Friday, April 23, 2010

Wrath of the Heavens

While discussing with a few friends about the vagaries of life and the difficulties that shadow, they alluded to a discussion they had about me with a very well known Ayurvdeic physician. He is also a keen subscriber to astrology and the belief in a super force called God. And these folks confided that they have now begun to seek the advice of astrology and vasthu. And have even hired friends to commit poojas and incentive offerings at temples suggested in the astrological extrapolations.  I wondered if their orthodox Christian faith sanctions such beliefs. Doesn’t that tantamount to herding after heretical doctrine?
 "I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me......” "Do not make an image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above..."
They were actually exasperated by the impertinent question I put forth. Their conversation with the Ayurvedic physician about my recaltricant attitude towards conventional religious diktats made him insist that they persuade me to go to him for a discussion. He was all the more insistent because they told him that I was an atheist.. In fact that pseudonym is not what I would appreciate, because my point of view is not of existence or otherwise of a big brother but more of what if he is and what if he is not. Well we will come to that later if necessary. But let me remind that I detest poking my nose into somebody’s beliefs and I may not appreciate someone sermonizing to me either from a selling point of view. That is labouring to instill mortal fear if possible. I prefer to base my beliefs or convictions on the evidence and knowledge I have as of date. Who can tell, may be I may be proved wrong tomorrow and vice versa!
I have not really ventured after clairvoyants and the intoxicating comfort they may provide. Though a couple of times, I have out of curiosity been to an ashram and also had
 yoga session with men in burnt orange- amber colored fabric draped around them. And bingo it was quality opium as some body had said before. You float like a feather and then bang you are back to earth and bruise your arse. So when I told them I have no hesitation in visiting this gentleman they transmitted the message to him. And his retort was “didn’t I tell you, he will agree to come.”.

So one recent Saturday morning I met him in his office in the precincts of his sprawling hospital and nursing home.. He was a man in his late fifties. He was tall, well built and with noticeable charm. His cabin had the Padma Sree awarded to him conspicuous on the wall. There were pictures of apparently of his parents next to the picture of a Hindu deity. He has obviously built up on the traditional ayurvedic sanctuary that his father began.. And the place stated loudly that he has since done commendable work. He began suggesting that we might have met before, but that was not the case! He said that when he was told about me he presumed that I must be a lean emaciated person in the mid fifties. I told him in any case I m into the fifties though I had to disappoint him about the bony –skinny physique. We laughed it away.
He asked me what my problems were. I told him it was just the problems which for some body would be on the family front yet to some on the physical side and to me it is more on the business or commercial front. .And I also in jest suggested that the vagaries and ups and downs of business cycle would perhaps be prolonging a bit far in my case. He asked me if I believed in God. I told him, I go to a temple or a church and with equal dispassion, and if he wanted to know whether I pray the answer is, no. And I could be at peace in the quietness of a small temple by the country side, or a church less frequented by the flock rather than in the commercial din and melee of a Guruvayoor or a Vellankanni. He wanted to know if I were a member of a communist party and perhaps that might have superseded my traditional grooming. I told him that was not the case. I have never liked subscribing to any ‘ism’ be it communism or Hinduism. And that after seventeen I have never prayed nor been to a temple to petition and ask for largesse. He asked if my maternal or paternal family had a “kula deivam” a devi or a devan.( god or godess) .I nodded in the affirmative that my mother’s side has a ‘Devi’ temple ascribed to their family origins, a totem perhaps!. Have you ever been there? he asked. I told him that thirty five years ago was the only time I have been to that temple. He told me categorically the difficulties I face in the official facet of life are the fall out of my being a turn coat, a renegade. “You were a believer till into your teens and then you forgot and turned your back to the power of your family deity. And I m certain the displeasure of the Goddess is haunting you in some way”. I did not feel like commenting, but was quite interested to see which way the discussion would ensue. He had in the meanwhile collected my birth date, from these people who directed me there and had crafted my horoscope. He was in fact waiting for this astrologer- a woman in her early forties. She knocked and came in, showed obeisance to him. She sat in the chair by the table next to me and began to lay out the paraphernalia traditional astrologers use to pursue their art. And in a while she began to tell my past and present. I wondered what was so exciting to know the one I already knew. She soon found in the melee of the constellations dictating my life and drafting my eventual journey on the planet that I m experiencing the wrath of the family deity. The stars are ominously positioned and it will continue another nine more years, though the severity and havoc it could wreck has passed and will cease to be effective and damaging by the end of April 2010. She also as it mostly happens with astrology almost caressed my past as it was. (Was she using some strange mystical mathematical calculations and extrapolating events that are now history, and inferring the drama of life of the future)? She stated that I carry with me lot of problems and keep them to myself. Ha who has a smooth ride anyway? She said that nemesis one after the other waits outside my door to enter and play pranks. And only the blessings of the deity and trustful prayer to god can alleviate my state and keep the bad omens at bay.
Now they reached upon the antidote for the whole state of affair. “You have forgotten your Amma. You let her out from your thoughts the last thirty five years”. I told them that every morning when I wake the first thing I do is to think of my mother and that would suffice to have peace in mind.  “But” , he replied, “you have ignored the Amma that gave you this amma”. You will have to go to the temple of the deity and prior to that you must give her handful of wealth. Apologise to her for turning away from her. And you will see the difference

I did not go there for a debate or verbal confrontation let alone intellectual discussion. I went their as going there may not be inhibiting me in any way to lead a normal life. One thing I noticed and have reinforced my convictions- that bribe and corruption begins in the presence of god. Providing quid pro quo to the Almighty is the genesis of sleaze and graft.
I did raise the question that there are many people whom I knew well and who are embodiments of falsehood and all that is lacking in ethics, but go to places of worship that they can find anywhere and where ever they happen to be, .and are in the traditional sense of the phrase god fearing. They pray and offer encomiums and munificence to their God. . And they lead awesome and wonderful life. And there are multitudes who suffer and live in pain of all sorts. Could they explain these strange phenomena, this contradiction to their summing up? ‘No that is something you should not think leave such people out of your thoughts’. Certainly that was not the answer to my question.

In the sum up, after my short interaction there, I came out with the beliefs and notions that I carried with me. You must live in fear and must believe in a big brother. Grease his hands often so that he is always in good terms with you. Inconvenient questions must not be thought of.nor put forth.
 But I still could not understand why human beings get excited and sensitive about somebody keeping to himself his way of life. Of course I m not an iota disparaging about this gentleman and his intentions of counseling or call it advise.

I still wonder why the hell a big brother or the Almighty up there must be controlling the celestial objects in certain many ways and play truant on us. Why must we think that we are the pinion in the life of the planet? The sun will rise and set each every day whether we are around or not? It is not "after me deluge".
 And this big brother if I can meet him will always want to tell him “brother you are quite in efficient in arranging things that you let lose, and it is time you retired and let living beings take care of themselves”.
And still the question remains unanswered and the answer a mystery. What must we make out of this?

This brings me to a message  I received a few days ago on my mobile. It read..

“Report of a random stranger...d celestial bodies wud agree wid me dat a change in their course is long due..d people hav been puttin up wid both nonsense and sensible stuff, d cause of which most often fails their good sense of easy it is for d celestial object to change its course n hence d life of is often found dat a prolonged period of inaction burns out d leftover need for movement..but sometimes it works on d contrary..d object in question wud develop a deep sense of wander lust dat gives a momentum to last an eternity..a being hence pins its hopes on d celestial bodies to change its course n change lives”.


Monday, April 12, 2010

With Apologies To Balakrishnan Nair

It was 1973-74. The youth festival at the Government Model High School Thiruvananthapuram was announced. And we in the IX standard – six of us got together to enter in the competition for the drama .Like in the previous year we chose the same duo as our mentors and coach. One of them is now a well known star of comedy in the Malayalam film industry. It was the very same couple who were then doing their pre-degree in the Government Arts College next doors, who chose, trained and helped us towards winning the best prize for dramatics the year before. It was then a play called “Computer Boy” by Veloor Krisnhankutty. The hilarious piece won over the much flaunted and rehearsed grim plays of heart break, debauchery, mental disorder etc of the seniors..
So the second time around, the two coaches chose a serious stuff, and the play was written by one of them. The story line was about a revered retired school teacher. The sub plot was about a delinquent student who comes back disillusioned after years in the wilderness of life. And supplicates to the teacher and beg forgiveness for his past derelictions and antipathy. The play was aptly named “ Vazikatti”. One of the current superstars of the Malayalam films was chosen for the role of the venerable teacher, and I was destined to don the role of the aberrant student.

We rehearsed under the supervision of the duo. The day of the festival and the competition dawned. On the morning of the competition we were involved in our final practice and rehearsals. This was being done in the fifth standard class room which was then towards the flight of steps that goes into the school from the Chengachoola junction
It was around 9 in the morning. The competition was to begin at 2 in the afternoon in the Drill hall. Our coaches called for a brief recess and we engaged in idiosyncrasies and  hearty laughter.
I noticed the gentleman walking up the flight of steps and cross the play ground. It was the English teacher Mr. Balkrishnan Nair. Better known as “Duplicate”. I have no idea why the pseudonym stuck on him. If it was for his countenance and temperament it had to be Tiger( kaduva) or something similar. Over buoyant that I was I shouted at the fellows and tried to garner their attention to Mr. Duplicate walking past. He was approximately 100 meters away from us. And I felt secure enough to howl and shout “Duplicate. Duplicate, duplicate”. All including the coaches began to yell in appreciation'duplicate'. Mr. Balakrishnan Nair did  seem to have ignored our salutation. We got back to our rehearsal.
Perhaps five minutes went by. Stomp stomp stomp the sound of leather boots reverberated on the granite gravel outside the class room. The class room shook as if hit by a quake 8 on the Richter. "Ethu Kazu…… monada  ariyandathu duplicate arranannnu”? (Which SOB wants to be shown who the duplicate is ) And then the thunderous vituperation went on. He was shaking like a huge tree. The rage was tempest like. He was shouting expletives and emphasising each word with the wag of his umbrella. The earth quake went on for a few minutes. None of us moved and bated an eyelid. We were almost near wetting our shorts. And as the whirlwind came, it thence stormed out..

It took a few more minutes for all of us to revive our bearings. And it did not take any longer for the rest to pounce on me. They branded me stupid and trouble maker. One of the coaches (the current comedian &  film star) accused me of betraying the group and the play. What if Mr. Balakrishnan Nair was to be in the judgment committee for the play? The prospect was haunting and a dire posiibility.’you have compromised all of us by your inexcusable and intemperate words and action”. He stated. They were unanimous in asking an apology from me. And that I must go and apologies to the Teacher himself. I was quite piqued that all was out of my doing. That scenario was very discomforting and unnerving. I protested that he might forget the incident. No they said vehemently. The coach ( the current film star) said that there is nothing wrong in aplogising to the teacher for my wrong doing and even Mahatma Gandhi have gone seeking apology from his master .I was a bit amused by the Gandhi story and moral coming from him. He began to tell me about Gandhi savoring meat against his mother’s diktat and then apologizing for his misdemeanor. He was supported by none other than the current super-star.
They literally pushed me out of the place to go in search of the teacher. I wondered what an unjust world! The act of heckling the teacher was unanimous and in chorus, though I implanted the idea. And now they shove me into the lion’s lair. I wandered to the main building of the school and went past the staff room back and forth. On one of my rounds I saw Mr. Balakrishan Nair coming out of the room. I gathered my self and stood in attention and said 'good morning saar'. He nodded and walked past me in his inimitable style. I was expecting another round of verbal or physical assault. But it became clear that in his fit of rage Mr. Balakrishnan Nair could not remember the faces that he confronted.
I walked back to the rehearsal whistling and told the group that Mr. Balakrshanan Nair appreciated my Gandhian act of remorse and repentance.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Educating the Parent

I was introduced to J. Krishnamurthy by Bal .  Prior to my knowing him, I do not remember that if I had passed through any of J.K’s writings or even remember hearing his name. That was in 1983. In any case I was not erudite in reading matters of substance.
I have only read a few of his books and do not even remember if I have read any from cover to cover. Yes, but I have read his “Commentaries on Living”, and that had enough provocative package to think. And there was this captivating appearance of his in photographs, (as I have not seen him in flesh and blood) that was haunting as his words. They make you think and not stay foolishly yawning. I may not agree with his expressions on subjects’ carte blanche. But still many times I found it difficult to defy his opinions with any logic that I could. In fact when somebody calls spade a spade it may not be even within the realms of Einstine to offer a theory or statement to the contrary.


I missed sending Ara and R to a school run by the Krishnamurthy foundation, though I have wanted that.  And now when R expressed that she wants a change of school from the last ten years in Connoor the first choice was the Krishnamurthy foundation schools nearby. So few days back I. and C along with R went to the School outside Bangalore for the interview and selection process for admit to class XI.

The school was set in a 100 acres verdant forest land. The reserve forest was engulfing one side. The Principal in the course of our discussion expressed that they always look out for fascinating encounters with the wild life that strays into the boundary of the school.

The children were ushered into the Physics lab for a short written test. And parents along with the Principal and few teachers sat on the mattress in the thatched auditorium. A short video film on a talk by JK was screened. The topic he commented was ‘Education’.

In Krishnamurthy’s very own words,”…if you dominate a child, compel him to fit into a pattern, however idealistic, will he be free at the end of it? If we want to bring about a true revolution in education, there must obviously be freedom at the very beginning, which means that both the parent and the teacher must be concerned with freedom…” But then his views on education like his views on other matters were rubbished as impractical

 The film I presume was perhaps one of his last few public experiences .After the film the Principal invited the parents to interact and express why they wanted to seek admission for their wards in a school run by the foundation and what education they want the child to imbibe.

Quirk some were the comments that followed!!!

The first speaker parent fell head over heels – semi prostrate like they do for ‘namaz’.
“Praise to Sri Sri Sri Krishnamurthy”, he began. It was amusing and also a stunningly comical beginning to the interaction. It also immediately reminded me about the religious cults that mushroomed with the camouflage of yoga discourses and hearty living etc. I adamantly decided that this guy was from the particular Swamy’s cult. And bingo he was ha !!Then came the lectures and discourses from a retinue of parents. Discourses, ideas statements that I m certain J. Krishnamurthy never thought of even remotely. One parent began his soliloquy and ended saying that “…. so we all should work towards achieving Krishnamurthy’s dreams”. The Principal a demure looking man suggested politely that JK had no goals and dreams. The parent looked bewildered and I m sure must have decided that the Principal was definitely a nitwit to say so. I felt that the Principal was unwittingly sparking a controversy suggesting that JK never said or meant what they were wholeheartedly attributing to him.
Then a parent mother began in a forcibly accented English,” You see the strife in this world is caused purely out of our greed, our lust to achieve. We feel that a luxury car, a LED Television, a journey to Walt Disney etc is necessary. JK was different. He never asked for all this luxury….”. Oh my goodness I wondered with discomfiture this woman was making a Mahatma Gandhi out of J. Krishnamurthy.

Another parent began her discourse. She gave the feeling that she wanted to anoint JK posthumously a ‘swamy’ a ‘god- man’. Yet another suggested after his comments that we all must work towards setting up a JK country.

There were fascinating retorts subtlety stated by the Principal and another teacher. But in the final analysis I felt most  that  the parents missed out on the vital question that JK made in the film,” what kind of education do you as parent want for your child”.

During his life what Jiddu Krishnamurthy said and wrote ignited both interest and controversy. His observations on religion, nationalism, tradition, organizations, and relationships often ran counter to the convention of the day. I state this with a very basic and limited reading I have had of Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s writings. I felt after listening to the people who were there to deposit their children into JK’s lap for education that they have missed the wagon.
As he was during his life he still is ahead of his time, our time, in matters of education, religious views, nationalism, relationships etc. Sadly they missed the gentle speech of the ‘old man and insights on education. Krishnamurthy presented education as a serious activity that must engulf the whole of a child whilst people, most of them still see it as preparation for succeeding in a materialistic world. 
I came out of the school concluding that the vogue of the upper middle class including myself is pure hypo critic bonhomie with Krishnamurthy. And it is sheer vanity that expresses the sobriquet ‘JK’ nothing more, nothing less. Will the children be different?