Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sin To Covet Honor (Letters to Parth - 19)

My Dear Parth, My Borobabu,

There was a time when I would struggle to watch each day pass without you. Days went to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years, but the challenge of living with your absence, not knowing what you do, think and feel, did not diminish in any way. Some say time heals everything. I know from my being that that is not true. What I do know is that time proves everything that is in need of being proven. Like dough waiting to become bread. You are my son, and I love you, and nothing anyone has to say about it can change that. Sadly, that does not make the pain of the present any less. This applies to most things in life that one cherishes.

How did you celebrate your birthday this year?  What gifts did you get? What do you read? What do you listen to? What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy doing? Do you know I exist? What do you think of me? My questions are endless, and I listen hard each day for the answers. I do not know when you will read these letters, and I do not know when we will be together, but I know that everything in life is circular, that no power can prevent that which is to be. How I wait for the day that we will be together, when all of us will be done with this seemingly bitter dessert of our own making.

Devank, your little brother, had his first "birthday" birthday this year just a week before yours as he completed three years. Last year, your Thammi died just before she could come to Hyderabad in August. The year before that, we were struggling to redefine our beliefs and were in no position or state of mind to have much of a celebration. He was quite thrilled this year to be blowing out candles on his own cake instead of being a spectator.

The desert of our own making has also surgically dissected our national colors into saffron and green, and during festivals like Moharram or Ganesh Chaturthi, we proclaim our identity by waving flags and wearing headbands. The fact that we all bleed the same blood, that our fears and hopes hurt and uplift us just the same, that we all depend on forces greater than religion or politics to awaken, ablute and actualize eludes us all. The strength of this illusion is amazing.

Man's search for meaning has always been riddled with dead ends, and never has it been more acute than in the last 100 years of our civilization. With material progress and increased consumption has come increased inequity and harsher everyday realities. As a result, we are happy seeking strength in explanations that make us feel good, instead of those that meet criteria for being absolute. This applies, among many other things, to lifestyles, identities, religion, and concepts of nationality. From Donald Trump and Kim Jong at one end of the spectrum to Ram Rahim and Bimal Gurung at the other, we are all busy carving out our little islands of power and self importance, without any heed to the validity or consequences of our actions.

A few months ago, different segments of India was up in arms over another killing in the name of nationalism, that of Kannada journalist and alleged adharma proponent, Gauri Lankesh. Some of the arms were up in protest, while others were up in jubilation. Like several other high profile killings in recent years in the name of identity and nationalism, her death will go down as just another milestone. As I write this post, much of India is up in arms about a cinematic representation of a poem by Malik Jayasi, his creative interpretation of a relationship between an invader and an invaded who would rather sacrifice her life than her honor. I hope you will grow up and read about the valor of Padmavati. There are death threats and prize money being put out for the heads of those who have participated in the making of the film. My understanding of the situation is that people are upset that Deepika didn't get her eyebrows done before shooting for the film. Jokes aside, what these milestones count down to is anybody's guess, and the only solace is that there still is a large section of our population that calls a spade a spade, that there are voices across the globe that speak for reason and sanity, that the saffron and the green are held together by the dharmachakra on the color of peace, neutrality and purity.

I hope some day you will look up the meaning of dharma and go beyond what is presently being fed to the masses in the name of dharma. Dharma is more than religious identity - it is the cosmic or fundamental law, accordance with which makes manifestation (life, love, logos) possible. It goes far beyond dietary preferences or attaching undue value to objects of devotion, animate or inanimate. While some of the Vedas have strong opinions about Rita (not the meter maid, but the "right" way of living), much of this is rooted in Vedic era, and fails to hold up to reason in the present time.  The finest expositions on Dharma can be found in the teachings of Buddha, especially in his later years, when he described it as the way things really work.

Along with the teachings of He-Who-Used-To-Be-Siddhartha, I have found a lot of resonance in the writings of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor. He was emperor at the peak of Rome's glory, and he wrote about what he believed to be the right way of living. You should look up his notes to himself, which are available under the title of Meditations. You should also look up the writing of Seneca and Epictetus. These philosophers were called the stoics, and their philosophy is largely misconstrued today to imply indifference, insensitivity, and selfishness. It is not easy to lead a life where people see you as indifferent, insensitive and selfish, but many choose that way of living from a deeper conviction, and reading the classic works of stoicism will help you see past the obvious.

Your Dadu calls Devank Borobabu, but for me you are Borobabu and he is Chotto. He knows that, like he knows he is loved twice as much so that he can share all of that with you when you two meet. Your Dadu has been the greatest source of courage to us in the last year as he deals with his loneliness, his ill health, his memories of Thammi and his desire to accomplish what he believes is his mission in life.Of course, like your Baba, your Dadu is impossible to bear at times, and having him with us has made us stronger, kinder, crazier people.

We are presently in the turmoil of whether to send Chotto to school or just let the dough prove some more. We see how sane most children his age are and worry that going to school will sanitize him more than necessary. You never needed to be sanitized, you were born sane, much like me. Dadu never fails to observe what a well-behaved child I was.

I wanted to write about demonetization and economic reforms but look what it became instead. There are some races in life where you can do a victory lap even when you could not finish the race. Never look at the vagaries of circumstances as a reason to regret or complain but as springboards from which to launch yourself to who you were meant to be. Know always that each day that you awaken is proof that you are precious, wanted and destined for greatness.

Stay warm as the cold months creep in, drink water even when you are not thirsty, and make every moment count.

Much love,



  1. As usual, your post not only moistens the eyes and the heart but also wets the parched soil of the world we live in! With hope!

    1. Thanks, Tipu. It is always a joy to see you here. Moisture is good for the eyes and the skin too.



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