Saturday, May 31, 2014

God - an investigation - Part 2

There have been many responses to my earlier essay on belief in God. And not surprisingly , all of them( Facebook and otherwise) predominantly fall under two categories. There is one section who wish to call themselves 'Agnostics' and the other believes in some form of 'Deism' with great stress on Faith ( I shall talk about this later..)...

The most striking thing for me is that nobody wanted to be called an Atheist.. Even though, my definition of Atheism was synonymous to that of how an agnostic would want to think of himself or herself; Nobody was blatant (pardon me for saying so) enough to use that "blasphemous" term!!! It seemed from the responses that there is a deep down fear in branding oneself with that tag. The word Atheist appeared to be evoking images of some kind of a horrible afterlife, or even the possibility of a not so benign anthropomorphic God who will take objection to such a stand in the long run. Whatever the reason, it was pretty clear, at least from the written and spoken responses that many wanted to stay away from the term...

Then there is this belief or faith in the "unknown", that many have professed. In other words, they are Deists and passionately want to believe that there is Godhead or a primordial designer who has set the universe spinning and wish to remain wonder-struck in HIS contemplation and righteousness. The other evidence they bring compulsively to force is that science can take us a distance in the "material" world and cannot account for the entire journey or mystery of existence in all its dimensions..

Both the responses are perfectly understandable; and the subtle underlying thread that runs through both these approaches (very subtle indeed!!) is the urge to believe that there has to be something that outlives this temporal clothing of the Body ;and that "Something" will either merge or meet with the "other" in some distant future. And we earnestly believe that the proof of this will either come in due course from the marching crusade of scientific discovery; or that the Divine designer will forever recede from the net of oneself, and under special conditions be revealed to us ;- until that happens we will be in awe : gasping and reveling in this elusive substance of Godhead. The latter is what we sometimes tenuously call 'faith"..

From my next installment , I wish to start exploring the fundamental premise of this entire endeavor. It is my firm opinion that to understand this important ,serious issue, we must begin with ourselves. After all, we are the only species who seem to facing this existential dilemma. And the reason being that we seem to be playing the dual roles of the "Actor" and "spectator" in this Universal drama.

I would like to end this essay with a quote from Niels Bohr, a contemporary of Einstein, and considered to be the discoverer of quantum physics . I read a quote of his in a wonderful compendium of scientific and psychological articles called "The inner Kernel..", where he says :

"For a parallel to the lesson of atomic theory.. We must turn to those kind of epistemological problems with which already thinkers like Buddha or a Lao Tse have been confronted, when trying to harmonize our position as spectators and actors in the great drama of existence."

Perhaps, it is in this direction we may have to look ..

God bless..

Friday, May 30, 2014

Books - the intimacy of the living word...

Carlos Ruiz Zafon, the Spanish author of "The shadow of the wind" begins his tale with a father walking his young son to an ancient library buried in the deep alleys of the city ; mysterious and not widely known to people. The boy is apprehensive, and rightly so, with this nocturnal journey that he has embarked upon with his father. On the way, he is told in rather somber tones that a secret will be revealed to him today and it needs to be safeguarded, hidden from everyone he knows and loves. Finally, they enter the hallowed and gloomy enclosure of the building, where all that could be seen are rows and rows of countless books : neatly bound with their spines in crimson, green and blue, sparkling with constant attention of its custodians. The book house runs into multiple floors and on each them a few scholars hooded and bent over their desks are deeply immersed in contemplation over the musty pages of their books. The father takes the boy to a dark corner faintly illuminated by a single candle and tells him these immortal words :

'...Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens..."

And so continues the beautiful, dark tale that Carlos weaves for us over the next four hundred pages. I started this essay with the above preamble on Carlos book for the reason that the written word and its transmission is what culture and civilization is all about. Take that away from Human history and nothing else remains but raw biological needs that we share with our ancestors. A Book is a mystery by itself : One never knows , whose destiny would it be to pick it up; whence will it be read; whether at all a right chord be stuck in the reader; will understanding ensue ;- transforming and churning its contents within the fermenting mind of its beholder; will even a single thought propel out of its pages to ignite a fire that will scorch and consume the spirit of its reader and awaken a new dimension within . Each book then is an immense potential waiting for its beloved.

I really cannot imagine a home of an educated man not having a collection of books that have been read and loved. They are the purest ambrosia of life. To wander, transgress, argue, consent with the thoughts of those who have had the gift of stitching their inner journey together into words and sentences is a pleasure that one should not deny oneself. The beauty lies in the fact there are no distinctions in a book : good or bad, right or wrong are meaningless phrases in this context. A right book in the right hands with a ripe mind is the ultimate synthesis, synergy and ordained coincidence in life. It is very instinctual, a gut feel that a particular volume may be the right one for "you". The Human spirit gravitates to the written word with an inner pull, that many of us choose to ignore in various diversions that the world offers otherwise. Take a little time and walk into a second hand book store, where books are piled on top of one another, mixed, no apparent order or uniformity - and allow yourselves to bask in its atmosphere ; feel the musty smell of paper, touch the brownish edges of an aging volume, read a few lines from a random book, imbibe the effort that would have gone into creating those sentences that were once hidden within the secret chambers of a long dead author; and slowly you will find yourself narrowing on a book. It has been waiting there, throbbing for your attention; yearning to be held in the palm of your hands, to breathe new life into its words... all this and more will happen if you listen to your inner voice...

So Ladies and Gentlemen : Read..

God bless...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Night train to Lisbon" - an inner journey

Pascal mercier's brilliant novel 2004 "Night train to Lisbon" is set during the right wing nationalist regime in Portugal between 1932 to 1968; headed by Salazar - the controversial but powerful prime minister. It is a beautiful story of a young aristocratic doctor who joins the resistance against the dictatorial rule of Salazar. The novel begins with a Swiss professor's search for Amadeus de Prado (the young Doctor), whose short book of poems falls into his hands by accident. The search takes the professor to Lisbon almost on instinct and a strange love for its poetry;- and there, slowly and patiently, he touches the lives of all those people who were intimate with Amadeus and the different ways in which the political unrest in the country have shaped their individual destinies. The enigmatic portrait of Amadeus's tortured life, pulled in different directions by his deep mystical propensities, his profession, his love, his friendship, his distaste of the regime ; and above all the frailty of his body , that is raked by a debilitating disease - is characterized wonderfully with a great deal of sensitivity by Pascal Mercier. The translation is fresh and has a haunting charm to it. The portrait of Lisbon and its narrow alleys, with family owned shops ,and a laid back culture that is not yet corrupted by materialistic overtures blends well with the story and accentuates the depth of its characters.

The 2013 adaptation of this book features the talented and seasoned Jeremy irons playing the role of the professor whose search for Amadeus is the crux of the story. The movie stays true to the spirit of the book. Bille August,, the director has done a reasonably good job in developing his characters with conviction , finesse and a keen understanding of context. The vitality of relationships, the uncertainties of life in a vacillating and smothering political regime , the baffling contradictions in the human breast, the clash of individual freedom within a tyrannical state : are all captured with a vividness that is appreciable. Amadeus's poetic musings rendered in the deep throated voice of Jeremy irons provides a mystic background to the entire drama; and at the end of it, there is a wholesomeness to the film that justifies the story and the book...





Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Teacher - A personal tribute..

He was a short, diminutive man with dark, deep black eyes.  His head was covered with sparse white hair and his back would slightly hunch forward as he walked with his hands twined behind him. His face would slant a little as he talked, and in his left hand he would perilously hold a thick half broken pair of glasses, that he would wave back and forth as he gesticulated while making a point. Always dressed in a half shirt that was never tucked in... He would never have passed for a professor, until one hears him speak...

He was my history teacher in High school: Mr Ramanaprasad - the man who initiated me into a world which I never knew existed before I met him - the world of informal knowledge, the excitement of learning and discovery through the written word, the path of introspection and the need to understand life as whole, and not in specialized compartments. He was a complete misfit in the educational system. He scarcely gave thought to what syllabus or curriculum or examination that he was tutoring us for. I remember he would walk into class with a textbook in hand with all the intention of sticking to "formal portions" needed to pass the upcoming exam, but even before he could get though the first few lines, he would cast the book away, remove his glasses in a swift movement and start on a journey that would ramble across Mohenjo-Daro, Euphrates, Bedouins, Churches, popes, Charlemagne, Renaissance, Rembrandt, Jefferson -  moving across seamlessly from one era to the other, weaving them into a tapestry of Human endeavor; interspersing the sometimes heavy dialectic with humane anecdotes, so that the fourteen year olds in class would resonate in unison(without getting bored !!) to the timeless panorama of action in the field of life.

He spoke the English language with meticulous precision. It was almost as if sentences tumbled out fully formed out of his brain, and all he had to do was to become their instrument. I have never heard him compromise the quality of his language to water down whatever he was teaching; instead we were inspired to reach up to his scale. Every now and then he would speak in our school assembly meetings, where each Friday was a short session on religious matters, and if the administrators were unsuccessful in getting a speaker, Ramanaprasad would be asked to pitch in, always impromptu.. He would silently, with head bowed down walk up the podium and without the slightest hesitation or a written note in hand venture on a Half hour investigation or expostulation on Vedic origins, Shaivites or vaishnavites, the dialogues of Plato or the Consolations of Boethius, the Bible or the Upanishad - with equal élan and intensity. Most of us couldn't understand what he was saying, but we sat there mesmerized watching this Man speak so prodigiously and fluently. It is like listening with rapt attention to "The Goldberg variations" of Bach, without understanding its complex counter patterns.

During the two years that I studied under him, He left a deep impression in me. Subconsciously, he personified for me the beauty of knowledge as a treasure in itself, without having to always be utilitarian. His view of human civilization always emphasized that real progress would mean more time for introspection and appreciating the beauty of this Universe. Otherwise, it is not worth it. I am now beginning to realize the value of his teaching....

I use to visit him at his home in the residential club where he lived with his family. My brother and I would go there for sports and then I would silently slip into his home to talk to him.  Those were wonderful evenings, when he would read aloud the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle or Rider Haggard or Dickens, with a Victorian flair to his diction. He would pause at critical points to explain the elegance of a phrase, the crispness of a description or a brand new word. I guess, those moments have somehow magically seeped into me without my volition. And I am grateful for it...

My brother messaged me today morning that Mr. Ramanaprasad is no more. Somehow, I didn't feel pain on this loss. It has been more than twenty years that I last saw him physically, but never for a moment in these long intervening years, has he ever left me. In a way, I have been living the dream that he sowed in me as a young boy. Can I then grieve over his death? How can I be in grief over someone who is an integral part of myself? Probably, this is what Plato meant by "immortality", when he said that a thought can never die... If this be so, Then Ramanaprasad lives: in me; and I am sure and in many others, whose lives were touched by this wonderful teacher. 

Sir, You live on......

God bless...


Monday, May 19, 2014

God - an investigation...

One of the important questions that educated Men and women keep asking themselves in the dark recesses of their own minds is this : 

"Is "God" really necessary to explain and live a moral, ethical and orderly life.....?"

I know, I would be touching a lot many sensitive nerve endings when I posit such a question. But yet, this question is absolutely necessary to be faced squarely on its face. Let me be very clear, that I do not claim to be atheist (not at least,in the common sense of that term), Perhaps, somewhere down history there has occurred a basic misconception of what Godhead "is", and a millennium of indoctrination has so firmly entrenched the need to look upon an external cause for this wonderfully varied universe. You might now accuse me of pitching scientific rationalism against religious convictions and dogma. But that is precisely what is wish to negate. All that I want to state is the fact that both science and Religion (as used in original Latin( i.e. "to bind") are essentially talking about the awesome mystery of this universe and our relative insignificance; and both these adventures stem from the basic uneasiness that gnaws at our hearts for having been left alone in this cosmic ocean without a bearing or reason. Both these disciplines are efforts to reconcile Man's position in the scheme of things. While science is moving towards intelligent design without a cause, religion (organized faith) has transformed itself into anthropocentric arrogance. It is the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century that its greatest scientist, Albert Einstein , a firm Jew is often quoted as favoring a "God" in explaining the inscrutable laws of physics. But there can be nothing more further from the truth than this. Those interpretations are merely a few cherry-picked statements from his prodigious communication taken utterly out of context to prove the creationist theory. Einstein represented "God" as an absolute innate order and design, which the human mind can only hope to caress and never understand completely. And it this trembling humility that Einstein equates to a religious experience and nothing else.

I want to put forth four definitions for you to validate your innermost conviction . Are you a

1. Theist : one who believes that a "Personal" God is the creator of this universe , as the "prime mover" He continues to meddle in the daily affairs of man. needing constant prayers, placations and offerings, and demands obedience to his norms , otherwise doles out retributions in an after-life...

2. Deist : One who believes that "Personal" God caused this universe in the first place by propelling it from nowhere, and thereafter does not interfere in day to day affairs of its inhabitants..

3. Pantheist : One who does not accept the notion of a Personal God, but use the word "God" as a synonym to denote laws of nature and its infinitely intelligent design that a finite Human mind cannot comprehend in its entirety.

4. Atheist : One who is neither a Theist or a Deist, but leans towards Pantheism, but with the additional caveat that the laws of nature are decipherable in physical terms in the long run. It is only a matter of time..

if you are really truthful in your enquiry, chances are likely that you will find yourself mirroring one of these terms. Truthfulness , is the key here......

I shall continue further in a later essay.....

God bless...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Sense and Sensibility of Jane Austen - A Movie by Ang Lee..


The world of Jane Austen is one of Morals, manners and an impeccable sense of propriety. She was born in North Hampshire, England, a few months after General Washington issued orders to begin the American war of independence and died in Winchester in the first quarter of the eighteenth century (1775- 1817). A brief, incandescent life during which she chronicled the social ethos of England in a succession of brilliant novels, which unfortunately did not bring her any fame or money during her life time, but is now recognized in English literature as masterpieces of classical writing and characterization. “Pride and prejudice”, “Sense and Sensibility”, “Emma” – all of them are stories based on Women, marriage and the clash of social status in resolving the matters of Human heart. Her prose has a majestic cadence to it, a soothing classical style of writing that took the reader along a journey that is often long, twisted but eventually satisfying. Every character clearly etched, every sentence chiseled to perfection; Austen could evoke an image of a person, place or a circumstance with a few nonchalant brush strokes of her pen, which in lesser mortals would require a more studied labor. Even after two hundred odd years, her books still resonate with the same intensity, emotional veracity, psychological truism, unmatched mastery of the language and an unparalleled social criticism of the times that she lived and wrote her books…

There have been lots of attempts to capture on screen or televise the multi layered emotional stories of Austen, but most of them have failed because of three principal reasons. Firstly, Austen’s heroines say little, but mean and feel a lot, and only actors of the highest caliber can attempt to bring out such an essence of their tender emotional state. Secondly, the director should be able to understand the depth, authenticity and universality of emotions such as love, jealousy, disgust and the rest of it in the moral society that the novels were set in, and should be capable of carving out its essential richness from the capacious descriptions of Austen to showcase them in a two hour motion picture. And lastly, the screen play should be succinct and contemporary without losing the texture of Austen’s silky language and depth of her intentions. Only if all these three ingredients come together can life be infused into Austen’s book on screen, otherwise not.

I just finished watching Ang lee’s masterly and brilliant adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility” directed in 1995, featuring the highly talented Kate winslet and the prodigiously intelligent and mercurial Emma Thompson. Taking nearly five years in the making, with Emma herself writing the screenplay, the movie, in my opinion, consummates the vision of Jane Austen in all it hues and patterns. It is now a part of the Ang Lee legend that when he was offered this film, he did not know who Jane Austen was and obviously not read her works as well. This was his first full length Hollywood English film. When Lindsay Duran, the producer approached Lee to do this movie, her only intention was to have a director who will not work mechanically on “adapting” one more Victorian novel to an English audience, but be able to carry the universal theme of Austen’s book to a wider audience. She had watched Lee’s earlier award winning regional movies such as “The pushing hands” , “the wedding banquet” and others where Lee’s masterly control over the visual canvas and deep sensitivity to human relationships were greatly evident. Lee’s instinct for drawing out new interpretations, fresh perspectives on minutiae of human interaction, and of course his unblemished eye for color and cinematography would greatly help place Austen’s emotional drama in its true context. He agreed to do the film, as he famously said in one his interviews: “…because the underlying theme of Jane Austen is the essence of social repression against free will – and I grew up with that. The Eastern feudal society, where I was raised was not dissimilar to the Victorian England when it came down to one man’s relationship with another...” It is this vision, this oozing confidence that resulted in the making of this masterpiece on screen. For a master movie maker, it is the story that is important and not its linguistics...

The Movie was entirely hoisted on the able shoulders of Emma Thomson, who plays the reticent, responsible and caring elder sister in the Dashwood family, whose swelling emotions are tethered to ideas honor and manners. Emma is arguably one of the finest actors of this generation. Her work in movies like “The remains of the day”, “Howards end”, to name just a couple, have long established her as an actress whose brings a focused intelligence to the roles that she plays. There is a studied melodrama about Emma’s personality, as well, that she uses to great advantage in this particular movie. One could sense the pent up emotions rising within her with each frame, until the climax, when her emotional walls crack into splinters, liberating spasms of pain and pleasure in one antithetical outburst of tears - an epochal piece of histrionics from this great English actress. She was distinguished with two Academy awards in 1996 - for the best Screenplay , and actor in a leading role;- an honor that no one else has ever been accorded.

Patrick Doyle’s subdued music, Kate winslet’s effervescent performance, the docility of Hugh grant and the spectacular cinematography of Michael Coulter elevate this period drama to a pedestal of immortality. Finally, it the singular triumph of Ang lee for having bought to screen an author, whose works are best enjoyed in the written form. The burning intelligence of Jane Austen that flickers in each of her protagonists needed the acute cinematic perception of an Ang lee to translate them on screen. And, we are indebted to him for that remarkable task..

Read Austen's novel and then watch this movie on a wide screen with your entire family. There are few books and films that can refine your artistic appreciation as much as "Sense and Sensibility" can...

God bless...






Wednesday, May 14, 2014

NIIT - The crucible of opportunity

She is a middle aged lady from the southern part of India, pretty new to the organization and obviously a bit reticent. Her flight was delayed and she rushed into my class yesterday profusely apologetic, and preferred to sit in the back row of the conference room. Though she had missed about forty five minutes of my lecture, she was quickly up to speed, and before long, was cruising through her labs with a great deal of ease. About three of us from the class went out for dinner, and that is when she began to open up.

She had a very interesting story. Smita had come to the United States in the year 2004, newly wedded to a software engineer. She was educated to be a dentist, but before she could pursue a career in it, she was married, and came into this country with wide eyed dreams like many others. For a few years, she preferred to remain a housewife acclimatizing herself, and then started applying to colleges to pursue higher studies in her chosen field of dentistry. By that time, her first child was born and her attention was now divided between her baby and the need to study for her entrance exams. Colleges were not easy to get into, and there was this vague sense of frustration creeping into her life. That is when, her husband had suggested that she should take a job in software. Here is where things got interesting for me - Like thousands of youngsters in India, Smita had enrolled herself for a course in NIIT during her college days; not because she wanted to, but her father had insisted that she should do something constructive with her free hours. She eventually ended up finishing a one and a half year course with no idea what she would be doing with the certificate that was so laboriously gained. Software was the last thing on her mind. But then, all of a sudden, in 2008, that was her only qualification in IT, and when she began scouting for a job, she realized that those 18 months at NIIT had indeed given her the base to attend and surprisingly clear interviews. After a mere three months of search, she landed herself in IBM, and very quickly became very proficient in Software development, and today she attends my class in the capacity of a Tech lead for this project..

To me, this has been one of the significant achievements of NIIT in last two decades: that it has not only enabled thousands of youngsters to become IT proficient, but has proved to be a good back up plan for many others, when things have not worked out well.. Smita is just one of the many who have confessed to me that NIIT was responsible for giving them a break, when the future looked bleak. In those formative years of early eighties, the founders had had the perspicacity to conceive of a nation that will need skilled IT labor. It was a revolutionary idea, and the beauty of it is that they stuck the right note in imparting software education without diluting the rigor involved in the pursuit of it. Reluctant children were shepherded by eager parents to the hundreds of NIIT institutes that mushroomed around the country, so that they will not be left out in the burgeoning age of computers. Almost all of them, who went through the program came out of it molded and ready. I am one of them…

It is always a matter of pride to know that the organization that you work for, has been responsible in many ways to bring a qualitative change in many lives; give them wings when all avenues have been closed. Smita doesn't remember much of her NIIT days, but she is confident that what she retained from those courses has so far served her well in her IT career. In fact, the branch that she had enrolled in 2001 was in operation for only three years. But in its brief existence, it had managed to touch and help the life of this simple girl, who had no clue whatsoever that those ‘dreary’ days in NIIT would be the greatest investment of her time, her father’s money and a boon in her present life...

God bless…

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Young Adult" - a study in "growing up" - featuring Charlize Theron

In my Hotel room in Louisville, this week, I happened to watch a very insightful TED talk by the famed literary critic and book reviewer for the NY times, Parul sehgal. She was talking about ‘Jealousy’ as an emotion that is so psychologically debilitating, and yet in a strange way, helps to truly understand the person who one actually is, and the aspirations that drive us to explore different relationships. In a wonderfully concise talk of 14 minutes Parul illustrates the fact that literary fiction is probably the only medium that has expressed and explored jealousy in its various hues, and almost every classic in English language defines and stitches jealousy in some way or the other into its story line and characterization.

Close on the heels of watching this video, I tuned into Netflix to play a 2011 drama named “Young adult” featuring my favorite actor these days, Charlize Theron. It is a very simple story about a young, beautiful career oriented rural town girl, who moves into the city hoping to make it big and successful. Quickly disillusioned after a failed marriage and broken dreams, she falls into a familiar state of existential crisis that is so illustrative of most urban society. As she wallows in her state of pity and boredom, she receives an email photo of a new born sent to her by her adolescent and school heart throb (Buddy Slade), who continues to live in the same town that she so vehemently detested, marrying a high school class mate , and seemingly happy and contented in the warmth of marital bliss. Given the tender psychological state that our heroine is in, this innocent picture of the baby tips the scales, and she becomes intensely jealous of her ex-boyfriend and his balanced life. A terrible possessiveness takes hold of her, and she decides to drive back to her town to re
claim her lost love, which to her dissipated and reckless mind, seems to be the most rational thing to do…


What happens in the story after , is the slow realization that one moves on in life, and to look back, is only going to aggravate the sense of loss of ‘what could have been’. The painful ,and at the same time ,an exhilarating realization that one cannot rewind one’s life , no matter how hard we try, or how ambitious the intent is;- comes as a great stress buster , and helps make a vertical drop into the ‘present’. Its helps us realize the relationships mutate, priorities change and more importantly the profound Heraclitan truth that “One cannot step into the same river twice”, will hit us with all the force and authority possible. Jealousy invariably is about comparison, a measurement of inner well-being. It is a powerful force, like water swelling within the confines of dam, waiting for the sluice gates to crack a little, and then it gushes forth potentially capable of tearing apart everything in its wake. "The young adult" takes us through this journey of Jealousy and its ramifications quite beautifully..

Charlize Theron brings a certain quality of brilliance to her role in the film. As the movie progresses, one almost begins to dislike her character . So convincing has been her portrayal of a jealous maiden, struggling with her inner demons; - that we are forced to forgive her eccentricities and pray that sanity returns quickly enough. Nature has gifted Charlize a face that can reflect a pure strain of malice, if required. If you have watched her acclaimed performance in movie “The monster”, where she plays the role of the insane female serial killer Aileen Wournos: you will understand what I mean. She has used it to beautiful effect in the film to bring out effects of jealousy in the human breast and its manifestation one's conduct.

I highly recommend this movie. Watch it if you want a mirror to reflect your ‘true’ self, and also ,if you wish to see another virtuoso performance by Charlize ……

God Bless…


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fallacies springing from ignorance - A conversation in Louisville, Kentucky..

She is a young south Indian lady in her early thirties: soft spoken, shy, dressed in T shirt and jeans with a certain self consciousness about her that was evident in the manner she was tugging at her collars frequently to cover herself. I learnt from her that she had moved to Louisville about fifteen days ago as a contractor. Her family - Husband and two little children aged seven and five, continue to live in Cincinnati, and she intends to commute home every weekend (a two hour Grey hound bus drive). They been living in the US for the last seven years and both the kids were born in America : a dream come true, I must say, for many Indian parents..

II was during one of our breaks that I got talking to her . The other participants had a short meeting to attend and we were alone in the classroom. During the last two days, I have been observing that she has been preoccupied , neither able to concentrate on my lectures nor complete lab exercises with any amount of confidence. She seemed bright though, but it is just that her eye was not on the ball, so to speak.. She speaks my native tongue (Tamil) and I asked her, if there is something that was bothering her. For a moment , she was taken aback by my direct question and she politely said that everything was alright, and then we got to having a decent conversation. At some point she broke out : " you know Bala, I made the greatest mistake moving here to Louisville. The last two weeks have been nothing short of a nightmare for me. Every time I close my eyes, the dancing image of my kids float in front of me and I end up calling them at odd times. The children are equally miserable out there in Cincinnati without me. The moment they hear my voice, they burst out into tears and plead with me to return. My Mother in law tells me that they refuse to eat or play, and all that they do is to silently sit in a corner with a vacant, lost look in their eyes. Frankly, I am shocked at this turn of events. I thought I had sufficiently become "Americanized" to move out and survive, and I was definitely hoping that my children will take my absence in their stride. After all, they are "Americans".... I am in a real fix and I have talked to my manager exploring an option to work from home. I am not sure if they would extend that privilege to a contractor, If denied, I may have to quit and go back.. "

After I listened to her, there was a only a single question that I had to ask her .: "Sowmya (Name changed!!), I completely empathize with your maternal feelings but what I don't understand is on what premise did you think that your kids will not miss you because they are "American"!!!!!. How does being an American or an Indian matter in this case. Did you mean to say that Americans are less loving and affectionate than Indian moms and they will not be missed when they go to work, or did you assume that American kids grow up as insensitive , selfish brats that they don't long for their mother's loving presence at home..."

The biggest roadblock for new immigrants in America is to have preposterous ideas about Americanism. Lets get something straight. None of the first generation immigrants can ever hope to relinquish their nationality or its emotional baggage, after having spent a quarter or more of a life time in the country of their birth. It is a myth or a downright lie if someone claims to the contrary. And Frankly, this Land doesn't not want you to do so as well. it is the sheer diversity and proliferation of varied cultures that gives America its beauty, its fertility . It is like a garden full of outrageously different colors and fragrances; each one growing up in its own unique way preserving its identity without disturbing or spoiling the symmetry of the whole. And emotions such as love, jealousy, hate, joy are universal. There is no way one can erect barriers of nationality between them....

As I walking back home, I was reminded of a masterly psychological observation by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad geetha '.. SWADHARME
NIDHANAM SHREYAH, PARDHARMO BHAYAWAHA..'
Roughly Translated " Being your own self is far beneficial than following the path of someone else. In fact, doing so makes you fearful and lonely.....''. Again, an ancient insight bang on target!!!!!

God bless...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Gulzar - a short tribute to a living muse...

if you believe that words can take you into flights of creative fantasy; if you believe that words have the power to silence the mind and push it ever so gently over the precipice of chaos, into the gentle folds of existential introspection; if you believe that words can translate the most complex emotions into stunningly simple homilies; if you believe that words are timeless, and so is the poet whose passionate stirrings of the heart and mind can coagulate into blank verses that will reverberate in the human breast as long as Man lives in happiness, sorrow , pain , suffering and all the other myriad prismatic reflections that is our universal heritage - then you will agree with me the Gulzar , the poet Laureate, the bard, the philosopher, the enchanting muse deserves the Dada Saheb Phalke award more than anyone else.

For forty long years this mesmerizingly simple, stately poet has been adorning the film world with his brilliance. Each song, Each poem carves for itself a niche, a special place in our hearts - elevating the music to reaches of ecstasy that composers would have never imagined. His words have never compromised itself to needs of music;- his vision; and it is the greatest tribute to the man that all Music composers loved working with him; and have created some of their best compositions under the masterful eye of Gulzar.

I write this tribute early in the morning, as I drink my coffee and read about this highest honor bestowed on this legend. I cannot help but crystallize my thoughts before it vanishes away in the fullness of my emotion.

Thanks you Gulzar, Saab. May life give many more rich and peaceful years of creativity and joy.. Your words are part of my being.. Need I say more.....

God bless.....