Brightness and Darkness!

Humans with their evolved brain look at the same thing in different ways. Someone looks at the bright side of things, but other person will only visualize dark side in the same situation or event.

A couple of days back I came across a poem, संध्या (The evening) by Gyanpith Award Winner Kusumagraj, (कुसुमाग्रज ) a well-known Marathi poet. In that poem he has mentioned about our life. He says, “The dawn in life was of course beautiful. But I find the beauty of setting Sun even more charming! The Sun during its day time journey was satisfying, guiding all with its brightness, helping the birds looking for their daily tidbits to eat; it was also helping these birds in looking for their path. However, I find it more exalting to see the enchanted birds coming back to their nest as the Sun is setting towards pure darkness. The satisfied souls are coming back to rest in their nest is more satisfying to me.” The poet is more charmed by the setting Sun or the twilight years of his life; this may be because of pure soul pleasing darkness brought in by the evening!

On the other side, there is a poem by Bha. Ra. Tambe, (भा. रा. ताम्बे) another famous poet in Marathi. Instead of welcoming the twilight phase as done by Kusumagraj, Tambe is sad, soulful about the twilight phase of life! मावळत्या दिनकरा (To the setting Sun) is the poem in which he talks about the pragmatic way of life where rising Sun is always loved but nobody bothers about the setting Sun! The world forgets that the same setting Sun was once a rising Sun!  People will bow to the rising Sun and ignore the setting Sun. The good deeds of a person are simply forgotten, the person maybe ignored as this world shows no gratitude to the previous good deeds. The world will talk about the goodness only on the face of the setting Sun but behind his back he is nobody! This raises a question whether for good deeds performed does a person expect gratitude? If done selflessly, then this feeling of rejection will not be there. Here is the song मावळत्या दिनकरा

I always want to understand how a poet writes a poem? Is it dependent on time period the poet lived in? Is it dependent on the mood of the poet at the time of writing the poem? Is it based on certain experiences that poet has lived? It is very difficult to say. Most probably it is dependent on the mood of the poet at that juncture. Tambe was born in 19 th century and died in 1941 whereas Kusumagraj was born in 1912 and died in 1999. It is possible that in his youth Kusumagraj’s mood must have been elated as India got independence. Whereas Tambe lived all his life under the British Raj. This could indicate diametrically opposite thoughts on  the same  subject.

But again, if we read some other poems of Tambe he appears to be in an elated mood e.g. पिवळे तांबुस ऊन कोवळे पसरे चौफेर. This poem is simply happy song of life. He sees happily swaying fields, birds chirping. He sees the swaying flowers as if they are swinging on branches. कुठे बुडाला पलिकडिल तो सोन्याचा गोळा is the last line in the poem. The same setting Sun appears to him like shining golden globe! This is the beauty of human nature, same event from the nature seems different to the person  at different times, in different moods.

I read a poem by a friend, where a lover is looking at his beloved from a distance. There was a tiff between the two and after the usual lover’s tiff, the couple is being pulled back to each other. The lover is worried to see the tears in the eyes of his beloved. When they meet and hug, he tries to help her and lovingly tells her, “Don’t you worry my beloved, now that I am here. No tears please!” The beloved smiles and still has copious tears in her eyes. She says,” Darling, these were never tears of sorrow, but were tears of joy! When you were away from me, I always saw your face in front of my eyes and I could not stop my tears of joy!” The same tears were seen by two sides in diametrically opposite way.

Why does this happen? Is it due to negativity? Is it due to something else? It is  because the mind is difficult to predict.  I don’t know.  In the lover’s tiff  above, both expressed their thoughts with equal love but in opposite words. Our life is similar, made up of bright days and dark nights! Some periods in life are bright and some are dark; our mood changes to match this change in the life’s ways.  This is how the life changes form bright to dark phase and there is generally light at the end of tunnel to bring back the brightness! Bha. Ra. Tambe, (भा. रा. ताम्बे) has shown to us the effect of mood changes in his treatment to the setting Sun! The world around us is same all the time; our perception and mood make it dark or bright! So when the dark clouds come in the sky or in our life, look at the bright side. These clouds are going bring the rains! And then of course, the Sunshine! 

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Another View Point! The Native place!

This is a very emotional and controversial subject I have touched, and some of my friends may not agree with most of what I have written. But I have just tried to understand the conflict in the minds of the people, that are tough to handle.

Most of my life has been spent in the cities of Pune and Mumbai with small breaks in between when I was very young. So, I do not have the concept of “going to a native place or गांव  or  मुलुख!” These two places have been my gaon! Pune is the native place for me. I have many friends who have their native places, which are much smaller towns or maybe tiny villages. So, I do not have the experience of going to the native place, like these people have. I am sure it must be nostalgic, lovely feeling. I hear many stories of these places, in some cases 50 years old and in others 30 years old. I was trying to imagine how wonderful it must be to have such memories.

But the pragmatic guy in me poked me and said, “Hey, Pramod you also have a native place. But the only difference between those who “actually” have a native place to go and you, is that you have lived almost all your life in your native place! Probably this is the reason you do not become nostalgic when talking about your native place!” Remembering olden days, enjoying the memories of old times is the best thing that a human has, which nobody can take away, ever! It’s must be fun and emotional to go down the memory lane and enjoy oneself. I was talking to my friend Ram, who has his native place, a small town. He recently travelled to his native place. He shared with me the same thoughts as I visualised. He was nostalgic, he remembered many old things right from his grandfather’s time.

The difference in the “native place” of others and my native place is that many of my friends from olden times are still in my native place, in fact, some of them are still living in the same dwellings. I have seen my native place change in front of my eyes! Whereas in the “native places” that come up in discussion have changed from villages to much bigger villages or towns. Towns have become much bigger towns. When I think about this, I always felt how people feel when they go to native places that have lost many things to Time! How many of the old friends live there? If they have lived there all their lives, then have they changed with time? Do you have things common with them after 50 years? Are these things relevant today?

I came across a poem by Kedarnath Singh, a Gyanpeeth award winner. The Poem is “Gaon Ane Par”!  (“On arriving at my native place”) First few lines of the poem are

अब आ तो गया हूँ

पर क्या करुँ मैं?

एक बुढे पक्षी की तरह लौट-लौटकर

मैं क्यों यहां चला आता हूँ बार -बार?

Below lines are my humble attempt to translate in English, the crux of what Kedarnathji has said.

” I have come back to my native place
to do what?

I keep on traversing here like an old bird,

why do I keep coming here, again and again”?

He is confused, and it is obvious that he is not sure why he keeps on doing this. Are these the same people for whom I come here? He muses further. But when I see them, I need to go back to the old time-frame. These are the same people who are mine or are they mine? I don’t know where they live, but why am I insistent that this is my home?

The confusion in the poet’s mind is what happened in my mind too, about my friends who go to their “native place”. Their old homes where ever they lived, in most cases, do not exist. These have been replaced by new structures and maybe have new ownership. None of their close relatives live there. None of their old friends live there. Except for nature, the sea, the river, the hills everything else has changed. The people whom they see are unknown to them like what you have in big Metros, the anonymous. The school building has changed completely or, a business centre is built in its place. Landmarks of olden times have simply vanished. So, what do my friends go there for? For the name of that place? The place which has become foreign to what is in their minds!

I am sure that there will be some nostalgic memories of some particular things, which still exist. In my case, where I lived in my childhood in Mumbai, the same building still exists and is bit renovated. Families don’t live there anymore, and a charitable trust runs an institution in that building. This institution provides low-cost stay for people from outside Mumbai who are required to come and stay for medical treatment, a noble cause. But its presence kicks me in the butt and tells me how time has flown. There is zero chance that someone will even vaguely know me. Will I become nostalgic by just entering those rooms where I lived in my childhood? To me, nostalgia is something with a human touch. At least in my case, luckily, the building exists as it was in 1965!

The poet further meanders with lines, what should I do to make people in the native place feel that I am one of them? They are mine, or are they? For whom I am writing this poem, will they ever read my poem…. should I touch someone, can I hug someone? He has a small fear in his mind. He has become a Dilliwala, a person from Delhi! He is not sure if his “Delhi” version will come in the way of their hug! These and other lines of the poem have beautifully brought out the conflicting thoughts of this community of people going to their “native place”. Ram felt that a tiny percentage of people going back to native place feel really connected. Is it the pilgrimage taken out of some compulsion?

There is a new “going to native place” phenomena due to migration to different countries. These people and people receiving them in the country of birth, naturally have different viewpoints. But it is painful and slightly embarrassing to know what some people have said about their native place. The well-known actor Priyanka Chopda said the other day, ” What I miss about India, is that I cannot reach the film sets late for work in the USA”, where she works currently! A young 30 something CA, a finance professional in Sydney, Australia said when asked what he misses about his native country India? He said, ” Next week, I am going to Delhi for a holiday and break these damn traffic signals 30 to 40 times in first two days; I am fed up of straight-jacketed life in Sydney”. If these persons were saying these things jokingly, then they have a dark sense of humour!

I can understand nostalgia, old memories and lovely times spent in the native place. But I think one should be more pragmatic about basics. When a lot of time has passed, maybe humans tend to become too dogged in thinking that nothing has changed in the native place. When you were young, your family, your culture of that time (cultures do change with time), your friends of that time, also change from the way you remember them. It is your mother or aunt or elder sister who were giving you the love and the lovely food of those times! So maybe the “going to native place” is the journey like jumping from a plane, using parachute! The thud you hear when you reach the ground is what brings us back to reality!

Turn into cotton!

A noted Poet Kedarnath, Jnanpith Award winner, has written a Poem; I am sharing couple of lines from the poem.

Aaj ghar main ghusa toh ajeeb drishya tha,

Suniye, mere bistar ne kaha 

yeh raha mera isteefa (resignation), 

main apne kapaas ke bheetar jaana chahta hoon 

Roughly it translates to

“Today when I reached home, my bed offered its resignation, 

Telling me it wants to go back to its original self (turn into cotton) or maybe go back to roots!” 

Beautiful lines. The poet has elegantly explained the philosophy of life. I feel that  our life and persona is made up of certain character when we are born; some of it we acquire later during our life’s journey. I am trying to interpret these beautiful lines. During our life, we achieve various things, we travel to different destinations, many people even look very different when they age. But I feel that from within we don’t change much. We all want to turn back into cotton when we reach golden phase in our life! It is wanting to go back to roots. It is trying to get away from your station in life, gracefully!

In today’s times when people migrate from their countries of origin, in large numbers, this feeling of back to roots must be pretty acute. At the beginning of life all humans are almost same, as babies; it is their growth that brings changes in them depending on their intelligence, environment and other life defining factors. Sometimes being at the right place at the right is also an important factor.  As you grow in life, it may be as professionals, businessmen, doctors, officers, politicians. But inside we must try to remain the “cotton” mentioned in the poem. If this does not happen then mental clashes start, agonies start, when one’s time arrives, to end the innings. The mind does not accept that you are no more a mattress, which is a system, and you are not an important parameter of that system. You were good at some stage hence you became  the mattress. Now you may have crossed your shelf life, your expertise may have become irrelevant, there may be better people available or the requirements of the whole system has changed. Or it maybe the your health may not permit! With that change, expectations about you may have changed. Good idea, will be to turn into cotton!

I will share how a friend handled a similar situation in life. He established his engineering business over a period of 25/30 years and was doing pretty alright. In the meanwhile, his son joined him in business. The son was also well qualified and trained to take over the business and was already 45 years old. My friend slowly started giving reins of the business to his son. But over a period, he realized that many of his employees would come and discuss decisions taken by his son, with him. They were trying to get them ratified. This sometimes led to minor tweaking of decisions. Though there were no major disagreements between the son and the father, sometimes displeasure was visible on the son’s face. My friend had a dilemma about handling this situation. One fine day he called his son and told him, “Look Son! From this month end, I will stop coming to factory as I want to retire”. For next six months my friend did not go to factory, even once. After that he started going back to factory; his old cabin was retained. But he found that hardly anyone would come to him to ask work related suggestions or opinions. How this was achieved; my friend decided to turn into cotton. He understood the meaning of this phrase “Turn into cotton”! Now he goes to office every day, gossips in the right sense. Just tries to understand what is happening but never gives any opinion. He achieved what he wanted to do using foresight, by turning into cotton!

Friends turning into cotton does not mean that you don’t do anything after you are not needed. Like Sachin Tendulkar is trying to bring in sports, as a subject in academics. He rarely gives any specific suggestion about cricket. He tries to use his stature to imbibe  overall sporting atmosphere in schools, in different forums. In ancient mythology they discussed about Vanprasthashrama. I am not talking of that; but one can gracefully withdraw at the right time. Health permitting you can contribute in different ways.

I hear about some of our friends, who have lived for 45 to 50 years out of India, trying to come back to roots, trying to contribute in some ways. Some take time; a classmate of mine has come to India only once in last 45 years. Maybe he is an exception but they all do come back! You never remain mattress all your life! It is a simple philosophy but difficult one to digest! All good things have to end at some stage!

Post script:

I found the couplet from Kedarnathji  in a news item; Kedarnath Sing died of old age, only three days back on March 19th 2018! May his soul rest in peace! I know this is just a coincidence but now I am trying to get his book of poems to understand his simple but beautiful thought process. Incidentally, this couplet was mentioned by Film Actor Raj Babbar in a tweet he sent, on being asked to resign as chief of Congress party in Uttar Pradesh. Since it was mentioned in a tweet, it was difficult to understand if it was written in humility or sarcastically!

Dance of the Seven Veils! 

Below is a poem by Oscar Wilde; reading the poem, brought out a flurry of thoughts in me.

She freed and floated on the air her arms

Above dim veils that hid her bosom’s charms…

The veils fell round her like thin coiling mists

Shot through by topaz suns and amethysts.

I read, the term of the title, when I was reading a book, where the recovery of a 22-year man was being discussed, after a significant accident. When asked by the father of the man, when his son will be discharged, the doctor said, with a smile, that before his discharge he is likely to be thrown out of the hospital. Father said, looking at a beautiful nurse, “Dance of the Seven Veils”.

The “Dance of the Seven Veils” is Salome‘s dance performed before Herod II. It is an elaboration on the biblical story of the execution of John the Baptist, which refers to Salome dancing before the king, but does not give the dance a name.

This term stuck into my mind, and I did a bit of research to understand the thoughts behind the same. I found the evolution of the term very interesting. Somewhere the term Dance of the Seven Veils was attributed to Oscar Wilde, based on the above poem, and he is supposedly the father of modern strip-tease dance! Wow, people’s imagination runs wild!

It is noteworthy that renowned actress Rita Hayworth did a strip-tease in the film Salome.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBKvfyEYFVk&w=854&h=480

What is the reference to “seven veils”? It is the number of layers of clothing worn by women and removed erotically while dancing. It’s an act which is sensual if performed in the right spirit, but it usually will be an erotic act. I had seen an act similar to this when we went to Dubai almost a decade ago. After the desert safari, there was dinner and dance show. Dinner was superb, and belly dance was sensual as well as erotic!

As usual, when I came back to the real world, instead of the dance of the lady, different thoughts started whirling around in my mind. They were of course about humans, my favourite topic. The human mind is veiled in many layers. The more you think you know an individual, the lesser you know them. The veils slowly start coming down or get thrown off, once you get to know them better. Of course, this is not true about all humans. But there are some complex people, and more you interact with them, you feel that you know them even lesser! Their persona is shrouded in veils, in some cases 3 to 4 deep but in some cases this numbers we will never know, probably like an infinite number of saris Lord Krishna provided to Draupadi, while she was being stripped by Dushasana.

Some appear dominant personalities but after you get to know them, and once the veils start dropping, you may find that there is a super soft human beneath. A Person will be strong from outside appearances, but their inside is a treat. Examples of Coconut fits such persons exactly. A coconut may fall from a tall tree but will hardly be damaged due to the hard outer layer. Remove that outer layer; there is still some bushy covering. Remove the bushy covering, and you will again come across a hard shell. Look at the beauty of nature’s design. Once we break open the hard inner shell, you get the best natural water full of different minerals, and of course the coconut, the white fleshy part of the fruit!

Some are like Mangoes; peel them and start eating them! But be careful inside there is a hardcore! Look at Jackfruit. Its outer skin is sharp to handle, but on pealing, you will get the choicest fruit. Again, inside the fruit, you get semi-hardcore. This core can be boiled in salty water, peel its hard, thin shell and yet it can be eaten — very useful but complex variety.

The human mind is complicated, but then it’s His design! Add to this one more degree of complexity, Gender, man or a woman! I don’t how many layers of complications get added when we consider women! Or is it that a man does not understand the gender complexity? Friends, the way we can never understand His ways, we will never understand the human mind. Veils after veils will get exposed one under another! In “The Dance of the Seven Veils”, if all seven veils are removed we hope to see the see “real” thing! But in the case of the human mind, it is tough to predict when we will see the “real” thing! In the meanwhile, in the lighter vein, send me your comments about Rita Hayworth’s dance!