Empathy

A tiny sapling that sprang out for  the last day's rain
with a dusky green colour, waving hither and thither 
with the breeze,tilted its tiny head to ask me:Hey 
beautiful,shall I reside in your haven?

Flabbergasted and startled and hesitant, I gave
 the little space it needed, with a promise not to tug it away.
Merrily she advanced, swore to make my lone mind gay.
Morning, noon and evening she welcomed me to her heaven.

A heap of mud, handful of water and shaded light
I poured my love, hiding though
spake as if I don't care for her existence
yet going rounds with her, talking and laughing.

Rained further and I wake up to see her
tilting her neck and hands to stretch out
to another friend short and handsome . Waved at me again
to ask for enough space for her comrade.

Hurt and forlorn, I smiled at them
wishing them a grand good life together
right in front of my eyes. 

Understanding the Real Realities

While making an attempt to understand the prime realities underlying human relationships, I arrived at a few conclusions which sound easy though little uneasy it makes us feel. Why not the process start from controlling human anger was my question. Yes, again I am taking you to the same space of your mind where you bury every anxious thoughts of anger, frustration and the consequent stress. To pluck these emotions even before they sprout in the lowest layer of our mind, shall we simply wear a smile? A smile, though artificial reduces the amount of anger, to experts. A smile that used to be at the brink of our lips once, at the moment vanished and vanquished somehow by technology that is immortal. Can’t we get it back?

Getting rid of the anger is through self control. When one look at the brighter side of things, without digging into its dull aspects would help him carry that smile along. The ultimate outcome of an incident may not be pleasing, but a deep analysis would help you find a minimum of a set of favourable aspects. To make the majority aspects favourable, keep the try on with a cool head and a warm mind. Develop the will to control anger, understand the uselessness of anger. A simple negligence to the situations that cause anger would also help one manage the occasion without any shouting.

The approach one develops towards their work or any sort of assignment can be quiet,gentle and loving. I mean, one can avoid haste so that work can be enjoying and satisfying though it could be tiring at times. Grumbling and anger can be kept at a little distance. Forcing oneself to shut their mouth, sealing their lips with a resolution not to react angrily would definitely help one sail through the coarse water. Be a good listener and feel for their problems and pains. Sympathise with them and respect their feelings and emotions presuming yourself to be in their shoes. A kind heart and mild, loving words can steal the attraction of people, I swear.

As far as possible let one try to understand the person at the other end. True understanding comes with the spirit of humility. An understanding heart and the feeling of empathy would make one a human than becoming a silent spectator to the multi situational problems faced by others. A self analysis would benefit one in a number of ways. How much above or below one feel than the other is the parameter which I deployed here to say that anyone can face any unpredictable situation any time. Than showing an angry face, it’s always better if we sympathise and foresee ourselves at that dangerous spot sooner or later.

Knowing oneself better, I mean self-awareness can turn one to a better individual. Acknowledging one’s limitations can always make an individual, conscious and this would help his mind to remind and warn him to take enough precautions to do the assigned task without faults. This would avoid meeting with expected anger dosage.

Accept the truth…if you’re at fault consent with a promise to do it the way the other expected you to have done it. Shouting back with an innocent face and pretentious, curvature d remarks wouldn’t help much. Have integrity in your thoughts and words. Be responsible for what you do and say.With all these management tricks, you can walk a long away alone, being calm and peaceful yet different.

Education: Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed…

As the face of the world is shaping into an unfamiliar one, I wish the newly shaped face has something to tell us about the much needed changes in the arena of education, also. Whatever I am analysing here is specially imaginable from an Indian’s perspective, as there are changes in the system of education and changes in the mode of implementation between the east and the west.

The Vedic education which prevailed in India was far more effective in building a community which easily could find solutions for the problems of themselves, the entire society and also the whole nation. Learning was through experience, solution was for the real life problems. More stress on personality development, anger management, social compatibility, morality, social responsibility, nature conservation, almost all the areas covered by the modern educational experts were taught by the Gurus without much effort and sweat through simple narrations and practical sessions. The practical sessions tested the depth of understanding the pupil carried and how he could successfully apply it to solve a a complicated problem. Bhakthi (devotion) was the key to manage all the hurdles, mental stress. People cross questioned their own actions and the reactions of their actions. Patience was another powerful mantra for success. Managing the difficulties associated with life was considered to be an inevitable elementary skill every human must possess.

Gaining knowledge was never considered a means of attaining economic independence. The range of knowledge one had, defined his status, not money. They didn’t mind to wander for their daily bread if they couldn’t afford it, but they excelled in Vedic and moral studies. Those who couldn’t study, were familiarised with the essentials by the one who possessed immense wisdom. Gurus equalled God and serving him in all the possible manners was considered another way of worshipping and serving Him. Still they were successful, without chasing or racing anyone or anything, without pulling each other’s legs. The latter was out of their curriculum.

Well…we have come far beyond. Modern education has its own modes of functioning now. Sometimes I feel that it has gone beyond our hands. Still chalk and talk mode is popular in India as it is one of the best interactive mode. The teachers find it effective too, they can easily monitor their pupil. Distance education has never been popular in India. Even now, I vouch. Online education too has its own limitations. I was wonder stuck at the feedback given by the most gadget loving students on this particular mode of education. Apart from the connectivity issues, they didn’t find it effective. The bulk of the modern generation are fans of classroom, interactive mode of teaching.

I would request the designers of Indian education to design an educational system which would fit into our framework. One which incorporates activities than theories. Yes, it involves a marathon work, not at all easy. One may have doubts if our youth would fit into the global market, don’t forget, Indian intellectuals have always established themselves in foreign lands. Where else do the students carry so many books to their schools? Where else do they return home with weary faces and tired minds? Where else do the parents and students think only of competitive examinations?

Our education has narrowed down the vision of the community to merit only those who choose only professional courses. Those who could hoard money or make money are successful, as per their definition. Shall we broaden our vision? Learning, to a child or an adolescent is no more a fun. Shall we give them some space so that they can breathe? Let’s define it differently than leaving some among us to mutter the lines of Shakespearean Sonnet:27.

Friends and Fiends

While friendly interrogating my bizarre self
and fondly finding fault with the
 feminine facts in me, I mocked at myself:Look at the world
having fun with friends, loving each other
and being loved, no boundaries, no egos, no talks behind,
no irritating faces, no grumbling,
no shouts, no cries.

 Look at you, you are an island,
where a few visitants come and go,no one built a home
to be a resident, only a few birds who would fly in and
back,you wanted to house them, they wanted 
to be migrants, smirk at you,then chirrup.

My conscious from the state of subconsciousness,
raised to my eyes, just to ask,
"don't roof the migrant birds which seek season's
arrival, don't feed them and nurture them. 
Its time for us to love ourselves rather than
 nurturing others, let us love our own soul and be happy."

E for Elephant:Edition 2

Nearly three kilo metres away from the temple of Guruvayur, there situated is an elephant sanctuary which has been developed into one of the largest elephant sanctuaries of India. Maintained by the temple board for taming and training the elephants for the requirements of the temple , Punnathoorkotta, is a sanctuary exclusively for elephants, though hygiene wise it can still go further long.

Once the palace of a local ruler, it’s now a palace for elephants. All the elephants housed here are the ritual offerings made by the devotees of Lord Krishna. The elephants are made to serve Him and are trained to take part in temple processions and temple festivals. Prominent rituals of the palace are ‘Aanayoottu’ (feeding elephants) and ‘Gajapooja'(worshipping elephants). These are performed grandly once in a year as an offering to Lord Ganesha, who is elephant faced. The palace is a traditional ‘Naalukettu’ building, rectangular shaped, with a central courtyard at the centre of the house. It’s now used for housing the mahouts. The maintenance of the palace is poorly carried out. The fort has two temples, though not big, one of Lord Shiva and another of Goddess.

One can watch the happy, sad, angry, playful elephants , especially elephant calves playing around, spraying water and dust, rolling in mud and happily running about. To watch them together gives you a lot of entertainment and enjoyment.

There’s a statue of the mighty, much talked about once and forever, an eternal name in the minds of the people of the state, Gajaraja(king of elephants) Guruvayur Keshavan(1904-1976) here. He was trained and housed here. Keshavan was known for his devout behaviour. His tusks along with an enormously huge portrait of him welcome the visitors at the entrance of the temple. Donated to the temple when he was a calf, Keshavan was 3.5 meters tall, yes, mighty tall. It’s said that when he died, at the age of 72, after a long day of fasting, by evening he himself went to the temple to offer his final prayers, by raising his trunk finally saluted his Lord and died right in front of Lord Guruvayurappan(1976).

There are a lot of stories showing Keshavan’s devotion to Lord Krishna and Krishna devotees. A malayalam movie, Guruvayur Keshavan, released after a year of his death(1977), will bring you a lot more of such stories. His death anniversary is still celebrated in the temple, the elephant chief will garland Keshavan’s statue and the other elephants would line up behind him as a mark of reverence.

Mind: A Frenzy Friend

You may not have a different opinion and would second me when I state that the present era is the most advanced phase of human civilisation though its major counterpart, i.e. human being has lost his mind and hence his soul. Yes, we stand at the zenith of all sorts of advancement, but why:

Are we not satisfied with ourselves?

Do the feeling of unfulfillment still pursue most of us?

Is there a thrive for Meditation Centres?

Do the people search ways and means to control their mind?

Do people search for spirituality? Who knows the in and outs of the thing called mind? The great saint of Vedic India, Swami Vivekananda, analysed and devised methods through which one can control it. India’s spiritual literature helps man to control his mind in a lucid manner. According to it, management of emotions and stress, thinking ability, meditation and spirituality helps man win over his mind.

“Spirituality is not for empty belly-” says Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

A person who’s empty minded and empty hearted can’t swallow even a bit of spirituality. When one’s basic physical needs are not taken care of, the mind can’t lift itself from the body and reach higher spheres of life like religion, knowledge, wisdom, arts and science. When a man is fed and educated and employed, he invites new troubles like indiscipline, recklessness, wasting time, poor social ability, taking things to heart than required etc. All this creates stress and pressure.

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds-” Albert Einstein. The same spirit motivated Madam Curie invent Radium though the experts agreed upon the fact that discovering it was an impossible idea. The same spirit enables one overcome the adversities of life and use them in a manner to convert those adversities into successful realities.A mind can be harnessed and trained to be calm and devoid of unnecessary anxieties.

How to win over our minds? how to manage them without getting over stressed?How to master our minds? Not everyone can do it, it’s an art. That’s why there’s a universal appeal, regardless of East or West, for means to control the mind. Every step we take in this regard is a kind of bliss. Regular practice of yoga , especially Pranayam(all the kinds) gives us a satisfying mind and hence a peaceful soul. Calm mind is a medium through which our intellectual power gains considerably. The ability to look at things and persons without unnecessary comments and criticisms without condemning anybody is the gradual outcome of attaining mental equilibrium.

The real fuss is that mind do not act according to our will. It becomes sad when we want it to be happy, it feels excited sometimes, sometimes restless and vigorous when we want it to function cool. But have you noticed your mind warning you when you undertake wrong endeavours, guides you when you keep analysing and asking what is to be done and what not to be? Then understand, our mind is our pleasant companion we can always be trusted upon and live upon.

Training our minds is the only solution to end the problems of a whirling mind. Depending on the nature of your mind you should tutelage it. Yoga, meditation, chanting of hymns and powerful mantras, spirituality, a piece of art, music all these are means you can tutor it.

“If I had to do my education over again, and had any voice in the matter, I would not study facts at all. I would develop the power of concentration and detachment, and then with a perfect instrument I would collect facts at will. Side by side, in a child should be developed the power of concentration and detachment.” Shall we remember this statement of swami Vivekananda?

The Temple of Guruvayur: An abode of Lord Vishnu on Earth

OM NAMO NARAYANAYA: Twenty eight kilo meters away from the town of Thrissur, there is a sacred small town called Guruvayur, which became internationally famous because of its temple and its miraculous deity. Having built 5000 years ago, the temple is so overcrowded that darshan becomes hardly a reality except on Tuesdays and Fridays. Not that there are no crowds but comparatively it’s less on those days as those are auspicious days for devotees to visit Goddess Temples. The deity is Lord Vishnu in its Chathurbahu (four arms) form, widely called Guruvayarappan,but people believe and worship the deity as Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar of Lord Vishnu. According to legends, when the city of Dwarka was destroyed by flood,Lord Krishna asked Vayu Deva and Guru Brahaspathi to take his idol and place it in an appropriate place, that’s how this town, where they placed it, got its name as Guruvayupuram. The idol was worshipped by Rukmini, the princess of Dwarka and Krishna’s first wife, which she built of Anjana Stone(of which collyrium is made). One of the huge temples in India and also one of the wealthiest, it attracts millions of people across the globe, though entry inside the temple is restricted to only Hindus.

Darshan in the early morning(widely called as Nairmalyam) usually begins as early as 3 a.m. everyday. The idol which is seen with decorations of the previous night, is believed to be yet another auspicious sight. Devotees believe this darshan would wipe of all the sins of a human. While leaving the temple premises by night, around 8.30 or 9 p.m. one can observe the queue of devotees for Nairmalyam pooja. I was shell shocked to see very old ladies chanting Harinamakeerthanam,(hymns of Lord Vishnu)patiently waiting and preparing for early morning bath before getting into the temple. I felt so belittled in front of their patience and devotion. Getting into the temple is not so easy, as I mentioned earlier. There are a number of control barricades and guardrails. In between, for short breaks the temple closes and the wait is made too long. Devotees are given water and some energy drinks by staff maintained exclusively for maintenance. There is a bit of entertainment also for those stranded in the queue there, as musical or classical dance concerts are staged without long breaks, in Melpathoor Auditorium. Senior citizens are given direct entry.

Those who visit the temple without the knowledge of the do’s and don’ts will have a tough time as the dress code is strict and counters for the receipt of sevas(offerings)are overcrowded. As Lord Krishna remain famished to have butter, sugar and kheer(palpayasam, the aroma of which can rejuvenate your lost hunger), devotees make it a point to get those sevas done. When you enter through the eastern entrance from where the entry of vehicles are not allowed, the smell of jasmine flowers welcome you with a number of sweet and snack vendors calling you to their side. Don’t forget to buy one or two packets of Papad from them, papads as huge as you and as tiny as a coin are availablešŸ¤© just to muse you. When you finish darshan everywhere else, there’s a passage which takes you to the temple courtyard and to the pond full of friendly, flippy fishes. The flight of steps leading to the pond are slippery too. But its residents would welcome each of their guests by kissing their feet.

From Thrissur it takes hardly 45 minutes to reach the temple, yes we’re neighbours! The route is one of the fastest, without much traffic. The only unmanageable element is the raining crowd! When one enters the Guruvayur town, towards the east, there’s a huge statue of an Eagle, under a banyan tree which would welcome anyone to the temple premises. Garud(eagle) is believed to be Lord Vishnu’s pet on which he travels.

I am extremely sorry if some of the bloggers think I am using this platform to speak of region or religion. Nothing so, India is a country to be explored and full of wonders. My purpose is to familiarise some of it which I know, if you are interested to know.

Elephant Mania: Edition 1

Indian(Asian) elephants, listed as endangered species, due to the considerable deduction in their numbers, are widely reared in the Indian state of Kerala. The emblem of the government of Kerala has two elephants in it as it’s the state animal. Survey says the state has around 3000 wild elephants which is the third highest in the country. Mostly used for timber trade and temple festivals, elephants are said to be brought to the state from Sonepur, Bihar. They are later tamed and trained, which some of the animal lovers cite to be very much cruel. Among those 3000, more than 700 are owned by temples and individuals. The elephants which are part of the temple festivals are adorned with gold plated caparisons, necklaces,umbrellas, alavattam and venchamaram.

alavattam
Gold plated caparison

Each elephant is taken care of exceptionally well by its owners or the temple trust. Three mahouts are in charge of an elephant if they are owned by the trust. Their duty is to bath-e and mass-age them usual-ly with the husk of the coconuts. During the monsoon season when there are no temple festivals, elephants usually have the best time of their life. They are given an Ayurvedic rejuvenation treatment. Elephants have high market value in the state, especially tuskers(a male elephant). “It’s said that elephants in Kerala, to be precise, in Central Kerala are like dogs in British Society. No other society is attached to elephants, probably anywhere in the world,” says NS Madhavan.

Each locality in Kerala had a prominent temple in the ancient times, patronised by the upper caste Hindus. The elephant was tethered in one of their homes. The malayali(one who speaks Malayalam)-elephant bond had found its reference in the literature too. ‘Aithihyamala-‘ a collection of tales which was compiled in the early 20th century had the biography of elephants of 18th and 19th century, in its last page. The people there, then and now looked at elephants and talked to them just as we speak to our beloved friends, an anthropomorphic view. I very well remember my father’s craze for elephants and the way each one in the state call out anybody else at the sight of an elephant and tell,” See, there goes an elephant!” with awe and excitement. Having an elephant at home was a question of prestige for the ancient rich Hindus.

Guruvayur temple which is one of the ancient most temple which is widely recognised as a tourist spot too, has an elephant sanctuary maintained exclusively by the temple board. They rear about 60 elephants. There are legendary tales about Guruvayur Keshavan, the most famous elephant in the state. For much authentic information, read out the next episode!

Death: The Undesired Guest

Have you ever envisaged the weird ways you’re going to receive a frightful guest like death when it comes at a time which is most unlikely to you?Can you evict the entire situation just by trying to convince your Master vocalising ‘No, I am not ready yet.’ Throwing tantrums on a such a dreadful fellow wouldn’t be of much use. You can’t put off the inevitable s on your priority list, is what you claim, when your ghastly friend awaits you, however under prepared you are, your family is, you just need to pause. Having asked all these questions to my sane sensibilities, I am still left clueless of the eerie response it may evoke in a silly creature like me.

Am I going to tell my queasy friend that he’s not that scary as he appear like, he has a friend in him too. He is too bound by rules, and execute his master’s orders! He’s not a sadist, I am certain, not to give any signals/issue a short notice before he comes to take me. He may appear at least in my dreams prior to my leaving(I have heard people to die soon get such dreams, dreams of death). He may give me a day’s time to settle the accounts of relationships I have. He may ask me my last wish and may also help me fulfil it.If no one is going to grieve my absence, he is going to sit near me, pat me with his dusky hands and sympathise with me.

Thinking about the impact my death can cause, I believe, not a grieving heart may prolong to weep on and on. A few tears may be shed, but it may get dried very soon. The only one offspring I have may find it difficult for few days to get things easily done, but gradually she will become completely independent. She will be soon matured enough to understand the realities of life.A picture of mine with a garland, placed on the wall can surely substitute my presence. The same picture,later could be dusted once or twice and later while painting the wall, it could be replaced by a costly piece of art. The mortal remains of me will find its place in some river and once in a year, if they felt convenient, may perform rites to save my soul so that it doesn’t wander.

On my death, some may praise my good deeds or my qualities(if any), some may still curse me and look at my body with contempt. Some may bring few flowers to be kept on me.The only piece of jewellery I have on my body will be removed. Some may sit surrounding my dead body and sob when it’s taken to the pyre. Soon my last rites will be performed and I will be sent empty handed and empty minded. Some may even claim that because of the perfection in performing my last rites, I, for sure, directly reach heaven.

“I have been for years obsessed with the idea of death.I have come to believe that life is a mere dream and that death is the only reality. It’s endless, stretching before and beyond our human existence. To slide into it will be to pick up a new significance. Life has been,despite all emotional involvements, as ineffectual as writing on moving water. We have been mere participants in someone else’s dream.” This extract taken from the closing chapter of ‘My Story’ by Kamala Das has said it all. Accepting the reality of death, we need to follow its will, just like a dog following its master.

But as it’s not the time, I will just plead him “to Pause.” I will recite the last lines of ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ to my new friend,

          And miles to go before I sleep,
          And miles to go before I sleep...
         

Letter to Heaven

Since you have gone, the spirit  has altered
hearts have altered,sentiments have interposed.
You hoisted my bygone spirits, for me to breathe, for me to step
into paths known, yet dangerous. You held the beam
to firelight the darkest of the roads, often forgotten
for me to saunter, when faltered you lent your hand.
Waiting for you I sleep, dreaming you I smile,
recollecting the last moments of our lazy talks,
bypassing the agonies of life, You emerged as a survivor
only to undergo pains from the world around.
 The taste of those goodies still linger on our taste buds,
dipped in love, sweeter than honey.

Heard that heaven is bright and blue, and you often meet God,
would you ask him if you can visit me often,
or would you stretch your hand still longer,
For me to grab and strode straight to you?

          FOREVER DAD'S GIRL