Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Baby Brother (Letters to Parth - 16)

My dear Parth, my Sunshine!

You must have wondered how come there wasn’t a post for your birthday. Well, Madhavi and I had been putting the final touches to the nicest gift we could ever give you. It is a baby brother, someone to love and hold and look out for. Yes, you are now Dada to a little brother who is still mewling and struggling with nutrition and growth. In a few years time or sooner, you will be able to play with him and show him how you do your thing. I know you will love him like nobody's business and hope you had a super, super birthday.

In the process, I also got to see how grandparents and grandchildren bond. Your Dadu and Thammi, my Bapi and Mom are here to live with us and have been on their own as we were in the hospital for nearly a week. During this time, they only saw pics of your brother - kind of like how they see your pics and miss you. Here is one from the first time they held your brother. (They tried but couldn’t get through when they called on your birthday. They cry whenever we speak about you.) I do so wish you were able to spend more time with them.


We have so much to catch up on, some of which you will find on my other blog, and so much more that will turn into remote memories of even more remote memories. You are now a big kid and surely rule your roost well. For me, it is an enjoyable struggle to create order out of time and needs. I so look forward to when all of us will be together.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

How Did We Get Here? (Letters to Parth - 15)

My dear Parth, my leading man,

We are at that time of the year when the coolness of Hyderabad winter has given way to the heat and dryness of summer, and just as one must take care when it turns cool at the end of the year, one must take care now. Stay out of the sun as much as you can, and drink water frequently. I know you wonder why I have not written you for so long. I trust you looked up my other blog to see what was going on with me. The good thing is that I know that you will figure things out, and correctly, and that our intent to be whole and happy will manifest no matter what chooses to stand in its way.


One of the struggles that I had in writing you in these recent months was the fact that you are growing older, and that your questions are changing, and you need honest answers. Truth, love, attachment – these are funny things. While on one hand truth is beautiful and eternal, on the other, it is like a river that washes you clean, perhaps more brusquely than you would like. That washing clean can sometimes compel you to rethink and review what you believe. This rebuilding of one’s worldview, liberating and exhilarating as it is, often comes with a lot of pain and disillusionment. Love makes you long for the growth and happiness of the person or thing you love yet it hesitates when that growth implies pain. Attachment, like love, can sometimes stop you from doing the right thing, because doing the right thing might result in temporary suffering for the person (or thing) you cling to. It takes a lot of conviction, courage and strength to do the right thing especially when it causes pain in the immediate future. I am grateful for the blessings of that strength, and I am certain you will find it too.

That is not the only reason I did not get to write you on this blog. Like many good daddy bloggers, I too have often set out but have not got far, and a lot of what I wrote went into the never-neverland that is the drafts folder. The time is gone when we could do the babysaurus moos and the hand jive and come away feeling fulfilled. You have started learning that neither the finger nor what it points at are the real thing. The signs are everywhere. By the time you become a grown man, these things will be forgotten, but these are truly times of manifesting change. There will be mistakes along the way and we will have to learn to acknowledge our humanness, but we will also see how man is capable of redeeming himself and that he is worthy of the gift of evolution. We will take pride in our civilization. These are not easy things to believe in when you look around you, but faith is never easy. It is tested and abused repeatedly, and with good reason, since it is through this battering that it gains its power and magnificence.

The last four decades saw the world redefining itself a few times over, but almost entirely in the context of economics and trade. Technology grew at a rapid pace, and there were cycles of what we call boom periods when the economy brisked up. Every boom is typically accompanied by a bust, so we saw a few of those too. Along with this, there was the end of communism as we knew it. Our education system teaches us to think in binaries, in pairs, in opposites. We were taught to believe that the opposite of communism was capitalism. Capitalism (like Hinduism and Buddhism) is faith in the principle of capital. If you had capital (which commonly means money and property), you were valuable. If you didn’t, you were still of value, in the potential you had to earn capital. Communism, very broadly, is about being comme une, or like one, and treating resources and mankind as if we were one big family. Big families have their own problems, so it wasn’t too long before it fell through. It tried a little to fit in with the times, and you had various shades of socialism and euro-communism, but none of it stood a chance when compared to the glamorous, all-lit-up allure of capital.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Desiderata

These are lines (by Max Ehrmann) that have stood me in good stead; I trust they will you too.
 
 
Desiderata
 
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and
listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your
career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about
love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mummy, What is Rape? (Letters to Parth - 14)

My dear Parth, my big boy,

Over the last few months, everyone has been very caught up with the incident that happened in our capital city, New Delhi on December 16, 2012. A group of men hurt a young girl and her friend very badly in a dark, empty bus and then threw them out of the moving bus. The friend survived but the girl died after struggling in the intensive care unit (where patients who are very unwell are treated and intensively cared for 24 hours a day) in India and Singapore for thirteen days till her liver, kidney, brain and then finally her heart collapsed. Across India, people were very angry and upset about the lack of safety for women in our cities. I usually write about such things on my other blog, because I believe it is our responsibility to be good human beings and leave the world a better place than we found it. But writing about this incident was very difficult for me. I wanted to write but could not. I kept avoiding it.




But I realized the most important person I needed to share this with is you, since you are the future, and while you have a right to understand things your own way, sometimes the world around us can distort untruths and present them to us as THE TRUTH. I am still struggling to write this, but what better way to make a start than by writing them down for you. I will write as I think, since I know that you are clever enough to piece them together in the way that makes most sense for you.

Though we are in most ways no different from all other animals, there is one thing that sets us apart from them. We have the power to choose our actions based on our sense of what is right and what is wrong. For most animals, staying alive, creating new young ones, making their families big, their homes large and keeping themselves strong is way by which they measure what is right and wrong. In the process of evolution and by learning to live as a community, we have acquired what is known as an ethical structure, a moral code that is different from that of other animals. Do you know what ethics means? It means responsibility to those who are not you, it means responsibility to others. And morals is a way society decides what is responsible and not. As you study, you will learn more about the dynamics of ethics, but for the time being, this will serve as a starting point.

Nature made males and females differently. I do not know why, but I do see that it is a fairly efficient system. Tasks of providing and securing the welfare of the family unit and of giving birth and nurturing young ones have been divided between men and women. In the process of this differentiation, nature has made sure that the system works. Each of the sexes have been given qualities that are attractive to the other, so that they feel drawn to each other and form a bond that will lead to the creation of a family unit. This has been achieved by engineering biological differences that are controlled by chemicals called hormones. Hormones are those things in your body that makes you feel equally repulsed and attracted by the opposite sex, much like a blanket in early spring, where you feel itchy if you pull it on and cold if you don’t. This is the bond that makes it possible for us to give rise to a new generation of human beings, little babies like how you (and all of us) once were.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

IPTA's Robuda (Letters To Parth - 13)

Dear Hardyk,

Christmas is here again. How time flies. It seems yesterday that I was writing to you last Christmas. I hope you are keeping well, studying well and playing well. I dream of you often and in my dreams, you have grown, with long arms and legs and ears. I have grown a little too. It will be so much fun when we do meet up.

The best part of writing to you is that perhaps this is one of the few places where I can be myself in all my madness. Thanks to all the people who follow my writing in other places, I often have to pretend to be very sane and wise. One should always try and be what one really is, no matter how impossible it might appear. At least some of the time, don’t you think?

All of this week, people have been demanding stronger sentences. While some like short sentences, others prefer longer ones. Many have been demanding the death sentence. The death sentence is actually quite simple. For example. Ravi Shankar died. Sheila Dixit promised stern action. Narendra Modi won. Sentences can be difficult but none are unbearable. None. Though you might be looking forward to a game, I would much rather listen to some music with you. Come with me. Santa Claus is for real.


I heard Ravi Shankar first on an album called West Meets East with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and to this day the enchanting experience is fresh in my memory. This was when I was very young, maybe 7 or 8, and I had no context for what I was hearing. I remember thinking of the sitar as a complex and large instrument compared to the sound of the violin. The picture of the two men on the LP cover is also still fresh in my mind. Both of them were lost in the intensity of their playing. I thought to myself that music was indeed a very strange thing. On one hand you had the temporality of rhythm which on the other you had the spatiality of melody and harmony. In 1967, West Meets East won the first of three Grammies that Ravi Shankar would eventually be awarded. I do not know if it happens to you, but I have a big problem of association as far as memories go, so at the cost of being called crazy (it is a valid psychological thingummy called synesthesia), I will also add that the Menuhin-Shankar music was purple, somewhat Friday and curly.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You Are You (Letters To Parth - 12)

Dear Parth, my Springing Lion, my Soaring Eagle,

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! It is your birthday, happy birthday to you, in a flat monotone, since the happy birthday to you song is owned by the Time-Warner corporation and all public use of it without payment or permission is a violation of their copyright. Do remember to have two extra pieces of cake on our behalf. Your Thammi and Dadu have already sent in their wishes for your birthday a day in advance as they wanted to be the first to wish you, as have Tipukaka, Chandreyeekakima and Cousin Mia.


It has been a very long time since I wrote to you. Though I do not get to know about how things are turning out for you, I am assured that you are busy building an unshakeable foundation that will let you manifest your fullest potential. The universe has its reasons for testing my resolve to be able to be with you, and I am doing all that I can to live up to the test. You will be happy to know that I am winning, and that my victory is yours too.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Puppy Called Hope (Letters to Parth - 11)

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love – time is eternity. 

Dear Hardyk Babu, My angel and my snowman, my candy cane and my plumcake,

I am sure you have been a good boy this year, and that Santa will be very happy with you. I know Santa is happy with me, since he has given me the strength to go through all that I have been through in these last few years and has promised me the most glorious new year ever.


Like almost everything else in life, for every person who believes in Christmas, there are two that don’t. Fortunately, that is not enough to take the air out of this wonderful festival, and the world over, people get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25 as the Christ Mass. The festive season that starts with Thanksgiving (a harvest festival that was reworked to give thanks for the protection of the European colonizers of North America) reaches its “spiritual” height with Christmas and then climaxes over the new year’s celebrations.

In the modern world, where we consider ourselves a liberated and secular society, all people celebrate Christmas with equal fervour, and it has become one of the major festivals of our times. I grew up with Christmas being one time that our entire family would get together, I would be home for the winter break from school, and all my cousins and aunts and uncles would be in town too. As most of my exposure centred around art and literature that referred to a Christian understanding of life and morality, I was familiar with the idea. I knew that it was the birthday of Jesus Christ (or so I was told, since there is a very large body of knowledge to suggest otherwise), and that Santa was not a misspelling of Satan, but someone who brought gifts to kids who had been more or less good most of the year. I would hang up my sock at the head of my bed every Christmas eve and would find it filled with gifts the next morning. It was not until I was a teenager that I stopped hanging a sock up. Over the last few years though, I have again started hanging my sock up every Christmas, and in his own way, Santa has been filling it up too.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy Children's Day

Children's Day is celebrated in India on November 14, which is the birthday of Chacha Nehru whose real name was Jawaharlal.  He was called Chacha Nehru because he had to be an uncle to some of the children of his times. There is no truth in the myth that he was called Chacha because of his fondness for dancing though he was reported to be good at teaching others how to dance. He also wrote one of the nicest books on the history of India called The Discovery of India.



At schools, this day is celebrated like a return gift for all the things that kids do on Teachers Day. Very often teachers use this day to have some fun themselves by participating in cultural programs to entertain their students. I used to love Children's day celebration when I was in school, especially the comic skits that the teachers would perform for us. The school I went to as a child was a very propah school run by missionaries (missionaries are professional soldiers who are too old to be fighting). They believed in doing things in a spiritual way, so they would never punish us physically. If you did something that was really bad (like mixing fireworks powder in Fr. Grogan's pipe tobacco), they would send you with the class monitor and a slip of paper to the sports teacher, Mr. Ekka. There would be a number written on that piece of paper which Mr. Ekka would read and convert into beatings with a short leather strap either on our bum or on our hands, depending on which was in better health from the previous set of straps. But on teachers day, Mr. Ekka, would not beat anyone and any pending straps would be replaced with yummy strawberry flavored whistle lollipops. But we all knew that the real reason he would be so happy on Children's day was because he would be acting in a play with Ms. Toppo, the one who made moral sciences the most exciting class of them all.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Happy Teacher's Day

September 5 is celebrated in India as Teachers Day. On this day, all learners go about saying Happy Teachers Day to their teachers. Regardless of whether the teacher is a happy teacher or an unhappy teacher, you still say Happy Teachers Day to them, at least on this day. It is also the birthday of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second president of India, who also wrote one of the most rational commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita. He spent much of his life teaching philosophy, which made him a happy teacher.

Daisaku Ikeda has this to say to young children on this day, "young people in school should make study their first priority. It goes without saying that faith is important, but faith is something we practice throughout our entire lives. There is a certain period and age when we should study. If we don't work hard during that period, we may fail to acquire important knowledge and skills, and we may come to regret it deeply later. Faith manifests itself in daily life. For young people in school, faith manifests itself in their studies. During this period, to devote themselves to study represents an important part of their practice of faith."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Where were you when...? (Letters to Parth - 10)

Dear Hardyk, my alphabet, my soaring eagle,

You are five! Happy Birthday! This is a very special time of your life, and you should never for a moment doubt that the universe intends you to become all that you are capable of becoming. Know that you are loved, longed for, and prayed over, no matter what your environment may lead you to feel.



The will of the universe has stood in the way of our being together at this point in time, but I, like a carp leaping through the dragon gate, am unshaken in my faith that this will change soon. Your Dadu and Thammi are in Hyderabad dealing with some strange things, and I am doing all I can to bail them out, and they are very sad that they will not be able to be with you on your fifth birthday.  I too am dealing with some strange things, and am amazed at all the new things that life is teaching me. A lot of what we understand as deprivation and misfortune are the very reasons for our becoming stronger and better human beings. It is as true for you and me, as it is for anybody else.

A common way of remembering history of our times is by asking and answering, where were you when..., or what were you doing when...? The question that will be asked for years to come is where were you when the Indian civil society's fight against corruption was taking place. You and I are blessed to be celebrating your birthday at this time of great importance, a time that will go down in history as pivotal to determine whether we will have a future to hold our heads high in to or nothing to be proud of. You must already be seeing his picture on TV, and perhaps you have even been part of the protests in Hyderabad in his support, but as you grow up, you will learn more about Anna Hazare and his fight against corruption.

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