Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Impressions from Lokmanya Tilak

To read a book on Lokmanya Tilak's life had been on my to-do list for a long time. There were three reasons for this :

1. His work ethic : I had read somewhere that he was almost a workaholic, he worked long hours relentlessly for the society and country, more than people do at their jobs. He was a very versatile learner and worker and in his life, he did all kinds of things. He was a journalist, edited two magazines, taught law
classes, was a maths teacher in school and college, a lover of trigonometry, started a school, a college (Fergusson College, Pune), did social work during the plague, researched Vedic History, wrote a commentary on the Gita, he even ran a sugar factory for a while. How could one person be and do all these things ?

2. I had heard that, among the freedom fighters, Swami mentioned Lal-Bal-Pal particularly in praise.

3. Having read and written on Gandhi at my blog, it would be great to acquire a perspective totally different from Gandhi. Tilak and Gandhi mutually respected each other, but during their time, it was clear that their paths were different and they knew it too. Tilak debated this with Gandhi and tried to persuade him to give up non-violence and didn't succeed at it.

I wanted to understand Tilak the man, his personality, his early years and what made him to be what he was. So I stepped into the university library after 10 years and picked up Tilak's biography. by Dhananjay Kheer. After the first few chapters, the book turned out to be more on his political chronography, he did this at that Congress meeting, then Congress met next year, then he did that, again Congress met and so on. Nevertheless, I could observe many events in his life and his views and some of them I never had an inkling about. Here are some points and anecdotes that I found interesting and inspiring.

Tilak the social worker :

He was a man who worked amidst the masses. We all know that he used Shivaji's Birth anniversary and Ganesh Chathurthi as platforms to raise the patriotic awareness of the people. He believed in ground action, to be with the people.

During the Poona plague, the British appointed committees to segregate patients. This was to be implemented by British soldiers. There were reports that they were acting too harshly and there were excesses. The British Government said, it was just doing its medical job. Tilak joined the search teams himself, visiting house to house, to ensure the British soldiers didn't commit excesses. He also created awareness in the public about hygiene in slums and urged the Hindus not to stick to old superstitions and stay away from hospital treatment. He started a Hindu hospital where Hindus were treated at their expense. He started a free kitchen in the segregation camp to help the poor.

Tilak believed that it was the duty of the people to see that the government implements laws effectively. He said it was the responsibility of the local leaders, and if they are prosecuted for it, they shouldn't mind suffering imprisonment for the good of the people.

He criticized the Indian National Congress often, from within, of the same set of elite people, meeting from time to time, the same set of resolutions about working "along with" the British Government, what was the use ? Get peasants! Help them solve problems of land revenue, salt, forest and excise under which they they are crushed. He told the farmers to pay the govt dues if they had money, but not to do so by contracting debts! He travelled from village to village to gather farmers support for the struggle.

His was possibly the first agrarian movement in support of independence. The freedom struggle probably was the last truly national movement in India, that involved all sections of society. I couldn't miss out on the comparison with anti-corruption movement in India in 2011. Where were the masses ? The office-going urbanites and the mouse-clicking social media were there, but where were the people who are often at the last receiving end of corruption ? Who travelled from village to village to communicate to them and collect them ? 

Tilak the Leader :

Over time, Tilak reached a point of belief that the leader should do what the people want, but are unable to express or unable to do. He maintained a very strong regional identity, he was highly respected among the Maharashtrian freedom leaders. A Congress session at Pune or Bombay would be unthinkable without Tilak's participation. But he also established a great rapport with like-minded leaders in other far-flung areas, such as V.O.Chidambaram Pillai, Aurobindo etc. It must have been quite difficult to stay within the Congress and fight its lethargy and engage in dialogue with critics in the same conference venue. Yet, he would reach a common ground, if the overall unity of the Indian National Congress or the overall interest of the Nation was paramount. One could have easily expected a strong, independent and fiery mind like Tilak to have broken away into a separate party, out of frustration and impatience, or to be removed for his insistent approach, but neither happened. Other leaders sought him out for his views, even as they knew he may not agree with them.

Tilak refused to plead guilty, although if he had done so, it would have reduced his prison sentence in the sedition case. I was curious to know, did he regret it later ? In contrast, a few weeks back, Gokhale had given an unconditional apology for his speaking up while he was in Britain. Savarkar too was forced to tender an apology and undertaking to refrain from millitant activity.  Tilak was no such man. It looked like his diabetes in the prison and weak health changed him a bit. That, and his age, did it change his extremist views, did it soften them? Who can have a peek into how the great minds transition ?

At many points in Tilak's life, he must have faced the conflict of improving the Indian society versus fighting the British, and the conflict of having to support other methods which were different from him. He must have handled the conflict of what is good and bad for the country at that time, or what was a lesser evil in the longer interest. The ethical dilemmas that a leader faces in a real life working for the society are so different from the ones taught in the story-telling classrooms. How does a leader act when all you see around is misery and conflict and there is no one to raise the people's awareness ?

There was once a strange case when Tilak fought a case for the corrupt, while condemning them in Kesari. An English official collected bribes from 17 mamlatdars for favouring them promotions. The corruption came to light. The British lured the Mamlatdars saying if they confessed who the official was, no action would be taken against them. After the English official was named, the British backtracked. They didn't want to put out a ugly picture that an English official was corrupt, so they changed his offence into some minor stuff and let him free. They then went after the Mamlatdars and dismissed them for paying bribes. Tilak said,  the British went back on their word, fought the case for the Mamlatdars, won it and had them re-instated. He then condemned bribery and the Mamlatdars who offered bribes. I guess, he must have reasoned, between corruption and the British, fight the bigger evil first!

There was a case where Tilak might have actually concealed the wrong-doer. One Damodar Chapekar, acting on his own, had shot dead a British official who had acted tyrannically during the plague. At dawn next day, he sent a message to Tilak that said, 'The previous night the Ganesha at Ganeshkhind had been propitiated'. Tilak probably knew about some rough plans, he immediately understood the message and exclaimed, 'Is it so? Then be cautious now!'. He later wrote in his paper about both the police raj and also that the culprit should be nabbed and due course of law should be followed. He later said, when asked by the officer : 'I can't help you. Even if I have information, I will never pass it on to you. I believe offender should be punished adequately, but I will never agree to be anybody's spy and never will I betray anyone in the world. But I won't put obstacles in your path. The murder is a blot upon Poona, when found, the offender should be punished as per law.' Later, when Damodar was apprehended, he requested Tilak, who was in jail, to draft his appeal. Tilak did so. Damodar carried Tilak's copy of Gita to the gallows.

Tilak the Man :

He was a man of amazing personal integrity, the kind it's probably impossible to find nowadays in public life. His idealistic approach often put him in conflict with others, but he was a man of strong convictions.

Once, Tilak agreed to be the executor of the will of a dying friend Shri Baba Maharaj. After his death, his relatives falsely accused Tilak and disputed the will. Tilak had to go through the court case for 19 years without compromise and won the case, because he had given a word to his friend!

Once, when a revolutionary sent a diamond as a gift to Tilak from abroad, he ordered it to be sold and the proceeds to be used for the independence struggle.

He wanted members of his institution (Deccan Education Society) to follow a simple spartan lifestyle. He was against regular automatic pay-rises, a fact some of his married colleagues had problem accepting, because they felt, according to market conditions, pay has to raise. Also, Tilak said, if members did work outside the job, the remuneration from outside work will belong to the society's common fund. These were very ideal beliefs, and he himself practised them but it was impractical for others to follow.  He had to, unfortunately, resign out of the very college he started, because of extreme views, which he considered as matters of principle and his colleagues considered highhandedness.

Tilak encouraged his friends and colleagues to have a rest vacation, once a year, in seclusion. Tilak's book 'The Arctic Home of the Vedas' was written during one such, in Singhad after his release from Yeravada Jail. In jail, he had received a flash insight from the Vedic sentence :'The Sun rose after many days', which was an inspiration for the book.

He had a great ability to revert to calm, in the face of danger. When the police surrounded his house for writing seditious articles in Kesari, he quietly surrendered. By the time the court official went to process his bail, (which was denied) and returned, he found Tilak happily snoring in the cell. Haha, cool as a cucumber.

He used his stay in the prison to write a commentary on the Bhagawad Gita. What an intellectual realm our leaders maintained even in the prison those days! Aurobindo had a vision of Lord Krishna, Vinobhaji learnt 4 languages and gave talks on the Gita to fellow prisoners! Tilak favoured an "activism" version of the understanding of the Gita and saw Karma Yoga in the light of patriotism and service to the country.

When he was in prison, other prisoners had great respect for Tilak. The jail authorities sometimes used Tilak's moral authority to tame the rogue prisoners, Tilak's word had the magical respect with them.

There were a few things I found myself disagreeing while reading the book. His extreme orthodoxy and casteism, his belief that independence should precede social reform and not go hand in hand, his extreme pro-Hindu leanings etc. Strangely, he opposed the increase of minimum age of consent for marriage from 10 to 12 by the British. Publicly, he opposed it saying it was against the tenets of Hinduism. Privately, he agreed that it was okay to raise. But he opposed it on two grounds (a) Who is the British to meddle with Indian tradition ? Let Indians decide for indians. (b) Change in Hinduism has to come from within itself, not forced from outside. But some of these were probably just a function of his times while we view it in the modern context of progressiveness.

We know that Tilak met Swami Vivekananda and Shirdi Sai Baba. Let me close with a few more sweet #TIL snippets :

1. Guess who fought the defence of Tilak's Kesari sedition case in 1909 ? Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

2. Max Muller petitioned the British Government for release of Tilak.

3. Much before he appeared on the Indian freedom scene, Gandhi met Tilak, Gokhale and other leaders seeking their support for his South African movement.

4. When Tilak visited Cambridge, he gave a brilliant talk on why Indian students studying there should go back to India after their studies and dedicate themselves to the cause of the nation. Guess who was in that student audience : Subhash Chandra Bose! . Now, that should be the biography I should pick up next.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Pursuit of Truth in Medicine

The medical pond is a complex ecosystem. It's too vast in surface area, too specialized in skill sets and too uncertain in ramifications. If you are the recipient, it's also too personal. There is increased talk about alternate medicinal streams and their effectiveness or otherwise. Many seem to be singling out Allopathy (and often,  in loose reference, modern medical science), as being a dominant predator causing imbalances in an otherwise peaceful pond. So, the question often asked (and I won't answer) is : "Are you, like, Allopathy believer or Alternative medicine believer ?" Only humans are capable of these extraordinary questions, you know. They convert science into a religion and religion into science, or say something like "both are one" and confuse people, LoL.

By alternative medicine streams, I mean the whole bunch, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Siddha, Yunani, Acupuncture and so on. So, here is some of my chillar thrown into the pond, on why allopathy is not the complete picture, what's ailing alternate medicine streams and why many would find them unconvincing. It's becoming clear that my blog is for the relaxed reader, because I can't write short posts. :-) But then, it's the blog's anniversary and I haven't written since Steve Jobs, so it's the suppressed gush of a few months. :-)

Roots : To start with a very simple thing, most alternate streams of medicine rely on allopathy, their devices or the concepts for the diagnostics, even from testing the blood or measuring the BP. Allopathy itself drew some of these from ancient forms of medicine, but the original ancient forms of diagnostics aren’t even practised in their pure or correct form, and if done, too few and far between to attract reasonable attention.  Let alone being proven in favour by science in the labs and peer-reviewed journals, except for anecdotal evidence.

Research : There is probably a lean research framework for some of those alternate streams, but none of them have the research rigour, repeatability of experiments, peer disagreeability and testing techniques, of the modern era.  I am not saying alternate streams should fall in line with the western science or their research framework.  It may be that, the truths of one science cannot be validated by the framework of another science, because their underlying concepts are different. But, it’s up to the alternate medicine streams to come up with their own research and publishing  framework, where, even within their own practitioner community a certain phenomenon can be accepted, rejected, endorsed or vindicated by members of their own ecosystem. Now,  it’s all like the Mummy-Daddy kirana shop, like “Aunty got cured, I got cured, Uncle improved vastly, Try it and you’ll know, You can see it for yourself in 21 days” and so on. The "personal story" thingy, is surely an emotional and often a genuinely felt expression of a truth that happened in someone's life, it's a good thing, it's a statement of real experience. It shouldn't be discarded as imagination. But, it's one thing to share the joy and suggest it to others with fervour, another thing to start doling out suggestions based on your home-grown "expertise" and non-formal studies, another thing to conduct melas to coach people, and a totally different thing to base a science on such data.

The alternate medicine streams doesn’t have to be studied and validated by allopathy doctors, labs and journals but, at the minimum, there needs to be collation and organizing of their own anecdotal evidence. Also, if they are using Allopathy methods and devices for certain part of their work and research, like diagnosis and review, there is a need for the alternate medicine stream to evolve its own methods and devices based on its own fundamental concepts. Why would you use, Science A based principles on X, Y and Z to diagnose and then use Science B, based on principles P, Q and R to treat, particularly if you believe their principles fundamentally contradict each other ? In what sense do you think they can co-exist, whether such a co-existence has been studied and in what proportions do they mix, match or meddle ? May be some such techniques for independent diagnosis by other streams are already present, then the issue is of state support, awareness creation, publicity and wider acceptance etc. India is slightly better off in that way, in the sense that there are state-supported professional courses that support the state of native forms of medicine as an organized subject and technically qualify in those streams.

Claims: Another issue is, the often “fantastic but untrue” claims of “I have cure for Cancer”, “I have cure for AIDS”. Quacks are present in every stream including allopathy, so it's not about them. But, even among the technically qualified professionals in the alternate streams, such claims are not uncommon. Okay, assume such claims are not "claims" but, valid instances, the genuineness of which the world is refusing to see. Even for the good and qualified practicioners, it is quite common for practitioners in alternate medicine, to “give up on their patients in the last minute and rush them to the hospital”, after the situation has worsened beyond remedy. Even an intelligent modern CEO like Steve Jobs had to fall a victim of this trap, when it came to choosing a medicinal stream for his pancreatic cancer. For terminal illnesses, or for illnesses that can get fatal in advanced stages and require surgical intervention,  the alternate medicinal streams get absolutely clueless on what is to be done. They can “manage the show” for sometime and “make you feel good” for a little more time, but they fizzle out once the symptoms become advanced. Then, allopathy finally takes over, intervenes. Say, for some reason, because of the complexity and uncertainty, they are unable to figure out what's happening. At the time too, the alternate theorists might sit by the sidelines and comment on what the surgeons are doing wrong and how they can do stuff in a jiffy, but thats pretty useless unless you have a more complete alternative to handle the situation. Unless we have a complete alternate system, (or atleast as complete as it gets, as much as allopathy), the comments don't take the form of organised study.

Tradition: For streams like Ayurveda and Siddha in India, there is the argument “These were all told by our ancestors which these other guys are all exploiting today or ignoring today.”  There is surely an element of truth to it, but part of this argument is emotional, “my country”, “my mummy” thingy. Like the Steve Jobs analogy I used above.  There are a few things mangled here, their validity in terms of effectiveness, an establishment of such validity, then awareness and communication, genuineness in practice,  and then, last,  “my country ka science tha”, that brimming pride in the gleaming eyes. It's true that some ancient texts like the Siddha medicinal texts in poetry form, are not discovered, not studied enough and not publicised, but that's an access and awareness issue. I would only say, it’s an open world,  to every citizen his own country is the darling, so in a global world, let the Medicine Stream A fight it out with Medicine Stream B. Whichever works , gets accepted. Which we’ll know in a few centuries after we have messed up the whole thing, LoL. We shouldn't mix up our passion for our country with the pursuit of Truth. Brilliant minds from every land have pursued the truths in every field and struck upon original insights that aid in that pursuit. After all, till Louis Pasteur discovered what fermented beet sugar, the world was just watching people die. May be we are the pooja room of the world, but  Saraswathi Kataksham is global, LoL.

Lifestyle : Most alternate medicinal streams tend to explain their unreliability, with “lifestyle” choices of the patient. “It doesn’t work because it’s all tied to your lifestyle”, they would say. This is true, and hugely significant, and such significance is often undermined by sheer ignorance, even among the otherwise literate crowds. Unfortunately, health awareness, is like personal finance literacy. How-many-ever times people tell you the right thing and educate you on risk and return, you foolishly believe what you want to believe and go put your money in a chit fund first thing in the morning, LoL. Like the potato chips pack I devoured just now.   But the "lifestyle kills it" argument, is not true only for alternate medicine, it’s true for allopathy too. It’s common nowadays, in the light of modern research trends, for allopathy doctors to suggest lifestyle changes before medical management, and also to suggest Meditation, natural foods, diet and exercise changes etc wherever found to be relevant and helpful, but only upto a stage where these things can manage the show. So it’s not like, allopathy ignores lifestyle management. To be fair, the alternate streams should be credited for creating greater awareness in allopathy research by pointing their significance and relevance. Again, while most doctors suggest meditation where relevant, Yoga is suggested only with caution. Because, as much as Yoga done in the right way can have its benefits, Yoga done the wrong way can land the patient into fresh issues, over which again the doctor has no control, like lifestyle.

Subjectivity : Because the major part of the problem is the lifestyle, or so they believe, the problem is also prone to a lot of "customised" explanations. This is fine. But this also becomes an escape hatch, for things that you are not able to explain. If a doctor looks at two patients with a similar symptom, he may decide that their causes are different. But if two doctors look at the same patient, they might still decide that, the cause, according to their views, is different. This gap in subjectivity is better closed, by a framework that allows a peer to challenge your study and to find patterns among all the subjectivity. Given a patient, and assuming the doctors are equally qualified in their streams, two doctors from Allopathy are likely to agree on the broad causes better, rather than two doctors from an alternate stream. Now, which one is the whole truth, which stream and which of the two doctors in that stream ? Is it subjective based on the patient's condition or subjective based on the doctor's study of it ?

Adoption: One question that still remains and pertinent is : "Have you tried ? Try and then speak." . While this is a valid question, it can also take wrong directions for the uninformed. Most people, would like to have an answer to another question that arises before this : "Is it worth a try? If yes, why ?". The answer for this is either not clear, or not clearly communicated, or unconvincing, or incomplete except for the passionate appeals. The appeals are like the shouts on the Marina : "He is the only REDEEMER", kind of thing, okay for suddenly waking up from slumber, but not convincing for long-term adoption. If we don't pause to ask the question "Is it worth a try" before trying, we might as well be trying anything that anyone says, the seller of panacea with a mike on the pavement who supplies mysterious potions in minisule portions. There is always the answer :"You'll try when you feel the pinch". This is true, but it doesn't answer the question still. May be we all will turn to alternate medicine after getting frustrated with allopathy and its side-effects, just like some who do the converse.Oh, by the time, we won't have any money left, and by then, alternate medicine also would have got commercialized, so we won't even be able to shift loyalties. :-) :-)

Whatever may be said about the research, the passion of some promoters of alternate medicine is amazing and is born of a genuine concern for wholesome health of their fellowmen. Their approach is different, but the fervour with which they learn and update their study of the subject is unquestionable. Some of it, arises out of what they see as the public being misguided by the marketing giants, who mask the truth of things or the basic causes of a disease lying untreated while the symptoms are dressed up and covered up with a pill mania. The "misguidance" theory works both ways. The alternate streams believe, pharma companies are misguiding, pause them for a moment and go to the other camp, you'll hear Allopathy saying that the alternate streams are misguiding. If you are too baffled, I think it's easier for you to become a doctor yourself and not go to one. But, Oh God, medical education is costly and you'll end up misguiding others, gathering a lot more sin, because of which you will be born as a patient once again in the next birth, and the cycle continues. LoL. Not without reason it is said, 'Iha samsaare bahu dustare'.

Commerce: Of course, Allopathy and western medical science today have got entangled into a lot of other issues and maladies. Legality, insurance, Big Pharma, side effects, over-cautious and aggressive medication, trial medication under uncertainty, suppression of facts, greed, blatant promotion and mindless marketing, camouflaging of bad practices as good ones and then deep and deliberate over-commercialization. Some back-end parts of the muck is not different from organized crime. It ain't Healing that is paramount any more. It's some money, and then some healing, if it happens that is.  As I wrote earlier, Pharmaceutical research has got mangled with money, law and governance, so much so that the "intention to cure" has become an also-ran motive, rather than the primary one. But I guess, these are present in  various other streams of human life, no point singling out Medicine. As a race, we are generally doomed in many ways, and specifically “extra doomed” in few ways, LoL. I also expect these negative phenomena to happen in alternate medicinal streams whenever they hit the threshold level of wider acceptance and practice. If you are Windows, you have viruses. It's like saying, adopt other streams because Allopathy has issues. As those alternate streams grow in size and acceptance, you'll have the same maladies because the malady is there in the mind of Man, not in the tools you choose.

Effectiveness: That said, we can't say alternate medicine streams are all ineffective. It's just that, their effectiveness is not part of meticulous, unambiguous documentation and framework, that can be independently studied by others  in comparable environments, under controlled conditions and across cultures and geographies. It’s more like the beneficial effects of home remedies, native wisdom, meditation, yoga etc, effective indeed in pockets based on context, particularly in prevention and consciously healthy lifestyles, some of them supported by occasional  research, but not all and not all the time.

Completeness : There is a view that while Allopathy has its merits and relevance on the surface (diagnosis, treatment), it is hugely incomplete in its study of the roots and causes, there are entire sets of insights that it is refusing to acknowledge. Many alternate streams, (some bordering on healing techniques and not exactly Science) insist on a strong mind-body connection, and then, a spirit-mind-body connection to disease. Allopathy might appreciate it "kinda broadly", but we should credit the alternate streams for highlighting the connection, that the root of disease lies in our thoughts, foods and lifestyles, in that order. Some border work between Allopathy and alternate streams have definitely resulted in new learning for Allopathy. A Mahesh Yogi volunteering to be medically studied under trance during Meditation or Carl Jung's focussed study on Man's Consciousness have, later found relevance and attention from mainstream research, even though viewed with suspicion in early stages. Good scientists are humble when they see technical merits even if they are outside their domain of study. This has led to "Holistic" medicine. But the problem with the term is, each stream claiming it is more holistic than the other. Holisticker than thou, LoL. But the complete truth is better pursued, by each stream, acknowledging the areas where a stream is clearing lacking and adopting insights from other streams, with a honesty in approach and healing as the objective.

It’s also possible, that we are all living in a Matrix-like illusory haze, all “falsely” believing in Allopathy, where, in fact, that’s the villain. Evolved believers of alternate medicine are mocking at our balloon, filled with the gas called research, waiting for it to be pricked. We’ll tumble in a free fall, and land in their hands, and they’ll then take care of all of us with affection and succour :-) .  Then, you should know, anything like this blog post, which “clearly” re-assured the balloon is safe,  is actually warning you, that it might not be. I mean, otherwise, why would someone go to great lengths to reassure you repeatedly :-) ? Like the analysts and officials who always said, “everything is fine”, till the bubble burst on the sub-prime housing crisis. The Truth will set you on fire, and then it will set you free.

Three specific disclaimers, in addition to the general ones at the blog footer :
1.    I have no knowledge about any medicinal science. My knowledge of medicine is lesser than my knowledge of music, which is documented earlier here.  It's an unresearched post on the importance of research, LoL.  I am just an intellectual patient, with exactly 2 cents in my pen and pocket, LoL, with which I can’t substantiate any of these claims, including your medico-legal one.

2.    I am willing to be corrected. Expect an update five years from now, when I have transformed and converted to the alternate evangelists, err... I mean, of medicine. Some of my passionate friends have already "moderated" my views on this post, a few more strokes, and they may have their way, LoL. By now, it’s well-known that  I usually adopt late, particularly when it comes to the good things of life. The more virtuous it is, the more time I take to adopt. :-) :-) Not exactly the satsang you want to be in.

3.    And please, I haven’t seen Aamir Khan’s TV episode on medicine, LoL.

Friday, December 2, 2011

On Success, death and Steve Jobs

A friend's post on Facebook drew my attention to an article about the posthumous tribute-wave for Steve Jobs. For a quickie without following the conversation elsewhere, the article says 'Steve Jobs wasn't great, he wasn't even close' . Among other things, it draws a comparison in terms of greatness, to Jonas Salk, who invented the polio vaccine and gave it free, deciding not to patent it. In other words, who is greater and, mummy, why is Steve Jobs getting all the attention ? I wouldn't have noticed if Ramnath didn't mention it, but after he did, I noticed that it was a 'sad essay, with weak arguments and too many fallacies'.

Great is a generic adjective that spans many fields. For example, a great musician, a great emperor, a great surgeon and so on. You cannot exactly compare greatness in one field with another and often, greatness in certain times, with other times.

In the field of, say, technology business, and in his times he was greater than many of his contemporaries. He did things differently. Many clicked, some didn't, some clicked later. He was thrown out of his company and staged a comeback and then staged a turnaround and rebuilt the fascination full circle. He might have been heavy-headed, but lot of creative/successful people are that. In the field that he chose as his passion, he manifested that passion into results that satisfied him and those he sought to impact. Such success was also acknowledged by others. That, in itself, is what only a small percentage, get to do.

He chose expensive style for his products, and was convinced there was a market for it. In all possibility he could have flopped, thats what the gurus would have got to say. But he defied tradition, the current market gyaan, and clicked, not once, but time and again. To have an intrinsic sense for a niche market, spot it and pursue it, entails the risk of stepping out of your comfort zone and being ready to sink in the process. You need to be grounded in your security with your own self, to be able to confront and conquer the insecurity in the world. It's the stuff true entrepreneurs are made of, or seek to be. We can't think like them and they can't think like us. They better not.

The article questions people's assumptions, success = greatness. But the article also assumes, charity > commerce. Coming from the charity bastion, I should have jumped to agree with the latter, but, sadly, not yet. Even if it were true, I guess we are too far away from that . Those beautiful times are yet to come. It requires our entire civilization, or huge parts of it, to think differently, on complexly intertwined issues: regarding our motivation, our money, our work ethic and our duty as a human on earth. And it will take lots of births for all of us to get there. Call it the critical mass for compassion or the escape velocity for enlightenment. Like in climate change, we have a reputation for refusing to learn until we get whacked thoroughly by Mamma Earth. Inner climate change is not going to be any simpler and Pappa God is going to have a tough time handling us. Hearts, take a lot more time to melt than glaciers. Questions like these are important to contemplate, but the answers need to be well-written.

Finally, think of the praises that arrived as like people attending a e-funeral. A life gone unnoticed or less noticed (say, Salk) is not any different from a life gone well-noticed, after it has gone, that is. In the former case, lives were impacted, sure, but most people may not have related to the individual, so they didn't write. In Steve's case, he too impacted and, it so happens, many people seem to relate to the individual, because the device was such. Interestingly, I noticed a billboard at the Kundarapalli Gate signal in Bangalore, a huge billboard ad by a real estate developer, saying just 'RIP Steve'. It's still an ad, but it shows people who used the devices fell head over heels for the brand. To connect two obituaries and compare their impact, would be like comparing the tears of two funerals, one with 10 people and another with 1000 people. Sorrow is the same for everyone. Death is a great equalizer in that sense.

Of course, great is different from good. To evaluate goodness is a larger call, you need to be able to evaluate the interplay of motives, constraints, values etc and in the light of the operating environment. Goodness is all-inclusive, includes personal life, relationships and even preservation of monuments :) :) , which Steve Jobs wasn't particular about . Greatness, on the other hand, is more explicit, can be segmented into streams, and therefore gets evaluated quickly and easily. You can't evaluate your goodness, because that'll be biased. Others can't, because they have incomplete information. Only God can, but He doesn't publish the papers. What to do ? :) :)

Yes, there was a good Steve and the bad Steve in the same person. Even in judgement, it's sad that someone with such business acumen, had to fall for a fatal over-belief in alternative medicine. People who praise the good Steve may choose to ignore the bad Steve. But, isn't it true that all of us suffer from the good-bad dichotomy ?

That is why the scriptural prayers say : Lead us from darkness to light, falsehood to truth. Lead us from proprietary software to open source. Trap us not into Apple, but deliver us from Microsoft. Give us our daily bread and butter, Facebook and Twitter. But don't lead us to immortality, it gets boring. Life without an end, will be like watching a terrible movie in a dirty theatre, all the time you are wondering, when will the movie end and the mosquitoes stop, and the lead jodi is still dancing around the trees and rolling on the hills , on the screen. Death, disease and dumping are part of the grand game. Sing a kolaveri song to release your stress, and move on to make your life colorful, cheerful and creative. Like a Mac.

Oops, for fair disclosure, like the author, even I don't own an Apple device or share. :) . And probably, that's why I am like this !

Thursday, June 2, 2011

An Ethereal Evening - A R Rahman Live in Concert at Bangalore

I was there for the A R Rahman Live in Concert, in Bengaluru Palace Grounds on 29th May 2011, Sunday. It was a wonderful event. Here are some thoughts from soon after. (Red links go to YouTube).

If you are one of those 'balanced', 'cat-on-the-wall' types, who wants to consider multiple perspectives in any discussion and arrive at a conclusion after many rounds of diplomacy, this post is too early for you. You should read my earlier post on Rahman's Top 10, follow each of those 30 text links to the music pieces, listen to all of them, attend the next Rahman Live event, and then come back and read this post. This is all about unabashed, extremely biased, praise of Rahman's music, so you may need to check if you are a worthy disciple of it. :) :) I have an eccentricity to overdo these things and I have no intention to correct course. :)

There is a generation who grew up with Rahman's music. If you were a teenager or a college-goer when one of the movies were released, Roja , Rangeela, Rhythm, Rang De Basanti or Robot, you can't miss the music's charm. Even though all those were released at different years in the last two decades, if you had listened to one of them, you would want to go back or forth and listen to the others. In the history of Indian filmy music, it is as if, there is a pre-Roja and a post-Roja era. Thank you Mani Ratnam for that path-breaking offer, for the risk you took with a then upcoming composer, it was well worth it and more. May be, it was a time that people were looking for a different kind of music, a type of music that wasn't entirely western and not entirely Carnatic or Hindustani either. May be, there was a segment of youth, who went to the Music Sabhas because their parents went, but, in addition to that taste, were ready to take to a different type of rich music, if it was given to them. And then Rahman came like a fragrant breeze into the musical scene. He took the music world by storm through his charm. Depending on what you were thinking, there was a music for the mood. It can be pleasant or peppy, fast-track or melodious, melancholic or romantic, patriotic, punjabi or pettai rap, you have all kinds in his discography of two decades. Wherever you were, one song looped endlessly, only to be interrupted with another which will then take over.

Rahman's music is global material. It's just that world took time to catch up. That's also why I like it when he collaborates with foreign artists. To be honest, I am not too fascinated by those collaborative numbers, I think Just The Rahman has got enough potential to take the entire cake, on his own, but from a different angle, thats the way to go. Rahman is excellent at bringing different types of music together to create a piece, that will keep it attractive to all those respective audiences and yet introduce to them something new. This cross-cultural symphony in music requires him to encounter different kinds of music from the different regions and he would get global, today, tomorrow or some day soon. Let's release him from the small boundaries of this Chennai and this Bollywood and this India, let him conquer the world. :) The world is his next stop and there is no stopping him. Which is one of the reasons I wanted to attend the concert in Bangalore. If he goes to Hollywood, I am not sure whether they will give him back to us. :) :)

At the Palace Grounds in Bangalore that day, the musical evening turned out to be ethereal. I have a sluggish tendency to go slow and take it cool on the show host's buildup intros. 'How are youuuu, Bengalurooo, Are y'all ready to rock the grounds... Put your hands together' and the 'Yaaaa-Hooooo' response from the audience n all, Hmmm. But, Dil Se, one of my favorites, which arrived second, changed all that, made me sit up and warm up to the treat that was to follow. I had loved 'Poraley Ponnuthayee' from Karuthamma and therefore, it's peppy sibling Chanda Sooraj Lakhon Taarey became familiar but equally lovable in due course. 'What are you waiting for, another sign, another call, someway we have to find a new way to peace', were my favorite looping lines from the 'Gurus of Peace' number from Vande Mataram.

Ye Jo Des He Tera can stop the traffic, wherever you hear it. Rahman's rendering was as fantastic and flawless as it was in Swades. When Jaaney Tu Ya Jaaney Na released, it was an instant heart-throb of the youth, so you could see the audience in the Palace Grounds, connect to it so quickly as soon the song started. Rahman's working together with Gautam Menon had to produce a masterpiece, there was no other way and so Hosanna from VTV, kept the entire crowd, gently swaying, right from the beginning to end, as the music filled the air through the loudspeakers. If you didn't sway for it, okay, grow up atleast now.

I also discovered, that I am not as full-fledged a fan of Rahman as I claim to be. There were real, hardcore, extraordinary fans who kept the Rahman's song lists in their fingertips and rolled out at the least hint or hum. I might have failed to keep track some of the recent pieces, and might have been sticking on to the old glory, I thought. I noticed that the Enthiran song threw the crowd to sheer raptures, the reason was the same as, why the Rangeela song had the same effect on me.

Every song had a different digital video backdrop, that was excellent, carefully chosen and of high quality. The songs,Khwaja Mere Khwaja and Maula Maula, had a very soothing rendition with Rahman, in a befitting costume playing the harmonium and a digital backdrop of a richly engraved mosque architecture. It was very thoughtfully and tastefully done.

There are some songs that are the solid defining runaway hits at these concerts. They are the real Oscar or even-higher award winners in the minds of the masses of listeners. The actual flag-hoisters of Rahman's success story. They are so impactful, they are welcomed even if someone else sings it at some other concert, and so much occupy your mindspace that the hum doesn't spare you whether you are in the bathroom or in the bedroom. When these songs began, or even before they began, when there was a buildup to it, the crowd begins to get into a frenzy. You know it is getting into a madness, a craze, (Okay, an Aware Madness, if you are also aware of it). It is as if a spirit has possessed the entire ground and wants to release itself by dancing, shouting and joining in the chorus and singing along. The Humma Song from Bombay, the Muqabla Song from Kadhalan, the Chikku Bukku Rayiley from Gentleman were chartbusters then and they are still the same now, after a decade. Oh, how they clapped and swayed and jumped and danced for those !! For the tamilians in the multicultural, metropolitan Bengaluru, the Pettai Rap song was alone enough to make their day, it sent them into a tizzy. They savoured every one of those words, whether or not the sentences had any meanings, who needed them anyway ? :) :)

We all know that Shivamani unleashed is difficult to contain, and apart from taking the blockbuster songs to their original glory, his musical mischief this time was the drums effect with two rods tapping on the ground combined with foot-tapping. It was good. It was entirely appropriate that they got Lataji to sing 'Lukka Chuppi' over a video recording in a digital background with Rahman chipping in for his part live. Their original partnership for the Rang De Basanti song is irreplaceable and it was an absolutely soulful rendering. The award-winning Jai Ho was there too.

Roobaroo was definitely a wonderful fitting finale for the event. The song that marked Naresh Iyer's hindi debut with Rahman, won him the National Award and shot him to fame. Of course, nowadays, it has become fashionable to mention youth and anti-corruption in the same sentence for every event, like pickle in any meal. So the buildup on 'will you raise your voice against corruption' was a bit ordinary. But, allowing that, what better movie than Rang De Basanti to catch the fervour, patriotism and dynamism of the youth ? Oh, How many times I have watched and re-watched the discussion scenes for the screenplay... The amazing rendition of the song, to the gentle sway of the audience, merged smoothly into a snippet of the Vande Mataram piece, with a tricolour digital background. What a way to end the day !! Ethereal, Enthralling and Extraordinary.

I had my little share of petty disappointments, though.
How-many-ever blockbuster songs they sing, and they can't sing all of them at every concert, you always look forward to your personal favorite list and want to hear them being sung. I badly wanted Vellai Pookal from Kannathil Muthamittal to be sung, really. What a calming effect the song has... I totally love the Rahman Live in Los Angeles DVD, so I should admit these observations are strongly influenced by that liking. I know there may be so many parameters involved in the selection, the dates etc, but then, we have our sighs, no ? I missed, Chaiya chaiya, Jiya jaley, Chinna chinna asai and Patchai niramey. I definitely missed Shankar Mahadevan ( for the energy in Kay Sera Sera and the turns in Sandhana Thendralai ) , SPB (for that fantastic delivery of Oruvan oruvan mudhalali ) , Sadhana Sargam, Sujatha and Kavitha Subramaniam. I would have really loved to listen to Maduraikku Pogatheydee, the recent looping favorite I have discovered. I wanted Barso Re by Shreya Ghoshal, only by her and by none else. Okay, let me admit this is too much greed, I can't want all the best of two decades of musical genius together in a 3-hour live programme, thats unfair about me.

Earlier in the afternoon, some of the Rahman fans got together at an orphanage in Bangalore, at Anatha Shishu Sevashrama, for some service activity, which I had joined in, too. Food Distribution was arranged. They had some games for the kids. Agam, a band from Bangalore, sang a few songs for the kids. Yes, they did begin very appropriately with Vellai Pookal, which I was waiting for. The orphanage visit was a very satisfying experience. "We like 'Jai Ho' and 'Kadhal Anukkal' from Rahman Sir's songs very much", they said. Kannada songs sprouted quickly during the Anthakshari. One boy rocked the stage with his dance moves as the band played. Another, rather unassuming boy, went on to win a concentration game that they played. It was nice to see their fascination for the cameras which some of the fans carried and it was so gracious of the fans to share them with the kids and teach them how to take the pictures. After they had had the meal, when they asked, 'When are you coming next again ?', I didn't have an answer. But then they said, 'Some akkas from the Rahman fans group have told us they will come again after few days and spend time with us again'. I am sure there will be some follow-up action.

Now this post has got me all excited, I have to watch Rang De Basanti, one last 976-th time. :)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

வீட்டுக்கு வீடு ஒரு கதை உண்டு

A Tamil version of my earlier blog post ... A story from every home...

அவர் நம் ஒவ்வொருவர் வாழ்வையும் தொட்டார் . சின்ன சின்ன விதங்களில். நம் ஒவ்வொருவரிடமும் அவரைப் பற்றிச் சொல்ல ஒரு கதை இருக்கிறது. அவரைப் பற்றி . அவர் அன்பைப் பற்றி. அவர் வாழ்வும் நம் வாழ்வும் இணைந்த வைபவத்தைப் பற்றி, நம் மனங்களில் அவர் நிறைந்து நம்மை வழிகாட்டிய கதைகளைப் பற்றி. இவை சாயி சுயசரிதைக் கதைகள்.

சில கதைகள் எங்கும் எப்போதும் எழுதப்படாத கதைகள். சில கதைகள் நம் இதயத்தில் மட்டும் நிறைத்து வைத்து போற்றப்படும் கதைகள், அவை இனிமேலும் எழுதப் படாது. சில கதைகள், மற்றவர்களிடம் நாம் சொல்ல வேண்டிய கதைகள். நம் வாழ்வில் அவர் அன்பை எப்படி அன்பை நிறைத்தார் என்பதை உலகத்துக்குச் சொல்லி ஆனந்தப்படவேண்டிய கதைகள். சிலவற்றை கதை என்று சொல்ல முடியாது, சின்ன நிகழ்ச்சிகள் , நகைச்சுவையான வாக்கியங்கள், ஏதோ ஒரு நாள் இங்கே இந்த மண்டபத்தில் நாம் அமர்ந்திருந்த போது நடந்த சம்பவங்கள், நம் நினைவில் நிற்கின்றன. நாம் அமைதியாக ஓரிடத்தில் அமர்ந்து யோசிக்கும் போது நம் உள்ளிருந்து அவை நீர்க்குமிழிகள் போல் நம் மன ஏரியிலிருந்து எழும்பி மேலே வருகின்றன.

சில கதைகளில் வசனம் இருக்காது. நாம் அங்கே அமர்ந்திருந்த போது, அவர் நம்மைத் தாண்டி போகும்போது, நம் கண்களில் கூர்ந்து கவனித்த அந்தப் பார்வை. நமக்காக, நாம் மட்டும் புரிந்து கொள்ளுவது போன்ற பார்வை. அவர் பேசவில்லை ஆனால் அர்த்தம் புரிந்துவிடும். நாம் கேட்க வேண்டும் என்று நினைத்தோம், கேட்கவில்லை, ஆனால் அந்த கேள்விக்கு விடை கிடைத்துவிட்டது.

சில கதைகளின் முக்கியத்துவம் நாம் பல நாட்குளுக்குப் பிறகு தான் உணர்ந்தோம். அறிய முடியாத இறை மனதை நம் சிறு மனத்தால் அறிய முயன்று, அது கொடுத்த விடையை வைத்து அவரது விந்தையை கணக்கு போட முயன்றிருப்போம்.

சில சமயங்களில் நமக்கு தோன்றிய ஒரு எண்ணம் , அது அவரிடமிருந்து வந்தது என்பதை நாம் உணர்வோம். அந்த எண்ண அனுபவம் கூட ஒரு கதையே.

இது உங்கள் அனுபவம் , அல்லது என் அனுபவம் மட்டும் அல்ல. வீட்டுக்கு வீடு இந்த சாய் கதைகள் உண்டு. சில கதைகள் பிறருக்கு சின்னதாக இருக்கலாம். ஆனால் , நமக்கு அது இனிமையான கதை, முக்கியமான கதை. ஏனென்றால், அது அவர்கள் வாழ்க்கையில் நடந்த கதை அல்ல, நம் வாழ்வில் நடந்த கதை. 'Dunnapotha' என்று செல்லமாக திட்டி இருப்பார். 'Good Boy' என்று புகழ்ந்திருப்பார். அதுவும் ஒரு இனிமையான கதை தான்.

மற்றவர்களின் அனுபவத்தைப் பற்றி நாம் கேள்வி கேட்கலாம், விவாதம் செய்யலாம், மறுக்கலாம். ஆனால் , நம் உள்ளுணர்வை நம்மால் மறுக்க முடியுமா ? நமது உள்ளுணர்வுகளுக்கு நாமே முக்கியத்துவம் கொடுக்கவில்லையெனில் , நாம் எதை ஆதாரமாக வைத்து வாழ்க்கையை வாழ்கிறோம் ? நம் கதை, நம் உள்ளுணர்வுகள் , நமக்கு ஆழமானவை . 'Personal'-ஆக முக்கியமானவை. அதனால் தான், அவர் உலகத்துக்கே போதகராக இருந்திருக்கலாம் , ஆனால் நமக்கு 'Personal God'- ஆக இருந்தார். அந்த நாள், அவரவர்கள் எங்கெங்கோ இருந்தாலும், அங்கிருந்தே, நன்றி உணர்வுடன் , அவருக்காக ஒரு துளி கண்ணீர் சிந்திய , அந்த லக்ஷோபலக்ஷம் மக்கள் அனைவருக்கும் அவர், தனி தனியாக , 'Personal God'- ஆக இருந்தார். அவர் இந்த வீட்டின் தலைவர், ஒவ்வொரு உரையாடலையும் அமைதியாக கேட்பவர், ஒவ்வொரு உணவு வேளையின் போதும் கண்ணுக்குத் தெரியாத விருந்தாளி. ஒவ்வொருவர் வீட்டிலும், இன்று , அவரவர்கள் 'Dinner Table '-இல் , இந்த சாய் கதைகளை தான் , ஒருவருக்கு ஒருவர் பகிர்ந்து கொண்டு இருக்கிறார்கள். இவை எல்லாம் சிறிய, ஆழ்ந்த , 'Personal' கதைகள் , நம் வாழ்வில் அவர் வந்த கதை, நம் உள்ளுணர்வின் கதை, நம்மை அந்த திருச்சிற்றம்பலம் தடுத்தாட்கொண்ட கதை.

கதை இருக்கிறதோ இல்லையோ, அதை சொல்லுகிறோமோ இல்லையோ, நாம் மீண்டும் மீண்டும் இங்கே வந்தோம். ஒவ்வொரு 'New Year'-உம் , சிவராத்திரியும் , நவம்பரிலும் வந்தோம். இங்கே வந்தால் நிம்மதி என்று நாடி வந்தோம். அப்படி வருவோருக்கெல்லாம் அன்பு தரும் ஆல மரமாக அவர் இந்த ஆஸ்ரமத்தை அமைத்தார். இந்த அன்பு நிழலின் குளிர்ச்சியில் நிம்மதியை தேடி வந்தவருக்கெல்லாம் அது கிடைத்தது .

இந்த அன்பு உணர்வுகள், கண்ணுக்கு தெரியாதவை , ஆனால் , 'இது சத்தியம் என்று எனக்கு தெரியும்', என்று அழுத்தமாக எழும் உள்ளுணர்வுகள். இந்த உணர்வுகளை வைத்து தான் , சுவாமியைப் பற்றிய ஒரு வடிவத்தை நாம் நமது மனங்களில் உருவாக்கி இருக்கிறோம். அந்த வடிவம், லோகாயதமான வடிவம் அல்ல. அது உணர்வுகளின் வடிவம். வருடக்கணக்கில் , மிக மெதுவாக, ஒரு எறும்பு தானியம் சேகரிப்பதுபோல , சேர்த்து வைத்த, வடிவம். நாம் அவரிடம் கேட்ட கோரிக்கைகள் , இந்த உலகம் சம்பந்தப்பட்டதாக இருக்கலாம். அவர் நமக்கு கொடுத்த பரிசுகள் காலப்போக்கில் ஒளி குறையலாம். ஆனால் , நாம் அவரது கண்ணோடு கண் நோக்கிய போது , அவரை பிரார்த்தனையில் நினைத்த போது , நம் இதயம் என்னும் 'Camera'வில் , அவரது வடிவத்தை செதுக்கிய , அந்தக் கண நேரம், அது இந்த உலகத்தியது அல்ல. அது காலம் கடந்தது, லோகாயதத்துக்கு அப்பாற்பட்டது. கிருஷ்ணர் , ஆயிரக்கணக்கான கோபிகைகளுக்கு , ஒவ்வொருவருக்கும் ஒரு கிருஷ்ணராக வடிவெடுத்தது போல, நாம் ஒவ்வொருவருக்கும் அவர் நமது இதயங்களில் ஒரு வடிவத்தை வரைந்திருக்கிறார். விதம் விதமாக, வித்தியாசமான அழகுடன், உணர்வுகளின் வடிவம் ஒன்றை அளித்திருக்கிறார்.

கல்வி, மருத்துவ வசதி, குடிதண்ணீர் - இவை மூன்றும் கட்டாயம் இலவசமாக தரப்பட வேண்டும் - என்று அவர் நம்பினார். நமக்கு ஒரு நம்பிக்கை இருந்தால், அந்த நம்பிக்கையை எப்படி செயலாக்க வேண்டும், பல்லோர் போற்றும் உதாரணமாக , ஊக்கமளிக்கும் வகையில் , எப்படி நம் நம்பிக்கையை வெளிப்படுத்த வேண்டும் , என்பதை அவர் உலகத்துக்கு செய்து காட்டினார். எனக்கு 'rights' இருக்கிறது , உரிமை இருக்கிறது என்று போராடுகிறோம். ஆனால், அதுவே , 'responsibility' என்று வரும் போது, பொறுப்பாக நடந்து கொள்ள வேண்டும் என்றால், பயந்து ஓடுகிறோம். அதை, மற்றவர் பெயருக்கு மாற்றி, அவரை எப்படி குறை சொல்லலாம் என்று யோசிக்கிறோம். அப்படிப்பட்ட இந்த உலகத்திலே, சுற்றி இருப்போரின் பிரச்சினைகளுக்கு, சமுதாயத்தில் உள்ள பிரச்சினைகளுக்கு, ஒரு தனி மனிதன் எப்படி பொறுப்பு எடுத்துக்கொண்டு , அந்த பிரச்சினையை தீர்க்க முடியும் என்பதை நிரூபித்தார். அவர்களுடைய கஷ்டத்தை, தனது கஷ்டமாக , அவர் நினைத்தார்.

'1980 'இல் , ஒரு இலவச பல்கலைக் கழகம் வரும் என்றும், அதில் மனித குண மேம்பாடுகளையும், 'Character Building ' -உம் இணைந்ந்து போதிப்போம் என்று அவர் சொன்ன போது, அவர்கள் எல்லாம் கை கொட்டிச் சிரித்தார்கள். இன்றைக்கெல்லாம் அந்த பல்கலைக்கழகம் 30 ஆண்டுகள் முடித்துவிட்டு இன்னும் வெற்றி நடை போடுகிறது. அதன் மூலம் பல ஆயிரம் பேர் வாழ்க்கையைத் தொட்டார். '1990'-இல் , ஒரு உயர்தர மருத்துவ மனை உருவாக்கி , ஏழை மக்களுக்கு அறுவை சிகிச்சைகள் முற்றிலும் இலவசமாக செய்வோம் என்று அவர் சொன்ன போது, அவர்கள், எள்ளி நகையாடினார்கள். இன்றைக்கு அந்த மருத்துவ மனை 20 வருடங்கள் முடித்தாகி விட்டது. பற்றாக்குறைக்கு , அந்த மருத்துவ மனை 10 வருடங்கள் முடித்த போது, அதே அளவில் , இரண்டாவது மருத்துவ மனையையும், கட்டினார். இன்னும் பல ஆயிரம் பேர் வாழ்க்கையைத் தொட்டார். '1995'-இல் , வறண்ட பூமியாக இருந்த, ஒரு மாவட்டம் முழுவதற்கும் , பல நூறு மைல் தொலைவிலிருந்து தண்ணீர் கொண்டு வருவேன் என்றார். அதற்காக அவர் கடன் வாங்க நேரிட்டது. அப்போது அவர் சொன்னார் : ' நல்ல எண்ணத்தோடு நல்ல காரியம் செய். உதவி தானாக வரும். ' அதற்கு பிறகு, இன்னும் 4 மாவட்டங்களுக்கு குடிதண்ணீர் திட்டத்தை அமுல்படுத்தும் அளவுக்கு அது விரிந்தது. அதோ, இன்னும் பல ஆயிரம் பேர் வாழ்க்கையைத் தொட்டார்.

அவரை எல்லாரும் 'Personal God ' என்று நம்பாமல் இருக்கலாம், பரவாயில்லை. ஆனால், சேவை காரியங்கள் மூலம், கண்காணாத அந்த பல ஆயிரம் அந்நிய மனிதர்களின் வாழ்க்கையில் அவர் விளக்கேற்றி வைத்தார். அந்த பல்லாயிரம் மக்களுக்கு அவர் அன்னியர் அல்லர். அவர்களுக்கு , அவர், வீட்டை வாழ வைத்த வள்ளல். எங்கிருந்தோ, பல ஆயிரம் மைல் தூரத்திலிருந்து வந்த நோயாளியைப் பொறுத்தவரை, அவர் ஒரு வள்ளல். ஒரு average middle class வர்க்கத்தைச் சேர்ந்த இளைஞன் , டிகிரி படிப்பு படிக்க கஷ்டப்பட்ட இளைஞனுக்கு , அவர் ஒரு வள்ளல். ஒரு மலை நாட்டு கிராமத்தின் வறண்ட தொண்டையைப் பொறுத்த வரை , அவர் ஒரு வள்ளல். இவை எல்லாவற்றிலும் , அவரிடம் வாங்கி கொண்டவர்கள் , கல்வி, வைத்தியம், குடிதண்ணீர் ஆகியவற்றை வாங்கி கொண்டு, நன்றியை செலுத்தினார்கள். ஆனால், அவர் கொடுத்தது, அதுவல்ல. அவர் கொடுத்தது அன்பு மட்டும் தான். அவர் எப்போதும், எல்லோருக்கும், அன்பை மட்டும் தான் கொடுத்தார், மற்றவை எல்லாம் அன்பை வெளிப்படுத்த , ஒரு கருவி தான். இந்த சேவைக் காரியங்களை செய்த சேவகர்களுக்கும், பக்தர்களுக்கும், அவர் அதோடு நிறுத்தவில்லை, அவர்கள் சேவையின் தரத்தை உயர்த்த விரும்பினார் . வெறுமனே வேலை செய்தால் போதாது, அதில் அன்பும் , சரியான மனோபாவமும் இருந்தால் தான் பிரயோஜனம் என்று போதித்தார். உன்னுடைய, உண்மையான தெய்வீக இயல்பை உணர்வாயாக , பிறகு நீ எது செய்தாலும், நன்மையாக தான் இருக்கும், என்றார்.

நாம் சொல்கிறோம் : அவர் ஒரு ஹிந்துவை 'Better' ஹிந்துவாக மாற்ற வந்தார் என்றும், ஒரு முஸ்லிமை 'Better' முஸ்லிமாக மாற்ற வந்தார் என்றும், ஒரு கிறித்தவனை 'Better' கிறித்தவனாக மாற்ற வந்தார் என்றும் சொல்கிறோம். ஆனால், எல்லாவற்றுக்கும் மேலாக , அவர் ஒவ்வொரு மனிதனையும், 'Better' மனிதனாக , மாற்ற வந்தார் என்று சொல்லலாம். மனிதனுக்கு, அன்பு என்றால் என்னவென்று தெரிய வேண்டும், அது மற்றவர் மனதை எப்படி மாற்றும் என்பது புரிய வேண்டும். நம்மை சுற்றி உள்ளவர்களின், சமுதாயத்தின் கஷ்டங்களை புரிந்து கொண்டு, அதை தீர்க்கும் பொறுப்பை நாம் ஏற்றுக்கொண்டு , மனிதனோடு மனிதன் நேசமாக வாழ வேண்டும். ஒருவர் கேட்பதற்கு முன்பே அவர்களுக்கு, நாம் நன்மையை பகிர்ந்து அளித்து, அவர் என்றாவது ஒரு நாள், வேறு ஒருவருக்கு நன்மை செய்வார் என்று நம்பி , நன்மையை சுற்றி வரச் செய்ய வேண்டும். அன்பின் மூலமும், சேவையின் மூலமும், தனக்கு உள்ளிருக்கும் தெய்வத் தன்மையை அவன் உணர வேண்டும். பிறகு, அதே தெய்வத்வம் தான் அங்கிங்கெனாதபடி , எங்கும் நிறைந்திருக்கிறது என்பதை உணர வேண்டும். இதை சொல்லத்தான், இதை செய்து காட்டத்தான் இந்த தெய்வம் வந்தது.

என்றாவது ஒரு நாள், பல ஜன்மங்கள் கழித்து, நமது பிறவி பயணத்தில், நாம் ஒரு நாள், இந்த உண்மையை உணரத் தான் போகிறோம். நமது 'Personal God '-க்கும் , நமக்கும், அதிகம் வித்தியாசம் இல்லை, நாமும் தெய்வம் தான், என்பதை உணரத் தான் போகிறோம். அதைத் தானே அவர் முதலிலேயே சொன்னார், நமக்குத் தான் , இது புரிபடுவதற்கு நிறைய 'time' ஆகிவிட்டது, என்று நினைப்போம்.

நம் உடம்பு, நம் மனம், நம் வினை, நம் விதி, நமது வாழ்வின் குறிக்கோள் , நம் வாழ்வின் கம்யம் , நம் உண்மை இயல்பு, - இதெல்லாமே நமக்கு புரியவில்லை. இந்த லக்ஷணத்தில், நாம் , அவரையும், அவர் உடம்பையும், அவர் அவதார நோக்கத்தையும் , புரிந்து கொள்ள முடியுமா என்ன ?

அவரை ஏன் நாம் நேசிக்கிறோம் தெரியுமா ? அவருடைய புகழை அளவிட முடியாது, அவரை புரிந்து கொள்ள முடியாது. அவரை புரிந்து கொண்டு அப்புறமாக அவரை நேசிக்க முடியுமா என்ன ?

அவர் முன்னிலையில், நாம் யார் , என்பதை அவர் நமக்கு காட்டுகிறார். அவருடைய திருவுருவப் படத்தின் தீபத்தின் முன்பு, நமது மனம் என்ற ஏரியில் தோன்றும் பிம்பத்தில், நம்மை நாம் காண்கிறோம். வேறு எங்கெங்கோ தேடி கிடைக்காத, நம்மை பற்றி, நாமே அறிந்து கொள்ள வேண்டிய உண்மைகளை , அவர் முன்னால் நாம் உணர்கிறோம். அந்த உள்ளுனர்வுகளுக்காக தான் நாம் அவரை நேசிக்கிறோம். நீங்கள் இந்த நிலையை அடைந்திருந்தால் , இந்த பிரசாந்தி நிலையத்தை, அடைந்திருந்தால், இது உண்மை என்பதை நீங்கள் உணர்வீர்கள்.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A story from every home

HE touched each one of our lives in little little ways at different points in time. Each one of us has a story to tell, about His Love, about how our lives have mingled with His, about His impact on us, our minds.

Sometimes they are stories told never before. Some are stories that are cherished deeply in the heart and might never be told. Some are stories that we enjoy telling, because the Love that we received, we want to share with the entire world. Some may be just little quips, short incidents, quotable quotes that happened some sunny morning in the Mandir here, but have been etched in our memories and bubble up from time to time, during our moments of reflection.

Some may be just silent moments, when He passed by us, He had this customized twinkle in His eye, apparently no word was spoken, but we got the message nevertheless. Some may be moments whose importance we realized only later, for, at that time, we let our narrow mind interpret the million mysterious ways of God. Sometimes it might have been as small as a thought that occurred to us, which we knew came from Him.

It's not just the story of you and me, it's ghar ghar kee kahani, a story from each home. Some may be stories that for others may be trivial, but for us, so sweet and so important, because they happened in our lives, not theirs. Even a light chiding as 'Dunnapotha' or a pleasant reference as 'Good Boy'. We can deny, question or argue somone else's experience, but can we deny a feeling when it occurs within us ? After all, if we aren't true to our feelings, what else would life be worth living for ? Our feelings and our stories are always deep, important and very personal to us. That is why, even though He was a Universal Teacher, He was a 'Personal' God. A personal God individually to all those millions, who shed a tear or two today in fond gratitude from wherever they are. He was the Head of this House, a silent listener in every conversation, an unseen guest at every meal. Every home must be narrating these stories at their dinner table today to others in the family and friends, and they are all little, but deeply personal stories of how He came into "my life" and what we felt about Him.

Whether story or not, whether told or not, each one of us was here, flocking here from time to time, for every Christmas, every Shivarathri and every November, because it was so wonderful to be here. He had made it so wonderful for us to be here, it’s so cool to bask in the shadow of this large banyan tree of Love.

It's these little but sure acts of love, invisible but 'I-know-it-is-true' kind of feelings, that have built our picture of how we relate to him. That picture is not of the material kind. It's a picture of feelings, built slowly like an ant builds its granary. The wishes we asked Him, might have been of this world and gifts that we received may fade with time. But the feeling we cherished when we prayed to him, that Moment of capture in the camera of our heart, it is not of this world and is timeless. Like Krishna who made a copy of Himself to each of the thousand Gopikas, the Master has made a picture of Himself in each of our hearts, each picture unique in its streaks and differently beautiful.

Education, Healthcare and Drinking water SHOULD be given free, He believed. And He set out to show the world how to manifest your belief into an example and an inspiration for others. In an age, where people are particularly insistent about their rights and cleverly transfer the responsibility to others at the quickest possible opportunity, He showed how an individual can take a personal sense of responsbility for the problems of the community. He felt for their problems, as really and as strongly as if it was His own problem.

When He said, in 1980, that a University would be completely free, and would combine modern education with character-building and human values, they mocked at him. It just completed 30 years and a few thousand lives were touched. When He said, in 1990, that a world class hospital would do surgeries for free for the poor, they jeered at him. That one just completed 20 years. Even better, 10 years into the first, for a bonus, He added one more hospital of the same scale and a few more thousand lives were touched, literally. When He announced in 1995, to supply drinking water to an entire arid district drawing water from hundreds of kilometers away, and He had to borrow to finish it, He said, 'Do good work with a good intention. Help will come.' And then He went on to add 4 more districts to the list and few thousand hearts.

He may not have been a personal God to everyone, but for those few thousand stranger lives that He touched by His Service, He was no more a stranger. For an unknown patient coming from a distant land, He was a giver. For that average, middle class young lad in his teens looking for a degree and can't afford it, He was a giver. For a parched throat in a uphill tribal village, He was a giver. In all these, the ones who received, got their cure, education and water and are grateful. But He was a giver of Love, above all, that was what He always gave, the rest were just the specifics. And for volunteers and the followers who participated in these works, He raised the bar for them further, beyond the work they did. Work wasn't an end in itself, He said, it was Love and the Attitude that accompanied it. Know your own reality, and every work that you do will be good.

It is said that He came to make a Hindu a better Hindu, a Muslim into a better Muslim, a Christian into a better Christian. But, above all, He came to make every Man, a better Man. So that Man may believe in Love and its cascading power of transformation. That Man may believe in Selfless Service and the proactive responsibility to care and share with fellowmen, to pay it forward with goodness. That Man may, one day, by the power of Love and Service, inquire into His own true nature and find Divinity within. And then find it pervading all over the place, in everyone. Some day, in a journey across lives, we may discover that we weren't any less godly than our personal God. Which is what He always said in the first place. We just took our time to get the point.

We are not able to figure out our own body, our mind, our destiny, our Gamyam and our real nature. What would we know of Him, His body and His Mission ?

As some famous quote goes, we love him, perhaps not for what He is, for we know not His Glory in its entirety. We love him, for what we are, when we are in His presence. For what we reflect in the light of His altar. For what we find out about ourselves that we didn't find otherwise. If you've been there, you'll know it to be true.

THANK YOU: These reflections draw sometimes from readers and friends who initiate ideas, build up discussions, post comments and mention interesting links, some online and some over a cup of coffee or during a riverside walk. Thank you.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this blog are the blogger's personal opinions and made in his individual capacity, sometimes have a story-type approach, mixing facts with imagination and should not be construed as arising from a professional position or a counselling intention.