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Destinations

I hummed a tune as I got ready. No I did not need any starched sarees today. I could be casual.So I wore a churidar and long kameez. Tied my hair in a pony and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked young not the upcoming politician with the starched saree and the tight bun. I smiled.

As I sat down to have breakfast. Anju looked at me from top to bottom and said, ‘how come the woman who is supposed to rock the political scene is suddenly demure’. I couldn’t overlook the sarcasm in her voice but Shishir, my husband held my hand and stopped me from retorting. ‘Ma, is meeting her childhood friend after  20 years’, he said. ‘Oh… that is why the starch went away’, said my other daughter Sayee. And then both giggled. Shishir held my hand even more tightly. And then both got up and left for college.

I felt tears pricking my eyes. ‘Sonali, ignore them, they are immature’, said Shishir.

‘They are young adults now, Shishir not toddlers. Why are they so harsh to me. They have whatever they need for a good life, then why this sarcasm? Can’t I have dreams or ambitions’, I asked.

‘Don’t spoil your mood, you are meeting Preeti after so long, go now or you will be late’, he said.

It was a long drive and while the driver battled with the traffic, I leaned back and reminisced.

Preeti and me had studied together since our first standard but had never been close.Until we both took the same subjects in our 11th. We knew no one else in the class and so grouped together. While I was the underdog, she was the topper. I gave the wild streak in her life while she grounded me. She would teach me, groom me in all the subjects and if I got good marks, she would get jealous. Yet,next exams she would train me again. Yes, she was a bundle of contradictions.

Though I was excited to meet her but I was a bit apprehensive too. While I was relatively well off owing to the  fact that Shishir was a rich businessman. We had a couple of factories. While I had heard that Preeti was not that well off. Also at a young age had to have a hysterectomy and she had some other medical complications. Will she be jealous, will she be angry with my success’, I thought.

‘Reached madam’, the driver said.

We had reached a modest building. Preeti lived in the first floor.

I rang the bell. The door opened immediately. I saw a radiant Preeti, she smiled and I could feel my anxieties melting away.

As I hugged her I could smell coconut oil and the jasmine.

‘Come, she held my hand and dragged me to the sofa. Made me sit. And over tea and snacks we chatted. Of the past and the present. Two hours passed by talking of our friends, our families. ‘Let us go out for lunch Preeti, I said. ‘No, I have prepared lunch, your favourite bisi bele bhaath is one of the items’, she said,’Also my younger one Tanmay will be back from school any moment’, she said.

As we sat eating,  I said, ‘Preeti, this is all so tasty’.

”That is because this is Prasadam’, said Tanmay.

‘Huh’, I said.

‘We offer everything to the Lordships before we ate anything. So this becomes prasadam because it is blessed by the Lord’, Tanmay said pointing to the altar.

It was then that I noticed the altar. The deities of Radha Krishna stood there. Their smiles were enchanting. Were they the reason of this positivity in the room?

While I was introspecting, Preeti cleared the table. Tanmay helped her. I could hear mother and son chatting away pleasantly,while they did the dishes. When was the last time me and my daughters had a talk.

The bell rang, ‘I will see ‘, I said.

A young lady stood there. ‘You must be Sonali aunty. I am Tanu’. She came in and talked so sweetly. When Preeti came out both the kids excused and went inside. I looked at them thoughtfully.

‘What happened Sona,’ Preeti asked.

‘Your kids are so nice Preeti, so obedient and so very caring’, I said.

Preeti didn’t say anything.

‘And you too look so peaceful, what is the secret’, I asked.

She sat smiling. Then  she said slowly, ‘I understood the futility of this life long back Sona. We struggle like a fish out of water but the fact is that everything is predetermined. Once you accept that nothing is in your control everything falls in place.

I was more confused.

I have been in and out of hospitals Sona. A time came when I stopped asking-why me and accepted that this is life. Like it or not. That lead me to a search of my identity about who am I and then everything fell in place’, she smiled again

I was mesmerised by her voice, her talk, her vision, she was so peaceful.

She continued, ‘Krishna said to Arjuna,

‘ hato va prapsyasi svargam jitva va bhoksyase mahim
tasmad uttistha kaunteya yuddhaya krta-niscayah

 Meaning-O son of Kunti, either you will be killed on the battlefield and attain the heavenly planets, or you will conquer and enjoy the earthly kingdom. Therefore get up and fight with determination.’
So there is nothing much I can do except carry on with my duties. I work part time. Give my children as much time as they need and always look after the welfare of my husband. I do my karma and leave the rest to Him’,  she said looking at the altar.
As the car took me back home,I introspected on our lives. I scaled the steps financially and professionally. People were speculating that I could be the next CM of the state while Preeti too had escalated. But her growth was within. While I was a leader, she was a leader too. I lead a group of people for the betterment of society, she lead others for a higher purpose. We had started the journey together but our destinations were different.
To each his own. I would always be there for her and whenever I needed inner peace, I knew I could knock at her door.
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Today is Day 5 of Write Tribe Festival of Words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The vagaries of life

As I dropped off Jiya to the bus stop. I felt heavy. Not physically but ….It was as if something bad was going to happen.

I moved about the home tidying this and that but the feeling would not go away.  I could not have my breakfast too.  When the phone beeped, my breath stopped for a second.

It was a video call from the Care Home. I was shaking but then I had to pick the call up.

‘Madam, Sir is refusing to cooperate. It is his physiotherapy time but he is refusing.’

I gathered all my wits.This was going to be tough. The very fact that the Care Home had called me meant that they were not able to convince Avneesh.

Yes, Avneesh. My better half.After living together for 40 years we had to live separately. Not because we divorced but because he needed 24 hours help and none of us could support him.

‘Madam, madam……please talk to him’, said the nurse.

‘Yes, yes’, I said to her coming out of my thoughts.

‘ Avneesh ….listen’,, I began.

‘Who is Avneesh’, he said.

‘You’.

‘I am not Avneesh, …..am I?’, he asked the nurse, she nodded.

A tear escaped my eyes.

‘Avneesh do as the nurse says, it is for your betterment’, I said

‘Why should I listen to you? Who are you?’, he asked.

‘ Your wife, Avanti’.

‘Says who? I don’t think I am married’, said he

You are married Sir and she is your wife’, affirmed the nurse.

‘Avneesh, do as the nurse says. It is for your good. Don’t you want to go out in the garden and catch butterflies’, I said.

‘ Butterflies. Yes I like to run after butterflies.’

‘Ashok and Ananya used to run with you, remember?’, said I

‘Ashokkkk….’ there was a flicker of remembrance but then he said ‘I won’t exercise. It is painful and if I fall from the bed,who will look after me’, he said.

‘ You will not fall, I guarantee’, said the sister

‘If you behave I will bring gajar ka halwa over the weekend’, I said.

‘Halwa/’

‘Yes, now will you do as the sister says?’ I asked.

He was lost in his thoughts but he mumbled a yes.

Soon after we disconnected and I sat down and as usual cried myself hoarse.And I thought of all the times we had spent together.

I was his friend’s sister. No it was not a love marriage.  My brother suggested that he marry me. Our parents agreed and that is it.

Forty years we had spent together. He was not an easy person to live with. Well neither was I. But we were together for good or worse. He had a bad temper. I had a fiery tongue and we both had two beautiful children. He battled outside. I battled in the home but we were a team. With the little money we saved, we would go for movies, picnic at the beach. I remember the first time he gifted me something substantial… it was a ring. And he got an identical one for himself.Yes times were tough and we barely had any assets. But we had a lot of understanding.

By the time he was about to retire we were happy, it was time to relax now. Son was employed and about to get married.Daughter was married already and had blessed us with a grandson. Now it was our time to do as we wished.

It started suddenly the shaking and the tempers. We ignored, he always had the temper, didn’t he. But then he started getting a bit violent. One day he fell. He got up but after that his mobility was reduced gradually to the point he could not get up from the bed. He was losing his memory too. A form of Parkinson’s the doctor said. The brain sends commands, the nerves don’t agree.

We couldn’t handle him, so we kept a nurse but then it went on escalating till we couldn’t do anything except keep him in a care.

The second line of the 9th shloka of chapter 13 of the Bhagavad Gita says ‘janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi duhkha-dosanudarsanam’. Meaning the four problems of life are birth death, old age and sickness. And when two of these problems; old age and sickness combine, life is unbearable not only to the person but to everyone connected with the person.

Many people talk behind our backs that we could  not take care of Avneesh and threw him in an old age home. I don’t argue with anyone. This pain can only be understood by someone who goes through it. I know Avneesh is dying but me…. I die a thousand deaths in a day.


Today is Day 4 of Write Tribe Festival of Words

 

 

 

 

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What is your biggest fear?

What is that you really fear?’, I asked

Some said Death,  what happens if I die, what will happen to my children?  Some said uncertainty. Some said they are afraid of hurting someone and so on…

‘I am afraid that I will not be  able to bring my son to the path of spirituality’, I said and continued….

Nitai Sevini Mataji in one of her lectures has said, ‘ as a woman, as a mother and your success as a mother  depends  on whether you succeed in kindling/ awakening the love for Krishna in your child’s heart.’

But to do that are you equipped enough? Have you realised the truth yourself? How will you convince your child, if you are not convinced yourself?

A mother once took her child to a saint, ‘Swamiji,my son eats too much of chocolates even though the Dentist has asked him not to. His teeth have begun to rot and yet he doesn’t listen to me. Swamiji thought a while and asked her to come with her child after four days. The lady returned after four days, the Swami called the boy near him, patted him on his back and said lovingly, ‘Son stop eating chocolates from today else you will lose all your teeth’ The woman took the child home. But from that day he never ate any chocolates. His mother was astonished. She returned to the Swami in some days and asked, ‘Swamiji when I asked my son not to eat chocolates he didn’t listen to me but you said once he listened. How?  And why did you call us after four days when you could ask him to stop the very first day. The Swami smiled  and said, ‘I couldn’t advise him the very first day because I too had the habit of eating chocolates. How could I convince him without convincing myself? That is why I called you in four days. First I convinced myself and then when I advised him, he listened.

So How good are you or how good is your sadhana? First make yourself capable to bring your child to the path of bhakti.

Firstly do you believe that Krishna indeed is the supreme personality of Godhead?  Yes, He is. In the eighth  shloka  of the tenth chapter He himself proclaims to be so.

aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam budha bhava-samanvitah
TRANSLATION
I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.
So when He himself is proclaiming that I am the source, is there any scope of doubt.

Secondly, how surrendered are you?  Are you willing, are you ready toallow him to take charge of yourself? In the 66th shloka of the 18th chapter Krishna says

sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah
TRANSLATION
Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.
Such a beautiful assurance. He will take care. Full stop.

Thirdly, what are you going to do to satisfy or to make Krishna happy? This needs practise. Your consciousness should change from me to Him. Meaning whatever you do, you should do with the bhava of satisfying Him.

To develop this bhava it is not so difficult. Show your gratitude in every step? Thank him for what He has given you.  Thank Him for the home that He has given you, thank him for the food, thank Him for the bed you sleep on etc.

Once you come to the level of gratitude start  your devotional service with the nine ‘angas’ ofdevotional service- shravanam, kirtanam, Vishnu smaranam, pada sevanam,  vandanam, arcanam, dasyam, sakhyam,  atma nivedanam.

And what happens when you become a devotee and serve Him?

sa evayam maya te ‘dya yogah proktah puratanah
bhakto ‘si me sakha ceti rahasyam hy etad uttamam (4.3)
TRANSLATION
That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend; therefore you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science.
One of the advantages of becoming a devotee is that the wisdom flows through us, the most confidential knowledge is unveiled
ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate
tesam nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham
TRANSLATION
But those who worship Me with devotion, meditating on My transcendental form-to them I carry what they lack and preserve what they have.
Understand this carefully, He carries what we lack and preserves what we have. Isn’t that wonderful!!

 So those are just two inferences which happen when you become a devotee. In my own life I have witnessed how Lord has held me in His hands and led me out of difficult circumstances.

Once you are firm with your belief, start with your child? For this there is a simple acronym RIP. Rip through maya, from this material existence. And what is this RIP :

Read with the child books like BhagavadGita, Bhagvatam, CaitanyaCaritamrita. Read at least for half an hour. Let the child soak in our heritage through our books

Involve them in activities like aarti, altar cleaning and decoration, preparing of bhoga.

Prasadam. Prasadam is potent.Feed them sumptuous prasadam.  And see how they evolve


Excerpts from a class taken on 15th May@ Bahrain

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A Collar for me

The  neighbour staying at the back of our building got a dog some months back. From that time on, its barking.  Day or night, no bar. It is always on a leash. Very rarely it is let free. For some minutes someone would come pet him and go. For some moments the dog would be bappy and jump around. And after some time the yelling would restart.

Today it got a new collar. A bright red collar and that made me think.

We all are just like the dog. We all are yelling and jumping for something or the other. We form some ambitions, run after them, run for material comforts, have  children and start jumping to make their life better. Somewhere in the midst, we get some  collars,  a partner, a smartphone, a laptop and so on. And we run and yell some more.

Just for a collar.

In the Bhagvad Gita Chapter8 Shloka 15, Krishna quotes this world as Dukhalayam Ashashvatam. A temporary place full of miseries. And we search for collars in this miserable place.

I am seeing old age from close quarters. It is an age where mobility is reduced and memory erases. And I wonder what was the use of running around for luxuries or working so hard.

Some have the  view that enjoy as much as you can, when you can. But again the Gita tells us that there is a higher purpose of life then just eating or enjoying.

We are all part and parcels of Krishna and as such our duty is to serve Him. That is the ultimate truth.

Very often we hear bhakti is all for the time when I retire from work or when I am old. But can you really practise bhakti when old and senile?

I look at my kith and kin, some cannot walk , some have lost their memory and tighten my resolve…the time is NOW. There is no tomorrow.

And yes I do need a collar. A collar of mercy from my Guru Maharaj and rest I know will be taken care of.

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Questions

Questions scare us. Most of us have had sleepless nights thinking about which questions the examination paper will hold or which question the interviewer will ask. The latter is more scarier. Because whether the answer is right or wrong doesn’t matter. What matters is that the answer is in sync with the interviewers line of thought. Now how can we know what is in the mind of somebody and what does he really want to know. That is another difficult question.

In the great Mahabharata war, Dhritarasthra had asked such a question. We all know that Dhritarashtra was blind but he was desirous of knowing what is happening n the war. Vedvyas who also happens to be his uncle blesses Sanjaya who happens to be Dhritarashtra’s adviser with divine eyesight. which means that even though Sanjay is far away he is able to ‘see’ what is happening  in the battlefield. Dhritarashtra is very happy with this arrangement.
So the Bhagavad Gita which means the song of the Lord begins with Dhritarashtra asking Sanjaya
dhrtarastra uvaca
dharma-ksetre kuru-ksetre
samaveta yuyutsavah
mamakah pandavas caiva
kim akurvata sanjaya
Dhrtarastra said: O Sanjaya, after assembling in the place of pilgrimage at Kuruksetra, what did my sons and the sons of Pandu do, being desirous to fight?
It seems that Dhritarashtra just wants to know what is happening on the battlefield but that is  not so simple. He is more concerned with his sons. He being guardian of his brothers son; he should have been impartial but he was not. At every point we  can see his selfishness,- when Draupadi was disrobes, when the game of dice took place…every moment his partiality can be seen.
So in this shloka Dhritarashtra doesn’t really want to know what is happening… he really wants to know whether his sons are winning.
But technically he knows what the result will be because he says ‘Dharmashetre. So in dharmashetre nothing wrong happens, truth wins. So it is evident that Pandavas will win because they are on the side of dharma.
Sanjaya like a clever interviewee knows what is in the mind of Dhritarashtra. And instead of answering directly he dodges the question. He tells about the military formation, the might of both sides and so on.
Its only at the end when Krishna has finished advising Arjuna and Arjuna has fully surrendered that Sanjay answers the question by saying
yatra yogesvarah krsno
yatra partho dhanur-dharah
tatra srir vijayo bhutir
dhruva nitir matir mam
Wherever there is Krsna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion.
So what a clever person Sanjaya is. He is diplomatic, sharp, well versed in language and yet delivers the message subtly
 
That is how we have to answer interviews too, confuse the interviewer a little dodge a little, scrutinize some more and yet deliver the message.
Interestingly the Bhagavad Gita also gives us tips on how to ask a question. But it is more related to questioning your guru
tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darsinah (4.34)
Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.
So a golden message given here, be submissive. It’s only when the egos are down that anything can be learnt.
There is a story which comes to mind. When Raavana is about to leave his body, Shri Ram advises Lakshmana to go and approach him ans get some knowledge. Lakshmana goes and stands near his head. Raavana refuses to acknowledge him. Lakshmana goes back to his brother and says that Raavana didn’t acknowledge him. Ram laughs and sends him back saying that he should stand near his feet with his palms folded and enquire submissively.  Lakshmana does so and is blessed with Raavanas wisdom.
translation of shlokas courtesy asitis.com

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Her father’s daughter

Searching Self

Radha was irritated. Very Irritated. She wanted to speak to her father but did he have any time for her other than his chanting and his devotional service. Nah, it was only them for him.

‘Why can’t he hurry up?’, she asked her mom.

‘And why didn’t you ask him yesterday, you had the whole evening to ask him?’,  said her mom.

‘I forgot’.

‘Then wait’, said her mom

‘I mean, why does he have to do all this?’

‘Radha, is it wrong to give a little time to the maker? The rest of the day he devotes to us, isn’t it? ‘, said her mom

‘Yes, I know, karma, bhakti, service, I know, Please don’t start all that again’, complained Radha.

‘Radhaaa’, he  was about to lecture her when Shankar, her husband and Radha’s father stopped her.

‘It is alright Savita, leave her, so what did you want from…

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The impermanence of it all….

As I stand idling on the balcony, a sudden wave of nostalgia hits me. I remember the good old times spent in Bahrain. The sevas I was fortunate to have; the classes attended all memories wash over me.

It is not easy, fifteen lovely years especially the last eight are not easy to forget. As I long for some company I remember my sisters at the temple or the ladies in my bhakti vriksha who had become like my daughters. As I cook in the kitchen I remember who likes the particular dish that I am preparing or how it was cooking in the temple kitchen particularly on Saturdays for the Kannada Bhagvad Gita class. As I clean my home my mind conjures up images of the mass cleaning on fridays after breakfast in the temple.

Memories can sometimes bring a smile on your lips and yet sometimes torment you with a sweet ache in the heart.

The last twenty-five years I have been like a nomad, flitting from place to place. enjoying each place and yet not getting attached to any. Bahrain in that way had been special. A place where I started my marital life, made a home, had a child; experienced the highs and lows that life brings with it and yet I always used to remind myself that it is temporary, one day I will have to leave it all.

Today where I am placed I love it. I am independent, I don’t have to wait for anybody to pick me up if I have to go somewhere, I have family close by, the weather suits me and yet a tiny piece of my heart has remained in Bahrain.

And then I remind myself that the change was inevitable. One day or the other it had to be.

 

The most important lesson that I have learnt in this whole relocation is how easily we forget ourselves. I knew that life in Bahrain was temporary. One day I had to move and yet I got attached.

Similarly even though I know that this body is just an outer covering I/We get attached to it, to the relations attached to that body . Even though I know that this relations are of this body, I still get angry if their opinion is different than mine or I am carried away by someones praises.

If only I could remember that none of these are permanent…..one moment we are praised; another criticised, it is just the duality of this world.

While in Bahrain there were so many sevas. Sometimes cooking, sometimes preaching, sometimes cleaning, sometimes dressing and so on. And each seva used to give so much bliss. If I could just remember that bliss and carry on ultimately waiting for that day when I would be able to personally serve the Supreme Lord….now that would be blissful indeed.

man-mana bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yaji mam namaskuru
mam evaisyasi satyam te
pratijane priyo ‘si me
.
TRANSLATION
Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend. (BG-18.65)

 

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