Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Love eternal - a miracle of Human existence..

Though I am personally skeptical about the institution of marriage, I have great admiration, respect and adoration for those who can live up to its vows with steadfastness, commitment and zest in the midst of all vicissitudes that life may bring to their table. It is one of those beautiful sights to behold - when one sees an elderly couple, ripe with age, twinkle in their eyes, arms knit together, and a sense of togetherness so tangible that it is almost possible to touch it with bare fingers. It reinstates my belief in the Future of Man.
As we drove out today morning in the Hotel shuttle, I was accompanied by such a couple. They were heading to Florida to get on a cruise across the Panama canal. He was 87 and she was 81 - so they told me with a beaming smile on their faces. And the occasion for this travel happens to be their fiftieth anniversary of togetherness. Meticulously packed (over five suitcases), flawlessly dressed - they were as excited as twenty year olds. The lady said:
"you know, we have not gone out of Phoenix for fifteen years now. This is first trip , and we have saving for it. Every year, this day - we would go to church and pray that we would eventually be able to make this trip on our 50th anniversary. I am so glad that this day has indeed arrived.." There was small tear welling up in the corner of her eye, and she clutched onto her Husband's hand a little tightly. He turned his face and looked at her with what I consider soul stirring warmth and companionship. There was a a freshness in that gaze that spoke of their ever renewing love - A look that did not seem stale or born of affectation.
She continued : " It is a fifteen day cruise and we land in San Diego..." All of sudden she remembered with a startle : " Dear, have you taken that shirt that we bought last year. I didn't see you pack that.. You said you wanted to wear it on this cruise.." He smiled and said " Of course, Its right on top in this bag .." he said pointing to a brown bag.. She sighed with relief and kissed him lightly on his cheek.
By this time, we had reached the airport. My heart was filled with tremendous happiness. I got up from my seat and requested them to get down, while carry their suitcases down the steps of shuttle. They were hesitant to allow me do that. But I insisted..
When we finished unloading, The lady , gently touched my head and said " you are a Good person. Thank you ." I looked up at her face and told her " No Mam, it is my privilege to have met both of you. You are Good, hence you see goodness around you. I will pray that both of you go on an other cruise like this on your 60th wedding anniversary. Take care..."
God bless....

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lady Hypatia - The Philosopher

Lady Hypatia - The Philosopher
If one were to ask an educated youngster to name a famous Egyptian lady from history - Chances are, nine out of ten, you will hear the name of Cleopatra issue from his lips. And we should not blame him for it. The legend of Caesar and his nemesis in the arms of this sensuous Greeko-egyptian queen has been immortalized, exaggerated and twisted countless ways in scholarly books, popular fiction and visual arts that it is easier to conjure her image in our minds (aided by Liz Taylor, of course) than anybody else from that era. While it is true to a great extent that her beguilingly voluptuous beauty, charm, cunning wit and sparkling political acumen helped define the geographical boundaries of ancient Roman Empire - and its subsequent repercussions on the political topography of Europe; However, the intellectual continuity and vigor of Platonic thought and Greek sciences found its anchor, articulation and consummation not in the guiles and seductive lore of Cleopatra ,but in the vibrant, fertile and beautiful mind of yet another lady: Hypatia - scientist, researcher, philosopher, orator and teacher in that great city of Alexandria, Egypt - one of transforming legacies of Alexander’s audacious conquest of the east. Though his vision of a universal Greek Empire from the Aegean Sea to the Indian Ocean remained only a figment of his dream, he however succeeded in carrying with him the entire intellectual outpouring of his native Greek land and collect them in what was undoubtedly the most comprehensive, well stocked library and vibrant learning centers of the ancient world - The Alexandrian Library. Hypatia taught and studied there along with her protective father and dedicated band of students- both pagans, Christians and slaves alike; devoted to understanding the books of Aristotle, Aristarchus, Plato and the scientific adventures of Ptolemy- whose geocentric model of Cosmos was still the accepted truth for most part of civilized world.
Fourth century Rome must have been a curious time to live in. After nearly ten centuries of Polytheistic faith and practices, their society was slowly but pervasively inundated by the waves of Christian faith. Emperor Constantine’s sudden conversion to Christianity and his momentous decision of making it the official religion of Rome, was beginning to have its rumbling effects across different strata of Roman citizenry. The theological, ethical and teleological differences between Paganism - which still held on tenaciously to its extroverted, life loving outlook; and the creed of Christ which advocated a monotheistic interpretation of human endeavor forcing a life stripped of any pleasures aimed primarily to make man fit for second coming of God- began to show signs of rupture at its seams. Christianity’s closed and adamant interpretation of Jesus, the Nazareth’s word and his redemptive promise as final, left no scope for any kind of intellectual freedom and pursuit of knowledge that were traditionally considered hallmarks of a classical Greek mind , which had continued unbroken and nourished and replenished for centuries before Christianity was even born. The aisles of the library in Alexandria contained, on a conservative estimate, contained around 40,000 scrolls on a variety of subjects ranging from the most esoteric to mundane. Neatly catalogued, commentated, copied and diligently studied - it represented almost a complete repository of Western thinking. And Hypatia was heir to that literary, philosophic and scientific tradition. She lived, studied and taught in the sprawling courtyards that surrounded the library. It was called the Agora, or the forum.
From whatever little we know of this remarkable Lady, it is clear that she was accomplished, revered and honored as one whose life centered on study, experimentation and dissemination of knowledge and wisdom. She is said to have had a manner of ease and grace, which in a woman, can really be beautiful to behold - if it is also radiant and suffused with the fire of contemplation and learning - which in Hypatia’s case - it was. Records that survive mention that Men from all walks of life flocked to the Agora to hear her expound with clarity the complexities and ambiguities of Ptolemaic systems, music of spheres and general ruminations on Human existence and destiny. Her self-possessed demeanor clad in flowing tunics, large black Mediterranean eyes, luxuriantly cascading hair held neatly in captivity in traditional Greek style and her easy gait - held students spellbound. Some admired her rapturous feminity, others soaked in her intellectual brilliance and young students looked upon her with an adoring eye of child. In her assembly, there were no differences of religion, caste of kind; and the only credo allowed was unbiased exploration of truth and study. In fact, classical historians are more or less unanimous that Hypatia is perhaps the last and the most resplendent of that line of Greek Philosophers, naturalists and thinkers (predominantly male - all of them) who graced the world stage in the early period of Western history. And in her untimely death, or May we say, slaughter, the dark ages in Europe began.
It is unfortunate that Hypatia’s life has not found itself more prevalently represented in Literature and other arts. Perhaps, when the library of Alexandria was burned down, we lost most of her writings and teaching notes; and what little remained did not offer any feminine gossip for artists to weave their thread of imagination around her life. What can you write or sensationalize of a woman who lived with great austerity, grace and unbounded inquisitiveness for knowledge. Art reigns supreme when form and pretense predominates over substance, and that is the reason one finds Cleopatra mentioned and relived in a million artistic expressions; and Hypatia is rarely referenced except in a few stray works of books and paintings. Cleopatra is the stuff that fantasies are made of, and Hypatia…. Well!!
When I started writing this essay, the idea was to review a movie I saw recently - “Agora”. A Spanish film made in 2009 that captures the life of Hypatia during the turbulent 4th century AD. But then, I could not talk about the movie without giving my readers a context; and I did not imagine that it would end up taking several paragraphs before I get here. Anyway, I loved the film; and I was so glad to see the life of Hypatia take shape and form on screen in a manner that was eluding her for so long. Admirably played by Rachel Weisz (you will remember here as the inquisitive Egyptologist from the film “Mummy”); she suited the role to perfection. Her luminous deep eyes captures the legend of Hypatia’s composure and serenity and her characterization displays an understanding of Hypatia’s throbbing passion for astronomy and sciences in general. Though the movie is set in a calamitous period when Christians, Jews and Pagans cut each other’s throats in the name of a divine belief, the narrative of the film focuses on Hypatia’s unrelenting commitment to seeking truth by direct observation and experimentation and not succumbing to pressures of belief and conversion. When she stands in the middle of Roman Christians and silently states “I believe in philosophy” - she makes a claim for entire generations of men and Women, in the past and future – for whom life needs to be understood and lived through self-enquiry and not by blind dogmatic creeds that have no observational validity. Director Alejandra Amenabar deft control of script and screenplay keeps the movie flowing along, despite its deep theological undertones; and in my opinion, done a wonderful job providing the feel and aura of 4th century Alexandria. Historical accounts have it that Hypatia was dragged along the streets of Alexandria by a Mad Mob, her skin sheared with Oyster shells and cut in to pieces in front of the Library that she so revered. But Alejandro chose to give his fictional Hypatia a more sober ending. And rightly so.
In conclusion, it is ironical that Hypatia’s observation of Earth’s orbit being elliptical and not circular was consummated by Johannes Kepler 1200 years later. Unfortunately, none of her writings survive, but from what we gather from later accounts, it is clear that Hypatia was very close to disproving the geocentric perception of cosmos and proposing a Heliocentric model. That would have been a magnificent achievement in itself. Had she lived in another age or time, her work and life would have taken a different turn, and posterity would have treated her more prominently. But I guess, that falls within the sphere of never ending debate in historical contingencies. In Stephen Greenblatt’s Pulitzer winning book “The swerve”, he observes: “the death of Hypatia effectively marked the end of classical Greek age…”, and it is true to a larger extent. Because, the next time Europe and western world would see such a flowering of thought and independence would be after nearly thousand years, when Thomas Aquinas, Ockham and Petrarch revives the pristine energy and zest of the Greek mind. In that sense Hypatia’ s life was significant, and definitely a watershed in human history.
God bless...
Yours in life,
Bala




Saturday, April 18, 2015

Skill in action - the heart of song celestial

Chapter 2 verse 50 says "Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam..." This phrase is commonly translated as "skill/dexterity in action is Yoga"; and Krishna gives this advice to a forlorn Arjuna when he is all set to put down his bow and run off the battlefield. Interesting!!. The warrior is trembling with emotions, his hands are sweaty and shaky; and here is the master confidently telling him that he must perform his actions with dexterity.. If one were to take this phrase out of this context ( which is what we do) and practice its intent- it would roughly mean that we must work assiduously to achieve perfection in whatever is allotted to be our bidding in life. For example, if one is working as a software developer, then the idea is to worker harder on writing more and more code, until one reaches a point of utmost skill. And so is the case with all professions or livelihood.
But I don't think Krishna meant that when he gave this advice to Arjuna. You see, there is an interesting etymology to this Sanskrit word "Kaushalam". In Vedic times, children were sent to pluck Kaushi leaves for their master, and these leaves are usually hidden behind thorns. And only a child who had nimble small fingers could ever pluck a leaf without drawing blood. No matter how hard anybody else tries or practices, it is impossible to become adept at it for the simple reason that not everyone is physically suited to do that work. It is not a matter of embarrassment or incompetence if one would come back to his Guru without a Kaushi leaf. The Master understood... And he would allot other tasks that would suit their temperament, skill and prowess. So "Kaushalam" in this sense, was meant to designate a boy who had the physical aptitude to pluck leaves out of a Kaushi Branch. That is all.
Now, seen in this context, what krishna essentially tells Arjuna here is that "Hey, if you think that you are warrior; and there is warrior (Kshatriya) blood running through your veins; then such grief is not becoming of you. This act of killing should come naturally to you. And I am beginning to now doubt if bowman ship is indeed your true nature at all. Probably not.."
Skillfulness in action only come when one is doing what come naturally; not otherwise. If you look at the kind of jobs that people do, most of them are misfits. And asking them to work harder, or be smarter is like ordering someone to jump off the ground by tugging at their boot laces. It is simply not possible. Many a time, what we are good at doing is not something that will help us make a living. That is the price we pay for an overdose of growth, progress, nationhood and fuzzy economics. Martin Luther King Jr famously said and I quote
"..If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well..."
But I guess, Dr King was joking. All of us today want to do something other than what we are good at doing. Our education does not help in establishing our roots and interests; but only triggers a deep sense a dissatisfaction over living a life that flowers with each one of us. Our skills are of no use if it not "productive". - is what we are taught in school, colleges, at home, at work and all around. And in the midst of all this chaos "Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam" seems a travesty to preach or practice.
But you know what : who wants to understand true meanings? Bhagavad gita is good for a Sunday reading, after heavy breakfast and we need something to read to feel good.
So there we go... That's skill that comes quite effortlessly to all of us..
God bless..
Yours in life,
Bala

Choice-less choices.. The vogue video

After all the brouhaha over the vogue video ,It seems ironical or coincidental , whichever way one wishes to see it - that the State of Indiana today sentenced Purvi Patel thirty years of jail time for Feticide. The first ever sentencing on these grounds in the United states. And what is interesting is that fact that she is convicted and sentenced not because she had a miscarriage or decided to abort, but of a definite "Choice" she made to dump the new born/unborn/stillborn human child wrapped in a plastic bag into a Trash can without an iota of remorse whatsoever; and then compounding her decision by attempting to subvert law lying about the period of pregnancy. What a "choice" to make? She pleaded that she came from a "conservative" family, and a child out of wedlock would be a social stigma - hence she had to take the extreme decision of terminating the baby. But to wait for twenty four weeks to do that?? - what a "choice" to make?
The key question upon which the case was debated upon for the last two years was whether the fetus was fit enough to be considered a living human child or not. Ms. Patel 's lawyers agued that at 23 weeks, the creative miracle of life enwombed in a female body is not yet decidedly alive; and the prosecution pursued its case with the firm conviction that the baby which came out ( they pegged the period at 25 weeks) was alive for a few micro seconds before Purvi decided to snuff its life out. So is it abortion or Homicide? What a "choice" to be debating upon?
During the court proceedings, Purvi stated that she wouldn't be able to reveal father of the child because he was a married man and going through a messy divorce himself. She had to protect his integrity. It was easier for her to do away with the baby, than bring her paramour into disrepute. A strange "choice" to make indeed!!
Enough of choices - Of all species that trod this earth, Humans have this unique privilege of consciously avoiding or terminating reproduction - and that too - on as flimsy a cause as social ostracism. "Born out of wedlock" is a dreaded phrase or a fashion statement depending upon which part of the globe we are looking at. In either case, the utter disregard for the child is profoundly disturbing. It doesn't matter whether its 24 weeks or a few days or even a few moments - the gift, the mystery, the wonder of life is timeless; and unless we learn to respect and venerate this blessing, we will forever remain biological imbeciles and nothing else.
In February 1997, Mother Teresa on her visit to the United states held a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington , which was attended by the President and first lady. During Mother's address, she said:
What is taking place in America is a war against the child. And if we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another." A profound insight!! What is true of America is true for the entire Human race..
Some choices are no choices at all. And this is most certainly one such...
God bless...

Personal space - an invitation to "be" alone

As a matter of choice, I politely decline most social invitations, unless I am extremely comfortable (very few families!! fall in that bracket ) of being accorded my space in a company of people., Well, that is not to say, that I get invited often, but even the few that I get invited to; I find a way to wriggle my way out of it. I have nothing against social gatherings or its equivalents, but it is just that - deep down I get out of sync with conversations that happen there; and I don't wish to be thought of as an intrusion upon such vivacious and egregious moments with my studied or morose silences - whichever way it may be perceived.
Yesterday, after my swim, I was sitting along with a group of friends/acquaintances in a smoothie shop. It was mixture of Americans and Indians, and after all common chatter , one of my them said"
"Hey Bala, Why don't you join us tomorrow evening at my place. I have invited all the others, you are the only one left. Nothing special!!. Just a regular chill out on long weekend.. "
"Thanks, but I will have to excuse myself . I have something else to do..."
He laughed and continued: " You know what folks, I have known Bala for a little over a year now, and he never seems bored or restless for activity. He has his books and he keeps himself occupied... I wish I could pass time like that.."
I was alight with his explanation till his last statement. "Time pass"?? - that needed to be corrected...
I replied : " Very true. I have my set of priorities. You are right. But, I wish to humbly point out that what I do is not "passing time" , but rather an effort to try and understand what is time, life, myself and my relationship with the world outside- in other words, the meaning and purpose of it all. You see, Through out the week, we put on a professional mask and live up to its expectations - as much as we can; and when I get time during weekends, I invest some time digging into who exactly is this entity putting on such a mask. It is a very liberating exercise, and provides a quiet center for me to perform my activities outside. Do you know, why most religions have made a strict ritual of visiting a temple or attending payer meetings at regular intervals?. The idea is to use that time to keep aside all masks and try to touch that pure, naked core within - which gets unfortunately lost. mired in the unceasing activity that we choose to undertake every moment of our waking lives. Frankly, all that we are trained, indoctrinated to do is to keep changing our persona - call it professional, student, social, friend, lover, enemy etc.. And that can get tiring my friend, If one does not detach oneself from all that once in a while and see the whole thing in perspective. The metaphor is : One must know that stillness of the ocean beneath, to survive the waves on it. Every water sporting guy will tell us that..
" So Gentlemen, I love people and company as much as all of us do, but I have realized that not all such gatherings are conducive to my well being. No offence meant at all. It may be just that I am not being sociable. But that's a price I am willing to pay, if I can connect with something deeper within..."
All of them around were looking at me like an alien descended from a nether world. I broke that silence:
"Folks, let us have one more Avocado smoothie. Its on me..."..
The shell was broken, and we started buzzing again..
God bless...

Horror - a personal fascination

Friends who know me well, also know that I love the genre of Horror in films and books. You may call me perverse, deviant or troubled - but to me, a well crafted piece of dark thematic work - touches a primordial raw nerve within, as much as the notion of "God" does. And what better place to be discussing the genesis of this morbid crooked fascination than in a hot Sauna - simmering at 140 degree Fahrenheit, with sweat dripping from every pore of ones body, and salty drops of it cauterizing the eyes as it slides unimpeded down ones face. We were three of us : Jason, Peter and me - all enthusiasts of darkness, and subject of conversation was the Devil ;and Movie directors Roman Polanski, William freidkin , Wes craven , whose work presented evil in a most chilling manner on screen.
"You see" I said " Lucifer was after all a fallen angel. One of God's favorites. And what after all was his crime?. He decided not to obey Man - God's new fancy toy. And for that petty crime he was banished to Hell ( which incidentally is God's own backyard); and from there he wages his daily battle with Man's psyche - pulling it hither and thither, distorting his composure, making him miserable. He rebels against God through his creation. This Gentlemen is Christian theology in a nutshell. Interestingly, almost all world mythologies visualizes demons as an intrinsic part of Godhead. Either they are cast away, curse or punished for an indiscretion, or they are an alter ego of God head itself. The polarities of life - so to speak"..
All of us agreed that "Exorcist" was probably the most intense spine chilling theological thriller to have ever graced the screen. The slow transformation of a beautiful young girl to a state of absolute abomination - defying all social, ethical and religious barricades - even today, sends a chill down one's spine, if one dares to watch it alone. I personally thought William peter Blatty's book was disturbing enough, but the movie transcended the intent of the book. Next in line is Polanski's "Rose Mary's baby". It had nothing of that visual terror that Exorcist invokes, but in a silent manner - by way of lighting, settings, terse dialogues and imperceptible changes in relationship between an Husband and wife over the sacrifice a new born baby - evil unfolded. This one is for Connoisseurs. And lastly "Nightmare on elm Street". Wes craven's brilliant exploration of the darker side of sleep. Dreams were always supposed to mean beautiful things, but Craven turned that principle on its head. - Anybody who falls asleep goes into nether world haunted by Freddy Kruger - waiting to terrorize them. A terrifying gem of a movie!!
If anyone had walked into the sauna at that moment; they would have assumed that we were discussing matters very esoteric, important and life saving. Little would they have realized that here were three educated naked individuals talking passionately about the devil and its manifestations in this seething heat of a sauna..
God bless....

Bodily mutation - Cancer, an organic collapse..

In 2011 I remember hearing the news in Christchurch ,NZ that Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee had won the Pulitzer prize for his book "The emperor of all Maladies". It so happened that there was a Borders books store near the hotel I was staying in; and I promptly bought a copy of it. Over the weekend, I nearly finished three forth of the book, riveted and absorbed in the brilliant story that Dr Mukherjee unfolded on the history, advent and search for a cure for Cancer. In many ways, the book was an eye opener; and the seminal message which came across to a reader was the frightening and chastising fact that cancer is really not a disease caused by any extraneous factors, but rather a state in which one's own body degenerates and mutates destroying itself in the process. And one does not know why it happens or when it can happen. It is utterly unpredictable and to a large extent unexplained as well.
As I was taking my customary walk today, I was tuned into NPR. They were replaying an interview of Dr Mukherjee with Terry gross, soon after he won the Pulitzer. During the course of their conversation, the Doctor said and I paraphrase " If there was one moment in this century long fight against cancer that was indeed humbling and numbing to a great extent , it was the realization that Cancer cannot be cured by fighting against anything external. It is a case of one's bodily cells self detonating for no reason, and the only way to fight it is by halting its proliferation without doing much damage elsewhere. And that is the research and cure that we are moving towards..."
This statement hit me with great force. This thing that I call my body is in reality not mine at all. Apart from the fact that I seem the ghost in this machine, there is nothing that I control in this mass of flesh. Almost every vital aspect of its functioning involuntarily goes on without an iota of my intervention. The heart beats, Lungs breathe, digestion happens, food metamorphizes, eyes see, Ears hear, Blood flows, Kidneys flush, liver secretes, Cells mutate and form again, chemicals juggle themselves into delicate equilibrium - where exactly is this ownership that I seem to be carrying around so authoritatively. Every moment , a million cells are working together in the most complex way possible, yet with a seeming order and purpose - and I don't know a thing about it. When Mystics state that one identification with the body is fictitious, we laugh at them. But then a moment of genuine enlightened introspection will reveal a possibility that they may be right, after all.
In his book , Dr Mukherjee presents cases so many patients dying of cancer, whose entire outlook on life undergoes a change, once they realize that their bodies do not want to carry on living and there is nothing they can do about it. There is no virus or bacillus that is causing damage; but simply, an organic self destruction without anybody intervening. And once that deep realization and resignation sets in, the quality of ones consciousness changes, and they become extremely receptive and thankful to life. The doctor poignantly says and again I paraphrase: " the best thing we could do as an oncologist is to tell the patient the truth about their condition. And the truth being that no medicine can cure Cancer, because there is nothing to be cured. It is only arresting its rapid destructive mutation."
Many of us have lost our dear ones to cancer. And for those of us who have seen friends or relatives dying in close quarters, one would not have failed to notice that towards the end they mellow down; and start living each day with tremendous vivacity and focus. They become more forgiving of the past, and rarely would hear them talk about the future. The present is what matters to them. The anchoring in the "now". As they watch their physical shell deteriorate and explode, a profound calmness, a dispossession of form happens.. and in that space, we glimpse the profound beauty and deep sadness of parting - and perhaps of life itself..
God bless...

Let go of the residue...

I guess it was Alexander Pope who wrote " The proper study of Mankind is man". Nothing can be truer than this...
During the course of a conversation with a gentleman today, he tells me that he has been spending three hours in the Sauna each day to get over his depression. And when I politely enquired about its cause , He very seriously tells me "I was dating this middle aged lady for the past two years, and now she has ditched me; and my new Brazilian girlfriend doesn't want to marry me..". I couldn't help burst out laughing, and I did so. I don't think he was very happy with my reaction to his "agony", but, seriously - there was no other way I could have sincerely reacted. I know this gentleman for a while now. He is around his fifties, and a successful realtor in Georgia.
He continued :" Somehow, this heat cools me down, and I feel very good. Last week, I nearly spent a whole day in an other fitness center... it helps me to get over this pain of separation and rejection...
"Gosh!! John (name changed) what are you making yourself into. Don't your realize that you will always be pushed against the wall if you continue to retreat into such acts of escapism. It like an alcoholic who wishes to numb himself against reality, and pretend that things are getting better with himself..."
"Yeah, Yeah - I understand what you are saying, but you see, there is wide chasm between intellectual acceptance and actual experience of it.."
I couldn't agree with him more. The biggest existential problem Man faces is his surrender to symbols and living in them- when it is plain and evident that symbols are mere pointers to reality and nothing else. Over the millennia, we have gotten habituated to cultivating a persona completely divorced from the actual fact of "being", that we find it very odd to think of any other way of living. Looking though a prism of Husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, lover, foe - all these different masks gives us a false sense of continuity and identity; and all our relationship with the outside gets refracted through its colored edges. And when something threatens that personality, we run helter skelter trying our best to keep that fictitious center alive... When the easiest way out would be to drop the burden which we so wearily carry on our shoulders. Now, many would call such an attitude as irresponsible or weak. You have to live up to a "role" - is what they would exhort and advice. But such an effort is only worth it if one realizes that it only a role and not ones real self.
I said " John, move on, let go of the residue.. ""
He looked at me with wry smile " Its easy for you to say that Man..."
God, we are back to square one. It is difficult to come out of self-pity.. I understand...
God bless...

Sir Richie Benaud - A personal homage..

Sir Richie Benaud - A personal homage..
For those of us who are in our Mid forties and have spent most part of that time In India growing up watching cricket - the voice of Richie Benaud, the setting of MCG, the proliferation of colors on playing field , the transistion from five day game to the one day format - is probably the most cherished memories that we could ever hope to have of the game. What a breath taking spectacle it was? and what a revolutionary moment in the history of the game? When Kerry packer's Channel nine was refused broadcasting rights - the astute, charming, ruthless media Moghul went up to Australian Cricketing board and famously told them " Gentlemen, everyone has a little whore in them, Name your price? or I will redefine cricket...". The board did not budge, and Packer was true to his word. And thus was born the World series of cricket- a format of the game played with a flamboyant spirit, lots of money and an exposure and glamour that rattled the very foundations of this conservative sport. People flocked to drown themselves in light and color; watch their cricketing heroes dressed in fashion, pit themselves against each other; fight; embrace, attack and reach a sporting orgasm on the cricketing field. The serene starry nights in Sydney and Melbourne contrasted with the fluorescent spectacle below - and for eight hours an intoxicated audience could bask in the intense heat of electrifying cricket - laugh , cry and feel with a zeal the game has never known in its two hundred year legacy.
And then the sultry, smooth, succinct and studied commentary of Late Richie Benaud. I still remember those drowsy, sleepy mornings when we woke up to watch a one day game on television- and the nasal, smooth, droning voice of Sir Richie , almost merging and suffusing the room with his prelude to the game; going over player statistics, setting the stage, making insightful comments and characteristic remarks ( His trademark style) - "Joel garner swoops in.." or "that's gone. ..' or his dry humor when Viv Richards kept hoisting the ball over for sixes "trying to remember where I parked my car" or when a young, blonde almost childlike David Gower on the verge of his maiden century - and Richie chipping in with " Now every English mother will whisper a silent prayer.." These beautiful commentating moments were not just words from a man who was asked to do professional talking, but it came from Richie's deep knowledge of the game, his flair for English language, and almost a poetic sensitivity to the nuances of the game on and off the field . He was an astoundingly intelligent cricketer himself - who transformed the art of spinning to a subtle technique of flight and control, and wielded his bat down the order with great confidence; captained Aus. in its most difficult times in the 1960's to 28 straight victories. He knew the game, its traditions; and more importantly - the inner fire and turmoil that drove 22 players to perform at their best at this highest level.
Eighty four years is a good age to pass away. And for a Man of Richie caliber and achievement, it is a well deserved exit from the world stage. We will miss his soft, well spoken voice; and the cricketing fraternity will most definitely miss one of the greatest exponents and gentleman of the game. A Man who was never shy of spotting and grooming new talent, encouraging players who were out of form and giving the game itself a respectability, a arty position in a world where such niceties are fast disappearing.
Nobody could have rendered a more apt tribute to Sir Richie Benaud than what the Australian prime minister had to say . I have to quote him.
"There would be very few Australians who have not passed a summer in the company of Richie Benaud. He was the accompaniment of an Australian summer, his voice was even more present than the chirping of the cicadas in our suburbs and towns, and that voice, tragically, is now still..."
Poetic , moving words for a man who indeed transformed Cricket into poetry..
Sir, you shall remain forever in our cricketing hearts and your voice will resonate as long as a cricket ball is ever hit on a field.
God bless...



Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Something, Anything" - A refreshing perspective on life..

"Something, Anything" - A refreshing perspective on life..
When you think about it closely, it is not the big, major crises in life that really affect us over a period of time. A death in the family or of a close friend, or an illness, or an event that seemingly looks catastrophic - all these will pass away. There is an initial momentum of futility that sets in when they happen, but by and by, its intensity wanes, and the monotony of our daily lives anaesthetizes the pain, the suffering – and removes any possibility of deep reflection and change. It is in the small day to day acts that we so mechanically perform, the social obligations that we so willingly accept, the cultural imperatives that we allow to be forced upon us, the “accepted” way of life that we unwillingly acknowledge and tag along - it is these that take a toll on ones psyche in the long run. Boredom, depression and a sense of purposelessness are the hallmarks of modern man. We may cover it up with a thousand reasons and scream at the top of our voices that all is well, but deep down there is this gnawing sense of insecurity that dogs us at every step. The greatest tragedy of Man is that he has become so used to living in conflict with himself and all around him, that it has become impossible to conceive a way of living that can be radically different and astoundingly simple. No matter how successful one is, or how much money one ends up making – one’s inner core suffers from a deep insatiable void, an utter lack of meaning in the robotic lives that we lead- thriving on masks that we have so willingly put on. And when one has the audacity, the courage and more importantly – the honesty to acknowledge and recognize that life has more to it than falling prey to mechanical, artificial living - then all it takes is to just step aside and feel the power of being alone - realigning, reorienting, rethinking our priorities and values. Out of this exercise may emerge something so profoundly wonderful – such as inner peace, contentment and a tremendous delight in doing things that one really wants to do and nothing more.
“Anything, something” is a delightful, sensitive, quiet and a deeply profound directorial debut by Paul Harill. It begins with a verse by Christina Rossetti– a great poet from the late eighteenth century:
“Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.”
The verse amply sums up the drift of this wonderful movie. It tells the story of Peggy Montgomery (beautifully essayed by Ashley Shelton) and her slow imperceptible conversion to an inward looking woman. In the very first scene, she is seen painting her nails about to be engaged; and then married to a successful Man. And in the space of next ten minutes, she is shown suffering a miscarriage and a silent withdrawal from her husband. She begins to live alone, carrying a silent pain in her heart. It is during this time, that she begins to look into the structure of her existence. The fa├žade, the game, the illusion, the constant one-upmanship; superficiality of middle class living reveal themselves to her - not dramatically, but in a slow steady act of reevaluating her life in light of her aloneness. A coincidental letter from an old High school senior, who joins the Trappist monastery, triggers her interest in matters spiritual. Again not in the sense of believing in an ideology or belief, but simply a nimble curiosity into one’s priorities, needs and happiness. Religion, after all, is not to become somebody, but only a refinement, a distillation of the Person that we are. And in the character of Peggy, we see that enlightened transformation into a more holistic, centered human being – capable of touching life in its raw nakedness than experiencing it through colored eyes of farcical values that surrounded her.
Director Paul Harill success in this film lay in his ability to present a realistic predicament of Modern life, without demeaning or criticizing anybody else. There is hardly a harsh word spoken in the entire film, and each frame subtly highlights inner psychological mess, and its redemption in a modern secular setting. To me, the highlight of this film lies in its climax (if that’s the right word to use), where we see Peggy reaching out and returning to normal life with a new confidence, poise and conviction. And to watch her get to that point is the real power and joy of this movie.
God bless…