The Birth Canal

“No man steps in the same river twice”, said Heraclitus (not these exact words).

But if that river be the mighty, gushing river of life, most people get cold feet.

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Such is the momentum of the river of life that let alone stepping in the same waters twice, sometimes the whole life passes by before dipping as much as a toe in it.

That is the state of having cold feet. Cold feet are much like a laser gun.

Cold feet are much like a laser gun. They cut the life into two: the life that is…

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and the life that could have been.

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What could have been a crowning glory is dismissed out of fear that it will be a drowning fury.

While the life as it is, goes on with full apparent glitter, one cannot know if it is hallow or full, unless one puts the ears to the ground.

But one only puts the feet to the ground.

The feet cannot hear.

So – we pass through the canal of this birth like this: Wide, pulsating, gushing flow – followed by a built up, stone-walled, restrictive life –

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Then there is a hope only for the next life to be liberated again.

PERHAPS.

That PERHAPS has a promise only if something was done to explore this life.

But if something was done in this life, then the canal of birth will not be a narrow conduit.

It will be a bankless, endless, ageless flow.

 

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Free Turtle

Buried
A mile
Under the ocean
Under a cliff
Under the rock
Under the shell
A turtle draws out the limbs
And says
I love my freedom

Veda and dice?

The general impression is that Veda hymns, teeming with praise for the divine, contain power within them to invoke any God they may so will. May as well be. Once in every while, though, one stumbles upon something different. For example, a poemthe that contains the shreds of oscillating conscience shorn off an addict in a rehab.

Oh, don’t jump out of your chairs – yet. I do not claim that they had rehabilitation centers matching the ones existing today. However, once you let go of initial disbelief, you will see the glimpses of all: the awareness of a gambler that the morbid attraction to gambling is a fruit of his hunger to get high on the sight of rolling dice, his knowledge that he has abandoned his unblemished  wife (no blame game here), his awareness of all the ensuing evils – strangers fondling his wife, social ostracization, his guilt, envy, and finally, his utterly hopeless submission to the dices, taking a vow that he (the gambler) will never covet wealth. That is a signature consciousness of a decision that he commits to the vice knowingly, in full awareness of consequences.

You see no hand of the unconscious, though Psychological insight, clear as daylight is written all over it.

In the end, the gambler also resolves that he will give up gambling, and take up farming – from consciousness to consciousness, just the hemisphere changes.

And changes how. Another story suggests that the seer of this sukta was himself this addict he talks about (explains the clear narration of a gambler’s perspective). He was ‘taken away’ – incarcerated? You can taste his pain of rejection when you read his words – it is his own people who are asking that the gambler be taken away. If he stops gambling, his friends go away. See the oscillation and ‘stuckness’??

However, it is this person who was accepted as a Rishi, and he also became a Purohita of a king. Now piece the jig-saw. The missing pieces are not really missing. One may infer (debatably?) that a fallen person got accepted and promoted to the apex of a social pyramid.

Psychotherapy and psychology may not include poetry. But poetry is potent enough to remain a moving poetry while containing guilt, anguish, insight, reflection, observation, and knowledge of the truth. Cut and dry it as psychology, psychotherapy or more, as you like it – or, as you can chew it.

See the Mandala 10, Sukta 34 of Rigveda. It contains 14 verses. This Sukta or a poem, also known as the “gambler’s lament”, is by Kavaṣa Ailūṣa.

The brief translation of the verses is as follows:

The wobbling [dice] born on tall trees in windy places, rolling on the dice-board, give intoxicating pleasure to my heart. The dice from the Vibhīdaka tree, the one that keeps [gamblers] awake, delights me, like the drink of soma from the Mujavat mountain. (1)

She [my wife] neither got angry nor felt ashamed of me [on the contrary], she was cordial towards my friends and towards me. For the sake of addiction to dice, I have abandoned my devoted wife! (2)

The mother-in-law hates [the gambler], the wife keeps him away, and the destitute does not find a comforting friend. I do not find any happiness for a gambler, like the value of an old and worn-out horse. (3)

Others fondle the wife of the one whose wealth the powerful dice has coveted. The father, mother, and brothers say of him, “We don’t know him, bind him and take him away!” (4)

When I resolve that I will not play with these (dice), then I am abandoned by my departing friends. And the tawny (dice) that are thrown down (on the board) make a rattling sound, I go towards the place where they are thrown, like a paramour (drawn to the meeting place with her lover). (5)

His body glowing, the gambler enquiring (about the gambling den), goes to it, thinking “I will win”. On the casting of the moves by his adversary, the dice stoke his desire. (6)

Dice are indeed goads that torment and destroy, and cause remorse and agony. For the winning gambler, they are like sons who keep sucking wealth (from a wealthy father), and for the loser, they, covered with honey destroy him again. (i.e. his wealth and his reputation). (7)

Their group of fifty-three cavort (on the board), like the god Savitṛ, true to his word. They do not bow down even to the anger of the infuriated, even the king bows down to them! (8)

They roll downwards and spring upwards, without hands they overpower the one with hands! Though being cold to touch, cast on the board, they are glowing charcoals that burn the heart! (9)

The abandoned wife of the aimlessly wandering gambler is tormented and so is the mother. Indebted and fearful, desiring wealth (by any means), he approaches the homes of others by night (to steal). (10)

The gambler burns with envy on seeing a woman, another’s wife and his well-established dwelling. He yokes the tawny horses in the morning and the sinner sinks down (exhausted) when the fire dies out. (11)

(O dice)! Whoever is the commander-in-chief of your hordes, the king, the foremost of your tribe, I bow to him with ten fingers (i.e. joined palms) facing east, and I will not covet wealth – this I say truthfully. (12)

O gambler! Do not play with dice, engage in farming, enjoy the wealth gained thereby, considering it to be sufficient! There (in farming) are the cattle, there is your wife (i.e. you will find happiness in them), that is what the Lord Savitṛ has told me. (12)

(O dice!) Make us your friend, soothe us, do not deal with us using unbearable ferocity! May your fury rest in our enemy and may another (i.e our enemy) fall into the grip of the tawny (dice). (14)

Translation: Vedavedanga

Image source: https://ipnagogicosentire.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/bridge-reflection-venice-1955.jpg?w=736

 

Do you smell a flower? Or …

What happens when you smell a flower? 

You say it smells sweet (or something like that), right?

When you put a drop of honey in your mouth, you say that honey is sweet, right?

 

What if it was not right?

Today I was browsing Kaushitaki Brahmana (कौषीतकि ब्राह्मण) and came across some text – interesting piece even if slightly turned around in meaning.
3-8:
न वाचं विजिज्ञासीत वक्तारं विद्यात् न गन्धं विजिज्ञासीत घ्रातारं विद्यान्न रूपं विजिज्ञासीत दृष्टारं विद्यात् ….न कर्मं विजिज्ञासीत कर्तारं विद्यात् न सुखदुखे विजिज्ञासीत सुखदुखयोर्विज्ञातारं विद्यात् … न मनो विजिज्ञासीत मन्तारं विद्यात् …।
For the uninitiated: we all know there are four Vedas, right? Right. Each of the Vedas have four – let’s say, subsystems, or modules. Samhita, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads.
The Sanskrit text above translates thus:
Let’s not try to find out what speech is, let’s know the speaker. Let’s not try to find out what smell is, let’s know the one who smells. Let’s not try to find out what form is, let’s know the seer… Let’s not try to find out what action is, let’s know the doer. Let’s not try to find out what pleasure and pain are, let’s know the one who knows pleasure and pain… Let’s not try to find out what mind is, let’s know the one who possesses the mind.
Yet, the way our senses and our understanding of sensory signals work, we do precisely the opposite. We smell the smell (perfume) of the flower and we claim to have smelled the flower. We taste the sweetness of honey and we say we tasted honey. We experience (some/few/one or two) qualities of a person and we say we know a person. We have experienced a bit of life and we say we have known the life. How accurate is that?
Sometimes (much more than ‘some’ times) we fall prey to stereotypes and generalizations. we seek the sweet middling tendencies, universally applicable ‘truths’ and deny the other person any deviation from that ‘normality’. Although the passage above is about knowing the Brahman, I read it in a more worldly fashion. Think about the empathy and sensitivity to the uniqueness in the other it implies.
We think that ‘scientific’ approach is superior, but that is also miserable. In the name of science and ‘systematic’ approach to creating knowledge, we get tempted to take abstractions at such higher levels that they no longer apply to the chunk of reality we have in our hands. There is nothing wrong with grand theories, but in the name of grand theories, we misplace the actual point of interaction between ourselves and what we experience. And all the while, we think that we have a universal, objective truth. We think that ‘the reality’ is objective, and one for all. We establish standards and ‘cut-off’ s of ‘normality’ and brand the deviations.
It might be fine at times, and necessary at some others. But a habit of making a conclusion at a level higher than where the experience occurs is a gross error. While we do smell the smell, we do not smell the flower. Saying that we smell a flower is a gross denial of all the parts of a flower that either do not smell or have a smell that human nose cannot register. Think of what it means when applied to our interpersonal ties with others.
Does this paragraph not knock on the doors of dynamics of leadership and interpersonal relations?? What do you say?
Image credit:

Pickles, identity, and more

Fifty-three years passed by before I shopped for Gujarati pickles – the Saurashtra variety.

Studies at first, then kids, work, more ‘important’ tasks… the excuses were many. I had the resourceful mom, masi, masi-sasu and friend; there were ATHANA (Gujarati word for pickles)-enthusiasts at home and my mother-in-law loved to make them — so I simply enjoyed them. My mother-in-law never even half-jokingly alluded to that fact that I had not learned how to make them myself. Add to that the notion that it was better to eat fresh vegetables and fruit. In short, yours truly was a big zero when it came to the ability to make Athana.

Yet, on some days when Khichadi was made, I’d longingly remember the kind of Gundaa (glueberries) my mom’s grandmother used to make. Passing from her hands, they had come to my mom’s mother, and to my mother. Sometimes the thought of Dala-Garmar (the roots of Coleus Forskholli are “Garmar” and “Dala” are their stems) would flash through my mind like the sparks of memory flashing amid amnesia. But that was about it – nothing more.

This vacation, my work involves the reading of Vedic literature. Energized by reading those amazing texts in the morning, I feel ready to greet my household to pull out of it one of those several tasks that remained neglected, avoided, and buried deep at the bottom of my list of priorities – just like one of those divers who pull out the water chestnuts from some lake. What could be a better way to structure that part of the day than to liberate one entry from the to-do list?

It was in that connection that I went to buy fresh vegetables. It is not my usual job. As soon as I entered the shop, I saw the fresh, green gundaa and got hooked to them. So, I bought raw mangoes to go with them. Next to those were Garmar. The bunch of them looked like a grieving widower without Dala, so I rescued them as well. On way back, I also swooped some mustard oil, and dry chilis – a combination of Kashmiri and Reshampatto, to balance color and taste.

My MIL looked aghast with shock when I got back home. I had to reassure her that there was nothing to worry about. But MIL was her name! She also braced up and strode into the kitchen. I had already had the recipe from mom (although it was one AM her time, she outputted the whole thing without so much of a pause), and plugged some FAQs with the help of Masi and my Dilojaan friend.

Swiftly applying PERT-CPM, I initiated the project on two- or three parallel paths and began to clean Garmar, when my husband came for his tea.

“What’s this?”

“Garmar”

“What’s that?”

“For pickle”

“Ohh, the kind that Punjabis make?”

“The kind that Nagars make.”

It was just the mention of the word Nagar – my community, but much in a way that a mere scratch on a ragtag wall draws the whole lot of rubble, the word brought forth with force, the memories of my childhood, days and nights of summer vacation, grandparents, great-grandparents, mother,  and much more – the way a sprout bursts out of the loose coupling of a tap with the pipe. Tears welled up in my eyes. Husband knew that sound of heavy breathing meant to pull the snot up. He pressed a silent punch on my sleeve in his bro-spirit.

I prefer to keep myself to myself. Within a moment the world outside got muted, and I began to match pace with my inner self. Preparation for pickles turned into some ancient meditation and connected me to my loved ones. Tears dried up and the smell of memories of cherished ones and cherished times began to fill my soul up.

Cutting the raw mangoes with care, arranging each piece in a matrix on a spread of cloth, making sure that no piece had the residue of the hard case of mango seed … such tiny details tuned me up with the women of my family and the qualities they had: attention to detail, finesse, and diligence began to get sprinkled over me. That I think, was the Samskara. Piercing the ears, shaving the head off, taking steps around the sacred fire are mere rituals. Things that we don’t do naturally, things that someone has to teach us, and teach us in a way that we begin to perform them without boredom and do them well – that, is Samskara, I felt. My elders must have sawn some into me,  and a few of those began to sprout. In my childhood, my mother would have asked me to do many things, and I would have simply run away without ever doing them. Today, those tasks that I never learned began to pay some of the debt. The heritage of making Athana stirred from slumber.

I told my MIL, “You are not going to do anything. Just sit here, tell me ‘Do this / Don’t do this’, and supervise.” She also agreed. And we had some idle debates on which jaggery was superior and such. She said she had got the chili powder for pickles, and I said I was going to grind my own. I can be stubborn at times, so everyone ran for cover and came back to the kitchen with gingerly steps only when convinced that there was no chili discharge in the air. I also showed my appreciation by filling up the jars just as told.

Thus I was initiated today as I wet my feet in one of those many many streams of way of living in which the women of my family have become buffed to a spotless shine.

Bahubali2: why it gets under your skin

It irks people or pleases them. I guess why. But my guesses are hazardous: so, instead of sending them as a letter to the editor of a newspaper, I am writing a Blog.
When you say you “like” something, o when it “irritates” you, you are evaluating. That comes from your thinking part. Way before thinking though, and a much more unconscious level, we feel. The movie (esp. BB2) hooks you because it has multiple appeals to your feeling and the arational part, and therefore it has something for everyone: to love or hate. So it is so successful. Here’s about its appeal:
1. Rasa, the cream rising atop the churning of emotions: विभावानुभावव्यभिचारिसंयोगाद्ररस निष्पत्ति:।
The foremost principle of Natyashastra says that the play we watch produces an emotional equivalent of essence or nectar, which comes from the churning of emotions.
The dormant rasa resides in the hearts of all the viewers who have suitable predispositions. (Those who have not, get irritated because their emotional profile doesn’t match with what the play has to offer.)
When we see the movie, our dormant emotional profile gets stirred mainly by the acting of the Hero.
Strike-1: Bahubali (especially BB2) invokes one major emotion: Veer rasa conveying valor and enthusiasm. It has merged into another Rasa, which is Shringar. It is a mix of attraction, romance, chivalry and dedication. See how BB1 differs from BB2 here. BB1 simply shows the crude, erotic expressions and moves, like taking away the clothes of an unknown girl. BB2 has better to offer. And the second minor Rasa is Adbhuta, full of surprises. BB2 does that with sumptuous visual feasts. Whether we find them acceptable or not is a matter of thinking part, remember. The churning happens because these rasas compete with each other for our attentions, merge into each other at some time while replacing each other at some other. Therefore, you have a constant experience of churning emotions and emergence of Rasa.
Strike-2: The emotional profile of a viewer is tingled by the hero’s stage presence and acting. Must say, he is charming, tall, well-built, and intense. Who wouldn’t love a man who jumps into the water to let you walk on his shoulders to get to the boat? And there’s more of that. This hero is a lover, son, the crown prince, and more. He fills these roles within roles with smooth presence and acting.
Strike-3: The hero’s acting is given meaning by his other for every Rasa. Who wouldn’t love Devasena’s youthful character? She charms and surprises us because she beats the stereotype of a Barbie-doll princess (read dumb and good-for-nothing except when sitting pretty). And the way they mix romance and valor – like the scene where the two fight in dance-like moves in total synchronization (Did I not say, don’t judge, yet? – we are not talking about whether it is realistic or not. We are saying why people find it difficult to remain apathetic to this movie).
There’s more to Rasa, but this much will do for now.
2. Individual and social identity-ideals:
I am not talking about the unreal, the excessive or simply the unconvincing elements of the movie. The movie hooks that spot of our unconscious where we hoard the parts of the ideal identities that we wish our self or our society to be.
BB’s strength, and all that apart, the senior BB and Devasena stand up for their convictions. The queen may have lapsed in judgment, but they stand up for their values. They pay the price. And what a price…
We come out to sit in our drawing-room and blame the society, the system, or whatever. Because it doesn’t support people who take a stand. We know that taking a stand means giving up the rest of your life – or giving up the life – and fighting just for one thing, whether you will get it in your lifetime or not.
When we face unfairness, we wish we had support. From someone, anyone – but we don’t, so we evaluate that ‘flexibility is better, ideals are stupid’. But we know that that kind of society is no good. We wish we had that kind of society, but that remains as an unrealized ideal.
Anthony Giddens said (something roughly like:) that man creates the society, then society creates the man. So, in an unfair society, we reduce, dilute, restrain ourselves even when it is unfair to us to do so, and wish we could be what we could have been.
Strike-4: This is where BB2 hits at an underground level. You know that Bhallal won by treachery, yet BB kept his trust. Bhallal aNi company called him a dog, yet Kattappa kept his dedication. Or, Devasena took insults and what not for 25 years. Devasena’s parents wed their daughter to the prince of an empire, but the empire burnt them down. We will be wiser than all of these, put together, but we know that we should have not been so.
It is stirring that we are too conscious and too self-conscious to pay attention to, and therefore we just laugh at it. Or we love it.
When we laugh at the broken laws of physics [in the movie], we actually subdue the noise of broken code of fairness.
… But why to make so much of a mere movie?

While I await the result of my BA Final… at the age of 52 7⁄12

“Make haste slowly. When you think you have arrived, press on and don’t sit down”*

Well, it was not all fun. Especially because it came in a package. To study 10 papers in Sanskrit, I studied 4 in Psychology, 2 in Gujarati, 3 in English, and 6 as Soft Skills and Foundation courses. 10:15 is not very efficient. But then, there are other considerations. Like, many of these may be complementary. And they make sense if you love the 10 part.
As far back as I remember my high school days, I had wanted to study Sanskrit. I was good as languages, and that is how I wanted to study, if at all – because I was not at all ambitious about studying. I would have been happy as a child bride, to admit it candidly. But those are perhaps crazy non-notions that you have about yourself. I guess if someone did take me in, I would have been reading and writing all day I imagine. I loved biology, but Physics and Math were not for me.
I found myself marching forth, through Commerce, into Management, and so on. Oft and again, I would remember my dream. One day, post-50, I enrolled for the Bachelor’s in Arts. While these sentiments are fresh, I note them as the lessons to myself:
Cycle (or spiral, and not a circle) and not a line: My model for the life must have been a straight line, because I sometimes regretted studying what I did and wished I had studied language. I perhaps assumed that if you come away from something, you can never go back to it. But now I think that my love for language has proven itself, I have not done so bad for myself, and now that I also studied language once again, it seemed that I could have done it before as well. So, you don’t have to move away. You come back, but at a different height.
Complementing, not competing: In fact, my previous learning made me a better vessel for absorbing the richness and beauty of Sanskrit in all of its profoundness.
Beginning, not the end: I actually think that this bachelor’s has only opened the doors of a promising future of further discovery, exploration and amazement.
Choice, not blame: It could have been easy to blame someone for why I did not study Sanskrit earlier. The reality is, my love proved itself undying, curiosity intact, and now I showed to myself that you can respect others’ wishes as well as satisfy your own will.
Doing what you love – a perfect upset: I worked for a Ph.D. later than expected, but just when I thought I had a book to my name, a doctoral degree, and the usual academic work going on, going back to a Bachelor’s was a perfect indentation to what would have otherwise been a waking slumber.
Reason, not accidents: Finally, I believe everything happens for a reason. I was meant to go to commerce college, I was meant to get an MBA, and I am glad I did. At the same time, I was meant to study my language of love, and finally I have just begun!
All, and not one: I might be thinking that I am the one studying, but it is all because the social side take a back step, mind has a new absorption, and schedule has a tendency to get rigid. Some people give way, and some hold hands. No one does nothing all by themselves.
Studies, not degrees: Lastly, this one is true for all the times. I would do something if I love it. In this case, the unfulfilled wish to study Sanskrit – degree is what fallows. I won’t say I don’t care, but that’s not the reason: I know you know it.
* Modified from Goldfrab, J. A., The Journey of a Humbled Heart: A Life Guide for the 21st Century, http://bit.ly/2oYg8mK p.85.
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