Thursday, October 29, 2009

Love Story - expression of Life !!!

Piali was staying with her ailing grandmother at a place called Golf Green, a posh locality in South Calcutta. Her granny was practically surviving on medical support, & Piali would most always be on tenderhooks in terms of how each & every day went by. Her support system depended on help from neighbors & friends, and of course a 24/7 maid on duty for her granny. Piali was good at work. She was sincere & hard working & had a good Boss in Chirag to support her. Interestingly, she would address Chirag as ‘Boss’, whether it was at work or at home.

Chirag had a mobike, a Hero Honda CD100 to himself. He stayed in DumDum, a place north of Calcutta, near the airport. While the distance between the homes was more than 50 odd kilometers, it did not deter the two Lovebirds from spending time every evening. While the whole day would be in the thick of work, evenings would bring them together, & both would ride through the hustle bustle of the city, lost in their own world of dreams. They would normally drive down to Piali’s home at Golf Green, where after freshening up, they would spend some time with the granny & then again drive out. Since both of them were musically inclined, they would end up singing popular old Hindi & Bengali songs to themselves.....and leave the others around mesmerised........

Some of their favourite numbers were :
"Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hain, hohoho, jahan bhi le jaye rahein hum sang hain….."
"Jeevan ki bagiya mehkegi, chehkegi, lehkegi, khushiyon ki kaliyaan jhoomengi , jhoomengi, jhoomengi…."
"Kali palak teri gori, hmmmm khilne lagi hai thori thori, ek chorni ek chor ke ghar karne chali hai chori…"
"Jaane jaan, dhoondta phir raha, main tujhe raat din, main yahaan se wahaan……."
"Gata rahe mera dil, tuhi meri manjil, kahin beete na yeh raaten kahin beete nay eh din……."

Piali’s place was frequented by friends & they would end up in long sessions of music. Someone would pick up a guitar, & then for the next few hours it would be pure music……this of course was followed by home cooked food……it looked like a perpetual party for all.
This looked exciting for a while, however, over a period of time, the place had become like a social outing joint. Anyone who had nothing better to do would just land up…….unannounced.

Almost every evening, Piali would reach home to see a bunch of people sitting & yapping. It was a small two room apartment, with one room occupied by the granny. So effectively Piali would have no place for herself to rest or unwind or give time to herself. The house would be perpetually crowded & Piali had a tough time managing the inflow of people. Being a shy host, she took all of this with a smile, but kept getting worked up over a period of time. She would prefer to be with Chirag outside, somewhere else, as that would be her only space & time to herself. She was happy in his arms….in his company. Both were together like a house on fire…..the chemistry was just fascinating….anyone who saw them, knew instantaneously that they were in love….deep love. With every passing day their love & dependence for each other grew…….deep & strong. Over the next few months, both were seen painting the town red….blue…yellow…green…..all shades actually……. on the mobike, huddled together……they were just inseparable.

"Tomar kotha bhebe amar raat bhor hoye jaye, tomaye niye shopno dekhe din je chole jaye…." ( my nights end into mornings just thinking about you, my days pass by just dreaming about you….) a poignant Bengali love song written by Piali & music given by Bhombol, her cousin.

According to Piali, “there is something about Chirag, which is infectious. He gives you so much of attention & care & love that you tend to just rest on his shoulders. He actually makes me feel like a woman.” For a girl who had grown up under very insecure circumstances, Piali now had someone, who was beside her to take on the world. As far as Chirag was concerned, “Piali is like a breath of fresh air. Look at her twinkling eyes, look at her smile, look at her warmth, I can die a hundred times for her. She just fills me with Love.”
Both felt life complete in each other’s arms.

"Tum aa gaye ho, noor aa gaya hai, nahi to chiragon se lau jaa rahi thi,
Jeene ki tumse, wajah mil gayi hai, badi bewajah zindagi jaa rahi thi....."

to be continued.......

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Love Story - 3 ....... an expression of Life !!!

The time was early ‘90s, in Kolkata. Chirag was then working for a multinational company as the Sales Manager. One evening, he went for a Dance Drama(organized by his friends) at a Cultural show at Dhakuria, a famous place in South Kolkata(Kolkata is known for such programs, especially after the Pujas). During the show, a funny thing happened, that caught his attention. A girl, probably in her early 20’s, while dancing, tripped over her white sari & fell heavily on the stage, causing a squeal of laughter from the crowd. However, the girl, did not lose her composure, & continued with her role, as if nothing had happened. Once the show was over, Chirag went back stage to meet his friends, & there was this girl, fed faced, sheepish at her clumsy act on stage, trying to explain the reason to others. Though hurt from the fall, she was talking excitedly, yet with a concern that, she had messed up the show. Chirag got drifted into the chatter & he pointed out that it was really brave of this girl to continue dancing even after the hard fall. The girl looked up appreciatively, & warmed up to the smiling Chirag. “My name is Piali”, she said, extending her hand, “I have heard so much about you from others here. I hope you liked our performance. Am sorry, I kind of bungled up.” Chirag gave her an encouraging look, “You were just superb….I could not have managed it on stage, the way you did.” Later they all went for dinner together. Over the next few months they kept meeting now & then, developing a healthy respect for each other.

Piali, had lost her parents very early in life & had been brought up by her maternal uncles & aunts. She had been working from a pretty young age living all by herself. She was a bright young girl, with decent looks & wonderful command over language. According to Chirag, Piali had the most endearing smile lit up with two lovely & dreamy eyes. Where ever she would go, she would kind of grab centre of attention. She was good at mimicry & was a natural singer. She seemed immensely talented. She would rattle tough Lata numbers like : Pia to se naina laage re, naina lage re, jaane kyo ho ab aage re, naina laage re...... with fascinating ease.

Chirag was looking for a Lady Sales Exec for his team, & he just could not resist speaking to Piali, who was only too keen to join up with him. Chirag at that point in time was coming out of a broken marriage & was too tight & edgy on relationships. For him it was work, work & more work. However, as destiny had to take command, Chirag & Piali had to spend a lot of time together at work & got more & more close…..professionally…… they were a team & doing extremely well. However, as they grew close professionally, they also got to know each other & the bonding only grew from strength to strength. Both strong headed & with a mind of their own, it was only a matter of time before the Love bug bit them both.

One fine Tuesday evening, when Piali was struggling with a household problem & had only Chirag to fall back on, they realized & admitted for the first time that they were in Love. It was a wonderful union, both needing an emotional support & each looked an ideal foil for the other. There were no love letters exchanged… flowers given, no bending down on knees & proposing.
Just a tight warm hug…a tad too long possibly, during which Chirag murmured, “Am sorry….but I think, I am in love with you”. “Me too, I have been feeling the same way”, crooned Piali. Stunned into silence for a good 10-15 mins after that, & staying put in the arms lock with each other, both were trying to grapple with the realization that had dawned. Chirag & Piali were in love. It seemed just the right & obvious thing to happen.

to be continued.............

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shiva Parvati.....the legend 3

One evening, when the atmosphere was serene & Shiva was in meditation, Parvati transformed the place, decorating it with beautiful flowers & putting up incense sticks to create a wonderful & mystic aroma. Nature came to her aid & made the surroundings very pleasant & beautiful…..there was divine music & the moonlight, captivating. Everything around was enchanting & mystical. As if something was to happen......

Kamdev decided to end Shiva’s meditation & turn his attention towards Parvati. He hit Shiva with flowery arrows, which were to raise the feeling of Love & desire in Shiva. However, being disturbed in his meditation, Shiva, lost his cool, & opened his third eye & looked straight into Kamdev…….burning him to ashes in the process, & went back to his meditation. There was pin drop silence. No one could believe, Shiva would destroy Kamdev with his third eye.

Rati was speechless with grief & Parvati was deeply pained. She resolved to do penance till Shiva relented. Sage Narada was passing by & he stopped to counsel & encourage Parvati. He taught her the Panchakshari(five lettered mantra) to please Shiva….."Om Namah Shivaaya". It is said that anyone with a devout mind & clean heart, chanting this mantra, can please Shiva enough to get any boon.
Parvati started her rigorous penance. She started living on fruits & then reduced to just leaves( her name became Aparna because of that) & then gradually gave up everything. In summers, she would do penance amidst fire… rains, she would sit in pouring rain & meditate,………in winters she would stand neck deep in cold water & chant Shiva’s name. The jungle, the animals, the nature, anyone around, was in awe of her. Everyone was moved by her devotion & determination.

Shiva, too started to feel the effect. He however, wanted to test her grit. So he sent Saptarishis to her. When questioned why she is doing this tapas, she narrated her desire to marry Shiva. They tried telling her that Shiva was not meant for her…..he would not be able to make her happy. However, Parvati stuck to her resolve, saying, “I know I am his wife forever. No one can change that….not even creation. He will certainly accept me some day, & I shall continue my penance till then”. The sages were pleased with her one pointed devotion & resolve. They blessed her & left.
Now Shiva, himself disguised as a young man & went to Parvati. He started making fun of her penance. He said, “Why are you wasting your beauty & youth on such an ascetic, who doesn’t even pay any heed to you……he lives like a beggar & has no sense of comfort of livelihood. He is peculiar in behavior, lives in burial ground, with a snake around his neck, ash over his body, Ganga & moon on his head, & he is so very cold. He moves on an ox & has spirits as his companions.”
Parvati got angry at this & said, “ You have no idea what Shiva is. He is the Lord of the whole universe, he is the Lord of my Universe, he is everything I ever wanted. He is & will always be my husband. I am not bothered by all the looks that you mentioned. The whole world may stay away from him, but I choose to be with him, where ever he wishes to stay. Please leave me alone with my husband. I need to do more penance for him to open his eyes for me”. Saying this, Parvati started to leave.

Shiva could bear no longer. He had tried & tested Parvati’s resolve beyond any imagination. He gave up his disguise & came out in his own self & said, “O beautiful Lady… have won over my mind. I am pleased with your devotion & penance. Please pardon me for testing you for so long. Marry me & come with me to our home abode in Mount Kailash. Parvati was overjoyed, as was everyone around.
However, Parvati however, remembered how, Kamdev had given his life to Shiva’s ire. She asked Shiva to restore life back to Kamdev. Shiva, now in happy state, gave Rati the boon, “So be it. Since Kamdev gave his life for the welfare of the mankind, he will take birth as son of Krishna & wed Rati again in Dwapar Yuga. Meanwhile, whenever, Rati would desire, Kamdev would come to her(secretly) & make her happy.

All the Gods & Goddesses came, as came all the sages, rishis, & learned ones to the grand marriage of Shiva & Parvati. Having married Shiva, Parvati became the mother of the Universe. They gave birth to a son, who was named Kartikeya, who was very beautiful to look at & very strong. He commandeered the army of Gods & killed Taraka to free the world of cruelty.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Shiva Parvati.... the legend 2

Many years later, Sati was reborn, this time as daughter of Himavan(King of Mountains) & Mena(an apsara). Her name in this birth was Uma. From childhood itself, Uma showed clear inclination of her love & respect for Shiva. As she grew up to be a radiantly beautiful lady, her love for Shiva kept growing as well. Her life revolved around the thoughts of Shiva. Since her parents too were devout worshippers of Shiva, Uma had all the support of her father this time & she prayed & performed many rituals to appease Shiva.

Shiva meanwhile was living the life of an ascetic for many many years, at Mount Kailash, mostly in meditation, very much away from any worldly pleasures. He was still in grief of losing Sati, whom he loved so much. He did not want to be disturbed at all & did not appreciate anyone coming upto him.
Meanwhile, Narada(the holy sage of the Gods who keep travelling between the three worlds), visited Himavan & when he saw Uma, he said, “ She is the one who was Sati in her previous birth, & because of her undying love for Shiva, she is destined to marry Him & be his wife forever. However, Shiva needs to be appeased through penance, worship & devotion.” He told Himavan & Mena to allow Uma to do rituals & tapas for Shiva.

Meanwhile, another story adds on. It is said that Diti, one of the wives of sage Kashyapa, started the Rakshak race. Kasyapa & Diti gave birth to Vajranga who married Varaangi & they gave birth to Taraka, the demon king. Taraka did several penances to please Brahma (who is known to give boons very easily…..& create all the chaos!!!!) & got two significant boons. One was that Taraka would be the most powerful person on Earth. Second was that Taraka could be killed only by a son born to Shiva. Now since Shiva, was mourning the death of his wife Sati & not interested in marriage again, Taraka was sure that no one could kill him. This made him ruthless & wicked. He did now allow anyone to do penance or sacrifices, so that no one could attain any boons. He would immediately ruin any ritual or penance or charity that anyone would dare to do. Only Shiva continued his meditations, as that worked in Taraka’s favour. Unable to bear such harassment & cruelty, all the Gods & Goddesses went to Lord Brahma, but nothing came out of it. Having given the boons, even Brahma was helpless.

Meanwhile, now with the support of her parents, Uma kept on visiting the place where Shiva sat to meditate & live as an ascetic. Since she was daughter of Himavan(the king of Mountains), & she regularly visited the mountains, where Shiva meditated, she was also named Parvati. She would clean up & beautify the place, serve Shiva with food & water & attend to anything that he may need. Her world just surrounded with thoughts of Shiva whom she started looking upon as her husband. She would pray & make offerings to the Divine asking for only one boon…to become the wife of Shiva & live happily with him. However, Shiva would not relent & pay almost no attention to Uma or her presence.

Side by side, Taraka’s cruelty kept increasing. All the Gods now met up & decided that somehow, they have to break Shiva’s meditation & get him to marry Parvati. Lord Indra (King of the Gods), instructed Kamdev(God of Love) to go to Parvati along with his wife Rati, to help Parvati woo Shiva.
“ Kamdev, you are the only one who can save the world from Taraka. You have to instill Love in Shiva, so that he marries Parvati & gives birth to a son, who is destined to kill Taraka”. Finally after years of patient wait, Divine had send help to Parvati. Her penance was showing results.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Shiva Parvati....the legend

According to legends, it is said that Sati, the eldest daughter of Daksha Prajapati, a famous King was in love with Shiva & had married him against the wishes of her father, who did not approve of Shiva’s unconventional lifestyle, staying on Mount Kailash.
Out of anger, at his daughter going away to Shiva, Daksha decided to take revenge, & organized for a big ritual, where he invited all the Gods & Goddesses except Shiva & Sati. Though uninvited, Sati still went to the visit her parents at the event, & Daksha took this chance to humiliate her by speaking insultingly of Shiva. Sati could not take the insult & jumped into the fire to immolate herself.

She immolated herself with a wish that she be born again to a King who would respect her decision & allow her to enjoy a happy life with Shiva. When this news reached Shiva, he was beyond control with anger. He destroyed the ritual of Daksha & cut his head off. On being pleaded for mercy by various Gods, Shiva finally relented & brought back Daksha to life by placing the head of a goat. However, completely grief stricken, Shiva, picked up the charred remains of his wife Sati, & began the dance of destruction (tandaav nritya). The Gods were simply scared of Shiva’s anger & made every attempt to stop him. Scared that Shiva would destroy the whole Universe, all the Gods went to Vishnu for help. Vishnu realized that Shiva was overcome with grief & the dead body of his wife was adding to the sorrow. He was dancing in a trance & was beyond control. Vishnu then used his Sudarshan Chakra to remove the corpse of Sati from Shiva & in that attempt, various parts of the body fell at several spots of the Indian subcontinent. These spots (52 in total) later became famous as Shakti Peeths. (will write about this later)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Durga Puja...the mythology...the rituals - part 3

On the sixth day after the Mahalaya, better known as Maha Shasthi, the Durga Puja actually starts. Early morning a ritual is done which is mainly the act of making a Sankalp (sacred intention), a firm determination to conduct the Puja properly over the next three days. The ritual consists of installing the ghata (a copper pot filled with water) at a corner of the Durga Mandap(place of the Puja) & offering to the Devi. Later in the evening, when the sun is setting, Bodhan(awakening) is done. The Hindu mythology says that, all the Gods & the Goddesses go to sleep for six months during the southward journey of the Sun. Hence it is essential to awaken the diety. As mentioned earlier, this was done by Ram for the first time, when he was going to war with Ravan. The ritual of Bodhan consists of installing a water filled copper vessel, with a small branch of Bel leaves(a sacred tree) at the diety, & praying for the Divine Mother to awaken. After Bodhan, follows Adhivas & Amantran. Adhivas means invocation, as after the Devi has been awakened, she needs to be invoked in the water filled copper pot with Bel plant. This is also a ritual of sanctifying the Puja Mandap. So first the Devi is worshipped & invoked in the Bel. After that, twenty six mangalik dravyas ( sacramental objects) as per Vidhi(rituals), are sanctified by touching them with the Devi invoked Bel. Then to ward off any evil effects, a red thread is tied around the altar where the Puja would happen over the next three days. This is followed by Amantran(invitation), through which, the Devi is formally invited to accept the Puja from the next day. Devi is then worshipped with five items & Aarati(recitals with a multi headed lamp, lit with cotton ends doused in oil) is done. The ritual is normally celebrated with ladies putting up stalls of home cooked eateries, which the crowd assembled enjoy thoroughly.

On the seventh day, Maha Saptami, Puja starts in the morning with invocation. On the sixth day, Devi was invoked in the Bel. On the seventh day, the Devi is invoked in a group of nine plants, which are bundled together, known as ‘NavaPatrika’. It is believed that it is through a living medium that the Divinity manifests itself. So these nine plants, which also includes a branch of the Bel, are bundled together, give a ceremonial bath & covered with an orange cloth & installed on a wooden seat on the right side of the image of Goddess Durga. This is followed by Pran Pratishtha, through which it is believed that Devi Durga has come to life on the mandap. This is then followed by worshipping the Devi with sixteen items. The other deities & other objects associated with the Devi are then worshipped. This is followed by Pushpanjali (offerings through flowers & sacred mantras), where everyone gathers around the diety with flowers in hands & prayers(normally recited by Thakoor Moshai(the priest, who conducts the Puja). The Puja is concluded with Bhog(food offerings), which is then distributed amongst the devotees who gather. The evening, is normally another round of Pujas followed by Aarati done on wooden cups filled with narkel chobra(the dry fibrous husk, outer covering of a Cocunut). These are lit up & with karpur(camphor) & dhoop materials added, it creates quite a smoke(considered to be auspicious & healthy). Devotees pick up these hot cups & dance in tandem to the beats of the Dhak(traditional drums) & kashor ghanta(traditional copper heads, which are banged with a wooden spatula). It really is a sight to watch.

The next day is Maha Ashtami, considered by many as the main day of Puja. This day also, the ceremonial bath takes place which is again followed by worshipping the Devi with sixteen items. After this nine small pots are with flags of different colours are installed & the Nine Shaktis are invoked. After this various rounds of Pujas are done on Yoginis(mythical characters). This is followed by the worship of Nava Durga(nine aspects of Durga). Next comes the worship of Jayanti, Mangala, Kali, Bhadrakali, Kapalini, Durga, Shiva, Kshama, Dhatri, Svaha & Svadha…..various forms of the Devi. The Pujas are quite elaborate on this day. At some Puja mandaps, there is also a ritual of Kumari Puja, where young girls are treated as a Devi & worshipped, with a belief that the Devi manifests herself in a pure hearted girl. This is followed by Pushpanjali, which is considered to be the most auspicious of all the days. Normally, devotees keep fast till they have offered pushpanjali. Bhog follows & devotees rejoice in eating to their hearts content. This delicious food offerings is normally a piping hot traditional preparation of rice & pulses accompanied with an assortment of vegetables along with chatni & payesh(a traditional sweet preparation). This continues till quite late in the afternoon. Evening witnesses Aarati again to the rhythmic beating of Dhak & Kashor Ghanta. Towards the midnight, the last 24 minutes of Maha Ashtami & the first 24 minutes of Maha Navami( 48 minutes between two lunar days), Sandhi Puja takes place. This period is considered to be very auspicious. At this time the Devi is worshipped at Chamunda(as Kali, Devi had killed the demons Chanda & Munda). This puja is considered to be the most important ritual of the whole Puja. In earlier times, at some places, a goat was being sacrificed(Patha Boli) on the altar as a ritual, but now that has been stopped. Alternatively a fruit, (normally a banana) is being put up for sacrifice as a ritual.

Next day is Maha Navami, the ninth day. The usual rituals like previous days continue, as the Puja reaches towards its end. Homas, with Vedic chnatings are performed along with offerings of vegetables like white pumpkin & sugarcane. The pushpanjali, bhog etc continue as usual. The drum beats are more regular on this day, as the devotees start to realize that the event is nearing its end.

The last day, is Vijaya Dashami. The day starts, with a small puja followed by Shital Bhog(cool food offerings), which is a mixture of yogurt & puffed rice along with bananas & batasha(sugar candies). Later, ladies, especially married women, get to the stage, offer to the Devi sindoor, kumkum & sweets & then play within themselves. After this the priest & the tantradharak perform the Visarjan ritual. In this, the Devi who had been invoked in the Navapatrika, is entreated to return to her celestial abode. The devotees, towards the afternoon gather & take the Idols & the Navapatrika in a procession to any nearby river or lake & immerse the idols, as a ritual of the Devi returning to her heavenly abode. “Aashche bochor abar hobe……Durga Mai ki Jai” (we shall celebrate again next year………Hail to victory Goddess Mother Durga), chants render at the top of the voices. After the immersion, some water is collected from the river & brought back to the Puja spot, where it is sprinkled on the devotees. This water is called Shanti Jal ( water that brings peace & happiness). People them embrace each other in greetings. The young touch the feet of the elders & then embrace wishing each other “Shubho Bijoya”. This ritual continues till Kali Puja (for about a fortnight), where people visit each other’s homes & wish Shubho Bijoya along with sweets, mostly home made.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Love Story - expression of Life!!!

Chirag seemed so full of life. He seemed to be a man of with a view of his own. His life had been a roller coaster journey, with regular ups & downs. He seemed to invite trouble at every corner of his life (he would call it action & challenge)…….. a regular trouble shooter. But what stood apart was his ability to smile at everything & take life as it came by….without much of complains. He seemed to thrive in challenges. He came across as a person, who could just never say a NO…..always wanting to be of help to others irrespective of his own situations, & end up getting into many troubles.

Our friendship continued & cemented over the next few months. Coonoor had left a soothing piece in our memory, & we kept in regular touch after that. We kept meeting more & more & sharing more & more about ourselves.

However the reason of my writing about Chirag on my blog is extremely sensitive.
Chirag is in love with a girl, Piali. They have been in a relationship for more than 14 years. The intensity of love between the two is something to be imagined…… times bordering around unbelievable. Chirag had introduced me to Piali last year, when I was visiting Kolkata, & I was amazed at their chemistry & love… pure & simple. Just made for each other. When together, they are like a dream……. Stuff that famous love stories are made of. When in difference, its hard to believe that they were ever together.

Sadly, a couple of months back, Chirag has had a serious tiff with Piali, & she has just left him & gone. He has no clue on where she is & has not been able to connect with her. Even on her birthday, Piali was unreachable. I have never seen Chirag so glum & sad & lost. Reading Chirag’s diary, especially on their relationship has been a revelation of sorts……I just want them back together !!!!!

Over the phone, the other day Chirag was singing,

“Chand mera dil, Chandni ho tum, Chand se hai door, Chandni kahan, Laut ke aana, hai yehin tumko, jaa rahe ho tum, jao meri jaan ……jao meri jaan”

This is an attempt from my side to reach out to Piali & tell her, how much she is being missed & loved. As a series of articles, I shall attempt to piece in together their love story & their journey together this far. I just hope Piali reads my blog & realizes the need to come back…….from where ever she is………

Pls come back Piali….pls......I don’t think You or Chirag can ever live without each other !!!!

to be continued.........

Monday, October 5, 2009

GO KISS the WORLD - Subroto Bagchi

(This speech was delivered to the Class of 2006 at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore on defining success by Subroto Bagchi, CEO MindTree) quoting it verbatim for all my readers. Its a story of rare insight, courage & value systems. Let this be a learning & a glow of light for all of us!!!!!

I was the last child of a small-time government servant, in a family of five brothers. My earliest memory of my father is as that of a District Employment Officer in Koraput, Orissa. It was, and remains as back of beyond as you can imagine. There was no electricity; no primary school nearby and water did not flow out of a tap. As a result, I did not go to school until the age of eight; I was home-schooled. My father used to get transferred every year. The family belongings fit into the back of a jeep – so the family moved from place to place and without any trouble, my Mother would set up an establishment and get us going. Raised by a widow who had come as a refugee from the then East Bengal, she was a matriculate when she married my Father.
My parents set the foundation of my life and the value system, which makes me what I am today and largely, defines what success means to me today..

As District Employment Officer, my father was given a jeep by the government. There was no garage in the Office, so the jeep was parked in our house. My father refused to use it to commute to the office. He told us that the jeep is an expensive resource given by the government- he reiterated to us that it was not ”his jeep” but the government’s jeep. Insisting that he would use it only to tour the interiors, he would walk to his office on normal days... He also made sure that we never sat in the government jeep – we could sit in it only when it was stationary.
That was our early childhood lesson in governance – a lesson that corporate managers learn the hard way, some never do.

The driver of the jeep was treated with respect due to any other member of my Father’s office. As small children, we were taught not to call him by his name. We had to use the suffix ‘dada’ whenever we were to refer to him in public or private. When I grew up to own a car and a driver by the name of Raju was appointed – I repeated the lesson to my two small daughters. They have, as a result, grown up to call Raju, ‘Raju Uncle’ – very different from many of their friends who refer to their family driver, as ‘my driver’. When I hear that term from a school- or college-going person, I cringe.
To me, the lesson was significant – you treat small people with more respect than how you treat big people. It is more important to respect your subordinates than your superiors.

Our day used to start with the family huddling around my Mother’s chulha – an earthen fire place she would build at each place of posting where she would cook for the family. There was neither gas, nor electrical stoves.The morning routine started with tea. As the brew was served, Father would ask us to read aloud the editorial page of The Statesman’s ‘muffosil’ edition – delivered one day late. We did not understand much of what we were reading. But the ritual was meant for us to know that the world was larger than Koraput district and the English I speak today, despite having studied in an Oriya medium school, has to do with that routine. After reading the newspaper aloud, we were told to fold it neatly. Father taught us a simple lesson.
He used to say, “You should leave your newspaper and your toilet, the way you expect to find it”. That lesson was about showing consideration to others. Business begins and ends with that simple precept.

Being small children, we were always enamored with advertisements in the newspaper for transistor radios – we did not have one. We saw other people having radios in their homes and each time there was an advertisement of Philips, Murphy or Bush radios, we would ask Father when we could get one. Each time, my Father would reply that we did not need one because he already had five radios – alluding to his five sons.We also did not have a house of our own and would occasionally ask Father as to when, like others, we would live in our own house. He would give a similar reply,” We do not need a house of our own. I already own five houses”. His replies did not gladden our hearts in that instant.
Nonetheless, we learnt that it is important not to measure personal success and sense of well being through material possessions.

Government houses seldom came with fences. Mother and I collected twigs and built a small fence. After lunch, my Mother would never sleep. She would take her kitchen utensils and with those she and I would dig the rocky, white ant infested surrounding. We planted flowering bushes. The white ants destroyed them. My mother brought ash from her chulha and mixed it in the earth and we planted the seedlings all over again. This time, they bloomed. At that time, my father’s transfer order came. A few neighbors told my mother why she was taking so much pain to beautify a government house, why she was planting seeds that would only benefit the next occupant. My mother replied that it did not matter to her that she would not see the flowers in full bloom. She said, “I have to create a bloom in a desert and whenever I am given a new place, I must leave it more beautiful than what I had inherited”.
That was my first lesson in success. It is not about what you create for yourself, it is what you leave behind that defines success.

My mother began and galvanized the nation in to patriotic fervor. Other than reading out the newspaper to my mother, I had no clue about how I could be part of the action. So, after reading her the newspaper, every day I would land up near the University’s water tank, which served the community. I would spend hours under it, imagining that there could be spies who would come to poison the water and I had to watch for them. I would daydream about catching one and how the next day, I would be featured in the newspaper. Unfortunately for me, the spies at war ignored the sleepy town and I never got a chance to catch one in action. Yet, that act unlocked my imagination.
Imagination is everything. If we can imagine a future, we can create it, if we can create that future, others will live in it. That is the essence of success.

Over the next few years, my mother’s eyesight dimmed but in me she created a larger vision, a vision with which I continue to see the world and, I sense, through my eyes, she was seeing too.. As the next few years unfolded, her vision deteriorated and she was operated for cataract. I remember, when she returned after her operation and she saw my face clearly for the first time, she was astonished. She said, “Oh my God, I did not know you were so fair”.. I remain mighty pleased with that adulation even till date. Within weeks of getting her sight back, she developed a corneal ulcer and, overnight, became blind in both eyes. That was 1969. She died in 2002. In all those 32 years of living with blindness, she never complained about her fate even once. Curious to know what she saw with blind eyes, I asked her once if she sees darkness. She replied, “No, I do not see darkness. I only see light even with my eyes closed”. Until she was eighty years of age, she did her morning yoga everyday, swept her own room and washed her own clothes.
To me, success is about the sense of independence; it is about not seeing the world but seeing the light.

Over the many intervening years, I grew up, studied, joined the industry and began to carve my life’s own journey. I began my life as a clerk in a government office, went on to become a Management Trainee with the DCM group and eventually found my life’s calling with the IT industry when fourth generation computers came to India in 1981. Life took me places – I worked with outstanding people, challenging assignments and traveled all over the world.
In 1992, while I was posted in the US, I learnt that my father, living a retired life with my eldest brother, had suffered a third degree burn injury and was admitted in the Safderjung Hospital in Delhi. I flew back to attend to him – he remained for a few days in critical stage, bandaged from neck to toe. The Safderjung Hospital is a cockroach infested, dirty, inhuman place. The overworked, under-resourced sisters in the burn ward are both victims and perpetrators of dehumanized life at its worst. One morning, while attending to my Father, I realized that the blood bottle was empty and fearing that air would go into his vein, I asked the attending nurse to change it. She bluntly told me to do it myself. In that horrible theater of death, I was in pain and frustration and anger. Finally when she relented and came, my Father opened his eyes and murmured to her, “Why have you not gone home yet?” Here was a man on his deathbed but more concerned about the overworked nurse than his own state. I was stunned at his stoic self.
There I learnt that there is no limit to how concerned you can be for another human being and what the limit of inclusion is you can create.

My father died the next day. He was a man whose success was defined by his principles, his frugality, his universalism and his sense of inclusion.Above all, he taught me that success is your ability to rise above your discomfort, whatever may be your current state. You can, if you want, raise your consciousness above your immediate surroundings. Success is not about building material comforts – the transistor that he never could buy or the house that he never owned. His success was about the legacy he left, the memetic continuity of his ideals that grew beyond the smallness of a ill-paid, unrecognized government servant’s world.My father was a fervent believer in the British Raj. He sincerely doubted the capability of the post-independence Indian political parties to govern the country. To him, the lowering of the Union Jack was a sad event. My Mother was the exact opposite. When Subhash Bose quit the Indian National Congressand came to Dacca, my mother, then a schoolgirl, garlanded him. She learnt to spin khadi and joined an underground movement that trained her in using daggers and swords. Consequently, our household saw diversity in the political outlook of the two. On major issues concerning the world, the Old Man and the Old Lady had differing opinions.
In them, we learnt the power of disagreements, of dialogue and the essence of living with diversity in thinking.
Success is not about the ability to create a definitive dogmatic end state; it is about the unfolding of thought processes, of dialogue and continuum.

Two years back, at the age of eighty-two, Mother had a paralytic stroke and was lying in a government hospital in Bhubaneswar. I flew down from the US where I was serving my second stint, to see her. I spent two weeks with her in the hospital as she remained in a paralytic state. She was neither getting better nor moving on. Eventually I had to return to work. While leaving her behind, I kissed her face.
In that paralytic state and a garbled voice, she said,“Why are you kissing me, go kiss the world.” Her river was nearing its journey, at the confluence of life and death, this woman who came to India as a refugee, raised by a widowed Mother, no more educated than high school, married to an anonymous government servant whose last salary was Rupees Three Hundred, robbed of her eyesight by fate and crowned by adversity was telling me to go and kiss the world!

Success to me is about Vision. It is the ability to rise above the immediacy of pain. It is about imagination. It is about sensitivity to small people. It is about building inclusion. It is about connectedness to a larger world existence. It is about personal tenacity. It is about giving back more to life than you take out of it. It is about creating extra-ordinary success with ordinary lives.

Thank you very much; I wish you good luck and God’s speed.
Go! Kiss the world..............

Love expression of Life !!!

It all started with my meeting Chirag, a couple of years back, on a wintry morning at Coonoor, a small rustic town in the foothills of Nilgiris. I was taking an early morning stroll thru the misty woods, when my ears latched on to the soft tune of a popular old song……….there was this short man, slightly built, standing at the end of a ravine singing blissfully……something about the way he was singing, drew me to him. He seemed all by himself…….oblivious of all surroundings, lost in some thoughts……singing soulfully.
“Ruk jana nahi, tu kahin haar ke, kaaton pe chalke milenge saaye bahaar ke….O raahi, O raahi, O raahi, O raahi……… “

Chirag, seemed disturbed at my presence, but did not voice so….just smiled quietly & started walking away……the song slowly fading away with him. I just could not resist walking up to him & introduce myself. “Hey, Good morning !!, am Biprashish. Did I disturb you??” He was immediately on guard, “No no….. I was just taking a morning walk…..its so beautiful here……quiet, & tranquil”. I asked again, “What’s your name?”…… “Chirag, he replied…… I am Chirag Sanyal”, with a smile. We kept gazing into the far ranging mountains……..the light fresh breeze softly nudging us, the silent woods keeping our company. Guess, out of sheer courtesy, Chirag, stopped singing & started speaking with me….as if not to offend me. He was courteous & polite, but distant… if unsure of what to do next. We started a casual chat & with nothing else to disturb or distract, our conversation kept opening up……Somewhere, we started connecting, & opening up further. We strolled up to a tea stall, & the hot brew added to the flavor. Time just flew by, as I got to know Chirag…….here was a man for whom Love has been the essence of life.
I was there in Connoor for the next four days, & we kept meeting & spending more & more time together. It was as if both of us were in need of a close friend, & we fitted into the role perfectly. While I was holidaying & had all the time in the world, Chirag had come there on an official tour……..some kind of an annual meet for his company…..he seemed quite bored with the office work, & his colleagues were not his kind……they were busy discussing business, in & out of sessions, liquor & tobacco flowing……… added with loud jokes….Chirag seemed completely out of place. He would therefore sneak out to meet me & we would go for long walks into the woods, or sit by the cliff edges & sing old melodies. He had a guitar & I had my mouthorgan……. It was either music or getting to know each other.
His favorite was Kishore Kumar, & therefore mostly the songs were from yester years…..

“Yeh dard bhara afsana, sun le anjaan jamaana, jamaana, mai hoon ek pagal premi, mera dard na koi jaana…….. “

“ Koi lauta de mere beete huye din, beete huye din who hai pyaare pal chin…..”

There were many such songs, which drooled in melancholy & pain, suggesting that he was in serious pain……but, strangely, he seemed to smile, as if at himself & then go along to sing songs like :
“Chala jaata hoon, kisi ke dhun mein, dharakte dil ke taraane liye, Milan ki masti bhari aakhon mein, hazaaron sapney, suhaney liye…….”

“Main jahan chala jaaun, bahaar chali aaye, ho mahek gayi rahon ke dhool, main ban phool, ban ka phool…….”

“Main hoon jhoom jhoom jhoom jhoom jhoomroo, banker phakkad main to ghoomroo, main yeh pyaar ka geet sonata chala, manjil pe mari nazar, main duniya se bekhabar, beeti baaton pe dhool udata chala”

to be continued .......................

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Durga Puja...the mythology...the rituals - part 2

There are references of Durga Maa in the epics of Ramayana & Mahabharata. It is said that in the time of Puranas, traditionally, Goddess Durga was worshipped in the spring season. Thus Durga Puja was also known as the Basanti Puja. However, during Treta Yug, Ram had crossed the Ocean with his Vanar Vahini (monkey army) & travelled to Lanka to end the tyranny of Ravan, the demon King & free his beloved wife Sita from the clutches of Ravan. Since Ravan was extremely powerful & was under protection of heavenly boons, Ram was advised by Narad to invoke the Goddess Durga, the epitome of Shakti. So though it was autumn time, Ram preponed the rituals & worshipped the Devi. Ram came to know that Devi would be pleased, if he offered her one hundred blue Lotuses. But travelling all over the place, Ram could only manage to gather ninety nine Lotuses. Since time was running out, Ram decided to cut & offer one of his eyes, as they were said to resemble the beauty of a blue Lotus. Just when he was about to do so, Goddess Durga appeared before him & stopped him. She also blessed him with victory. It is said that with her blessings, Ram was able to kill Ravan on the same Vijaya Dashami day & bring back peace & prosperity on earth.

That is why it is called ‘Akal Bodhan’ or the untimely Pujas. Over the years, ‘Akal Bodhan’, has become the traditional Durga Pujas for the Bengalis over the world. Interestingly, in Durga Puja, the Bengalis, claim that the Goddess Durga is visiting her parents, travelling from Kailash Parbat (home abode of Shiva & Parvati) to Bhoolok(the Earth), where her parents reside. (will write about this separately in details)..........

It all starts with Vishwakarma Puja, which normally falls on the 17th September every year. According to mythology, Vishwahkrama is known as the principal architect of the Gods……..the all who had fabricated , designed & created the entire Universe at the behest of Lord Brahma(Lord of Creation). He is also credited to creating the various missiles used in the mythological era. Vishwakarma is regarded as the supreme worker, the very essence of excellence & quality in craftsmanship. Vishwakarma Puja is celebrated in all industrial houses, artists, craftsmen etc & is observed on Kanya Sankranti day, normally on 17th September, which marks the beginning of the festive seasons, the first of the occasions being the Ganesh Puja on Ganesh Chaturthi.

Mahalaya, is the new moon day or Amavasya, ending the Pitr Paksha & the beginning of the Devi Paksha. According to ancient scriptures, this day is considered to be extremely auspicious for making offerings to the fore fathers & praying for the peace of the departed souls. This day, also known as “Torpon”, people throng river side, early in the morning, especially the Ganges, or visit temples like Trambakeshwar (near Nasik, Maharashtra),to make offerings & perform rites. For the Bengalis, this day starts very very early in the morning, with recitals & shlokas & beautiful musical renditions on the Devi over the radio… Since 1930s it has been the soul stirring voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra, over the radio, which we have all grown up hearing these recitals over the years, & the magic & the enchanting music still enthralls every Bengali…….where ever he or she is.

"Ya devi sarbabhuteshu, sakti rupena sanksthita
Namasteshwai Namasteshwai Namasteshwai namo namaha...."
to be continued.............