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Monthly Archives: August 2012

ANCIENT EGYPT AND INDIA – Cultural relations

ANCIENT EGYPT AND INDIA – Cultural relations

 I am new to this forum I noticed quite a few posts were made on the interesting subject of relations between Ancient Egypt and . Then I said to myself “let me add one more to the heap “.

1. Books
 

1.1 Peter Von Bohlen (1796 – 1840), a German Indologist, in his two volume monumental work Ancient with special reference to . He thought there was a cultural connection between the two in ancient times. 

1.2 Many others have also written on similar lines (e.g. El Mansouri, Sir   William Jones, Paul William Roberts, and Adolf Eramn et al). 

2.Anthropolog

2.1. Many Anthropologists have observed that the Egyptians as a race (type ‘P’) are more Asiatic than African.

 2.2 As per the legends and lore, the early Egyptians were from PUNT, an Asiatic country to the east of . Going by the description given of its coastline washed by the great seas, its hills and valleys, its vegetation (coconut trees among others), its animals (including long tailed monkeys) the Punt, the scholars surmise, may in fact be the Malabar coast.

 3. Sphinx and Buttocks

There is very a delightful finding about the Sphinx. Joshua T Katz of Princeton  University in his scholarly paper “The riddle of the Sp (h) ij   and her Indic and her Indo-European Background”    has come up with a view that the name Sphinx is related to a Greek noun which in turn is derived from a Sanskrit word Sphij, meaning  “ Buttocks”. Now you know to where it all comes down.

Interestingly, when you type in sphij in Google search, it shoots back “Did you mean Sphinx?”

No, I am not joking. Mr. Katz’s research paper is a very serious work though   a pedantic one. Check this link

http://www.princeton.edu/~pswpc/pdfs/katz/120505.pdf

4. Emperor Ashoka’s contacts with

4.1 A very authentic record of is, of course, Ashoka’s 13th rock edict (3rd century B.C). Here in, the Emperor refers to his contact with Ptolemy II of (285-246 B. C) in connection with the expansion of Dharma (Buddhism) into Egypt and its neighboring lands.

 4.2 Ashoka ,  in his Second Edict refers to philanthropic works (such as medical help for humans and animals, digging wells, planting trees etc.) taken up by his missionaries in the lands ruled by Theos II of Syria (260 to 240 B. C) and his neighbors , including Egypt.

 4.3. Pliny (78 A, D) mentions that Dionysius was Ptolemy’s ambassador in the court of Ashoka. The Emperor’s rock edict records that Dionysus was one of the recipients of Dharma (Buddhism).

5. Gnostics and Buddhism

5.1 Coming to the present era, Dio Chrysostum (1st century A. D.) and Clement (2nd century A. D) have written that at Alexandria Indian scholars were a common sight.

5.2 Many scholars have has pointed to a number of similarities between Mahayana Buddhism and the Gnosticism of the early Christian centuries that developed in ancient Egypt..The Greek term Gnosis is a derivative of the Sanskrit term Jnana both meaning knowledge.  In both Gnosticism and Buddhism, the emphasis is on Wisdom, compassion and eradication of the opposite of gnosis/consciousness, that is, ignorance the root of evil.

http://www.webcom.com/gnosis/thomasbook/ch22.html

5.3 In the Gospel of Thomas (translated by Peterson Brown), at verse 90, Yeshua says Come unto me, for my yoga is natural and my lordship is gentle—and you shall find repose for yourselves. It is startling to find term “Yoga” in a first century Christian document written in Egypt Perhaps it refers to Sahja Yoga. Check the following link

http://kuriakon00.tripod.com/tom.html

6. Oxyrhynchus Papyrus

During the early years of the 20th century a number of fragments of papyri –dating from 250 B.C. to 100 A.D- were discovered at Oxyrhynchus (now called el Bahnansa) in Egypt. The excavations yielded enormous collections of papyrus from Greek and Roman periods of Egyptian history. Among the finds was an incomplete manuscript of a Greek mime ( a skit) .For purpose of identification this fragment of papyrus it is called Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 413 .The scene of action of the skit is India and there are a number of Indian characters who speak dialogue in an Indian language. Dr. E. Hultzsch (1857-1927), a noted German Indologist, identified some words of the dialogue as an archaic form of Kannada, one of the four major languages of South India. Recent studies have supported Dr. Hultzsch’s finding. The papyrus is dated first or second century A.D.  This seems to prove that there were cultural and trade contacts between and the Mediterranean region at least as far back as in the early part of the first millennium CE.

7. Quseir

7.1 The excavation of the Quseir (a  Red Sea port in  Egypt)  shipwreck  also point to trade links between Egypt and India in the early Roman Imperial period.  The wreck site revealed Campanian- amphoras (A cylindrical two-handled amphora with oval-section handles and an almond-shaped rim) from Century AD.  Perhaps the ship was outbound for  India and was part of a fleet sent by Augustus to capture a controlling interest in the Indian Ocean trade

7.2 Further, three of inscriptions, one in a Prakrit and two in Old Tamil, found in Qusei also support the likelihood of flourishing trade between . This Suggests South India may have been the origin of the Indian merchants  stationed in Egypt.

8.
–Neela – Kali

John .H. Speke (1827 – 1864) an officer in the British Indian Army , who discovered the source of the Nile , in 1844 , attributed his success , among other things , to the guidance he received from an Indian. The advise given was to look for the Neela (meaning Blue in Sanskrit, hence the  Nile) flowqing between the peaks of Chandragiri  (Mountains of the Moon) below the country of Amara. To his wonder, what Speke discovered fitted with the location indicated by the Indian.

9. What Next?

9.1 Both the old countries have been through thick and thin of things over the ages .It is not surprising if they interacted over a number of issues.

9.2 However, there have been no serious studies, in the recent past, on the subject of cultural relations between ancient Egypt and India. In case such studies are taken up, recently, can some one please enlighten me?

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in History

 

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Aadhyasa

Aadhyasa is a concept introduced by Sri Shankara. It is difficult to find an exact English word for Aaadhyasa. It may, among other things, mean “superimposition”,”projection” etc. Aadhyasa is more comprehensive than that. 

2. He also recognized three levels of existence. The Absolute, the relative and the illusory. 

3. Adhyasa consists in superimposing one level of existence (relative/illusory) over the other (The Absolute) and accepting the former as true while it may actually be untrue. (Untrue does not mean false. It is a neutral term that lies between the Truth and falsehood.) 

There is nothing strange or startling about this. We experience it every day in our life. 

4. Let us take an example. We have accepted a “day” as a working unit of time. We have divided / sub- divided it into hours, minutes, seconds etc. We measure our work and life in terms of these units. A “day” itself is reckoned with reference to sunset and sunrise. We may call this a relative view. 

Further, what you call, let us say, 08.00 AM is not 08.00 AM to people living in other time zones. It will be a different time in their day/night. A single point in “time” signifies different “time” to different people. Each sets his “time” by his sunrise.  

However, all  of us know  that sun neither sets nor rises. From the Absolute point of view, there is no day or night. In other words, there is no “time”. It is a time- less universe (because “time” as we understand it, is measured with reference to an event.) 

We, thus, in our daily life impose a relative concept (day) over the Absolute (time less ness).This we do, because we are living in a relative world and not because we are ignorant of the sun’s status. Otherwise, how else can we live in a relative world? 

5. Let us see another example. One may mistake a stump of wood at night for a thief and get alarmed. Another may mistake a coiled rope, in semi darkness, for a snake and get panicky. In both cases, when some one  else throws light, after the event, they may learn the identity of the objects they “saw”. They may then say to themselves, with a sigh of relief,” Gosh! It was just a piece of wood/rope”. 

In these instances, the persons involved imposed an illusory existence over the real one. They realized the identity of the objects only after someone threw light on the objects. 

Here the interesting thing is while the perception may be illusory the alarm/panic  experienced was real. 

That again leads to another story.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Sri Sankara, Vedanta

 

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Education system – Indian Universities

This is a response to Melody Queen’s article Education and Character Building , a re- look at our education system; of what education should truly be

I invite view and debate on issues of education systems in India and state of affairs in Indian Universities

***

That was a thoughtful and well articulated. Your concern for education system and its products comes through. There is a disconnect between education and demands of life, as you mentioned. Many are ill equipped to face life and its realities.

Paradigm of education has changed drastically. Even that paradigm is bursting at its seams. It struggles to provide a framework for explanations and understandings of life and learning. Our universities are no longer idyllic havens of learning; and guiding enquiry of knowledge is no longer their primary objective. This is because our universities represent our priorities and reflect the anxieties and aspirations; ills and wells; strengths and weakness; and of the values of the society we live in.

Many challenges and motivations that entered into the campus are beyond the ken of its administrators. Further, campuses are open to influences of the interests that poach on the gullibility of student community.

We live in a violent world. That is understood; but occasionally we get very shocking reminders of this fact. I recoil from the shock and horror occurring on the campus of JNU and in Madhya Pradesh where a Professor succumbed to student attack. They reflect the hate and violence in the heart of the society.

The manifestations of violence are varied. The source is always the same; our society and its value systems. These events drive me to silence. When it erupts, it crosses the boundaries of civilized behavior, and then barbarism just takes over. Those who indulge in it justify by their own frame of reference. When it breaches the frame of reference of civilized behavior, it backfires on the society. That is the reason civilization is circumscribed by what we forbid ourselves to do than what we are permitted. I wonder how universities can ever keep their campuses safe while respecting the rights of individual students and the dignity of its teachers.

A case in point is the Jawaharlal Nehru University of New Delhi (JNU).It is a hotbed of politics. Every political party has its group in the student unions. “The complexities of JNU politics leaves me longing for the simplicity of Iraq ” remarked one Indian diplomat.

On campus, NSUI represents the Congress – which runs the UPA Government; ABVP is the representative of BJP family; SFI-AISF stand for the CPI (M) and CPI; and in addition, there is AISA -led JNUSU. There are also separate Dalit groups, OBC groups and other interested groups. Each political party highlights its agenda by organizing demonstrations, rallies etc. through its control group in JNU.And, parties opposing that organize counter demonstrations. All these are carried out in routine and a matter of fact fashion.

Any political or social moment in the country has its ripples in JNU; be it Narmada Andolan or agitation against SEZ or the land grab in Nandigram, OBC reservation issue, reservation for SC/ST/OBC in Multi nationals , you name it ,will be showcased in JNU.

There is intolerance of pluralistic view; total disregard for individual rights and debate. Opinions are thrust by violence rather by debate. It is fueled by its own justifications. JNU is virtually an on going chaos.

JNU and other varsities serve as recruiting grounds for political parties.Smart politicians and leaders poach on students to further their (leaders) ends. The campus rage business is both a means and an end. This is a special contribution of the subcontinent to public life.

You mentioned about teachers; teaching, in India today, is the last resort of the average achiever. He resorts to teaching when all better avenues are closed. Even here, recommendations and quotas play a greater role than merit. The quality of teaching staff is therefore indifferent. The teachers in turn get involved in-group affiliations by design or accident. The ugly incidents you cited might be a fall out of this unfortunate phenomenon.

Various quotas, recommendations and donations (buying admissions) and merit to an extent regulate the admission of students to professional colleges. Its students range from angles to virtual devils with a large section being clueless sleepwalkers.

Educational assessment in India is largely based on exams whose score alone is given maximum weightage.There is no appreciation for individuality or enterprise. That may be one of the reasons you do not see many Indians in decision-making positions. There is a gaping wide between college output and industry requirement. An IIM alumnus remarked, “We are dealing with the best-educated generation in our history. But they’ve got a brain dressed up with nowhere to go”.

Our boys and girls are lauded and appreciated, all over the world, for their hard work, commitment and ingenuity. That is not because of the system but it is despite the system we have.

Our universities are not merely a microcosm of our society but are the prototype of its future. Its quality depends on the values we nurture and respect at home, on streets, in communities and in political life. Our education systems will be as good as we allow them to be. It is a reflection of the way we live. Unless there is a marked improvement in these areas there is no way the campus culture would improve.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in General Interest

 

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Aside
Of poverty – literature – Sarat Chandra Chatterjee

Shri Ratan Datta in his two blogs wrote lucidly about poverty displayed in arts and cinema .He said,” I find nothing wrong in the approach”. He also referred to the colossus of Indian cinema Satyajit Ray and his Apu trilogy.

 
There appears to be a stubborn bond between art, artists and poverty. In some cases the artist might seek it because poverty is the great reality; but in most other cases poverty is the only reality that artist is familiar with. Who can forget Van Gogh driven to insanity by punishing poverty, cruel neglect and suffocating loneliness?Somehow a view has gained ground that the artist is given to sense more keenly than others only while placed in poverty, prison, or illness. Rainer Rilke said, one cannot be a good poet unless one loves poverty, indifference and wretchedness.The passion in human nature chooses “the one precious thing” and urges him to pay for it through poverty, conflict, deprivation, and endurance of anger from rejected divinities. As if to prove him right, Dostoevsky, Kafka and others of the tribe lived their miserable life in ignominy and penury while producing masterpieces. Strangely, an artist who gains success and affluence would be seen as one who has lost his authenticity; and, he would live the rest of his life on borrowed glory.
 
Whenever a debate about poverty and literature comes up, I cannot help thinking about Charles Dickens and our own Sarat Chandra Chatterjee.
 
Dickens portrayed the urban poverty, deprivation and the wretchedness it brought, especially, upon the slum- children of the Victorian society. No other author of that era presented a more realistic and “humanized” face of poverty. He created some of English literature’s most memorable characters. Some People might mock Dickens’s style; but no one, I feel, has been able to capture such variety of human nature. His characters are all amazing, so vivid that by the time he reaches the end of the novel, the reader comes to know them on a personal level.
 
Dickens’s was a study in abuse of power.Dickens’ novels criticize the injustices of his time; but are dedicated to the suffering poor everywhere. He pictures poignantly their starving, rumbling stomachs, bare feet, cold lives, empty staring eyes and the fear lurking behind them. He says it is all because the mighty ones snatch away their rights and refuse to help them. His novels, at a later time, succeed in bringing about some changes in social conditions and criminal laws of England; and above all in the attitudes towards the poor.

sarat chatterjee

This article is mainly about Sarat Babu that is Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (Chatterjee). He is one of my favorite writers, in any language. His portrayal of poverty was lot more understanding and sensitive. His characters carried around them their poverty with a great sense of dignity. They never were ashamed of their poverty; instead they seemed to feed on the misery mounting on them and eventually claimed out of the heap with composure and dignity.

 
Sarat Chandra Chatterjee knew Poverty very intimately.
 
 
He did not have to obtain his material from research. It was his encounters with life as a country lad and youth that provided him the inspiration, ingredients and storylines for his life-like characters placed in rural family settings. He molded them in his own inimitable style. The distinctive features and the essence of purpose that he added rendered them larger than life. That is the reason   his stories have gained such universal appeal.
 
His real heroes are not those under the limelight, but those in the corners, the shadows of life. They are the ordinary men and women placed within their limited confines battling extraordinary situations with courage and conviction; but finally emerge out of the ordeal with composure and dignity though a bit bruised and looking tired. He seemed to believe, One’s true test is in one’s daily life; and in one’s reliability and integrity as a human being.
 
Most of his stories relate to rural life and society. Sarat Chatterjee is at his best when he draws from his experience and writes about women from poverty stricken rural Bengal who hold on to their values even while placed in the very caldron of life. He had a deep affection and respect for Bengali women. Some of his women characters stand out; they are the dominant personalities without in any way losing their femininity. 

 
 
*****

Sarat Chandra had a great admiration for the fortitude of the poor and respect for their undemonstrative courage. In his acceptance speech delivered on 2nd Ashwin, 1339 BY (15th Sep 1933) at a gathering organized at the Calcutta Town Hall to celebrate his 57th birthday, Sarat babu acknowledged his debt to the poor and depraved:

My literary debt is not limited to my predecessors only. I’m forever indebted to the deprived, ordinary people who give this world everything they have and yet receive nothing in return, to the weak and oppressed people whose tears nobody bothers to notice and to the endlessly hassled, distressed (weighed down by life) and helpless people who don’t even have a moment to think that: despite having everything, they have right to nothing. 
 
They made me start to speak. They inspired me to take up their case and plead for them. I have witnessed endless injustice to these people, unfair intolerable indiscriminate justice. It’s true that springs do come to this world for some – full of beauty and wealth – with its sweet smelling breeze perfumed with newly bloomed flowers and spiced with cuckoo’s song, but such good things remained well outside the sphere where my sight remained imprisoned. This poverty abounds in my writings.

***

Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (Chatterjee) (nickname Nyarha) was born in Devanandapore – a village in Hooghly district of West Bengal, on 15th September 1876 (31 Bhadra 1283 BY). For a time, his father was employed in Bihar – the rest of the family lived in Bhagalpur with his maternal grandfather. Because of the semi-nomadic nature of his father’s life and his ever stringent financial situation, Sarat had to change schools frequently. In his own words: 
 
My childhood and youth were passed in great poverty. I received almost no education for want of means. From my father I inherited nothing except, as I believe, his restless spirit and his keen interest in literature. The first made me a tramp and sent me out tramping the whole of India quite early, and the second made me a dreamer all my life.
 
Father was a great scholar, and he had tried his hand at stories and novels, dramas and poems, in short every branch of literature, but never could finish anything. I have not his work now – somehow it got lost; but I remember poring over that incompleteness. Over again in my childhood, and many a night I kept awake regretting their incompleteness, and thinking what might have been their conclusion if finished. Probably this led to my writing short stories when I was barely seventeen.
 
 
Sarat Chandra lost his mother in 1895. He had to give up studies for ever, because he could no longer afford formal education; and had to return to the native village Devanandapore. But he did not stay there long as Sarat’s father was forced to sell his home for a mere Rs.225 to repay a debt. The family moved to Bhagalpur, again.
 
Young Sarat was very sensitive and fragile. He left home following a disagreement with his father. Forced to earn his livelihood, Sarat started working early in his life. In 1900 Sarat found work in Banali Estate in Bihar and later in Santhal district settlement as an assistant to the Settlement Officer. He disliked both the jobs and gave them up. Alone, unhappy and indifferent, Sarat lost sense of direction. Dejected and aimless he wandered around graveyards at dead of night. Later, for a while, he joined a group of Naga Sadhus and drifted to Mujaffarpur (1902). On his father’s death he returned to Bhagalpur and on completion of his father’s last rites he left for Calcutta in search of a job. He worked at a few temporary jobs and later secured a job as a translator for a Hindi paper book on a monthly salary of Rs.30. He then worked as a translator at the Calcutta High Court.
 
After he lost both his parents, Sarat Chandra left Bengal, in 1903, to live with his uncle in Rangoon and to find a job there. He often referred to Burma as the karma-sthan of the middle class Bengalis (Bengal being the janma-sthan).Sarat left Calcutta just in time before a severe plague broke out there. But, sadly his uncle died of pneumonia soon after Sarat reached Rangoon. Sarat rendered destitute and insecure was on the streets again. After he served a number of temporary jobs, he secured a permanent job in the Accounts Department of Burma Railway- where he served until his return to Calcutta in 1916. 


*****

As regards his literary activities, his earliest creations were two short stories Kakbasha and Kashinath (later expanded into a novel) published during 1894 in the handwritten magazine while he was studying in Entrance class (similar to PUC of the present-day) at Tejnarayan Jubilee College, Bhagalpur.

Referring to writings of his early years , he later said : 

But I soon gave up the habit as useless, and almost forgot in the long years that followed that I could even write a sentence in my boyhood.

In 1903, on the eve of his departure to Rangoon in search of a job, he at the instance of his uncle Girindrandra nath sent a short story Mandir for the Kuntaleen literary competition. He submitted the story under name of Surendranath Ganguli, another uncle. From among about one hundred fifty short stories that entered the competition, Mandir was adjudged the best for the year in 1904. The fact that Sri Jaldhar Sen the veteran editor of the Vasumati magazine was the adjudicator enhanced the prestige of the award. Mandir published in the name of Surendranath was the first ever printed story by Sarat Chandra. For some reason, Sarat Chandra continued to send his stories in someone else’s name. He contributed stories regularly to the Jamuna magazine in three different names – in his own name and in the name of Anila Devi (his elder sister) and Anupama. 
The magazine Jamuna played an important role in setting his literary career on course. According to Sarat Chandra, Jamuna was the catalyst in reviving his literary career whilst he was in Burma. He said: 
 
A mere accident made me start again, after the lapse of about eighteen years. Some of my old acquaintances started a little magazine, but no one of note would condescend to contribute to it, as it was so small and insignificant. When almost hopeless, some of them remembered me, and after much persuasion they succeeded in extracting from me a promise to write for it. This was in the year 1913. I promised most unwillingly – perhaps only to put them off till I returned to Rangoon and could forget all about it. But sheer volume and force of their letters and telegrams compelled me at last to think seriously about writing again. I sent them a short story for their magazine Jamuna. This became at once popular, and made me famous in one day. Since then I have been writing regularly. In Bengal, perhaps, I am the only fortunate writer who has not had to struggle.
 
 
The years he spent in Burma (1903-1916) turned out to be a significant phase in Sarat Chandra’s life. It not merely spurred his literary activity but also established him as a leading creative writer. By the time he returned to Calcutta (1916) his stories and novels were being serialized in most leading Bengali magazines; and his popularity was soaring. This period witnessed changes in his personal life too. His first wife Shanti Devi whom he married in 1906 died of plague in 1908 along with his one year old son. To fill the void in his life, he turned to books, read voraciously on sociology, history, philosophy and psychology etc. He also dabbled in Homeopathy; opened a primary school and formed a singing group. In 1909 he suffered a major health problem and had to cut down his studies He then took to painting. Sarat Chandra married the second time in 1910; and his bride was Mokshada an adolescent widow. He renamed her Hiranmoyee.

*****

 
 
 

Sarat Chandra wrote in all more than 30 full-length novels, dozens of short stories, plays and essays. He wrote about the evils of society, social superstitions and oppression; and in his later works he wrote about the patriotic and rebellious spirit of his times. Many of his early novels were serialized in monthly magazines –just as in the case of Charles Dickens. Both were prompted by the sheer need to earn a living by pen. But, while Dickens specialized in creating a great number of wonderful and fascinating characters, Sarat Chandra focused on crafting intriguing situations depicting conflicts between conservatism and social change; superstitions and rebellion;  pure and profane. 

 
Sarat Chandra’s earliest writings show influence of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. They display his displeasure with the core of Hindu orthodoxy and the prevailing social system. His impatience and anger against social discrimination, superstitions; and bigotry in the name of religion simmer through in his writings. His criticism of the establishment is never vitriolic; he never flouts the accepted moral basis of the Hindu society. His novels such as Devdas (written in 1901, published 1917), Parinita (1914), Biraj Bau (1914) and Palli Samaj (1916) belong to this phase. The themes and their treatment are not much different from Bankim’s; but their presentation, their locales are updated; the language, particularly of the conversations is easier and matter-of-fact. 
 
The women in particular step out of the system with agony, passion and intensity to cleanse the guilt ridden system. There is a burning desire to blow away the old cobwebs and usher in a new order, a new dispensation. Their restraint; and the clarity of thought and speech are remarkable. That is the reason his stories retain their freshness even nearly a century after they were written. Many read over and over  weeping and laughing with his characters.

[His Devdas appears to be an exception. It is basically a love-story written in the early stages of his literary career (1901), It is said, Sarat Chandra did not like what he had written; and did not want it to be published. He didn’t approve the negative and the escapist streak in Devdas. When he eventually agreed to publish the story, reluctantly, in 1917 (sixteen years after it was written) he begged the readers to have pity and forgive Devdas.]
Towards the latter half of his life Sarat Chandra wrote Pather Dabi (1926) spun around a revolutionary movement, inspired by Bengal, operating in Burma and in Far East. His last complete novel Sesh Prasna (1931) was crafted around a slender theme , inflated by ethereal talks on problems of love and marriage; and of the individual and of the society. These were almost ‘intellectual’ monologues. 
 
But, Sarat Chandra was at his best when he wrote with understanding of women, their sufferings, their often unspoken loves, their need for affection and their desperation for emancipation. His portrayal, particularly, of strong-willed women of rural Bengal defying the convention; and also of women rooted in their sense of values and who set a benchmark for other characters to be judged by the reader, stand out as authentic. His women are admirable for their  courage, tolerance and devotion in their love for their husbands, lovers or children. These stories also picture husbands who do not know or do not care to express love for their beloved ones. Somehow, the women in his stories never attain happiness in their personal lives.
 
Just to cite an example, his Srkanta quartet(1917, 1918, 1927, 1933), encompassing lives of many women, is a remarkable study in the conflicts between the individual and the social perception of purity and profanity; and between rebellion and timid submission to orthodoxy. For instance, take a hurried glimpse at the thumbnail sketch of a few characters in Srikanta.
 
 
Rajlakshmi, Srikanta’s lover, in order to erase her past (of fallen woman) and to reform her present (her relationship outside the marital state with Srikanta) goes through a series of purity rituals. She is a sort of benchmark to other characters.

In the first book of the Quartet, Annadadidi, a very properly brought up middle class woman, revolts against propriety, and runs away with a Muslim snake charmer. She suffers not because of her socially unacceptable love; but because the  husband she chose was unworthy of such love .

In the second part, Abhoya, deserted by her husband, breaks out of her social environment to live in sin with a man she accepted. 

In the third, Sunanda, a scholar, rebels against the poverty imposed upon the peasant by the land tenure system.

In the last book, Kamal Lata has walked out on her people and joined a Vaishnava sect based on surrender and devotion.

 
Sarat Chandra refuses to be judgmental. His critique on social norm was only a message and never an agenda.  He lets his characters to speak for themselves; and lets the reader form his own opinion of the purity concept in the Hindu Society. He tried to heighten the social awareness; and to ignite revolt against the oppressive social cults, which debased and degraded humanity.

*****
Sarat Chandra Chatterjee died of cancer of the liver on 16th January 1938 at Park Nursing Home in Calcutta. Bengal and India lost one of its most gifted sons, a tortured soul and one that loved his country and its people from the core of his being.
 
Sarat Chandra did not write his autobiography because he said he “lacked the courage and the truthfulness to tell his true story”.
 
I gratefully acknowledge the material from the Sarat Sahitya Samagra (Complete Works of Sarat Chandra), Ananda Publishers Private Limited, Calcutta ,1993 .And from the introduction to Srikanto Part I published by Oxford University Press, London 1922.
 
*****

 
Poverty is a smoldering fire in the belly and in the heart. It drives one to reach out, to explore and at times to explode. But when the heat is too much to bear, it could reduce one to ashes which any can trample upon with impunity. It takes great courage to be poor and to live with dignity.
 
 
[A brief Note on the photographs posted on this page:
 
On reading this blog Dr.   Subroto Roy of Kolkata sent me a Note that the picture of Sarat Chandra I posted at the bottom of the article was a part of a photograph taken in 1927 when Sarat Chandra visited Dr.Sobrato Roy’s great-grand father Surendranath Roy. The sofa on which the two sit, he says, is still in use at his home; and indeed if you are in Kolkata some day, you are welcome to view and even sit on the sofa.
 
Dr. Roy also mentioned that the iconic picture of Sarat Chandra, posted at the top of this article, is from a photograph taken at Bourne & Shepherd Photographers of Kolkata at the instance of Shri Manindranath Roy. He added that Sarat Chandra habitually wore long unkempt hair; and Smt Nirmala Debi (wife of Shri Manindranath Roy) combed his hair neatly before the photograph was taken. According to Dr.Roy, Sarat Chandra/s Pather Dabi is perhaps dedicated to Smt Nirmala Debi.
 
Dr. Roy also asked me to view and to reproduce on my page, a hand-written note sent by Sarat Chandra (1931) to Manindranath Roy (Dr.Subroto Roy’s grand-father). I am told, the Note is about transport of a table (or writing-desk?) by rail.
 
Please visit Dr. Roy’s page at
 

 

Other references and sources: 

 

 

Please also read

 

 

Of poverty – …

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Books

 

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The concept of rna

The concept of rna

(Inspired by Giridhar Gopal’s blog My wishes on Friendship Day and his responses)

 

You know that living this life to the fullest, is its own secret.
You be assured that if you do so, your life would be worth living.
You do so, without doubts, without fears and without regretting.

–      Giridhar Gopal –

The concept of rna, the human indebtedness or the primary obligation that every being carries with him or her, is rather unique to Indian tradition. They are the debt one owes – to his ancestors (pitr); to the sages/teachers (rishi); and to the Gods (deva).  The Shathapatha Brahmana adds one more; the debt one owes to his fellow beings.
 
The Shathapatha Brahmana further says that the fulfillment of these obligations, which add value to ones life, should be the preliminary aim of a human being.
 
The Atharva remarks, pursuit of the four purusharthas would be meaningful only when one fulfils one’s primary obligations or is in the process of doing so.
 
Chandogya Upanishad (2.23) describes the duties in three stages of life- student, householder and retired – as “off shoots or branches of Dharma” (trayo dharma_skandha). Rna is at the core of this trayo dharma.
 
Rna is, thus, the sense of commitment to your family, your teachers, your fellow beings and your environment. The concept emphasizes that whatever be your goals and priorities in your life, you cannot overlook your basic commitments.
 
Sri Shankara, though a sanyasin, came back to be with his mother in her last days/moments. It was an expression of natural love and affection; and also fulfillment of his basic commitment (pitr rna), whatever might have been the other calls in his life.
 
 
 
The Rishis of the ancient times were householders who enjoyed and celebrated life amidst their family and disciples. The rigors of asceticism came at a much later age. The Buddha too did not find merit in such heartless living.
 
The Vaikhanasa which claims to be the more orthodox of the two Agamas hails the life of the householder as the best among the four stages of life. Because, it is the householder that supports, sustains and carries forward the life and existence of the society. It does not pay much prominence to a Yati or a Sanyasi. It deprecates a person seeking salvation for himself without discharging his duties, responsibilities and debts to his family, to his guru and to his society.
 
The Emperor Asoka (272 to 132 BC) in his edicts highlights a person’s indebtedness (rna) to parents and elders and calls upon the people to live in accordance with the dharma and not interfere with the natural order (rta).
The rna , the sense of commitment , was emphasized in the larger interests of the society. Without such commitments a society would cease to be a healthily place.
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There is, therefore, a certain glorification of what we call the ordinary life, in the ancient texts.

For some reason, it seems easier to brave the elements or starve for weeks or force the body to endure pain. It might be possible; but, it is pointless.
 
It is far more difficult to pay attention to your spouse and kids; to be generous with one’s friends; be patient with a child when you least feel like it; and go about your daily chores, with equanimity, even while placed in dire circumstances. The ability to work silently, without malice, for years, for a lifetime; with no demands or expectations for reward or recognition, is truly heroic.
 
It is said, the real heroism is not under the limelight, but is where the less noticeable tasks had to be done. It is in the corners, in the shadows the true results of your efforts appear. One’s true test is in one’s daily life; and in one’s reliability and integrity as a human being.
 
God does not dwell in some day-glow heaven realm of seeker’s fantasy; but, right here, right now, in the day-to-day challenges and tasks of our everyday life.
 
Therefore , any sort of experience, no matter how ecstatic, if it does not transform you in to someone who knows how to be with children, how to be with your family, how to be with your mates in a loving, deeply caring way and how to be with all of life – is not worth hankering after. 
 
The divine is not meant to be discovered in heaven; if it were to be so, we would all be there and not here. The natural and honest living is the crucible of life. That is what all the texts try to say.
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What seems to grow fairer to me as life goes by is the love and the grace and tenderness of it; not its wit and cleverness and grandeur of knowledge – grand as knowledge is – but just the laughter of children, and the friendship of friends, and sight of flowers, and the sound of music

–Anon

 

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HUMAN EXPRESSIONS WORDS, SOUNDS And SILENCE

HUMAN EXPRESSIONS — WORDS, SOUNDS and SILENCE

 

The varieties of human expressions are almost infinite. There are the bodily expressions through face, eyes, limbs, fingers etc. There are also the expressions through voice such as talking, shouting, crying, singing etc. There is another whole range of expressions through dancing ,  writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, etching, weaving, building, crafting; and through various types of instruments and also through light and shades etc. In addition, there is the complex and exaggerated forms of expressions that combine a variety of these art forms, in an ingenious manner, to produce a sensitive or a stunningly spectacular , mammoth art or a commercial expression, whichever way you choose to look at it.
 
I am talking about theater or opera productions and films.
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Each of these carries its sub-forms. It is virtually impossible to enumerate all the modes of human expressions. Most of these expressions have flowered into valid art forms. What I do not know of each of those can fill several Universities
 
As one who had to produce words to make a living I strived at writing a passably good prose in order to make myself understood. I am aware my prose does not measure up to “industry” standards. Poetry interested me a great deal, though I was incapable of writing any sort of poetry. Poetry appealed to the other side of my mind that longed to be lost amidst the flights of fantasy or loved to scale the peaks of idealism or to caress the tender graces of love. Listening to music was of course an experience of wandering in the land of delight. It is an art and an entertainment; closer to my heart.
 
As the years progressed, I realized there was another form of sublime expression that I had not meaningfully cultivated and it was ideally suited to exploring the Self. I am talking about silence. It is the silence of a kind I had not known before.
 
 
I realize Prose is the language of the mind, while poetry is the heart speaking through the medium of mind. The music, on the other hand, is the language of the heart. It emanates from heart and reaches the heart of the listener. These forms of expressions relate to the instruments of mind and heart. There is the human mind; the earth bound mind; ever  judging and doubting the reality in others. But, we have also the loving and the aspiring heart; free from insecurity, eager to establish oneness with the rest of the world. Both of these – head and the heart – explore the known and the unknown, in their own way.
 
 
Silence of course is the most sublime and the ultimate form of expression. It transcends the limitations of the mind, thought, voice and the heart. It encompasses in itself all other forms of expressions. It is the language of the Soul.
 
Let us briefly talk about forms of expressions in prose, poetry, music and silence.
 
Here is the essence of mankind’s creative genius:
 
 
PROSE
 
Prose is the lifeblood of the day to day living. It has the ability to produce concise descriptive expressions, to make life possible among our fellow beings. With the use of language and prose we grope toward understanding; and to  , some degree , intelligently respond to what meets us in the lived world. But since we live more deeply than we can think, we are always short of appropriate expressions. That forces us to improvise,to  innovate and to coin, each day, a new term to keep pace with the world streaking past us at breakneck speed. Keeping pace with the times is surely a true sign of a living and a dynamic language.
 
The growth of the language , however , is always regulated and governed by its grammar. The rigidity of grammar, the orderly structure and its disciplines are essential to preserve the identity and the purity of a language and its form.
 
A good prose aims at full expression within the limitations set by the grammar. Within that approved format a sentence is born of two elements: a thought and then a structure chosen out of an infinite number of possibilities which express the thought. It tries to present the ideas with lucidity and with slight ornamentation; to say it clearly and to make it beautiful, no matter what.
 
The test of a good prose is its ease and its readability leading you on from each sentence, paragraph and page to the next; not letting your interest wane. It not merely expresses a thought or a feeling that captivates you but succeeds in evoking a cascade of thoughts and emotions. For that reason, a good prose is comparable to music. A good book is worth reading not merely for the thought it contains but also for the thought which it inspires; just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts. Inspire (from the Latin inspirare ) means to breathe life into another. As Gass once said, “Language serves not only to express thought but to make possible thoughts which could not exist without it.”
 
Once you have learned to trust your own voice and allowed that creative force inside you to come out, you can direct it to write short stories, novels, and essays and so on.
 
A good prose is essentially giving a lucid expression to a well composed mind. Prose is the language of the mind.
 
POETRY
 
Poetry is a more liberated form of expression as compared to prose. One cannot easily define poetry. As Dr. Johnson exclaimed “Sir, what is poetry? Why, Sir, it is much easier to say what it is not. We all know what light is; but it is not easy to tell what it is.”
 
Poetry discards the rigidity, the disciplines and the correctness of the structure prescribed by the grammar. Poetry enjoys the voluptuous malleability and freedom with words and sounds; it bends and twists them in any number of ways. Its concern is not so much with the correctness of form than with the sensitivity, refinement and brevity in expression of a range of thoughts, feelings as also  human emotions of joy, sorrow, grief, hope, despair, anger and fulfillment.
 
Poetry  has the soft power to compress lengthy passages of prose into a few lines of wit and wisdom. That is the reason why some call poetry, life distilled.
 
Poetry can be subtle and suggestive. The imagery that poetry evokes can hardly be captured in words. What is unsaid in poetry is more evocative than the explicit. “Poetry is the opening and closing of a door leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment” as Carl Sandburg said.
 
Poetry has the power to set us free from the limited confines of our existence and personality. It is the language in which man explores his own amazement. Poetry represents the world as a man chooses to sees it, while science represents the world as he looks at it. It is the difference between seeing with the heart, and looking at the world unfeelingly. Poetry is Truth, but not necessarily reality.
 
Poetry is a search for syllables to express an unknown. It is direct and universal. It appeals to the heart. It finds its echo in another heart. Poetry is the heart talking through the mind.
 
MUSIC
 
Music is surely the most basic of human expressions and predates the written word. The melodic and rhythmic patterns are natural to humans and are tied to the unique expression of their various cultures. Music and man have influenced each other in a variety of ways, over the ages. Music and sound have infiltrated society on many levels, from sinister use in propaganda to simple listening pleasure. Our actions and emotional responses are greatly influenced by what we hear.
Music does not need a specific language and its sounds need not carry meanings to be enjoyed as such. Music is the language of languages and is the universal language of mankind. Music is the vernacular of the heart.
 
It can be internal and personal, or uniting and widespread. Everyone can and does participate in music; whether it is creating, listening, or simply singing or humming a tune. From an entire orchestra to a single whisper, memories, new ideas and a whole spectrum of feelings can be roused. Music may produce expressions of various emotions – peaceful, relaxing, exciting, festive, boring, unsettling, unstimulating, invigorating … and so on. We can close our eyes to escape from the visual world; even in silence we can hear breathing and the heartbeat, keeping the sense of rhythm that marks the progression of time.
 
Music is an extremely versatile medium of human expression. It is capable of exploring all the features that are used in verbal communication; and can go beyond. Its sounds carry no meaning; yet, give expression to sorrow, joy, peace and prayer in a manner the words are incapable of achieving.
 
Music can express itself directly and does not need the aid of explanations to reach the listener. For instance, when one writes the most often repeated set of words ”I love you”, it carries with it an infinite shades of meanings. The author has to, each time, prop this term with additional words to provide explanations to clarify which one of those meanings, his set of three famous words meant to say. The mere words “I love you” when written could mean: I like you, I desire you, I want you sexually, or even to mean I hate you. It could be a barely audible murmur full of surrender; a wish for emotional gratification; a heartfelt admiration; a hope for love relationship; a request for intimacy; a submissiveness, a begging to be accepted; a longing for comfort and tenderness; a conquest; a dry meaningless repetition; a mockery or charade; a whiplash of cruelty; or it could a deceit or anything else.
 
Music can expresses all these and more, spontaneously, without external aid. When words fail to express the sentiments and finer emotions of the human heart, music takes the place of the sublimated language. Moreover, it does so in an explicit and structured way, which makes it an interesting window into human understanding, in general. There is none that more powerfully moves and touches consciousness, than music.
 
Music is so ideally suited to express the worlds beyond petty human concerns. It can say that which cannot be said and that on which it is impossible to be silent.. It emanates from the heart and the success of it is ultimately in the heart of the listener. Music is such an experience. It is the language of the heart.
 
After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
 
SILENCE
 
Silence is sublime; and is the ultimate form of human expression. It envelops within itself all other forms of expressions. Every thought and every word is born out of silence, dies back into silence; and, during its life span is surrounded by silence. Silence lends the voice a space for it to reverberate. In silence resounds a voice;and , in voice silence finds its existence. Silence endows identity to thought and sound. Poetry consists in turning the invisible silence into perception and voice.
 
One cannot understand the value of silence unless one respects the validity of language, for the reality that waits to be expressed in language resides in silence. It would be impossible to think of a voice without thinking of silence; the two are inseparable. Voice and silence coexist in ones heart. If noise is the inner chaos , silence is the inner peace. That peace cannot be attained by letting one fight against the other. Peace and silence has to be attained gradually through continuous self discipline. The purpose of silence is to be able to see and hear clearly.
 
The silence we are talking about is not just the absence of sound; but it is the very space of our being and is with us every moment of our life. It transcends speech and thought. Silence also means silence from thoughts. There is something beyond mind that abides in silence. Silence is a quality; it is an experience. A silent mind, freed from slashing waves of thought and thought patterns is a more potent medium of understanding than words.
 
All religious traditions therefore stress the importance of being quiet and still in mind .They tell us that when mind is still , the Truth gets a chance to be heard in the purity of silence. They ask us to let-go all attachments, rather than fight noise. We are asked to let go of our thoughts, emotions and everything; and see what is left. We are asked to watch for that imperceptible interval of infinitesimal duration between thoughts; and seize that silence, hold on to that minute fraction in space and time and let the mind stay open. If we could do that, we are told, we are awake, at last.
 
Silence stabilized is fulfillment. That inner silence brings us in contact with the reality. It is that state of silence, stability and openness which transcends speech and thought, which we call meditation. Zen Masters tell us that the essence of living dwells in visiting that infinitesimal zone of stillness and silence again and again; and enlarging it. “Silence is the essential condition of happiness” said a Zen Master.
 
At the core of Sri Ramana’s teachings is silence. He said the inner silence is ever speaking, it is the everlasting eloquence punctured by thoughts and words; and it is the best language (Para Vac). What exists in truth is Self which resides where there is no “I” ; and that is silence, he said.
 
Our sages’ right from Sri Dakshinamurthi to Sri Ramana Maharsi and from the Buddha to the Zen Masters imparted knowledge through silence. Their silence underlined the limitations of rational knowledge, futilities of the blind alleys of metaphysical queries and the frailty hollowness of words. Where silence reigns supreme, words are rendered redundant. The language of their silence helped dispel the doubts, the confusion and uncertainties in the minds of those around them sitting in silence. Silence flows from the transcendent Self and speaks best for the enlightened.
 
Silence is the language of the soul
 
Lotus-flower_15
 

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Violence in Nursery Rhymes – Should we tell our kids?

twinkle

When asked to recall childhood memories, most of us might sing the wonderful English nursery rhymes we were able to recite long before we could read or write. Those tales and rhymes have stayed with us for years. We inherited them from our schools and our parents and we pass them on to future generations. Our parents in turn learnt when they were kids, as a part of their upbringing under the British Education System.

The history of those nursery rhyme dates back to centuries, to a time when written language was scarce or limited to the highly educated gentry. It was due to the lack of written material and more importantly, the lack of education for the working class, the rhymes, which we now refer to as nursery rhymes were passed on by word of mouth. Whether this originated from another poem or song is unknown; but , the concept is clear—that nursery rhymes “…are fragments of ballads or of folk songs, remnants of ancient custom and ritual and may hold the last echoes of long-forgotten evil”

When people think of nursery rhymes they think of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, cute, innocent and harmless. They think of them as the ideal entertainment for children. Of the Nursery Rhymes taught in our schools, most do rhyme well and are easy to sing. Most of them are innocent enough like the ones that are supposed to help children learn numbers, letters etc.

However,   you soon realize that many of the rhymes do not fit this ideal image people have. They have the same morbid undercurrent as fairy tales, sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle. Few are aware of their dubious history. A very large number of interesting collections have been published; but, curiously enough, there are hardly any books devoted expressly to their origin and history.

Many of the Rhymes have soothing words; but, a lot of others carry words denoting violence. Another reason for discomfort is we know neither the meaning of the words used in the rhymes nor the context of the words or the rhyme itself.

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Regardless, the nursery rhymes that were popular years ago ; and  are still  today.

They, in general, are placed in three broad categories.

First,  the lullabies, the songs and melodies, sung to put the little one to sleep. And, there are the  amusing and  soothing ones , Then, there are also those that instead of soothing, appear to intimidate the child; and/or used as an outlet for the emotions of the nurse.

For instance, look at the words in Rock-a-Bye Baby:

rock-a-baby

Rock-a-bye Baby, in the tree top,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

There’s one about Bonaparte coming by and eating the child, which obviously goes back to Napoleon Bonaparte being the bogey figure in British society:

Hush you baby, hush you squalling thing, I say, or Bonaparte will pass this way.

And there is even a later version with Hitler mentioned in it.

In contrast, the  traditional Indian lullabies, in all its languages and dialects, are far sweeter, soulful and soothing.

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A second category of nursery rhymes is those sung as infant amusement. Many of the counting rhymes, and alphabet rhymes fit into this category. Some are good;  and others, not so good.

One, two, three, four, five,
Once I caught a fish alive,
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
Then I let him go again.
Why did you let him go?
Because he bit my finger so
Which finger did he bite?
This little finger on the right.

Finger games, or what some refer to as tickle games, are for the amusement of infants and toddlers. Perhaps the best known are:

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man,
Bake me a cake as fast as you can;
Pat it and prick it, and mark it with B,
And put it in the oven for baby and me

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy cried,
Wee, wee, wee
All the way home.

Peek-a-boo is probably the oldest of all infant amusement with the earliest documented variation mentioned as early as 1364 . Unfortunately, many of the actions to the rhymes have been lost over time, leaving only the songs.

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The final portion of the trilogy belongs to the group of rhymes that have made their way into the nursery from adult riddles.The answers to these adult riddles became obsolete, so too did the riddle. However, many have survived as songs and found their way into schoolbooks. An example of such a riddle is one that relates to prostitutes:

st-ives

As I went to St. Ives, I met nine wives.
And every Wife had nine Sacs,
And every sac had nine Cats,
And every cat had nine kittens.
How many Wives, Sacs, Cats and Kittens
Went to St. Ives?
(
The answer appears to be  that only one person was going to St Ives)

In connection with the adult entertainment, popular theory claims that many of the nursery rhymes of today were not written for children. They were rooted in the political and social undertones of the past. Many started out as folk songs, as adult rhymes, to camouflage an unpleasant message or a distasteful event in their local history. Yet, it is possible to read into the various rhymes, connotations about Kings and Queens and social injustices. Rhymes were a sort of euphemism.

ring-ringa

For instance, the circle game Ring-around-the-rosie, refers to Great Plague of London and of Edinburgh, Scotland . The lines “Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down” or “Hush! Hush! Hush! Hush! We’ve all tumbled down” is referring to the death of the people. It just does not sound like a good game to be playing and a good song for children to be hearing and singing.

london bridge.jpg

The rhyme “ London Bridge is falling down” and the game, which often accompanies it, preserves a gruesome tale of human sacrifice. The builders of London Bridge were faced with many obstacles. The bridge could not be made to stand by ordinary means, so a watchman was required. That watchman , apparently, could not  protect the bridge against the forces of nature. Legend has it that during the building of the bridge of Rospordenin Brittany, all attempts were unsuccessful until a four-year–old boy was immured / sacrificed at the foot of it. Supposedly, the boy was buried with a candle in one hand and a piece of bread in the other.

http://nemendur.khi.is/berghall/nurseryrhymes.htm

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The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes is a very useful guide. It gives the background of many rhymes. Along with that, the Oxford English Dictionary is also incredibly useful for looking up and verifying certain words of the rhymes and to check  when they came in and/ or out of use and when their meaning  changed. Interestingly the versions and meaning of some rhymes’ changed several times.(E.g. Humpty Dumpty, Old King Cole

Several studies have been carried out on the issue of violent content of the rhymes. The researchers have pointed out that   the amount of violence depicted in children’s nursery rhymes is ten times greater than what is broadcast on TV. Little Miss Muffet; Jack and Jill, and the Incy Wincy Spider need a rating system especially when it comes to categories for violence.

http://www.news-medical.net/?id=6348 http://adc.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/89/12/1103

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The researchers assessed the words of 25 popular nursery rhymes. Forty-one percent of the nursery rhymes contained some kind of violence . Violent episodes were classified according to whether they were accidental, aggressive or intentional and included implied or threatened violence. Dropping Pussy in a Well is a good example: Ding, dong bell / Pussy in the well / Who put him in?.

However, rhymes such as “Simple Simon” who pricked his own digit on a thistle; “Six in a Bed” with its cumulative series of traumas suffered by people apparently too poor to enjoy individual sleeping arrangements; and “Jack and Jill” who suffered appalling injuries after taking a nasty tumble while water-gathering ;were worse and scored particularly highly.

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As regards the “other” meanings of the rhymes, the word ‘goose’ in ‘Goosie Goosie Gander‘ came from a particular moment in British history when the word ‘goose’ was a euphemism for a prostitute.

See Saw, Marjorie Daw, Johnny shall have a new master’. The word ‘Daw’ is an old English word for ‘slut’. Therefore, what you have in ‘See Saw Marjorie Daw‘ is basically up and down goes Marjorie, the slut.

children-begging.jpg

[ It also appears to refer the use of child labor in work houses where those with nowhere else to live would be forced to work for a pittance (a penny a day) on piece work . The poignant misery of homeless kids was touchingly sketched by Charles Dickens ]

Baa Baa Black Sheep‘ is a nursery rhyme about taxation. It is actually two bags for the taxman , of which   one bag goes to the church and the other bag goes to the king. The poor farmer is left with one bag; it is a two-thirds taxation system.

Here we go Round the Mulberry Bush“, relates to a practice in old Britain of making the prisoners grow mulberry while serving their term, to help them earn some wages. The term ‘to go round the mulberry bush’, means to do time in prison. If someone asked you, “Have you been round the mulberry bush then?” and you answered ‘Yes’; it was a euphemism for being in prison.

humpty

Similarly, in the 16th century Europe, Humpty Dumpty meant a brandy and egg based drink. It also described a clumsy person falling over all the time. But, in England during the English Civil War of 1640, Humpty Dumpty took on a new meaning.  It became the nickname of a cannon on the wall of the City of Colchester, probably because the cannon was ungainly and slightly odd-looking, and the rhyme after that date, started to be associated with that cannon, which was on the walls of the city and was knocked off and fell to pieces, and all the King’s horses, and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Take the rhyme ‘Jack be nimble, Jack be quick‘. It was about pagan superstition; if you could jump over the candlestick and not put it out it deemed good luck. It is harking back to pagan fire rituals and finding good luck.

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yankee

It is not just the word meaning that matters when it comes to nursery rhymes; it is also the tune. Singing in itself might be a lesson in voice’s vocation. Sung rhymes have energy; For example, ‘Yankee Doodle‘ is a good example of an imitation melody that is simple, elemental and curious.

Yankee Doodle came to town
Riding on a pony.
Stuck a feather in his cap,
And called it Macaroni.

The tune goes back to about 1760. Putting a feather in a cap, it is a traditional showing-off.   If you killed somebody in battle, you put a feather in your cap. That is what the rhyme is actually about. It is about the British soldiers mocking the Americans during the War of Independence, for their lack of style, for lack of elegance, and just being a bunch of colonial hayseeds. ( the expression , adding a feather to his cap – is still in use; and, is meant to suggest ones “achievement“)

The key to it is a final line, ‘Put a feather in his cap and called it Macaroni‘. The Macaronis were a British youth movement that reached its peak in about 1772, and were a bunch of incredibly dandified young men. The Macaronis would parade around London in beautifully tailored jackets, incredibly outlandish wigs and cummerbunds as well. What the song is referring to is that it is not enough for the American colonials to put a feather in their cap and think that made them Macaroni; there was more to being a Macaroni than that.

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The original Old King Cole is – A merry old soul. Old King Cole was one of the legendary English Kings; nobody quite knows where he ruled or what he ruled. However, this rhyme now relates to one of Aboriginal cricketers who toured England in the 1860s. They were actually the first Australian cricket team to tour England. The British were unable to pronounce foreign names; and, this was what happened to an Aboriginal cricketer whose real name was something like The Rippinsteen. He died while on tour in Britain ; and, was buried in Bethnal Green in east London. The local people who liked the old cricketer planted a eucalyptus tree on his grave. Every touring Australian cricket team visits old King Cole, as he came to be known.  It is perhaps another example, a charming one , for a change, of a nursery rhyme picking up a different meaning hundreds of years after the original.

nursery rhymes

Although today’s society is filled with new amusements, the children of today still play games with exactly the same ritual and phrases. The same goes for the rhymes and stories. As long as there are children, there will be nursery rhymes.

Nursery rhymes play a significant role in language development of the child. Obviously, children learn them by rote before understanding their meaning. This points to a shifting relationship between sound and meaning, right from the very beginning. How children learn speech has something to do with how they learn nursery rhymes.

Words in a Rhyme are a game. They are part of a subversive language model. And, that is the strength of nursery rhymes; they’re almost so nonsensical that they can apply to anything. That is one of their enduring features.

Given the history of the Rhymes and context of the society that gave birth to them , I feel that in Indian conditions, If our children love singing the Rhymes it is preferable we let them sing for the enjoyment of the tune , rhythm and the fun of it. Treat it as just fun and nothing else. Do not try to read any meaning into the Rhymes.

In their earlier stages, they could perhaps be spared of the agony of understanding the meaning and context of the Rhymes. It would otherwise add a further dimension to the confusion and stress they already endure.

Are  nursery rhymes too violent? Do they give children nightmares, and should they be modified? Should we encourage more Rhymes about friendship, unity, love, commitment to study , nation etc.?

Should we popularize Rhymes and games that talk of things closer to us in our day-to-day life? Should we teach our children to sing about things they love, in our way of life? Should we encourage our children to sing rhymes in their own language than in English?

I think we should. Each generation should take re-look at the old rhymes and its language to ensure they reflect changes in our aspirations, changes in our attitude to childhood and life.

nursery-rhymes-for-kids-02

Sources:

http://nemendur.khi.is/berghall/nurseryrhymes.htm

http://www.english.uwaterloo.ca/courses/engl208c/esharris.htm

http://www.english.uwaterloo.ca/courses/engl208c/esharris.htm 

Pictures are from Internet

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in General Interest

 

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The real Rodriguez

 

 

Post Retirement– Rodriguez way, came after the heart-wrenching story of  Dorabjee appeared. Rodriguez story was meant as a change, as a lighthearted account of the pligh t of retired persons homebound during day and at the mercy of unsolicited tele-vendors and door-to door sellers. I admit it was a bit overdone in certain parts and did not exactly turnout the way I loved to see. I was slightly surprised to find it showcased. But, I have learnt to accept things as they come my way, without reserve.

I wish to say a few words about Willy, not because he needs anyone to defend him, but to correct the impression, one may have gained, of his being a provider of rib- ticklers and teller of dirty stories; and nothing else. He did have his pains and aches but preferred not to wear his heart on his sleeve.

Willy Rodriguez endured more than a fair share of pain, sorrow and grief in his life. His initial years in Bombay, to say the least, were wretched. Uneducated, untended, friendless and poor, he learnt to survive at the lowest stratum of the heartless big city. He eked out a minimum living working odd jobs; yet, doggedly pursued his ambition to get educated. He realized, education was the only thing that could save him from degenerating into a guttersnipe. He managed to pass SSC attending evening classes. He later attended evening college for a few months and gave it up.

Even after he secured a job that fetched Rs.150 a month (a decent start in the 60s), he retained links with the Basti (slum dwellings) and was a sort of an all-purpose social worker. He was even a quack doctor, treating slum kids and women of minor illnesses. He learnt to treat injuries and fix bones of those hurt in gang wars but would not go to hospitals for fear of police. It was when he was becoming rather handy for the gangs and police began to suspect his links with gangs, Willy distanced himself quietly from that part of his life. In the meantime, he acquired familiarity with people in all strata of Bombay’s different worlds. He used that to help whoever came seeking help.

The wife of Boppanna Shetty; a new migrant , alone in Bombay, was taken away by the Municipality  to the  Isolation Hospital as she was afflicted with  small pox and the Hospital staff would not allow even Shetty, her husband, to meet the patient; as a precaution against spreading the contagious disease. Shetty was crying and howling at the Hospital gate. Rodriguez used his network, stayed alone with the luckless woman for three days until her death and later cremated her on behalf of her husband who was not permitted contact with the corpse.

Willy married rather late; a girl from his slum days. It was not all sweet- milk and honey – type of married life. She became a serious drug addict, a wayside victim of the Hippy invasion. When he realized she was beyond redemption he kept her going by injecting, until she died a year later.

After her death, alcohol became the refuge and ruin of Willy. How his old slum-mates cared for him and rescued him from disaster is another story. He later, regulated himself fairly well by restricting to evening bouts at the Boscos in the Colaba area. Weekend was another matter!

Willy lived alone. He was a lonely man though ever surrounded by his devote group of listners.The ribaldry, jokes etc., I think, was a sort of patchwork disguise. In his stories, he never judged or ridiculed his characters and had affection for the victims, as I mentioned. The women in office and elsewhere, for some reason, trusted him with their private anxieties and griefs; and sought his advice. He always had a word of comfort and cheer. He deposited all that was entrusted to him in his beer-belly, as he said; and never let another soul get wisp of that.

He did help those who came to him .He hated being called a good man or a kind man. Anyone thanking him more than they should, annoyed him very much. He would awkwardly freeze, turn away and ask them to leave. That acquired him the reputation of being a grumpy fellow who did not know how to accept a compliment.

I did not elaborate on Willy’s life-events, as they would not fit into the narration. It focused more on post retirement woes than on his life story. The run-up to the telemarketing repartee was an outline of how he appeared to the outside world.

After his retirement, Willy lived in Goa, alone, as you might have noticed. The invasion of his privacy, his panic and on going battle with constipation; were real. I cannot think of Willy being rude to women or hurting them in any manner. All his life, women trusted him and confided in him and he treated them fairly.

Most of the readers agreed that credit card and other marketing agents are a pain, particularly for those living alone in their old age. Many said they enjoyed reading the Rodriguez way. Some even remarked a few of Rodriguez’s methods were similar to their own.

Two or three remarked they deal with unsolicited calls quite effectively but not as elaborately as Willy did. “Who has time?” they queried. That is understandable. Willy was a retired person living alone and not everyone can be a Willy. 

 A few have suggested some new methods! A couple of the readers found a Willy in their office too.

 The repartee with the sales persons was bit made-up and bit blown up. The working women may not take kindly to the wit and sarcasm. I understand that. If someone saw a slant against women, I am sorry, that was not intended. It was just banter. I respect working women for their hard work, commitment and fortitude. I since mended that portion, a bit.

 The following four long winding, unpronounceable names cited in the story are real.

 

Magdalena Aubrey Menlo Santos Almeida,

Agostinha Rafael Maximiano Rasquinha,

Tirukkovillur Vaidyalingeshwaran Iyer and

Arunachala Kadambavana Sundari Prasunnamba Kanyaka. 

The last name ending with Kanyaka meaning: the blessed virgin who is beautiful and carries with her the radiance of sunshine, the fragrance of garden flowers, and the presence of God; is only the first name of a girl from a village in Andhra Pradesh. You still have to add to that plethora of verbiage, her village name, her father’s name and her family name. I would be surprised if that does not  make it the longest Indian name.

Even if someone is on a first name basis with the girl, it is still a marathon. My sympathies are with the boy.

As regards the jokes on Alzheimer‘s, it may look rather misplaced to those new to my pages. Not many read my blogs and those few who follow what I write, place that in the context of Dorabjee and might not find it offensive. Yet, I have since taken out the jokes.

I thank all for reading and taking the trouble to post comments.

 

Please keep talking.

 Regards.

 

Ratan Datta

Melody Queen

R-Sharma

Bijaya Ghosh

maddss123

charuavi

Aditi Ray

Gita Khanna

Red Strawberry

maria_m

Profravi

swarajya

N K Ravi

blogpulse

reflector

anamadheya

 

 

 

 
5 Comments

Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Story

 

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Post Retirement– Rodriguez way

Post Retirement– Rodriguez way.

 

After I read Ratan Datta’s piece on retimerement and its aftereffects, I mentioned it to my old friend and former colleague Rodriguez and enquired how the post retirement life was treating him. He, in his characteristic delightful manner, told me how he and life were treating each other. Before I go on to what he said I must tell you about my friend Rodriguez.

Willy Rodriguez was a jolly good Goan who imbibed all the enviable virtues of its delightfully relaxed way of life. Earlier in our lives, we worked in a Bombay based company that has since been taken over by a predator corporate company, as it usually happens in today’s dog-eat- dog business world. Rodriguez was a great sport and made life bearable in that dreary sweatshop called office; Yet, his PARs screeched and groaned like an old T-Model Ford and did not carry him further in his career. Outside of office, we were good friends though we were dissimilar in almost everyway.

Rodriguez had a way of “small-talking” with girls’; god’s gift as a swap for success in life, he said. Everyone affectionately called him Willy. The young and not- so- young lasses in the office scrambled through their work, dodged the mean, snarling watchdog, the boss, just for a snippet of friendly advice and “small talk” with Willy. He was the unpaid resident councilor of woe struck girls. Even the girls from neighboring offices stole time or sweet-talked their bosses for a short “time-off”; and hurriedly emptied their woes and heartaches into Willy’ s attentive ears, doleful eyes and gratefully grabbed his words of comfort and cheer; and hurriedly vanished back to their little desks.

For the young men, most of whom came from small towns and never in their “respectable “rustic life had heard a “bad-word” uttered so nonchalantly, Rodriguez was a wonder and a delight. They eagerly hung on his words and stories and repeated them elsewhere for the amazement and delight of their friends. Rodriguez was a treasure house of ribald stories, of cheating wives, their two timing sisters, lecherous bar-sharks poaching on not so-sober lonely hearts and of local Casanovas with their refined traps and tricks. He had a story to suit every taste and every occasion. He had a fair collection of ribald limericks, as a back up.

 
Rodriguez had a way of telling his stories. He narrated his stories in an even tone, never judged or ridiculed his characters; always had affection for them especially for the “victim”. He had a few little tricks up his sleeve, too. In office, as his devote little crowd of admirers leaned across his desk, greedily gulped his stories and just when the story was reaching a crunch and the bubble was about to burst, Rodriguez would suddenly remember an urgent call he had to make or pretend a “bulav” from his mean mouthed boss; and ruefully request his crestfallen listeners to meet him in the evening at his usual table in the Bascos, for rest of the story. They promptly did just that.
 
Rodriguez derived rascally devilish delight in teasing the “pristine puritan” type women whose holier- than – thou attitude always amused him. He would be over-polite and respectful to them; lull them falling into their familiar ways of criticizing mutual friends and when they were in full flow he would , all the while seeming to agree with them, innocently say a most horribly un-sayable thing , obviously in their support , and with a poker face watch them squirm in discomfort.
 
The value of Rodriguez’s presence in our miserable lives enhanced at times of our dire need. One could always depend on Rodriguez at times of sickness, death in the family, funeral or when one unwittingly got into a little trouble with the local police. To those hapless ones newly transferred to Bombay looking lost and bewildered he was the guiding angel. He would help them in securing ration card, gas connection, school admissions etc. Willy Rodriguez seemed to know almost everyone in Bombay. He helped willingly.
 
***
 
After his retirement, Willy Rodriguez is now settled in a town in Goa. He rues the loss of quality life of old Goa .Willy longs for fenny and fun filled late evenings of reckless delight on lonely beaches in company of his mates singing their heart out to the sinking sun.
 

Globalization has not spared the retired or even the semi retarded. It haunts you even in your home. One of the perils of retirement is being homebound during the day. You are a sitting duck for telemarketers and credit card vendors who tempt you and torment you with unsolicited offers.

Willy was hurt; he was robbed of his life and privacy. He wondered how the details of his chores and constipated bowl movements (or lack of it) were known to the agents of multinationals sitting in Bombay or elsewhere. He suspected an across the border conspiracy and “foreign hand”. They seemed not only to know when you are home, but also when you are eating, taking your bath or just sitting down to relax with a cold one and worst of all when you are locked in a grunting fight with an unyielding piece of your own miserly intestine.

Willy gave a serious thought and came up with a game plan. According to Willy, with his methods and with a little bit of play-acting and creativity, any healthy minded retired person would look forward to calls from credit card and marketing agents.

 
The following is how Willy turned torment into amusement and “time-pass”, as he said.
 

This is Willy’s manual for dealing unsolicited marketing:

Usually all such callers ask, “How are you today?” in their effort to cement a close and lasting bond.

Tell them. “Thank you for asking,” you spout. “My arthritis is killing me, I have gout in my left ear, and my eyelashes are sore. Did I tell you about my appendectomy last month? I think it’s growing back.”

Tell them about your just deceased pet, whom you loved more than life itself. Don’t omit details, especially every eulogy, word for word, at Dido’s elaborate funeral.

 
Do not sound bored or tedious. Sing into their ears. Evoke the human goodness in them.
 

If they survives this deluge, engage them in a little sweet talk. Enquire about their work, sympathize and say it must be very difficult for to market in these days of “cut throat competition” etc. “How long have you been with the company? Is your work driving you up the wall? How much money do you make?” and innocently ask ”How has your boss been treating you? Is he OK with you? Does he trouble you in any manner.. You know what I am saying” .You get the idea.

You talk about business for a while; suddenly as if inspired, you want to help . Then in a soothing friendly tone redirect them to some of your more affluent friends who, you tell them ”surely will help your sales and that should be useful to you.” After they thank you, ask them to take down some names. Then, depending on wherethey hail from, suggest long winding names or names hard to spell; such as Magdalena Aubrey Menlo Santos Almeida, Agostinha Rafael Maximiano Rasquinha, Tirukkovillur Vaidyalingeshwaran Iyer and Arunachala Kadambavana Sundari Prasunnamba Kanyaka.

 

When they are out of breath repeating those unpronounceable names , help them lovingly by spelling it forthem, “Let’s see,” you say with deliberate lethargy, “that’s B as in bad ass, A as in avoirdupois, R as in wretched, and B as in bye-bye.” As you mumble your way through the long winding torment, he/she is gasping for breath and sanity, is desperately seeking an exit like a trapped mouse and dying to say the famous last words “How do you rate this interview on one to ten?” Have sympathy for the hard working people . Give nine out of ten.

 

Note:
Not all of this may work on a single caller. This however is the general pattern. You can spread this out in bits and pieces on a number of callers, depending on the situation.
 
Here a few more ploys next time when marketing or credit card company agent comes calling: (Note: some of these might work only with Willy)
 
* When the caller gives her name, pretend that she is a long-lost friend. “Betty! It can’t be! How have you been since we served time together at that wretched company in Bombay? Are you still working there? Pity,,,, how is Mario, your boy friend..Do you still see him?” Don’t allow interruptions. Be relentless. “Oh, Betty you always were the kidder. But tell me, what ever became of that no-good lousy husband who tried to runaway with your sister?”
 
* A variation of the above method: Pretend the caller is your long lost friend and she is playing a prank on you. Insist that it’s all a big joke, and you’re not falling for it. “Come on, Marge, I know this is you. So cut it out. Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask, ‘How’s that guy who cost you last year your Skoda?'”
 
* Immediately, tell the caller that you are delighted that he called; you were about to call him; Thank God he did; is he telepathic? Pamper him. Invite him to come down. Tell him in your lovable drone that you are incarcerated at home wearing an ankle bracelet, and cajole him to bring over a bottle of fenny and some fried fish.
 
*Tell the caller that you’re busy right now, but if she’ll give you her mobile phone number, you’ll call her back.
 
a) When she gives her number, sweet- talk her at inconvenient hours laced with some business talk. Show more interest on business side, initially. It may work or it may not work but in any case, it is a “good time-pass”.
 
b) When the marketing agent explains that she can’t do that, respond with, “I suppose you don’t want anyone bothering you at home,” When she agrees, give her both barrels!
 
****************

A telemarketer called today

and when I answered with “Hello,”

she asked, “Is Mr. or Mrs. Murray in?”

I said, “Well, I can only be one or the other.”
She hung up…gotta love it!
 
 
I can almost tell by the bell
It’s someone who’s trying to sell.
“How are you?” they begin,
And then begins my sin
Of wishing they would go to hell.
 
***
A marketing Agent was instructed by her Boss to pursue a customer and was given a phone number. She earnestly began calling. Each time she called, another phone on the desk would ring. When she answered, no one was there. This continued throughout the morning. When later asked if she reached the customer, she explained what was happening and demonstrated for her Boss. He noticed that the phone number she was calling WAS THEIR OWN PHONE NUMBER! She had spent an entire morning calling herself
******

 Please read

for continuation
 
 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Story

 

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What Love is…

 

love
 
I read on Sulekha a number of writings on love and related stuff. I had not consciously thought of it so far. It did not occur to me to look at it and examine it, in order to understand it. The exercise meant like looking into one’s own eye. I do not pretend I understand what this is all about, despite the years.
 

I hesitate to articulate on this. I cannot talk unreservedly and with comfort. It is not because of an inhibition. There are voices within vying;each one  yelling it is the true one. There is also a taciturn skeptic, in a state of suspended judgment watching and laughing in half mock. I am not sure which one to give expression. Nothing appears to make much sense. Yet, I am reluctant to let this pass. I may not have much time left.

There are those who poke fun at love as a naïve and romantic construct of our culture milieu, dismiss it as an affliction, and will tell you it is impossible to love and be wise. Others wax poetic and sing “love is all; love is the bird call and the glint in a young girl’s eyes on a summer night.” Some will be dogmatic and pronounce emphatically “God is Love.” And, some, out of their experience, teach, “Love is a strong emotional attachment to another…”etc. There are those that never thought of questioning love, much less defining it; and object vehemently even to the suggestion that they at one time doubted the wisdom of it. To them love is not to be pondered, it is to be experienced.

 
Similarly, the single whom we mistakenly take to be lonely and suspect that their status might be due to their lack of knowledge  or experience of love, will tell you they too have a concept of their love.
Matterhorn, Switzerlandmoon reflection
Some of them will tell you it is like a tranquil pond reflecting, as if dreaming, a distant mountain peak; as like the moon reflected in the still waters. The moon does not get wet and the water is not broken, yet both enjoy a tacit relation.
 
In addition, there are those in vast numbers that sleepwalk through life unmindful of what surrounds them.
 
Surely, there are yet more views and attitudes I am not aware. All of those may be true to some degree, but to assume that any one is best or comprehends all there is to love, is rather simplistic. Each one of us lives and experiences love in his/ her limited sphere, supremely unconcerned with the seeming confusion surrounding its definition. Each has an understanding, an experience of her/his own life and love, and goes by that. Definitions and opinions matter little.
 
J .Krishnamurthy in a way summed it up, when he said:
 
Put away the book, the description, the tradition, the
authority, and take the journey of self-discovery.
Love, and don’t be caught in opinions and ideas about what love
is or should be. When you love, everything will come right.
Love has its own action. Love, and you will know the
blessings of it. Keep away from the authority who tells you
what love is and what it is not. No authority knows and he
who knows cannot tell. Love, and there is understanding
.”
 
In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful and an idealized understanding of love and friendship- Anam Cara “Soul Friend.” It is soul love, connecting and bonding souls. The loved ones’ recognize the inner light and beauty in each other. People, it believes, are like stained glass windows; they sparkle and shine when the sun’s out, but when the darkness sets in, it is then their true beauty glisten brightly in vivid glory – only if there is light within.
 
This concept is beautiful but is elusive like a moonbeam you try to clasp in your palm. When you find an Anam Cara, you are blessed. Does it ever happen? ; Rarely or  perhaps never.  Is it Attainable? I am not sure.
 

I am incapable of grasping a mystical or idealized love as Hafiz or Mirdad or even Tagore as in his later years did. It is a yearning for the distant one; often one-sided. One of the paradoxes in romantic love is that it never produces human relationship as long as it stays. People never seem to settle into relationship with each other as human beings and as friends, until they are out of the romantic love saga and until they love each other instead of being in love.

I find the Indian view warm and human. It enjoins to cherish each other in happiness and sorrow, share the burdens and pleasures; make mistakes and yet be friends caring for each other. It teaches to care about everything; the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You are saying ‘Let us walk these steps together .I watch with love every step we take. I am witness to your life as you will be mine. I stand beside you as partner and friend. You are the cause of my life. Let us cherish each other in sorrow and happiness.”

Most of us lead quiet, unheralded, uneventful lives as we pass through this world. This does not mean we should reject the idea of ideal love. We cannot and we should not .Yet, we should progress from romantic love of songs and legends to sharing, loving and living.

It is not always possible to love the best person, even if such a one does exist. You love a person for the best you see in him/her (or you think so).If you could find someone to love you for what you are, that would be ideal. That rarely happens. Consider yourself blessed if it could bring out the best in both.

It is not about perfection either. The perfect ones in the world as snowflakes or stars are either dull or too distant. We come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly. We learn to accept the other as truly as the other is. We are not here to make things perfect, but to live a life as well as we can despite angst, broken hearts, shattered dreams and loving wrong persons. It has also a lot to do with forgiveness and gratefulness.

What is to live well is a matter of understanding, aspiration and fulfillment. It is woven around your work, knowledge, emotions and your values, in order to give life a meaning. None of it makes sense if love, actual care for persons, is not present. Your life, your love needs expression with those who share it.

There were times when I was scared , unable to let in someone’s love. I even  tried pushing it away, finding it difficult to open to love or let it all the way in. Looking back over the years, I now realize I could have been gentler and understanding.

 

It is now no longer important whether anyone loved me or not; more important now for me is to love all; that brings greater happiness. Pablo Picasso wrote, “In life, you throw a ball. You hope it will reach a wall and bounce back so you can throw it again. You hope your friends and loved ones will provide that wall.”

As we grow older, we learn from the ebb and flow of life. As Anne Lindbergh said, when you love someone, you do not love him or her constantly, all the time, in exactly the identical way, from instant to instant. Each moment is not identical with its next one. It is just as a river, each ripple, each drop, resembles its predecessor and its successor but it is never the same ripple or drop. It is impossible; it is hard even to pretend to replicate chosen moments of life. Yet, this is exactly what most demand; not realizing life has a rhythm and vitality. We seldom recognize continuity is possible in life, as in love, only when there is growth, fluidity and freedom. It offers you at each moment, opportunity to make new choices, to live afresh and grow, instead of trapping you in an endless loop.

“We spend nearly a lifetime attempting to define who we are and then spend what ever time we have left trying to undo the mess. We do not get to start over but we do get another opportunity to make new choices about new directions every moment of our lives. That will never change but we can.” as Wei Wu Wei said.

Very often, the sense of possession, fear grip and strangle the relationship. We leap at the flow and fear at its ebb. We desperately hang on to an experience and try in vain to relive it .We are afraid it will never return. If you realize that all things change, you will try not to hold on to the past but live in the present and accept it as it is now, within their limits; for each moment has something to offer. That is what keeps life alive.

Appreciation of each other is important. Appreciation is the understanding, quiet amazement and gratitude. The basis of love is that appreciation, respect and trust which provide space for affection and friendship to flourish. As the poet says, Seasons turn, feelings churn, passions burn, spirits learn, seeds take hold and turn to gold.

When I said providing space, I meant being responsive to other’s feelings and letting the other feel whatever he/she needs to feel without fear how it might be perceived within the relation, and express it. She may need to express her anger, grief, silence, protest, pain, and seek a little solitude or even ask for comfort, to hold hands. It requires humility, care, understanding and the ability to step out of the way with grace; and honesty to appreciate that whatever that is causing hurt is certainly not above our relationship and us; and it can be put away. Two solitudes protect, touch and greet each other. You serve as a container for the overwhelming feelings; that is a gift of love.

What seems to grow fairer to me as life goes by is the love and the grace and tenderness of it; not its wit and cleverness and grandeur of knowledge – grand as knowledge is – but just the laughter of children, and the friendship of friends, and sight of flowers, and the sound of music.

Lao Tzu (c.640-540 BC) said it with remarkable clarity and simplicity what love meant in day to day living: “Why not simply honor your parents, love your children, help your brothers and sisters, be faithful to your friends, care for your mate with devotion, complete your work cooperatively and joyfully, assume responsibility for problems, practice virtue without first demanding it of others, understand the highest truths yet retain an ordinary manner? That would be true love, true clarity, true simplicity, and true mastery.”

Lewis Carroll says the same but differently; “Oh, tis love, tis love, that makes the world go round!” Somebody said. Alice whispered, “that its’s done by everybody minding their own business.”

Love, happiness and well-being are spoken in one breath as if they are inseparable. Many times, I think, they are not even related. A lot of that does not necessarily feel good. It is a bouquet of feelings of various hues and shades. Had I thought that love was about only feeling good, I would have missed many things in life.

Anne Lindbergh wrote,” Don’t wish me happiness. I don’t expect to be happy all the time…It’s gotten beyond that somehow. Wish me courage, strength, and a sense of humor. I will need them all.”

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the poems, legends and the sagas that idealize pain and suffering as if it is all that is to love. To them, sorrows are seeds of loving , to love is to die like a thorn bird that searches for the perfect thorn to impales itself singing the most beautiful song ever heard , as it dies. I am not sure of that either. You live that you may learn to love. You love that you may live to learn, as Mirdad said. I think love is an attitude; it is about life. Love is about living.

 
Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme love.
: Lao Tzu said
 
 
A longtime friend whom I had not met in years wrote this. It in a way sums up what I was trying to say.

Love is not all a bed of roses.
Some times it’s washing dirty sox,
 Sometimes it’s getting no sleep with a colicky baby,
Sometimes it’s putting your needs last,

Sometimes love is keeping your mouth shut,
Sometimes love is fighting and making up
Sometimes it’s dealing up with in-laws or extended family,
Sometimes it’s moving away from everyone you’ve ever loved except your mate,
Sometimes it is insisting that your needs come first this time,
Sometimes it’s holding your beloved’s hand as they breathe their last

 

Watching her beloved die in her arms, her shriek in pain was a natural and an intense expression of love gushing forth like a geyser from the depth of her being. No matter how much it hurts—and it may be the greatest pain in life—grief can be a pure expression of love.

As years pass, the companions who loved , cried, fought, shared , laughed, witnessed wretchedness, drowned in ignominy, sang verses over the autumn moon behind the shifting clouds , are going or gone . Only their mute images remain. And, we survive among the dead and dying. The old grief passes gradually into quiet, tender longing love.

 
I love without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;

-Pablo Neruda
lotus red

 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in General Interest, Speculation

 

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