things die, new ones will take their place. But the dying should leave a legacy, which the young are proud of. A heritage which nourishes them and humanity.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pet Peeve Part II

This particular peeve is something I have been guilty of, not too long ago. I realized my mistake and now cannot stop feeling sorry for those who continue to commit this folly. Someone truly said that little knowledge is dangerous. This applies to people who enjoy bashing the ancient Indian scriptures without truly understanding them. The pseudo-secularists, the born again feminists, students and faculty from the top Indian colleges who take pride in their Gender Studies Cells,the writers cum activists, the I-am-in-love-with-everything-western-and-hate-everything-Indian and every Tom,Dick and Harry who can pen a few words is guilty of it.

If you ask them their source, it is always second-hand...Internet(Oh My God!!), western authors, and some by misinformed Indian authors too. And since religion bashing is fashionable these days, you will win substantial popular support if you defame Rig Veda or Ramayan.

I am deeply respectful of all religions. I love little Ibrahim who goes to the mosque everyday and reads the Quran. I am in awe of little Praveen Thomas who attends Sunday School. I am proud of 6 year old Gouri who attends a Baal Sanskara Kendra and is already learning about the Geeta, the Vedas and Upanishads.

I am hurt by the way some of these scriptures have been misrepresented by some authors both Indian and Western. Bloggers too in the name of feminism and pseudo-secularism are doing such disservice. I wish they would be honest about their research and do their home work well.They quote these authors or one of the unauthentic websites and cry wolf. Recently I skimmed through a book titled Infinite Hindu Wisdom by a Faculty of a Respected US University and found it sadly lacking. It clearly showed a lack of understanding of the culture and philosophy. And how easily we rely on such books and such 'experts' for their two bits on our scriptures.

Sanskrit has been misinterpreted and many books contain sorry translations. Also because many of our Puraans are very symbolic in nature you either need the brains or to say the least an excellent Sanskrit teacher and Vedic scholar to understand the true meaning and the deeper philosophy.I am not in a position to defend each and every accusation not because of lack of evidence but because of limited knowledge ( I am still learning). But I would like to give some examples. Dr. Moore has written in some book quoting from some Ved say that "Prajapati ran after his daughter and raped her" He goes on to say that the Vedas are full of such disgusting things and people find it titillating hence they read these scriptures.
The Story: goes that Prajapati got angry with his daughter and ran after her.
The Real Meaning:This story actually teaches a political lesson. A lesson in democratic practices in fact. The 'daughter' is a reference to the King's Council of Ministers..his Rajyasabha..his Rajyasabha/Rajsatta is also his duhita(Sanskrit for daughter). The bhavarth is a lesson in democracy. It says that the leader of the Rajyasabha should not be from the the Royal household but an ordinary subject of the state ..only then can he be fair and just in his duties. It is the job of the Rajyasabha/Rajsatta to serve the Praja.

Shameful is the way Dr. Moore has translated it. I know I have not done a good job explaining because though I am comfortable with English, I found it an extremely difficult task to translate from the Hindi explanation of this Sanskrit Shlok into English. It only highlights how things get contorted out of shape.
And translations by people who begin with an agenda and are unfamiliar with the language,culture,history and philosophy can end only disastrously.

Similary the shlok Ahilyayee jarah indrah has been translated as Indra raped Ahilya...whereas the shlok simply and beautifully describes something as natural as a Sunrise!!!.

What is sad is that there are few to oppose these awful translations. Many who are followers of Sanatan Dharm are steeped into mindless ritualism rather than knowledge, devotion and action. Sankrit being viewed as a 'dead' language means we are fast losing the tool with which to dig further and deeper,hence becoming alienated from our culture and our history in the process.

Someone I was chatting with the other day, was ridiculing the Veda and saying that somewhere it is written that if you have a cold you should chant .."I do not have a cold"...something to this effect. I do not know the exact reference and hence cannot correctly comment on this literal translation. But what I found sad is that when a Doctor from John Hopkins or Harvard Medical School talks about the powers of positive thinking/prayers/meditation it does not seem so quaint and silly.

I understand that my peers,the young today are put off by the ritualism they see around them and also by the various malpractices which have crept in. But what is important to remember is that what is needed is reform and a revival of a study of these scriptures not ill informed bashing. Are we waiting for some Westerner to show us the power and brilliance of our scriptures, our,ayurved,jyotish-shastra etc. etc. Will we believe in ourselves only then?

I wish those who consider themselves smarter than Adi Shankracharya,Ramkrishna,Swami Vivekanand,Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi,Pandurang Athvale Shatri...some of the great followers and teachers of Advait Vedant would be honest and wise enough and refrain from commenting on something they know very little about.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pet Peeve Part 1

I decided in favor of writing about my Pet Peeve. There are two big ones presently, hence this will be a 2 part blog. Since its a peeve there are extreme emotions involved here, namely anger....which strips this blog off some rationality and adds some prejudice. So the disclaimer is, that these are my emotions... and anyone who reads can agree or disagree. I like the average American who is very friendly and approachable albeit a little dumb. Its not about them.

I imagine that love for one's country is not a strange emotion or does it depend on the country your are residing in or a national of. I am an Indian National temporarily residing in the US thanks to hubby's job. He works for an Indian IT company. I wanted to get this fact out of the way because I hope it leaves less room for the possibility of double standards.

Over the course of my stay here I have met and formed friendships with many Indians. Indians who are so, by their birth but not by their choice since they have either acquired a US Citizenship or are in the process of doing so (desperately). I am OK with this so far. After all we are born into our families, nations and religions and we may want to cut off those ties at any time for a variety of, lifestyle, lack of promising career opportunities....I repeat I am fine with all that. Each one to his own.

But what gets me a little red in the face not with embarrassment but with anger when I hear these Indians with American citizenship, people who have adopted a new country talk about India in such terms:

1. India is becoming just like US actually worse...the girls don't want to wear Indian dresses, they are disrespectful and 'fast'. They have forgotten their culture.

2. India mein kitnee gandgee hai ( India is very dirty). Don't know how people use the bathrooms when travelling in the trains.

3. Global warming is not a surprise. Have you seen what's happening in Nano cars will only add to the poisonous cheap, everybody will drive cars.

4. I want to go back but can never go back because my children fall sick in India.

5. I wanted to stay but the system stinks in India....corruption all around.

And so much more.........

My replies sometimes aloud and sometimes in my head only:

1. Yes things are changing and fast. But we still cannot compete against the likes of prom (high school grad party) culture here..where many parents actually give the money to book hotel rooms for post party revelry (read mostly sex,drugs and booze. We might follow suit but I fervently pray we don't. But such double standards I swear! I have seen people act in such impossibly cruel ways towards their children and aging parents all in the name of career,money or a piece of paper..GC or Citizenship. What kind of culture is that, may I ask? Oh yes it is TCBP... "The Culture of Being Practical"

2. Yes India bahut hi gandaa hai...the roads, the rivers...But hello! you live in a country which is the largest contributor of global warming however much it denies it and wants to pass this crown to China. Oh ! but you don't see it because they like to dump their trash in our oceans. And sell their toxic waste to our susceptible and greedy population. And of course abiding by the rules of 'Do Not Litter' is a new religion for you. A religion which takes back seat as you drive past the International airport in Mumbai and throw your boarding pass out of the car or spit with an abandonment on the road. And I find such discussions very offensive when my family and friends back home are travelling in those very trains you look down upon now.
And you are worried about the number of cars? Residing in a country which probably has more cars than people. Or are you feeling foolish that the upward mobility you left your country for is becoming the order of the day there. Not to worry,it will be a long time till we truly catch up.

4.. Children fall sick in India???????? Anybody would after travelling cross continent in a plane...a breeding ground for e-coli and stomach virus. And as if that was not enough the heat will certainly steal some of your American weather bred steam. And if all the life long allergies which are still unheard of, in hot and dirty India, do not faze you, why should a temporary bout of diarrhea leave you so frazzled.

5. System certainly stinks in India. Once it did not, many, many years ago. But then it does now, for the last many, many years.
In the US the system does not stink ( I am not sure the Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians and many not so obvious groups share the same high opinion though). But then systems were not free of reproach and left a bad taste in the mouth for the African slaves, for women who had no right to education and vote, for the native Americans who are now relegated to reservations. Things changed but not automatically. Someone or some people were willing to sweat and sacrifice.
Bana banaya pakwaan khaana bahut asaan hai. I hate so many things in India. But have I worked to change any of them? I am like so many others waiting for someone to do it for me. Then why complaint or complaint so much.

I am not blind to the chaos in my home but its my personal chaos.And once you choose another nation over lose some if not all of that right to criticize and publicly complaint.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

From Ulhasnagar to Dadar and Back

I am 'crazy happy busy' these days. Dad is here and I am a Daddy's girl. After a lot of cajoling he agreed to leave his painstakingly grown fruit trees, vegetable garden and numerous flowering shrubs behind and pay his only daughter a visit in the great US of A. Since these are my last few months in this country I was eager to show him around this Maha-Mayanagri of all Mayanagris. The weather is great and the weekends are flying by.We have visited the usual Desi 'Teerthsthaan'..Niagra.A trip to the beautiful wine country or also famously known as Finger Lakes region, and Lake George in upstate NY home to the Adirondack Mountains was a delight.

Just before my trip to Lake George I had hurriedly read my friend and classmate(from TISS) Ashwadhy's beautiful post on her experiences with a little boy inflicted with AIDS. This got me thinking about a weekend long time back. A weekend I will not forget and do not wish to. It has to do with another little boy. Such is the nature of our work, I guess. And here goes the story....

I was fresh out of boat...the boat being a protected environment of a strict all- girls-Grad-school-residence-hall of the top arts college in India. A small town girl I was suffering from panic attacks in a teeming and fast-paced city like Mumbai.I was there to do my post-graduation. I was tortured by the non-stop Mumbai rains. I was failing miserably in mastering the art of boarding and disembarking the Ambernath local safely and at the right station and at the right times. As a student in TISS I was expected to do 2 days of field work ..Mondays and Tuesdays every week. I had been assigned to a Government home for Boys in Ambernath. This home housed boys from the ages of 6 to 16 ...orphans, economically deprived and juvenile delinquents. And interacting with these boys was killing me.

My problem was that I was falling in love with so many of them. I could not fathom a life inside the dark and depressing confines of the Govt. Home.It broke my heart when after some months a 13 year old begged me to take him home. He whispered to me that he would cook,clean,mop.....anything that allowed him to stay with me. I was his road to the other side. And I knew I would fail him like so many others. And then I got assigned a task which the other 2 students accompanying me refused because it meant having to give up our precious weekend. I was supposed to escort a boy to a similar Govt. Home but for girls in Dadar. I was told he needed to meet someone there.

This boy was little in every sense ...9 years old or was he 8 ...he looked 6. That fateful Saturday I asked my then best friend and now husband a hard core IT guy, to accompany me...just because I have a pathetic sense of direction and wanted to prevent a search and rescue mission for me and the little boy who I was responsible for.
When I picked up the Little Boy(LB) he was freshly bathed, oiled and had taken a more than a casual effort to comb and dress up in his Govt. provided uniform. Minutes into our walk from the Govt home he asked to stop at a local Patel shop. He with the little money that he had bought some balloons(the unblown variety) and a few toffees. He did not have sufficient money for the little he bought and I paid the required amount. He was embarrassed about this and spent the rest of journey either in silence or thanking me profusely. All for Rs.10.

I had been told to keep a watchful eye on the LB and I too was suitably scared of either losing my ward or of him running away under my watch. He kept to himself throughout the journey and I wondered what occupied his little mind. Upon reaching Dadar his excitement was obvious. He walked ahead of us. And we had to almost run to keep up pace with him. When we reached the Home a formidable looking institution he seemed to be full of nervousness and an uneasy excitement. After completing all the required paperwork we waited patiently on a typical Govt. issued wooden bench. The LB was completely dwarfed sitting on it.

And then I knew 'she' was there. He jumped up and almost skipped, hopped and ran to 'her'. 'Her' being a Little Girl...smaller than the LB. Dressed in a white and blue uniform. Her hair oiled and in two high pigtails. My lips quivered and my throat hurt when I saw them hug....both refusing to let go.
'She' was his little sister. He handed the balloons and the toffees to her with so much love and tenderness, that I had to remind myself of how little the LB really was.As I tried to blink away my tears I smiled at the LG and told the LB that we would step out and be back when his allotted time was over. We walked out in silence. The silence unbroken as we aimlessly wandered, our minds trying to wrap around the cruel reality we had witnessed. From the corner of my eye I saw my best friend wipe away tears. How I willed for time to stop that day. How I prayed for a miracle. I begged God to not let me do this. I hated myself and everybody for having to go inside and tell this LB and the LG that their time was 'up'. I willed my mind to go numb and not see how the LB and and the LG kept turning back to look at each other. I wished to go blind when he went running to her as she started to cry assuring her of ...I don't know what. As we walked out I thought my heart would break...I do not dare think what the LB must have been feeling.

He was stoic in his silence. A LB with glassy eyes...eyes brimming with unshed tears. His hands clenching and unclenching.His brows creasing into a determined furrow. His jaw set in steely determination. I knew he was telling himself that one day he would be re-united with his only living family.His Little Sister.
Or was he fighting with his God?

That evening I begged (long-distance) my mom to take me away and marry me off to the first willing suitor. I begged God to take away my power to think and feel. I was mad at myself and at the world. At the injustice and the cruelty of it all. I cried myself to sleep that night and many more nights to come. I can still cry today when I think of them. My heart hurts and I worry about them.

I say a prayer tonight for them and hope that, so will you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Thank You Note

Ever since I started blogging inspired by schoolmate and a brilliant writer Piper and the state of turmoil my home state J&K was this time around last year...its been a joy ride. I enjoy writing and see it as a release.I love to write about what really touches me the most. As I have said earlier it is also my way of leaving a legacy behind for my kids ...a way for them to know their mom better.

In the weekly lectures I attend, I am learning about the meaning of shloks from Ishavasya Upanishad. The particular mantra that is being dealt with talks about people who do 'sat karya and karm after gyaan without any desire for material or spiritual gains. They simply do it. Easier said than done. So me a mere mortal has my reasons for blogging, none of them for the Blog awards doing the rounds in blogosphere. BUT hey! its always a pleasure receiving them. My first was from Piper...not surprising since she has always been very encouraging and my only reader for many months :)
And today D has bestowed upon me besides a host of others and very generously so a few more of the not expected but always welcome awards.One for just being on her blogroll I Love Your no sweat at all for this one. Another for commenting Lovely Blogger but then I have an opinion on everything and its a pleasure to read her posts. These 2 are more love than awards and "back at ya" D :)
The award is for Blogging With a Purpose. And I appreciate it. Purpose or no Purpose the child in me delights at these pretty little attachments on the left side column of my blog.

I also must mention Bianca here who wrote a sweet note of appreciation. She is a mommy and the post on To Work or Not to Work struck a chord with her. Feed backs and personal stories make it more thank you Bianca.

For me, Blogging has lead to a lot of gain and some pain. Also it has given me another sense of purpose. Not undermining the sense of purpose behind being a wife and mom...the hubby and the babies might not say it but I know I am an indispensable asset around here :)
I blog when the house sleeps (read the babies) which is waaaaaay past midnight and hence have to drag myself out of the bed early in the morning when my over energetic twosome make it their mission to wake me up.Getting up late lead to many missed sessions in the Gym which leads to the Gain-Pain saga...

1. GAIN: 10 lbs. and the exalted company of fellow bloggers and some blogosphere awards... so much more welcome than the excess pounds.

2. PAIN : The berry+flaxseed smoothie I gulp down now every night instead of baingan ka bharta and roti to lose the pounds I gained :(

I would love to pass on these awards but as hard pressed I am for time being a full time mommy with no help(America! my friends can be a lot of pain) I am not able to read as many blogs as I would like to.
I cannot dare give awards to Manju ji, Vinod ji, Poonam ji and Shantanu ji whose blogs I love. Piper was my inspiration so needless to say love the way she writes. I immensely enjoy reading D, Indyeah, IHM, Smitha, Rang Decor and all those on my blogroll. Feedbacks from all of you mean a lot to me especially Amrita,Sara, Renu ji, Manju ji, Vinod ji, Anrosh, Kislay, Ashwadhy,Destination Infinity,Nisha,Rupa.

I would like to give the Award of Blogging with a Purpose to Kislay and Child of Adam.They really make me think and I love the way they write. Please copy paste the award from my blog and put it up on yours if you care enough. Either which way is fine...I think both of you are brilliant though would like to see more from you Child of Adam.

Thanks D for the pat on the back. Thanks... all you people mentioned and missed( forgive an overworked-underpaid no make that unpaid mommy) much.