Life’s Priorities!

I heard recently about  death of someone at the age of around 70. He was a professional working in a consulting company. He had an accident within office premises and died a few days later. Both his children were in the US at that time, one of them rushed back home. The other did not come. We went and met the family and while sharing their grief with us, the mother told us that it was a family decision that the other child will not come. The reason, he had visa issue in the US and hence could not travel outside US with a fear that he may not be able to go back to the US!

What is the meaning of life? When we are born we are not invited to be born but are a result of relationship between two persons, who follow the natural process of procreation. So, when we are born we have no control on our sex, family, place of birth and time of birth. Even the couple does not have control on the sex of the child born! Some of them follow method of “trying’ to have male child by illegal routes (at least in India) of sex determination and abortions. So, it is possible that the embryo formed may never be born if the parents don’t want it to be born. Maybe hundreds or thousands of Rani Laxmibai’s, Indira Gandhi’s, Kalpana Chwla’s or Indra Nuyi’s of this world have been lost to the mankind even before they were born, as someone did not want a girl child!

What makes a family? A family is unit of people where we have parents, children, maybe grandparents. The families are made up of circles which sometime cross each other. To me the inner most circle is husband, wife and children. The grandparents come in the next circle and uncles, aunts and cousins come in the circle after that. Friends come somewhere in between. The death I mentioned above happened in the first circle. Nothing in this world is so important that when death happens within this first circle, including visa issues,  person can not be with the family. To me it is okay, if you miss a joyous occasions but one should never miss the sad events for any reason, especially deaths in the first circle. What could be sadder than the death of your own father? What family decision are we talking about? The worst-case scenario would have been that the prodigal son would have been required to move back to India for good. India is not a jungle. There are opportunities galore in India. Even the senior level ex expatriates are now taking up jobs in India.

Will this prodigal son ever be happy to continue living in USA or where ever he lives in future? When you do not attend the funeral of your own father, will you be able to ever overcome what you did? When you don’t give closure to such events they keep on haunting you! To my knowledge the relationship between father and the son was normal. Who helped him to take this decision? His sister was much younger so it was his mother who pushed him to take this decision. Is it pragmatism? Were there no emotions involved? Did the son never feel that he should have a last look at his father? Is he a weakling or an emotionless person? Is so called better life so important?

Humans use many things in their lives like clothes, cars, laptops and cell phones. In the event of losing any of these items, we humans are quite uneasy for some time. It is not about the money aspect. Humans tend to get attached to the things they own. Homes and land are things about which humans are exceptionally emotional. I know of a family who live in another town away from Pune. They had a home in Pune. They found it very difficult to manage it. Someone suggested that they dispose it off. The owner of the house said, “Over my dead body”! This reaction is the other extreme of the reaction, compared to one by our prodigal son. He thought that he need not even have a last look at the dead body. Maybe for humans land and homes are above your dead father, in the pecking order!

When we use clothes during the day, they get soiled. Next day we change them, wash and iron them for reuse. The clothes are as good as new again. This does not happen in case of us humans. We spend the day in the same clothing, humans also get soiled and next day after bath they are new again. Are they? No, they are not. Humans have mind. The soiled body may become as good as new again. But there is no simple solution to cleanse mind. The “soiling” of mind does not get “cleaned” as easily like clothes and our body! Sometimes there are deep injuries to the mind, sometimes some part is torn. The event of death mentioned above, and of not being able to attend the funeral of one’s own father, can damage and spoil mind’s fabric to a large extent! Maybe damage will be somewhat irreversible! There is a saying, “time is the great healer of everything” but I am not sure how this absence during father’s death will affect human mind. Will time heal the damage 100 percent?

Friends be careful when you do anything in life. Sometimes you may unknowingly damage someone’s mind by your action or your inaction. This can happen in lovers, this can happen in close friends, this can happen in family! Before concluding anything, think twice if you feel that the interaction can cause irreversible damage. We humans are very sensitive people and we need to decide life’s priorities. Being pragmatic is not good in all situations. The damage that occurs to one’s mind or soul is invisible many  times. Materialistic things are not ultimate things in life. Most important for any humans  in life, is to have empathy. Person with empathy will think twice, if required thrice to ensure that the other person’s mind is never disturbed, damaged or torn. Mind you,  this is equally true in our own life too!

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!

Strange are the ways!

InternetGenie

 

 Pramod somehow managed to make Internet Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “Pramod today I am going to share some incidents and I want you honest answer, Ok?” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to what Genie asked.

As usual Genie kept on talking. Pramod, when you were in school, there used to be a  Cricket commentator called Vizy, Maharaj kumar of Vijaya Nagaram. If there were an award for most boring commentator, he would have won it hands down. You were listening to the commentary and Vizy was telling some boring story on the lines of, “In 1936, when I was in England…” he kept on talking and talking. In between 2/3 times you heard sudden crowd noise in the background. Vizy kept on talking, then his co commentator suggested, “Vizy should we update our listeners about today’s match?” He said, “Ok, I will update.” He coolly said, “In the meanwhile India has lost three wickets!” Pramod, was it not a strange way to handle the situation? Did Vizy forget that he was there to explain the match to listeners and not talk only about his nostalgia?

Pramod, this incident is a bit serious! You were chatting to a friend who had gone on a holiday to Europe, along with a group of friends! When you asked how the tour was? He said, “Fantastico!” Obviously, they had visited Italy too! Then he told you about St Moritz, Lucerne and many such lovely places. All in all, they were extremely happy with the experience! You had heard that there was a mishap on the tour. So, you asked about it. He said, “Oh! So and so died as he had a stroke and hemorrhage on the bus while we were in the middle of nowhere!”  My worry is about “Fantastico”. How can one say that tour was Fantastico when someone from the group died! Pramod, was it not a strange way to react to a sad event?

Pramod, this is even stranger issue as it was the way things were handled by a group of Professionals. A friend of yours had a massive heart attack; next day doctors declared that patient’s heart was working at 18/20%. Doctors said that even if he survived, he would be left completely bed ridden. Next strange action was that he was put on a ventilator for 3 weeks. Obviously nothing was improving. Then they took a decision to perform the bye pass surgery and convinced the family how it is essential! Next day the surgery was performed. Result. Doctors came out and said, “ Surgery is successful!” After four hours they declared, “The patient died; his body could not handle the surgery!” Pramod, is this not a very strange way of handling the situation? That too by professionals. They performed the bye pass surgery only from commercial angle!

Pramod, last one is even stranger. A person died and he was a non believer. Cremation was done without any religious stuff. Then you were told that there  will be pooja on 13th day. This was a surprise to you. When you went for pooja, you found that there was a big religious stuff planned. Thoughts about the person who died and his immediate family be damned! The reason, there was a marriage in the extended family in a couple of months. The dark shadows formed because of death were to be thwarted. Who cares about the thought process of the person who died? Pramod, can anything be stranger than this? Tell me why people behave in such a strange way?

Pramod, I want your reply on this as I know you have strong views!! Pramod just could not keep quiet. He said, “Genie, you have told me so many incidents, I have to give you an explanation, incident wise.  Ok, Vizy was an old guy and in his own world. That a few wickets fell in between did not really matter. But in the case of European tour, how can the response be Fantastico?  Tour must have been terrible, post the death of a person from the group! The response should have been “Europe was good, but we had a very sad experience due the death of a friend on the tour”! In the case of the heart patient, the doctors should have advised the family that nothing more could be done. They should have allowed the patient to die peacefully! In the last incident, if people cannot honour the wishes of the dead then I don’t know what type of family are they?”

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp. Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and the system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. “Pramod I agree with you, but what has world come to! Is there no humanity left?”