Can we do something?

This morning there was a joke in the newspaper about the Chinese overtaking the Americans. Chinese kids chuckling over having Americans working for them in 2030. “Why do great nations fail?”, the teacher asked. “It happens because they turn their back on the things that make them great.”

Non-violence, honesty and pride made India great. Today we seem to have lost all three. Our leaders see commonwealth games as a way to make a quick buck, our military is building personal houses worth millions on public land, but for a moment stop blaming them. Pause to think about a common man on the street and what example he is setting for his teenage kid. Is he teaching them these values? Are schools worried about making good humans, or are busy creating mark getting machines? Mr.Sibal this is what I would call a reform.

Are these values even relevant today? People will argue both ways and its getting harder by the day to hold ground on this value school of thought. I am convinced though that this is the only way to make India truly great. Each person needs to be his own watchdog. Not easy, but not impossible.

During independence a great role was played by our songwriters. That is another community that has lost its purpose. However, as I said let values begin at home then blame others.

Going back to our priceless scriptures will make it easier for us to achieve this. I want to end with this beautiful song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=US&client=mv-google&hl=en&v=3DUoUULuWNM

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Of Anthems…

Anthem for the Universe
Anthem for the Universe

Its a commonly held misnomer that the Indian National Anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana‘ was written by Tagore in praise of George V. Tagore who had the guts to refuse knighthood, would not write in praise of any George.

The anthem was written as Ode to God – intentionally to let the British think its in praise of King George V. This is a common route that poets take against to mock the establishment.

Tagore was a well read person. He was once asked what he would write as the anthem for the universe. Tagore replied that that had already been written by Guru Nanak. He was referring to the following:

ਗਗਨ ਮੈ ਥਾਲੁ ਰਵਿ ਚੰਦੁ ਦੀਪਕ ਬਨੇ ਤਾਰਿਕਾ ਮੰਡਲ ਜਨਕ ਮੋਤੀ ॥
Think of the sky as a plate, the sun and the moon are the lamps. The stars and their orbs are the studded pearls.
ਧੂਪੁ ਮਲਆਨਲੋ ਪਵਣੁ ਚਵਰੋ ਕਰੇ ਸਗਲ ਬਨਰਾਇ ਫੂਲੰਤ ਜੋਤੀ ॥੧॥
The fragrance of sandalwood in the air is the temple incense, and the wind is the fan. All the plants of the world are the altar flowers in offering to You, O Luminous Lord. ||1||
ਕੈਸੀ ਆਰਤੀ ਹੋਇ ॥
What a beautiful worship service this is!
ਭਵ ਖੰਡਨਾ ਤੇਰੀ ਆਰਤੀ ॥
O Destroyer of Fear this worship is worthy of You.
ਅਨਹਤਾ ਸਬਦ ਵਾਜੰਤ ਭੇਰੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
The Unstruck Sound-current of the Shabad is the vibration of the temple drums. ||1||Pause||
ਸਹਸ ਤਵ ਨੈਨ ਨਨ ਨੈਨ ਹਹਿ ਤੋਹਿ ਕਉ ਸਹਸ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਨਨਾ ਏਕ ਹੀਤ ॥
You have thousands of eyes, and yet You have no eyes. You have thousands of forms, and yet You do not have even one.
ਸਹਸ ਪਦ ਬਿਮਲ ਨਨ ਏਕ ਪਦ ਗੰਧ ਬਿਨੁ ਸਹਸ ਤਵ ਗੰਧ ਇਵ ਚਲਤ ਮੋਹੀ ॥੨॥
You have thousands of Lotus Feet, and yet You do not have even one foot. You have no nose, but you have thousands of noses. This Play of Yours entrances me. ||2||
ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਜੋਤਿ ਹੈ ਸੋਇ ॥
Amongst all is the Light-You are the source of that Light.
ਤਿਸ ਦੈ ਚਾਨਣਿ ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਚਾਨਣੁ ਹੋਇ ॥
By this Illumination, that Light is radiant within all.
ਗੁਰ ਸਾਖੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਪਰਗਟੁ ਹੋਇ ॥
Through the Guru’s Teachings, the Light of knowledge shines forth.
ਜੋ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਸੁ ਆਰਤੀ ਹੋਇ ॥੩॥
That which is pleasing to Him is the lamp-lit worship service. ||3||
ਹਰਿ ਚਰਣ ਕਵਲ ਮਕਰੰਦ ਲੋਭਿਤ ਮਨੋ ਅਨਦਿਨ ਮੋਹਿ ਆਹੀ ਪਿਆਸਾ ॥
My mind is enticed by the honey-sweet Lotus Feet of the Lord. Day and night, I thirst for them.
ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾ ਜਲੁ ਦੇਹਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਾਰਿੰਗ ਕਉ ਹੋਇ ਜਾ ਤੇ ਤੇਰੈ ਨਾਇ ਵਾਸਾ ॥੪॥੩॥
Bestow the Water of Your Mercy upon Nanak, the thirsty song-bird, so that he may come to dwell in Your Name. ||4||3||

Guru Nanak penned this when he reached Jagannath Puri (in 1510 AD), and watched the Arti (worship service) and noted its futility. He preached that God is omnipresent, his scent in everything and in every being – not housed in a small temple with destructible idols and extinguishable lamp.

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The Ballad of Father Gilligan

Another beautiful poem that I recall from my school days is the Ballad of Father Gilligan, especially the last stanza:

Father
Father

The old priest Peter Gilligan
Was weary night and day;
For half his flock were in their beds,
Or under green sods lay.

Once, while he nodded on a chair,
At the moth-hour of eve,
Another poor man sent for him,
And he began to grieve.

‘I have no rest, nor joy, nor peace,
For people die and die’;
And after cried he, ‘God forgive!
My body spake, not I!’

He knelt, and leaning on the chair
He prayed and fell asleep;
And the moth-hour went from the fields,
And stars began to peep.

They slowly into millions grew,
And leaves shook in the wind;
And God covered the world with shade,
And whispered to mankind.

Upon the time of sparrow-chirp
When the moths came once more.
The old priest Peter Gilligan
Stood upright on the floor.

‘Mavrone, mavrone! the man has died
While I slept on the chair’;
He roused his horse out of its sleep,
And rode with little care.

He rode now as he never rode,
By rocky lane and fen;
The sick man’s wife opened the door:
‘Father! you come again!’

‘And is the poor man dead?’ he cried.
‘He died an hour ago.’
The old priest Peter Gilligan
In grief swayed to and fro.

‘When you were gone, he turned and died
As merry as a bird.’
The old priest Peter Gilligan
He knelt him at that word.

‘He Who hath made the night of stars
For souls who tire and bleed,
Sent one of His great angels down
To help me in my need.

‘He Who is wrapped in purple robes,
With planets in His care,
Had pity on the least of things
Asleep upon a chair.’

This is by WB Keats. I personally do not believe in something that is visibly a miracle. God does not reveal Himself, in my opinion. Still this is an interesting way to say that He helps His followers.

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We all have pain

Misery
Misery

When I am feeling low, feeling pained and feeling the need to share it with someone I am sometimes reminded of the following from a Checkov story called Misery. It’s an interesting read.

His misery is immense, beyond all bounds. If Iona’s heart were to burst and his misery to flow out, it would flood the whole world, it seems, but yet it is not seen. It has found a hiding-place in such an insignificant shell that one would not have found it with a candle by daylight. . .

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Ozymandias – the king of kings

King of Kings
King of Kings (photo by Charlie Phillips)

The frequency of postings having gone down a bit, the readers may be wondering what I am up to. I am preparing for the first anniversary of this blog.

Today I want to share with you a second poem that has persisted in my memory since school days – the first one having been Twenty Froggies. The name is Ozymandias and was written by Percy Bysshe Shelley in a competition with Horace Smith. The poem is below:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said — “two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert … near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lips, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

The competing entry was (and this one is also nice, but presents a slightly different field of view):

In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desart knows: —
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.” — The City’s gone, —
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.

We wonder, — and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

The message the both convey is simple: Time is bigger than any and all of us. For the believers, it also means that God mocks your pride.

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Upagupta – a poem by Tagore

Upagupta
Upagupta

Upagupta is a beautiful work by Tagore. The story goes as follows:

Upagupta is a disciple of Buddha, and goes from one place to another. He is sleeping in a small town when a dancing girl wakes him up and requests him to sleep at her home. Upagupta refuses, and tells her “I will visit you when the time is ripe.”.
A year later, and again on travel to the same place, Upagupta finds the dancing girl lying on the ground outside the town, having sores all over the body and shunned by the townsfolk. He applies balm on her body and when asked who he was, he replies “The time has come to visit you and I am here.”

Please read the whole poem, it’s beautiful. What I like about the poem is – how Tagore contrasts Time. When the dancing girl is giddy with pride, Upagupta knows its not going to last.

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