We The People

For the nation emerging from the shackles of a long and debilitating colonial rule and limping its feet in the sands of time bloodied by a communal carnage of colossal magnitude, the Indian Constitution  was the sanctified gospel, echoing the consecrated aspirations of half a billion people for a life that is just, liberal and free from prejudice. With 395 articles spread over 22 parts, the Constitution of India is the largest written document for governance anywhere in the world. It has, among others, adopted features from the British, American and French constitutions and thus resonates the values and principles that are universal, gained and refined through centuries of struggle. 

The guiding signposts for awarding ourselves with such an enlightened document, more so when the other country that simultaneously acquired independence opting for a highly sectarian and religiously bigoted statehood, are the timeless ethos of the Indian philosophical thought, enshrined in the Vedas and the Upanishads and etched deeply in the Indian psyche. The belief in the essential oneness of all human beings, in the idea that different sects are but limbs of the one Supreme Being formed the bedrock of an elevated idealism that translated into a workable political doctrine. And it stood the country in good stead!

The idea of equality of religions, for example, has its genesis in the Vedic dictum,” Ekam Sat, Vipra Bahudha Vadanti”,  meaning, that “the truth is one and wise men describe it differently. The acknowledgement of the fact that there could be multiple ways to inquire into the nature of truth, and that different religions are but varied pathways towards the same goal, paved to accept and integrate people of every religion into our mainstream politics. This principle afforded the state to treat every religion equally and confer equality to its practitioners, a salutary accomplishment that many nations still find hard to achieve. 

Again, the concept of justice, of social, economic and political, has its underpinnings in the Upanishadic verse “Isavasyam idam sarvam”, meaning that the whole universe is permeated with divinity and differential treatment of individuals is alien to our philosophy. This approach compelled the state to see poor and downtrodden as “ Daridra Narayanas” , worthy of special focus and targeted schemes to alleviate their poverty. At the social level, these “Harijans”, were seamlessly integrated through affirmative actions of the state, made possible only by the high ideals derived from our Vedic past.

The principle of fraternity that is embedded in the preamble of our constitution again can be traced to the Vedic roots which says :  Saha Nau-Avatu, Saha Nau Bhunaktu Saha Viiryam Karavaavahai” meaning “May we protect us both together; may we nourish us both together; May we work conjointly with great energy”. This idea of kinship and camaraderie, so essential for nation building, has fuelled us to conquer newer heights in scientific and technological advancements and thereby help resolve many a teething problems of a young nation.

It could thus be established that it is the glorious Vedic school of thought that we have freely drawn from to frame our constitution that inspire and instil a sense of awe in all of us. And it would indeed be unfortunate to tamper with its fundamentals and that too with the avowed objective of building a new “Rashtra” that is in variance to the idea of India that we know of and are justifiably proud of.

We could only turn again to the Vedas and pick a prayer so that better senses prevail:

Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah 
Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu
Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet 
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih 

Meaning: 
May all become happy
May none fall ill |
May all see auspiciousness everywhere
May none ever feel sorrow |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

Yours 

Narayanan

December 23, 2019 at 1:06 am 4 comments

The Marriage of Cultures

The dangling string of pearls, the ‘Mundavlya’ , tied horizontally on the bride’s forehead gets entangled with the groom’s ‘Poonal’ as he bends to wipe her temple with his “Angavastram”. The ‘Kolapuri Saaj’, the crafted gold necklace, dazzles in the rays of the morning sun just as the glittering crimson tinged border of the ‘Panchakacham’ the boy is draped with. The three horizontal streaks of ”Vibhuthi”, the hallmark of a ‘TamBram’ male, gels effortlessly with the distinctly Marathi “ Maang Tikka” ,  latched at the centre of the  bride’s hairdo .  The ‘Navari’, bridal trousseau is as exquisitely elegant as the ‘Madisar Pudavai’ worn by the groom’s mother.  The marriage ceremony of the Tamil boy with the Marathi girl was at once unique and colourful, showcasing the intermingling of two divergent cultures, both rich and vibrant in their own ways.

Set in the backdrop of green carpeted hills that’s partially wrapped in the morning mist, the wedding of my nephew was solemn and serene, interspersed with the rituals of both the traditions.  With festoons in hues of gold, lily and strawberry pink, the tastefully decorated floral ‘Mandap’ was delicately subtle yet stately, quite reminiscent of the Maratha regality. The ‘Ganapati Puja’, worshipping the auspicious Lord Ganesha preceded the’ Punyavachan’, the ritual of seeking blessings from the august assembly which was showered in copious measure.  And the ’Antarpat’, the drawing of the curtain in front of the groom was as much fun as it was meaningful  as was the ‘Kanyadaan’ the ritual of offering the girl to the groom. The  “Mangalya Dharanam”, the traditional  knotting of the holy ‘Mangalasutra’ was conducted with the bride dressed up in the typical Tamil Brahmin “Koorai Pudavai”  to the raining of “ Akshadai”, the holy grain, and to the strains of  “Nadaswaram” , the South Indian Shehnai  . As the couple completed the marriage vows, the Gods above and the denizens below lavished their choicest blessings for a life of heavenly togetherness.

The Wedding feast was a thoughtful spread of the finest Marathi cuisine and to the many South Indian “connoisseurs of food” present on the occasion, it was an open invitation to gastronomic indulgence.  And as one relished the dishes one by one, the cravng to tuck in more was palpable and at the end of it all, none felt guilty… after all, it’s a marriage with a difference!

The event concluded with everyone wearing the “ Pagri”, the traditional colourful headgear that added to the bonding and the  bonhomie between two cultures. The “Namaskar” was exchanged with a warm “ Vannakam”.

Yours

Narayanan

December 1, 2019 at 9:11 pm 7 comments

Ik Onkar

We pay our reverence to Guru Nanak Dev Ji on the 550th year of Prakash Parv.

Continue Reading November 11, 2019 at 8:35 pm 4 comments

Band 7 point something

 

IMG_1748Simran Kaur, a chubby eighteen year, was making the last minute polishing of her listening skills as she jot down points of the anglicised lecture that is streaming through her earphones.  She is desperate to clock an overall Band score of anything between 7 and 7.5, which is eluding her in the last two attempts, to secure a seat for a two year random diploma course in a Canadian university.  A decent score card in International English Language Testing System or, IELTS in short, is the passport for thousands of youngsters like Simran who see a future only in countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada and a foreign university course is a well crafted route to move, study, work and finally settle in developed countries.  And of the four skills in English language proficiency that this exam tests a student, Listening has been the one that Simran is finding hard to crack…having only listened to Punjabi throughout her school days… But this time around, she is exceedingly confident as she enters the sound proof chamber of the designated examiner.

Preparing for IELTS is now an obsession among almost all who have crossed seventeen and the size of the coaching business, maybe, is next only to the famed textile industry of Punjab. From farmhouses to havelis, from posh offices in swanky malls to scrambled rooms in shanty buildings, IELTS coaching centres have occupied every conceivable space in the state…across cities, towns and also in the ‘Pind’, the village. And the hoardings that call-out students to enrol to these centres evenly dot the skyline, pop-up in the middle of the fields and also are in display on the rear of most public transports. As you travel through the cities and hinterlands of the state, there is no way you can miss the import of this exam, both for the economy of the state as well as for the future of its youth.

IMG_1749A parent typically spends about Rs. 40.00 lacs on his straight-out-of-the-school child’s two year course in one of these foreign universities.   This amount is not just an investment to his education but also an insurance premium that guarantees a good life for him beyond the campus. As soon as he gets into the university, the student scouts for and gets odd jobs that give him the money to meet his immediate needs and the two-year period is spent as much to get acquainted to the work life of the country as it is to acquire the degree. Once out of college, work permit becomes the next goal to be achieved and after a period of struggle, everyone manages to get it and enter into a life that would remain a dream back home. Green card, PR and citizenship, all follow one after the other and before long, one slips into the ease and comfort of the adopted country. It is estimated that, from Punjab alone, there is an annual outgo of Rs. 40,000 crores to foreign universities to acquire these  degrees/diplomas. 

While it is desirable and even admirable that our children take foreign degrees and work there, once it becomes an unending exodus of the prime resource of the society, its youth, the impact it leaves on the state is indeed catastrophic. The young population is becoming scantier with each passing year and the one that are passing out of the schools have their eyes set on foreign soils. When the working population is fast ageing and there isn’t enough young people to take up their positions, the consequence of it is all too glaring…unattended fields, fast vanishing social life and mushrooming number of old age homes. Empty malls, vacant theatres & shopping arcades and cities fast losing its usual hustle and bustle…. the symptoms are all too evident to ignore.  And there isn’t yet a sign to stem the tide or to bring back the qualified.

Meanwhile, Simran is done with her IELTS exam and is in all smiles. This time, she is sure to score a Band of 8 plus!!!

And it’s now time to celebrate…. with बैंड बाजा!

Yours

Narayanan

August 25, 2019 at 4:13 pm 4 comments

An Eulogy for Viju – Our Pet

The velvety skin, flush with radiant golden-hue fur stretching till the tail end, is an irresistible invitation to caress and to cuddle him. The rounded brownish nose, sitting pretty on the pouted mouth, transfix the onlooker by the sheer perfection of its geometry.  The two eyes are beaming search lights that are eloquently expressive while its graceful glances convey unfathomable affection.  The ears that droop on the sides are ornamental drapes fit only for the most regal and the central mark on the forehead is a natural crest jewel of immense beauty. Chiselled to perfection and flawlessly symmetrical, the paws resemble the artwork of a seasoned craftsman that affords the canine a look, most majestic. On the whole, Viju , our pet doggie, was  at once handsome and adorable.

When the physical charm is captivating, his actions and activities are equally mesmerising. With a horse-like gallop and a quick pace to match it, the strides Viju makes are rapid and rhythmical, inspiring awe and instilling admiration. Endowed with athletic power and agility, every morning stroll with him is a cardio session that makes gym a passé.  And with a vocal tone that is pure timber, each bark of his resonates and echoes, that is so distinctively Viju. His friendly demeanour attracts every kid in the colony and is their willing playmate and his popularity among them is vouched by the young visitors he gets every day.

While his outdoor conduct is endearing to all, his behaviour in-house is exemplary.  Habits of food and leisure, of playfulness and mischief, are so well measured and timed that it never fails to engage and entertain and seldom exceed the limits set.   Such were the pristine virtues of our dear Viju that when he breathed last this Tuesday, our lives were broken and stood altered.

It’s said that persons come to your lives because of some past connect and there is a purpose in each relationship. And I am now tempted to believe that there is even a greater purpose in pets coming to our lives as the impact they leave on us are so overwhelming that  you no longer is the person you used to be before they came into your life.  And on the flip side, they leave behind such a huge void, which, I suspect, even time would fail to fill. But then, that is life… an enduring pain in every relationship.

Thank you Viju for coming into our lives and enriching it…We are blessed of our lives because we shared a part of it with you.

Rest in Peace.

Narayanan

August 11, 2019 at 2:20 am 4 comments

Election in a bye-gone era

When Kochunni Master campaigned for the elections in my parliamentary constituency way back in the 80s, he never asked the people to vote for him. He would rather, tell the electorate why they should not vote for his opponent, Prof. Achudhanandan, a popular columnist, an electrifying orator and above all, a distinguished professor of Physics in one of the prestigious universities of Kerala. If Achudhanandan goes to Parliament, Kochunni Master would argue, the citizens would be deprived of their regular Sunday treat of listening to the professor in the local town hall. With masterly dialectical reasoning that is delivered with the prowess of a flawless language, Prof. Achudhanandan would intellectually dissect the most contentious social and cultural issues of the times and, with wit, sarcasm and political pun would rip into the idiosyncrasies of his opponents, week after week. And to lose a professor who has, time and again, produced many of the country’s finest scientific minds, Kochunni would remind his audience, is a direct disservice to the younger generation. And if all these are not good enough reasons to keep the professor away from parliament, a compassionate Kochunni would ask the citizens to at least show some concern for his health which is not fit enough to withstand the extreme cold and heat of Delhi and would thus insist to desist from voting for him.

When Kochunni asks the voters not to vote for his opponent, professor would in turn, ask them sarcastically, why they should vote for Kochunni, and for good reasons. With his well-known trait of mixing up facts and figures, Kochunni would add the much needed laughter to our otherwise humour starved parliament, professor asserted. “When once asked to Kochunni why the Malayali nurses are coming back from the gulf in large numbers”, professor informs the audience with a smirk that is hardly concealed “the answer of our Master was that the mothers-in-law in Kerala want to be nursed by their nurse daughters-in-law!”. “ And to a reporter’s query whether Kerala should demand for nuclear plant, he resorted “ yes, yes…such trees are good for our state’s climate!”.  And this grip of Kochunni over the English language is only matched with his abundant skills in “ Kalari Payyatu” and a huge lung power to go with it…which, the Professor felt, would make Kochunni a great ambassador of both the martial art and the renowned art of sloganeering of the state, which would be in ample display in the portals of parliament.

While the candidates demonstrated great ingenuity in the styles of their campaigns, the participation of their supporters in the entire election process showcased an amazing degree of variety and distinctiveness. When one set of supporters organised street plays to drive home a political message, other one converted a huge wall into a canvas for political graffiti… and the entire city wore a festive look. Parodies of hit film numbers that spared none in the political hierarchy, marches in party uniforms to the tunes of bands, caparisoned pachyderms mounted with party symbols and flags to the  accompaniments of traditional Panchavadyams ( set of five musical instruments)…. the list of colourful cavalcades is long and mesmerizing.  And when the season is one of celebration and mass bonhomie, it also afforded the young and the stylish to flaunt themselves in their fineries, a beauty pageantry of sorts. In this magnificent Mela of sound, music, dance and theatre, a panoramic view of that gigantic democratic process, wherein the voice of every citizen echoed its august presence, was in display in all its grandeur… filling every heart with pride for a young nation and ushering in hope to an assured future.

The day of the polling started early with long and winding queues dotting across the booths… with the young, the old and the infirm… all lined up with keenness to exercise their franchise. Voters were ferried to and fro by fellow citizens and the party enthusiasts kept themselves busy explaining how to mark our preference in the ballot paper and how important it is not to waste a single vote. And everybody listened and agreed. The occasion was serious and solemn and all took it that way, a date with the Indian democracy.

When the results were declared, the winner and the vanquished, both rejoiced and hugged each other and wished well to one another accepting the verdict of their master, “The People”.  And the people celebrated the victory of the democracy… because every vote counted.

 

Yours

Narayanan

February 25, 2019 at 12:05 am Leave a comment

Follow the sequence

After a hectic week of work overload, my wife was lazing last Sunday without attending to her routine morning chores, meaning, disinterested to prepare her usual mesmerizing breakfast for the three of us.  A considerate husband that I am, I offered my services to fix a quick meal and suggested to dish out “Upma”, a semi-solid savory, which when properly prepared is at once tasty and wholesome.  My wife quickly accepted the gesture, not because she had any great faith in my culinary skills but honestly believed that the recipe would keep the pangs of hunger at bay till lunch time, a reasonable enough duration for her to shake off the fatigue and drape the apron again.

I, at once, set out to the task of churning out the Upma….cut the vegetables, smashed the coriander and other spicy essentials and placed the pan on fire, half filled with water. Stirring steadily the boiling water with all the ingredients in it, I poured down the Semolina (Sooji), the base material, leaving the salt to be added at the end of the process.  As the mixture bubbled up and transformed into a more solid state, a lavish dose of ghee was splashed over the hot concoction, the aroma emanating from which, drew my wife to the kitchen. When I reached out to the salt bottle, my wife opened her mouth aghast. She at once was furious that I have not sprinkled the sodium when the water was still boiling.  I tried to reason with her that it can always be added to taste at the end and that the sequence doesn’t really matter.  And I was terribly wrong!  How much ever I tried to mix the cooked stuff with salt, it refused to spread evenly, leaving a small portion heavily salted and the larger one, bland and tasteless. On the whole, my tryst with cookery that day ended in unbridled disaster with even my pet doggie, who otherwise instinctively obeys all my instructions, just refusing to even sniff the stuff, served to him warm and with much generosity.

It is only then that the importance of the correct sequence dawned on me with much force and it is just not confined to order of a recipe preparation. In the usage of the language, a jumbled up sequence of letters could make the “sacred words on the shore” a “scared sword on the horse” and a “tender heart” could become a “rented hater”. And if you mix up the order of your dressing, it could spell more catastrophic than the wardrobe malfunction…the shirt would precede the vest and you may well end up wearing the underwear over the pants, a ‘la Spiderman!!!  Correct sequencing, both in matters of words uttered and attire worn are of paramount importance, to sound sensible and to look human.

And while dealing with the machines, sequence would well mean a choice between task well accomplished or a disaster invited.  I cannot, while driving, change the gear before pressing the clutch nor can stamp the accelerator without releasing the break. And to follow a set of instructions in a preset order, a Standard Operating Procedure is critical and non-negotiable in almost all arenas of human enterprise- be it in aviation, in medical care or in developing software.

The nature too adheres to a well set order and it is repeated with clock like precision. The chirping of the birds precede the sunrise, thunder follows lightning and the trees shedding their leaves proclaim the advent of winter.  Flowers blossom when the bees hum, fishes multiply just after the rains and frogs croak in anticipation of the monsoon. There is enchanting beauty in this well orchestrated symphony, a flawless rhythm of sequence and a profound melody of orderliness.

Just as in nature, human societies too are preserved and nurtured by a strict compliance to order and our well-being and progress is guaranteed only when sequence become sacrosanct. Early years are dedicated to education while the middle life is spent in acquiring wealth and in supporting the family. The years for reflection and counsel are reserved for the later part of the life when one is looked upon for guidance and support by the younger generations. Childhood and adolescence are followed by formal wedding and marriage precedes companionship and family life.  This sequence in human life has ensured order and continuity in society, ensuring stability with security, and endow purpose and meaning to our existence.

But sadly today, we find an onslaught on this time tested pattern of our earthy sojourn as orders are recklessly scrambled and social fabric fatally destroyed. “Live-in” is one such fad wherein youngsters live as wedded couples without entering into the vows and commitments of a formal marriage. They seek to enjoy companionship without responsibility and decide on mutual congruity only after a long spell of living together. Paranoid to face life as it comes, they prey for instant gratification rather than for life-long commitment that is based on true love and understanding. Putting the coach before the engine, this behavior destroys the lives of the people involved and eats on the vitals of the society and the social order. A great scourge and a threat to civilization, it is absolutely essential that this tendency is purged to its roots and normal human behavior is strengthened so that generations to come would have a family to fall back to and a culture to be proud of.

Human life is designed to achieve a higher purpose and should not be reduced to a blind game of cards, shuffled at whim. Otherwise, life would be a tasteless waste, much like my botched up Upma!

Yours

Narayanan

January 15, 2019 at 11:49 pm 8 comments

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