Tit for Tat!

These adjectives Good, Bad and Ugly are used to describe humans and their nature. Our world is made up of a combination of interactions between the humans and nature. We humans think that we know a lot about nature but we understand our shortcomings when nature shows its true nature or colours, once in a while. When we talk of nature, we talk about natural things! Nature has not changed much in millions of years, barring temperature and rain in certain areas. The variations that we see are more about the intensity and ferociousness. Otherwise, nature is reasonably predictable. It is we humans who are causing the nature to change with our indiscretions and indiscipline.

But humans? No, they are the most unpredictable lot! Good, Bad and Ugly are the basic words to describe human nature. We need many variations, different words in trying to describe the human nature. Human and Nature are two contradictory words that are always used together. Human nature changes with situations, with life experiences that are good, bad or ugly! The predictability about nature is easy but predicting human nature is 70 to 80% correct.

Whenever humans interact there is one important mix in it, the emotions. Very similar situations are seen by the same human in different ways, depending on the emotions at that time. This also depends on the nature of the group of people or the clans they are from. A small brushing of two vehicles in traffic are treated differently. The scientific name for this event is road rage! Such incidents in North India can result in a murder (UGLY) whereas it can lead to a bit of argument elsewhere. (BAD) Personally, if it is not my error, someone bumping into you from behind, I simply ignore the incident. (GOOD)  Why does this happen? During the last 500 years, there have been many attacks on us. Brunt for these attacks was always borne by northern people. This probably has made them aggressive but the aggression erupts out in the wrong situations, even today. Is it written in their DNA to take revenge, get into fighting mode? Is it happening because the old stories or war and fights and battles are told to the child during their bringing up? Are they taught tit for tat during childhood?

Tit for tat means an equivalent given in retaliation. It is very easy to interpret this as a revenge or giving back. But if we think about the term tit for tat out of the box, there can be a positive interpretation of this term. Supposing there is a dispute going on between two entities. One entity suddenly realizes the folly of the whole situation and takes a step back, a step towards reconciliation, a step towards settlements, a step to resolution. To me, since tit for tat means equivalent given in retaliation, the other entity should also take a step back and try to diffuse the situation, resolve the issue.

In the real world, it is called common sense, in politics, it is called diplomacy, in love, it is called love. In love, there is no reason to give tit for tat, if at all you want to do it, do it by giving more love in return. In friendship, of course, there is nothing like sorry or thank you, so there is no tit for tat. There are many teachings, many examples from Bhagwad Gita and discourse of Lord Krishna but we still follow tit for tat. For example, when Arjuna gets depressed to start the war with his dear ones, Lord Krishna tells him to follow the “Kshatriya Dharma”! No religion tells you to give tit for tat in the sense of revenge.

World and life are never fair to any of us. We have to accept life as it comes, we have to accept our destiny. When we see people in limelight, people succeeding in life, we think that it has been the bed of roses for them all through their lives. But when we read more details about them, when we find more information about them, we know that life is more or less same for all as far as fairness is concerned.

Friends given below is a conversation between Lord Krishna and Karna. I found it very interesting and gives us a deep insight into the philosophy of life. It talks of the better side of the idiom, tit for tat! It says life is unfair to everybody only we do not know about it. The degree of unfairness may differ. Krishna suggests to Karna to stop cribbing and says that unfairness does not anybody give license to behave badly!

Karna asks Lord Krishna – “My mother left me the moment I was born. Is it my fault I was born an illegitimate child?”

Lord Krishna replies, “Karna, I was born in a jail. Death was waiting for me even before my birth. The night I was born I was separated from my birth parents.”

At birth, Krishna’ plight was worse than that of Karna. 

Karna says further, “I did not get the education from Dhronacharya because I was considered a non-Kshatriya. Parshuram taught me but then gave me the curse to forget everything, at the wrong moment, since I was a Kshatriya.”

Lord Krishna Replies, “From childhood, you grew up hearing the noise of swords, chariots, horses, bow, and arrows. I got only cow herd’s shed, dung, and multiple attempts on my life even before I could walk! No army, no education. I could hear people saying I am the reason for all their problems. When all of you were being appreciated for your valour by your teachers I had not even received any education. I joined gurukul of Rishi Sandipani only at the age of 16!”

This indicates how tough it was for Krisha to get his basic education about warfare! 

Karna is still not satisfied and asks Lord Krishna, “A cow was accidentally hit by my arrow & its owner cursed me for no fault of mine. I was disgraced in Draupadi’s swayamvar. Even my mother Kunti, finally told me the truth only to save her other sons. Whatever I received was through Duryodhana’s charity. So how am I wrong in taking his side?”

Lord Krishna smiles and says, “You are married to a girl of your choice. I didn’t get the girl I loved & rather ended up marrying those who wanted me or the ones I rescued from demons. I had to move my whole community from the banks of Yamuna to far off Seashore to save them from Jarasandh. I was called a coward for running away!! If Duryodhana wins the war you will get a lot of credit. What do I get if Dharmaraja wins the war? Only the blame for the war and all related problems….

For Karna Life has been a little fairer than to Krishna!

Lord Krishna says further. “Remember one thing, Karna. Everybody has challenges in life. LIFE IS NOT FAIR TO ANYBODY!!! Duryodhana also has a lot of unfairness in life and so has Yudhhishthir.”

Then he tells life’s philosophy!  

“But what is Right (Dharma) is known to your mind (conscience). No matter how much unfairness we got, how many times we were disgraced, how many times we were denied what was due to us, what is important is how you REACTED at that time.

Stop whining Karna. Life’s unfairness does not give you license to walk the wrong path…

Always remember, Life may be tough at a point, but DESTINY is not created by the SHOES we wear but by the STEPS we take…”

To me, this advice is so true to today’s India!

The Modern Final Journey!

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I was required to go to Vaikunth, a crematorium in Pune, for the final rites of a family member. He was 91 years old but was always positive and smiling. All were in somber mood for obvious reasons but also had a comfortable feeling that he had led a reasonably satisfactory life and had seen all good things that can happen in our lives. We were waiting for our turn to start the process, we were third in the queue! Then I saw the board displayed above.

The board indicated how the final rites of your loved and dear ones can be seen by live streaming where ever you are in the world. Wow! Hinduism is modernizing or is India modernizing? Want to see a movie, go to Netflix, want to order pizza go to a site, order it! Want to see the final rites, get them by live streaming. What is happening? Is this good for the human race? You are too busy to travel for last rites? Or you want to brag, “I have seen so and so persons last rites on live streaming”. Emotions? Heard this word before but I am not sure what it means. When a person dies, two things are important, how close you are to that person or how you are related to that person. If you are out of these circles, on both the counts, then your presence during final rites does not become important.

What is the purpose of the seeing the last rites on live streaming? What do we achieve by doing this? The hospitals now provide facility for keeping the dead body in mortuary. This allows dear ones to travel from around the world for the final rites, within reasonable time. What is so important in one’s life more than attending the final rites of your near and dear one? After this you never see the body again; but if you are comfortable with that then probably next best thing is live streaming. Or is it? Maybe you will say, “Hey bro or sis! Could you adjust angle slightly? I can’t see the face! Ya, that’s better, now!”

In Hindu culture and for that matter in most cultures, taking photos or videos of the departed ones is not the norm! This generally happens only in case of very well-known public figures. Their lives as well as deaths are public! What could be the reason for this? First and foremost is that in olden days there were not many cameras; it is a tradition that is continued, though now cameras are everywhere. Personally, I prefer this tradition of not photo graphing the dead person. I remember at a funeral, years back. In the funeral place, somebody was taking photographs. Those were for that person’s son in law (grandson of the lady who died) and his family who could not travel, taking an eight-hour flight! I stopped him from taking the photos as others in the group did not want confrontation!

Though I am not an atheist, I have reservations about chanting of mantras, following of rituals at funerals. The more I see them, the more I am convinced about the futility of these things. These rituals are supposed to be saviors in the life after death. Is there life after death? My understanding is that when the human race did not know anything about nature and science, the knowledgeable people of those times, came out with rituals by creating fear in the minds of the people. This turned out to be a good business and it made sense to continue with the same. I keep on talking to various experts about this, but nobody has been able to convince me the utility of the rituals and mantras, except probably mental peace. Do I follow what I think (preach will not be the right word)? Yes, when my mother died, we went to the crematorium and without any ritual we took her to the furnace! I have attended many funerals, body is pushed inside, door shut and the furnace blower starts. That sound of the furnace blower motor, makes my heart heavy and moistens my eyes. To me the real final journey just starts, to merge the body with the nature. I have always thought, that when we are born, there is no chanting of mantras, there are no rituals. Then why should we have them at death? Birth and death are only two absolute truths in the world. Someone is either born or has died, there are no two thoughts about it. All other issues have more than one side to them. We should accept the death as we accept birth; of course, our emotions are bound to be different when someone dies.

When we change so much in modern times, why do we not change in our way of thinking about death? Another thing is that the modern world has created physical distances, though you may be close electronically. Or it creates mental distance too? It has also created a busy culture, fast paced life. But is it really so busy that we cannot attend funerals of near and dear ones? I will share a story with you. Someone had an accident, died after about ten days of treatment. So, it was not a sudden death in that sense! His both children were in the US. His daughter flew out.  But the son had some issue regarding Visa status. End result, the son did not come home for the final rites, in fact he never came at all during that year ! Of course, Visa status is more important! Friends, to me this is just not on! Modern life? Do you need a tradition to attend your father’s funeral? Is this a conflict of modernity and tradition? No way. But why such decisions are taken only that family can tell. I am sure that the son will keep on having nightmares till end of his life for this decision!

Am I modern? No, I am contemporary, but would I keep the same thoughts in death too? Yes, direct to the furnace, no mantras and rituals! That’s my take! A Living Will?

By God’s Grace !

I had shared some photos, taken by me,  on Facebook and WhatsApp with friends. My friend Vijay sent me the following message.

“When you see this kind of natural spectacles you get immersed in the vastness- be it Skies- Oceans- huge land spreads- deserts- green lush spreads- mountains and – – – – I don’t know what happens to others, but I get God feelings……”

Vijay, you stole the words from me! This world is so full of good things, that sometimes it is difficult to be negative. This is too general a statement, life can be tricky, tough and sad for many. Usually there are two extremes in everything. But it averages out in most cases, life is made of good and the bad things. Since things yo yo between good and bad, we can enjoy the good part. But I always wonder, why some people always take things negatively.

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When they are in negative mode, they take advise from palmists, gurus and believe in and perform some very weird rituals! I know of someone who is not keeping well for some time; the sickness is pretty bad and almost irreversible. I can understand that person trying different non-conventional options. Along with this, the methods mentioned above are also tried out. Since, this person’s medical case is bad, it is understood that person remains in negative frame of mind.  But due to negative frame of mind, that person follows same extreme methods and thought process, for any small thing going wrong with the family. Except that person’s major illness, nothing abnormal is happening in the family. Someone changing a job, someone having temporary setback in business, it’s is all treated in the same way, very negatively!

Why people think this way? How they become so negative? All of us, always see the same things in the world, same sky, same trees, same clouds and rain, feel the same weather, listen to the same birds. But facilities of some persons get shut to such feelings. With this frame of mind, they disturb the atmosphere in homes, though unwittingly. (One queer thing I observe when I take my walk in the morning. People have ear buds and they are either listening to songs or talking on  cell phone, while walking! Nature for them doe not exist)

I know of another family who had land disputes, ancestral family disputes and what have you. There was always tense situation in the home, within the family, within extended family! The siblings had stopped talking with one sibling since last thirty years. Once while having a coffee with one of the sibling, the same old subject came out. Of course, the situation was explained to us, vehemently. At the end when the things cooled down a bit, they got excited even while explaining to me, I asked a simple question. What did all of you gain? They had no answer. Then I said is it ok if explain the situation. They said ok. I said, ” You all did not talk your one sibling for thirty years.” All included their mother too! I further said, ” You have lost that precious time when there could have been so many enjoyable moments.” End of story is, there is no progress in property dispute. The case has not even gone to court! There were skirmishes within other siblings also, so there was no agreement about anything!

People believe in reincarnation, but I am a firm believer of one life! At any time during our life time, we do not know how much more time we have on this earth; it could be one second, it could be many more years! God is great and by His Grace so many good things are there right in front of us. God has given great brain to humans and it has been used mostly in a very productive and gainful manner. These days you dream of somethings which is considered fictional, at that time. In next ten or twenty years, these things are already there in real life use. That is also a beauty that we tend to miss.

Our generation, which is around 70, has seen so much variation that according to me it is more than enough for three life times. Some people take it in a very positive manner and some people keep on cribbing. They say, these days things are not as they were in our times. I tell them, “This is our time”! Some of us are lucky that with their goodish health, and reduced or no responsibilities, they can really enjoy life. They can travel, they can chat with friends, some people are called out of their retirement to give back more by some organizations. Some have started painting. My friends Anil and Pravin are enjoying their full love for music. Anil plays saxophone professionally and Pravin has formed his troupe and gives shows, where they sing melodious songs to different themes. These things my friends, are possible only because of His Grace!

I know of some families, who have suffered all the time for years together. But I have seen some of them who still have smile on their face. I asked a friend whose family has suffered with many setbacks for a long time, the secret of his smile. I asked him the secret of positivity. He said, ” Pramod, we have a tendency to blame HIM when things go wrong; but we forget to thank HIM when good things happen for us. So, if you remember that everything is due to God’s Grace, it is very easy to remain positive”.

I am sharing more of His Grace below! Nature most of times has only good sides. The photos above and photos below were Sunrise and Sunset on the same day!

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