Sunday, August 16, 2009

BogB hospital visits with friend

Singapore August 16, 2009 Sun/Mon 2 : 10 PM

A few hospital visits with my friend for routine checks and balances, a stop over at the chemist store en route, to get some tie ups for the back, the gym and the pedometer racing away to near 8,500 steps, to the room to respond to comments and a heavy heart to witness a few familia extendum, using the platform of this medium to get personal and ugly with each other. And each hashed comment that I came across as I scrolled down to the last, that indulged in a slang match, felt like a stab in my precarious rib cage.

So here are the options. Either you stop or I stop.

Happy Independence Day BigB

Singapore August 15, 2009

Independence Day … Swatantra Divas … the day India got its freedom from British colonial rule.

May the happiness and joy of this freedom, achieved through the struggle and sacrifice of thousands who fought and gave up their lives, be with us through out our history and may we forever be indebted and beholden to those sons of our soil, that made it possible for us to live and breathe in a free and independent world.

I was born in 1942, in the middle of World War II and at the beginning of the Quit India Movement initiated by Mahatma Gandhi against the British. I am a child of pre Independence. During the 8th month of my Mother’s pregnancy with me in her womb, she had bolted out of the house where we lived in Allahabad to join a ’satyagraha’ procession in Katra, a busy market area, slogan shouting the voice of millions of Indians who were demanding that the British leave India. There had been a ‘lathi charge’ by the forces to disperse the crowds. Protestors were being baton beaten and my Father’s friends had rushed in to save my Mother from any harm and escorted her back to her house. My Father was not in at that moment, but on coming to learn of this passionate and patriotic outburst from my Mother had reprimanded her, not so much for her act, but the inconsideration she had shown towards the life she was carrying. Later that evening, when tempers had cooled, some of those that had been a witness to the incident, joked with my Mother and suggested that if the child to be born would be a boy she should consider naming him Inqilab Rai - from the prominent slogan of the day, Inqilab Zindabad ! Long live the revolution !!

Just got saved from being pet named, Inky !!

There have been numerous Independence Day celebrations since and each one has invoked in us pride for the nation, pride for the flag and a pride in our free state. Many among our forefathers that fought this silent non-cooperative battle along with Gandhi ji, were inspired from similar struggles being conducted elsewhere in the world at the time. The Irish Revolution to be more precise, was a great and live example. And many nations after witnessing our struggle were inspired to fight for their own freedoms. The joy and ecstasy of identity, the selfish pride with which we connect and applaud our own land, our own people, is an emotion that has always surpassed all other. The rush of blood within us on holding the National Flag, as the strains of the National Anthem builds itself into a crescendo has never had an alternative expression. It has always been a face that has glowed with pride, with just that hint of moistness in the eye.

A dear family friend and one that had been in the forefront of our Independence Movement, was once narrating an incident she had witnessed at the Bastille Day parade many decades ago on the Champs-Elysee in Paris, when India was still ruled by the British. On one of the armored vehicles that were part of the parade, a large flag of France had been unfurled on its roof. Almost spontaneously and without warning a young woman spectator, watching the ceremony from the crowds on the side of the road, broke the cordon, ran and jumped up on to the roof of the vehicle grabbed the flag and wrapped herself around it in an expression of uncontainable passion and pride, screaming ‘Vive la France’ !! And our friend had said, what an emotional moment it was for her to see this, for, she wondered at that time, when it would be for India to be free and to have its own flag !!

Our flag - saffron, white and green said to, respectively, represent courage and sacrifice, peace and truth, and faith and chivalry. And the Ashoka Chakra in the middle in navy blue with 24 spokes came from The Lion Capital of Ashoka, the figure of four lions with their backs together, facing in the four directions. This was on top of a column during the time of Ashoka the Great, now secure at the Sarnath Museum. The wheel is taken from the base of this emblem, where it was prominently displayed.

Dr S Radhakrishnan, who later became the first Vice President of India, clarified the adopted flag and its significance thus -

Bhagwa or the saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work. The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct. The green shows our relation to (the) soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends. The “Ashoka Chakra” in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya,dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principle of those who work under this flag. Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.

How beautiful and wise the significance and how inspiring the thought.

In India, our flag that is officially flown, can only be made from Khadi, the home spun yarn, made so popular by Mahatma Gandhi. It has to be of given specifications and is only available in the city of Bengaluru, erstwhile Bangalore. For long years the flag could only be flown at specified buildings and on the vehicles of specified national heads, but a young industrialist, Navin Jindal, recently moved the Supreme Court of India, on why flying the national flag could not be permitted on private buildings and structures, homes and offices, after he had been denied permission to fly it on his office building. Jindal won a historic verdict and thanks to him I now proudly fly the national flag on all my residences, following designated protocol.

Many from the media made fun and ridiculed me, when they first saw these flags on my house, questioning me first of how I was allowed to fly the flag; they not being conversant at all with the judgement from the courts, and later, on being apprised of the law, accusing me of sham patriotism. I cannot even accommodate a smirk at this most despicable taunt !

Jaya left this evening for Mumbai after having spent more than a month by the side of Amar Singh ji during his ailment. I stay back till he is sound enough to travel back. Abhishek is back today from Mani Ratnam’s ‘Ravana’ shoot in Ooty, now Udhagamandalam its original name. ( Must have been a tongue twister for the Brits when they came in so they named it Ootycamund and then for convenience Ooty). Aishwarya has taken ill and is down with chest infection and flu like symptoms. Had a high fever yesterday but is settling down today. Its worrying to be so far away from children and not be there to look after them. Yes, they are mature and married and responsible, but children will always remain children !

I have been lazy today. No, nothing to do with the promise of gymming - that incidentally was restricted to a milder form, due to a strained back - I did not make any attempt to give responses to comments. One of these days I hope I can surprise all of you.

In closing -

‘Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us, than what we think of ourselves.’

And that is for all you EF and FmXt that squabble among yourselves within the confines of a space, meant for healthy discourse. You do not set a good example for the medium you are on, and neither do you show respect to the person asking you to refrain from such unwanted activity.

‘Funny how simple it is for people to trash age old teachings whether they be based on a Godhead or not and then wonder why the world has become so unsafe, unstable and seemingly out of control.

Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what our religious teachers of all faiths have taught us for centuries .’

Ponder dearest ones .. or are we laughing !!

india-flag-waving-emoticon-animatedAmitabh Bachchan




Singapore August 14, 2009 Fri 10 :45 PM

Krishna Janamashtami ! The celebration for the day Lord Krishna was born. An auspicious day for us and one that is always spent in recreating Krishna’s life and singing the joy of his presence and birth. It is perhaps beyond coincidence that just a few days ago, Bhawana Somaaya, journalist and friend of several years, enquires about a book she had sent me to read as a draft. She has done this often during the making of some of her other book releases as well. She has felt, somewhat presumptuously, that I have sufficient qualification to give an opinion on her work and a knowledged guidance on its content. If only she knew !!

I ask for the book to be sent across to me and it arrives duly wrapped in aesthetic Indianess, into my hands. Its titled ‘Krishna, the God who lived as Man’. It is a transcreation of a book written originally by Kaajal Oza-Vaidya in Gujarati which was called Krishnaayan. The book has a predominance of the color blue in its folder, perhaps in keeping with Krishna’s own skin color and it smells good. There is something about a new book that instantly attracts you and invariably it is the smell coming from its freshly printed pages. Krishna, is all that and a little more. The impression on the cover page shows just the feet and toes of the Lord, almost stepping away from a footprint carelessly, by its side. There are some red flowers, a green leaf in offering over the feet and by the edge, a gentle glimpse of peacock feathers - perhaps dislodged from its position of eminence from the golden crown that has always adorned Krishna’s head. I turn the book around to the back. This is where invariably a paragraph from the book is displayed to attract the reader to it. This is what it reads ~

‘The river was in high tide and the footprints of the Yadavas were more or less washed away. Big waves came rushing to the shore and wiped away some more footprints …

Suddenly Rukmini discovered a familiar footprint and sat beside it .. Her eyes brimmed over with tears … These were the footprints her hair locks drooped over when she knelt at her Lord’s feet every morning .. These were the footprints she worshipped with chandan .. The foot prints of her Lord .. ofSri Krishna ..! They were deeply immersed in the sand. The impression engraved in the sand was filled with water.

Rukmini’s streaming tears were making an offering in the water-filled footprints.

Daruk arrived and stood beside her …

He looked startled. He could not believe how the footprints filled to the brim with water could contain Rukmini’s tears without spilling over. What was further surprising was that not a single tear had dropped out of the carved footprint ..

It was not just Krishna … even his footprints were accepting of everyone …’

I am enraptured and keen to see inside the covers and during the coming days I shall read intermittently this semi fictional offering. But for now the Author’s Note draws my attention. It is ironical she says that the Krishna she has always been looking for, she has discovered in this book. At best she would like to describe him as an awesome personality. Born some 20,000 years ago, and if that really happened, then she says he is the biggest miracle of life.

In Mahabharata, he is portrayed as a politician; in the Bhagawat, He is the Lord. In Gita he is the guru, the fountainhead of knowledge. His association with Draupadi so many centuries ago is an ideal example of man-woman friendship. With Rukmini his spouse, it was an equal reciprocation of love and respect; and with Radha, his attachment was so pure and intense that even today so many years later, we go beyond the society norms and revere ‘Radha Krishna’ as deities.

Undisputedly he was an overwhelming persona, but at the end of the day, an individual. Then why cannot we as ordinary mortals perceive and relate to him as a human being ?

The Translator’s Note wishes to discover the presence of the four extraordinary women in Krishna’s life, of the charismatic individual, of wholesome relationship coming with requisite baggage of pathos and pain, of love bringing enrichment and enlightenment, of how the involvement of our dear ones adds hues to our life and concluding, that it includes both the Supreme Entity and us ordinary mortals.

And as I pause to think over what has been expressed, I am taken back to my first and so far the only visit to Mathura, the birth place of Krishna. We had driven down from Delhi in our car, a navy blue Ambassador, yes the very same that still thrives within the avenues of Ministers and Governance, its shape and construct remaining the same through decades. We were, my parents perhaps a friend and I, either just out of School or just entered College. The images of the time and what we saw are now almost a blur. Its been almost 50 years. Thats a lifetime. Through the narrow streets and broken and abandoned structures we had moved, my Mother holding a prayer within her breath at every turn. The main temple which housed the magnetic idol of Krishna had thousands of devotees and visitors waiting in the large courtyard before it. It was still not the appropriate hour to see the Lord, a curtain drawn in front of Him to protect exposure.We had been briefed of stories that spoke of the powerful eyes of the deity and how the priests would never allow the Lord to be seen for too long by the people, there in prayer. Stories of how individuals drawn by the power of His eyes had renounced everything almost instantly and never returned back to their normal lives, had kept us in great wonderment and awe as we waited for the drapes to be parted. And when suddenly they were, a roar of reverence and prayer had gone up from the gathered multitudes. I remember catching a glimpse of Krishna’smurti that early afternoon and almost being mesmerized by His presence. Large, dynamic eyes, with that piercing stare kept appearing and disappearing from behind the curtain that the priests kept moving at rapid speed, giving it all, a most surreal feel. We moved away from there to several other spots within the sanctum and were finally taken to an enclosed area, which was described as Vrindavan, the garden or enclosed forest area, where Krishna still appeared in the late night for His Raas Leela with Radha and the Gopi’s. Every tree within this enclosed space bent downwards in a droop towards the ground, sublimating as it were, we were told, to the Godly presence. Most of the trees were dry and without much foliage on them, but one particular tree stood apart. It stood tall and high, had several green leaves on it, none of them looking very healthy, except one. One leaf on this entire tree flourished in its greenness. And it was as soft and smooth as the belly of the toosh up in the snow covered mountains of the Himalayas in Kashmir. And the legend goes that this was the leaf that Krishna wiped his butter laden hands on.

Further into the garden we were taken to a corner , where under a canopy hung a swing. It is believed that Krishna in the late hours of the night spends time here with His friends. No one is allowed into the premises after a certain hour; the gates being locked and those that have attempted to break this law have suffered greatly. The following morning when the garden is opened to visitors, flowers and petals have been found around the swing, giving ample confirmation of Krishna’s presence the night before.

As we drove away from this most incredible experience there was, for the most part, a silence amongst us. A silence, not because there was nothing to say, but because to say anything would have sounded like nothing.

Several fierce invasions by those that conquered and plundered India and this region, had resulted in the destruction of many temples and places of worship. As we went by them we could see merely the plinth of once majestic and massive structures. Structures that displayed exquisite carvings and murals. Scattered on the road, one found numerous pieces of stone carvings, left overs of the plunder that took place, and my Father stopping to pick a few small pieces lying in the wilderness without any life.

A broken face of a lion nestled among filigree work and a headless legless woman were two of the pieces that my father picked up from the waste lying around and brought them home. A day or two later I saw him decorating the two pieces on a small home made pedestal at the entrance to our main door. I thought it looked aesthetic and cultural and in keeping with fashion and design instruments in modern day home making, but I was terribly wrong. They were symbolic representations of one of WB Yeats’s poem - The Lion and the Virgin. My Father, as most know, did his PhD from Cambridge University in English Literature, his topic for the dissertation being, WB Yeats and Occultism.

Those two pieces have travelled to every house that my father moved to; always displayed at the entrance. They are with me still and elegantly greet every visitor at our Jalsa home.

Krishna, Mathura, Vrindaban, my Father and Yeats’ The Lion and the Virgin !

Without Krishna no form of art is complete,

To write about you is to worship the Divine.

With love and peace ..

Amitabh Bachchan

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