We are going through difficult times. Who had thought that a virus could cause so much havoc? Plans have been disrupted. Schedules have changed and the style of working has changed drastically.
Every morning I wake up thinking that will I get milk today? What rumours will rock today? The deepest of slumber have been jolted by an anxiety, what if…..But life is such.
And that leaves me ashamed. Even though I understand that nothing is in our hands because we are just puppets and yet there is fear and anxiety. Faith and devotion gives us ‘Abhaya’(fearlessness). But me I just tremble. I say that because times are such or is it my own lack of belief in the superior being.
But time and again it is proved that nothing is in our hands. Maybe it is a man made catastrophe, maybe not but the truth is the outcome is beyond us.
There was a picture circulating in whatsapp which resonated with me
The funny part is that this material world is actually a cage where in we have been sent to rehabilitate, so that we can remember our actual position and try to go back to our original abode.
This we understand in our present condition. A virus has made us understand about our actual position; it is also made us understand how powerless we are. Nothing was and nothing will be in our control.
We may gloat of our material accumulations or our scientific progresses but the fact remains that we are not the doer.
When Arjuna in the midst of the battlefield is bewildered and refused to fight? Krishna asks him why do people think that they are the doers when actually it is the three modes of material nature doing everything.
The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.
How long we will think of lording over nature and take advantage of it to satisfy our cravings. It is but inevitable that nature will take revenge one day.
But the best part is that now as we remain indoors it is the nature which takes a breather. The air is purer, we can hear the birds chirp and the animals are free to roam as they like. At least let us be happy about that.
From time to time it is necessary to evaluate ourselves. It helps to know what we have learned and how much we have evolved.
With this objective in mind every year around the end of February or beginning of March, I conduct some form of assessment for the children of the school where I take weekly Bhagavad Gita class. Last year I had taken a quiz on the Bhagavad Gita for only two standard ie. Children of the fourth and fifth standard. The children had performed exceedingly well. And I was so proud that day.
This year the plan was to make it bigger and better. The assessment would have to be enjoyable and yet quantifiable. After a lot of brainstorming and consultations with my seniors, a format was prepared.
While the first 2 standard would get just colouring sheets, for the others it would be more elaborate. And the way they coloured…..my jaw touched the ground.
For the others we started with complete the shloka. I would give a part of the shloka and children were asked the preceding or succeeding part. That was the icebreaker and the children participated enthusiastically.
Then children were divided into groups of 10 and given jumbled shlokas. They had to arrange it in proper order. Out of the 20 teams only one did a minor mistake. After they arranged it they were supposed to illustrate the shloka according to their understanding. Initially they panicked. It was something very new to them. I had called some friends and my son to help me out that day. So we allayed their fears and boosted their morale. And the way they opened their minds was .. just wonderful.
Some more pictures
The immense joy that the day gave me as a teacher/preacher cannot be explained in words. In actuality it was my assessment as to whether my children had understood me or not.
Definitely the memories of that day will be etched in our memories forever.
I sat looking at the calendar in my hands 52 days. Just 52 days, how am I supposed to live the remainder of my life without Rakesh?
Abruptly a hand came, snatched the calendar from my hand and threw it away. It was my mother.
‘Enough of your grief….how long do you want to continue in this state?’ she bellowed. I remained silent.
Whatever happens is for good only. Good that Rakesh understood that you were not made for each other and broke the engagement. Do you understand if you had realized it after marriage, how much difficult it would have been? Meenakshi, answer me?’, she screamed shaking me up.
Rakesh and I had been childhood sweethearts. We had been together through thick and thin. Once we had settled into our jobs we had got engaged to be married within six months. But just two months after the engagement Rakesh had broken the engagement saying that we were ‘not made for each other’.
We knew our likes and dislikes, we understood each other perfectly, we looked perfect together what else did you need to be ‘made for each other’.
‘Meenu’, my mother said with tears in her eyes, ‘How long you will sit here staring at that calendar. How long you will sit at home. Rejoin your job before you lose it. Start afresh’.
I sat silent too numb to do anything.
At that moment my father came rushing in, ‘Parvati, did Champa come today?’. Champa is our maid.
‘No, she should come now, It’s about time’, ma replied.
‘I doubt so,’, my father replied, ‘Just now I got a message there is a fire breakout in her chawl.’
‘What’, my mother said.
‘We should go there Parvati, help Champa and others,’ father said
Mother nodded. As they prepared to leave, ma dragged me too with them saying, ‘we will need all the help’
The chawl was smoldering. Firefighters were at work. Luckily it was day time and many were away at work, children at school.
Women stood huddled, shaken up. Some wailing but we located Champa. My mother ran to her. ‘Champa are you all right’.
‘Arrey Bibiji, you here.’ she smiled, ‘ I was working at the nearby house when I saw the smoke and came running’, and then she noticed me, ‘Arrey madam also came here’.
I felt uncomfortable. Who would feel comfortable amongst people in their pajamas?
Champa always called me madam because according to her I had become a ‘big’ woman after studying so much
The fire was arrested soon but the top two floors were wrecked.
‘Which floor you live in’, I asked Champa
‘Fourth, she replied, that was the topmost floor
There was some discussion going on. My father came from that group. ‘There will be an investigation but the chawl owner is telling that he will make alternative arrangements soon. Meanwhile he is asking the residents to move in with friends or family’.
‘What happened?’, my mother asked.
‘My relatives live far away, if we go there, it will be far from school for my son and what about my work’, she frowned.
Some other people had the same concern.
My father was thoughtful and then he said, ‘ We can accommodate 20 people in our home and garage Champa, you select whom to bring in’.
‘Babuji’, Champa said with tears in her eyes, ‘But what about your car’
‘Human lives are more important than cars Champa and don’t think I am magnanimous, who will do the housework if you move far away’, he chuckled.
And so we bought 20 people into our home and lives.
‘Our home is so lively now’, my mother said, ‘True it is congested but at least I don’t have to look at morose faces all day’.
I glared at her.
But what she said was true. Most of the people from the chawl worked in the mill nearby. They earned not much but they lived happily. hen When in our home, all of them cooked together and we ate together too. Simple food but so tasty. Children played in the out; sometimes they came and saw television along with us. All had got such a shock because of the fire but none grieved, In fact they were already planning on how to prevent such fires in the future.
And then I realized….everything in life will not go according to our plans, there will be some hiccups but the fun is how to overcome them.
As I felt the lines of grief erase away, I looked at ma in an animated discussion with the women.
Ma, what are you discussing?’, I asked
Sometimes we are so overcome with our own problems that we fail to see the good around us.
Arjuna on the battlefield is so confused that he wants to run away from the battlefield and Krishna says,
sri-bhagavan uvaca asocyan anvasocas tvam prajna-vadams ca bhasase gatasun agatasums ca nanusocanti panditah
The Blessed Lord said: While speaking learned words, you are mourning for what is not worthy of grief. Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.
In our grief we often forget that our object of agony is just temporary and it too shall pass.
I’m Writing Bravely for the Write Tribe Festival of Words – March 2019’
My eyes were swollen. Swollen because I had been crying for the past 5 days continuously.
I had banished my friends and family from visiting me. I didn’t want anyone’s sympathy. Five days back I had been in an accident and my right leg had been crushed and had to be amputated.
The door opened and my husband came in. I looked the other way. He came near and turned my face towards him and said, ‘Do you trust me?’
I looked at his face and saw his unconditional love and faith and I nodded. He smiled and said, ‘Then everything will be just fine.’
And I smiled too.
With our fast paced digitalized life today we are forgetting basic emotions like trust, faith and belief. Life is much easier when we have a heart that trusts easily. Remember when we were young, we had immense trust in our parents and life was full of sunshine. That same sunshine can prevail in our adult lives too if only, we are ready to trust.
Arjuna too standing in the middle of the battlefield was confused. On one side of the field were his brothers and the other side his cousins. Both were his own. In his confusion, the only person he can trust is the Lord and he says
karpanya-dosopahata-svabhavah prcchami tvam dharma-sammudha-cetah yac chreyah syan niscitam bruhi tan me sisyas te ‘ham sadhi mam tvam prapannam
Now I am confused about my duty and have lost all composure because of weakness. In this condition I am asking You to tell me clearly what is best for me. Now I am Your disciple, and a soul surrendered unto You. Please instruct me.
And that trust and surrender changes Arjuna’s vision.
So be selective on whom to trust but trust you must.
I’m Writing Bravely for the Write Tribe Festival of Words – March 2019’
Alka opened the door with difficulty balancing the bags in her hand and jumped a little on seeing her husband in front of her.
‘See, what all I got for us, look at this ‘, she said taking out a vegetable chopper.
‘Alka, we already have a food processor…’, started Manoj, her husband.
‘I know but it works on electricity, this….this works on muscle power’, she said flexing her arms and smiling sweetly.
‘And what is there in the other bags?’, he asked
‘Oh that…some clothes for all of us’, said Alka
‘Alka our wardrobes are full of clothes actually bursting with clothes’, he said.
Alka frowned but then added, ‘Shirley said this is a good bargain and I may not get such offers again’.
‘Maybe you won’t get such offers again but the question is do we need it?, said Manoj, ‘Maybe Shirley needs as she is the wife of a hotelier and socialises a lot but what about us? Our kitchen is full of gadgets bought in the last six months, that is since you met your childhood friend again and so are our wardrobes’.
‘By the way, you came early from office today?’, Alka asked trying to change the topic.
‘Yes, because your credit card statement arrived today. This month credit card payment will not only wipe out my this month’s earnings but also make a hole in our savings. Alka we have two kids, what about their education? You are always being influenced by Shirley but the point is can we afford such over indulgence?’
Alka stood there deep in thought, whether she will change or not, time would only tell.
It is an age if over indulgences. We buy online and we shop at malls and sometimes we just shop because we are influenced by our friends. There are so many attractions out there in the world that it is difficult to control self. The Bhagavad Gita Second chapter, 62nd shloka says:
Mr. Awasthi looked at the items on the table and let out a sigh. Two adult magazines and a packet of cigarettes in the bag of a resident student. That too, a student of 11th Standard. Teen problems, yes! But how to deal with a student whose father had been a star student and a favourite of his?
‘Sahib, the electricity bill’, it was the peon.
Mr. Awasthi took the bill. On seeing the amount, he sat down on his chair heavily.
It had been only 20 days since he had joined this post and already he seemed to be submerging in the flood of problems.
A school with such a rich history was now losing its shine. Why? What was wrong?
He didn’t know when it was already six in the evening when he heard a knock, ‘Yes, come in’.
A tall boy with unruly hair and familiar features stepped in.
‘Yes?’ asked Mr. Awasthi.
‘I thought you would want to meet me’, said the young man.
‘Me? Why should I want to meet you?’, asked the Principal
‘Because……I am Suraj and my things are lying there’, said he.
‘Ohh, is it? No…. I didn’t want to meet you’. Said Awasthi observing the look of surprise in the boy’s face, ‘I have more important things to do than worrying about spoilt rich boys.’
A look of defiance ran across Suraj’s face.
‘After all’, Mr. Awasthi continued, ‘why should I worry about you when I know that your father has enough money to throw upon you. If you don’t get seat in any college, your father will buy you one’.
Suraj had the look of irritation on his face. But he kept mum, just turned about and started to leave.
‘Just a minute’, called out Mr. Awasthi.
‘You like these things?’
Suraj shrugged and then said, ‘Timepass’
‘You mean to say you have lot of time in your hands?’, asked Mr. Awasthi.
‘We are not allowed Mobile phones, The television has only Nat Geo and Discovery…what is a person to do over here?’, said Suraj.
‘You have nothing to do sports, preparing for University entrance?’, asked Mr. Awasthi.
Suraj shrugged again and said, ‘Entrance exams are not so tough. 80% of the guys are busy in preparations and there is nobody capable to play with. And for the other….’, he stopped.
‘Continue, what are you afraid of’, pressed Mr. Awasthi
Again Suraj had the look of defiance, ‘Our basketball and badminton courts are not well maintained. And our coaches have their own agenda’
‘What is their agenda?’, asked Mr. Awasthi
‘Why should I tell you? You find out’, answered Suraj
Mr. Awasthi chuckled silently. By now he had understood Suraj’s problem.
‘Okay’, he said, ‘I need some help, can you help me?’,
‘Me? What can I do’, it was obvious that he was interested.
‘look at this electricity bill, it is enormous. I give you one week; tell me some ways to reduce our electricity consumption. I also want you to tell me how to reduce our food costs’, said Mr. Awasthi.
‘But why should I do so?’. Said Suraj mockingly.
‘Afraid of not able to find anything, is it?’, mocked Mr. Awasthi in return.
Suraj got up suddenly, ‘I will get back to you in a week’, he said and left
Mr. Awasthi smiled
21 months later
It was April and the campus was being vacated. The 12th standard boys were bidding each other goodbye. Each one of them would be going in different ways from now on when suddenly Mr. Awasthi felt someone come and stand behind him. He turned to see Suraj, ‘Suraj my boy, adieu it is then huh?’.
‘More like Au Revoir sir’, he said. Mr. Awasthi raised an eyebrow, ‘I will be back one day….maybe I will take your post out of your hands.’
Mr. Awasthi roared in laughter.
‘That boy was always cheeky Sir but then you really turned him around’, said the peon
‘All the children cannot be nurtured in the same way Sakharam. For a sharp boy like Suraj we had to engage his mind. Didn’t he find out different easy to generate our own electricity and wasn’t he responsible to reduce our food costs. And then so many students he has coached this year even though he himself was in 12th. A common size of jeans doesn’t fit all, some need designer fits’, said Mr. Awasthi with twinkling eyes.
‘Common size jeans…’, said Sakharam scratching his head, the last part of what Mr. Awasthi had said had gone over his head.
‘Never mind Sakharam, switch off the lights’, said Mr. Awasthi as he walked away.
Just like two different flower bushes in a garden need different care similarly different children need different nurturing. And the difference is because of the mind. Some minds move faster, some are slow. The mind is just a monkey which keeps on hopping from one branch to another. Especially in the growing up years it is necessary to keep it engaged. The Bhagavad Gita says
sri-bhagavan uvaca asamsayam maha-baho mano durnigraham calam abhyasena tu kaunteya vairagyena ca grhyate
The Blessed Lord said: O mighty-armed son of Kunti, it is undoubtedly very difficult to curb the restless mind, but it is possible by constant practice and by detachment. (BG 6.35)
Some minds need some extracurricular activities and some just some challenges.
I’m Writing Bravely for the Write Tribe Festival of Words – March 2019
Ahalya sat on the edge of the bed. She had been suspecting it but after getting the results she was clear. The big C, the dreaded disease had stuck. Third stage breast cancer.
‘Amma, did you get the result’, it was her daughter Shreya who lived close by.
‘Yes, breast cancer, third stage’, answered Ahalya
‘What?’, shrieked Shreya and pulled the report from her hands.
After some moments Shreya asked, ‘Now what Amma’.
‘More test, chemo, some more tests I guess’, smiled Ahalya and then after seeing Shreya crying silently she added, ‘this too shall pass, dear, don’t worry.’
‘But why you have to suffer amma, always, why?, screamed Shreya
‘Karma’, answered Ahalya.
‘Crap. I haven’t seen you do bad or wish bad for others, then why’, Said Shreya
‘Must have done something bad in my previous lives….
‘Or the Lord must like you very much, say, go ahead, say’, said Shreya.
Ahalya just smiled and patted her head. Once upon a time she had been just like Shreya; impulsive, hot headed, outspoken. Thankfully she had changed.
She had been married young. She had Shreya within a year of marriage. But within a few months of Shreya’s birth her husband died in a road accident. It had been a battle since then. On one hand people claimed that Shreya was unlucky, on the other hand, family had created problems. Her husband was a government servant and legally she should have got a job after him but her brother in law applied but she fought with him and got the job. Her brother stopped talking to her fearing that she would land up in his house and forbade her to visit their parents. She never stepped inside his house again but never stopped talking to her parents and always invited them home. Shreya was being cut off from her father’s inheritance, she fought for that too. On the work front too, so many challenges she had to face as a single woman.
Everything she managed alone.
She smiled and picked up the copy of the Bhagavad Gita and held it close to her heart.
‘Amma, amma,…..what are you thinking? How can you be serene at such a moment too…’.
‘O scion of Bharata, surrender unto Him utterly. By His grace you will attain transcendental peace and the supreme and eternal abode’, said Ahalya, ‘You and me have faced so many troubles Shreya but We were never really alone. Strangers came forward, difficult situations eased themselves and unknown strength blossomed in our hearts. Without our knowing someone always helped us and each moment made us stronger’
‘Amma, how can you be so strong and serene in this difficult moment too ‘ Shreya asked.
‘Faith and Surrender give you strength and serenity my dear’, Ahalya smiled and hugged her daughter.
I’m Writing Bravely for the Write Tribe Festival of Words – March 2019’
‘I want to see what all happens, it is an once in a lifetime experience’ , said my mother on the phone. I sighed. My mother was hesitant to go alone. The temple in their community was going to have a Garuda dhwaja installed amidst a lot of rituals. And my mother was hesitant to […]