Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

28. Hide and Seek

In my childhood days, ‘Parle G’ was the only biscuit available. It was very scarce and so was always desired.

When I grew a bit (yes, I keep on growing), ‘Parle G’ was still with me. During student life I could afford it simply because it was very cheap – one and half rupee cost of one packet – which contained 14 biscuits. I had number of breakfasts, lunches and dinners with just this biscuit and tea. One of my childhood dreams was to have a full pack of ‘Parle G’ biscuits; all for myself. Later in life, I have ample money, but during many travels I can’t eat junk food, oily food, dirty food, spicy food, hot food……. and so I still continue with ‘Parle G’ and tea. It is my all time favorite meal.

I like chocolates too. So, when chocolate biscuits arrived on the scene, I happily consumed them. ‘Hide and Seek’ was one of the best I ever liked. The chocolate in these biscuits is consistent and is well mixed. It was a blessing … because by this time I had realized that I did not always like tea. If you have ever tested railway tea, you would naturally give up tea very easily. In a way, you are forced to give up tea. Samnyasa is not very difficult in this world … it is easier to leave many things rather than living with them. So, life went on without tea and with sufficient ‘Hide and Seek’ in the travel bag.

But something has gone wrong over last few months. I don’t remember when and why I stopped purchasing biscuits (for no apparent reason). No, I am not health maniac; I am not bothered about calories. Gaining and loosing weight happens naturally, I do not waste conscious life into it.

This has created a big problem for me; as during travels I do not understand what to eat. I keep on postponing decision about eating and end up in unplanned (and irreligious) fasts. I purposely purchased one ‘Hide and Seek’ pack about three months ago, but I have not opened it till today.

Whether my mind is rejecting biscuits or my body – I cannot definitely tell. Is the law of diminishing returns working now? Have I over- consumed, so that there is nausea? Is this one more state of ‘na iti, na iti’ (not this, not this) but not clearly understanding what it is that I want? Is there some other confusion at subconscious level and not wanting ‘Hide and Seek’ is just an outward expression? What is the barrier? What do I need to break? What do I need to overcome?

The World seeks nothing. The World hides nothing.
It is only that I do not know what I seek and what I hide.

Use of Carry (plastic) bags

The Jan - Feb 09 poll question was:

On an average how many plastic (carry) bags you throw in a dustbin in a week?

21 visitors answered the poll.
5 persons (23%) said : Less than 10
9 persons (42%) said: 11 to 25
3 persons (14%) said: 26 to 50
4 persons (19%) said: They have never paid attention to.

Request all readers to participate in various polls on the blog

Sunday, February 15, 2009

27. Factor C

(Warning: If you are already in a bad mood, don’t read this. It is rather confusing….)

To live a good life, Change is essential. - Quote by Me…

In the last few days I have met two of my old friends. When I say ‘friend’, I mean it. Otherwise I am astute enough to classify people into ‘having acquaintance with’, ‘colleague’, ‘just known’ and ‘friend’ etc. Both of them are my ‘friends’ according to my definition. To both of them I accidentally met after a considerable gap.

After a chat for few minutes, X said, “Oh, you have not at all changed!”…. I smiled and responded by saying, “But some part of me is completely changed”… My friend smiled but did not accept my statement.

In the similar situation, Y reacted, “You have completely become another person. I would not have recognized you. I feel like I am meeting a stranger”. …. On this too, I smiled and tried to assure him by saying, “Oh, some part of me is not at all changed…. I am the same person…”

I won’t ascribe the change in their responses to their gender. Friends are friends first and forever…. whether the friend is a man or a woman hardly makes a difference. May be they saw me in different situations or responses. They were not talking about physiological change (as that is unavoidable) but subtler change in me.

There is no contradiction when I say that I have changed and I have not changed. The statements actually complement each other… because nothing can change completely but at the same time nothing can remain the same forever.

What happens? There are four possibilities:
a. situation changes, response remains the same
b. situation changes, response changes
c. situation remains the same, response changes
d. situation remains the same, response remains the same

Above these, there could be two overarching facts: one is to be aware of these, another is not being aware…. And each of these gives rise to either a new situation or a new response or both…

When I review my life objectively (is it really possible?), I find that I have all these four elements. Sometimes trying to change a situation itself is a response, but the ‘situation’ is not completely under one’s control. Sometimes ‘not at all responding’ too is a kind of response.

If our responses do not change, life will become a big bore. If the situation does not change, then too life will become boring. So, it is good that things around keep on changing. In the process, I lost some precious things, but I gained much more too…. Sometimes it hurts when I come across response different than what I expect, but that too in inevitable. I too haven’t pleased each and everyone around me. I gave pain and I have my share of pain.

What triggers change in my response? Experiences, increase or decrease in capabilities, exposure, change in values and perspective….

What factors are responsible for my steadfast response? Dunno.

Sometimes the Change brings back me to the original positions, questioning the whole journey

To Exit, to completely withdraw from something is the biggest and mostly irreversible change. But do we ever be able to experience it? When I withdraw from one arena, I enter into other.

I cannot eliminate factor C…. actually that has been the backbone of my life so far.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

26. Half an hour with Masarabai

Our interaction started with her shout. As part of on-field facilitation, I do visit work areas of my organization. Today my colleagues had planned a visit to tribal area in Nandurbar district in Maharashtra. We were on the farm, there was discussion regarding horticulture plantation and intercrops. I was taking a snap and the woman shouted at me, “Why are you taking my photograph without telling me first?”

I was meeting her for the first time. She spoke in her mother tongue Mavachi, which I follow in bits and pieces. There were six people with us, all men. There was a sudden stress and tension in the environment. The men started talking angrily to the woman. I requested them to say nothing, said ‘sorry’ to the woman and explained that as her farm was good, I was taking a photograph.

She said, “You don’t understand my language. Do you?”
I replied, “Very little’’
She proudly said, “You people go to school and still do not understand our language. I never went to school, but I can understand your language (Marathi)”. I smiled at her sharp remark.

She dragged me towards the small hut in the corner of the farm. From the midst of lot of things, she pulled out a bright green piece of cloth, covered her shoulder and head with that cloth and ordered me, “Now take a photograph”.

I followed her order. I showed the snap on my digicam to her and asked, “Is it good? Are you happy now?” She smiled like a child. She instructed me, “Publish it”.

Publish it? Where? I was confused.

But the woman was clearly enjoying her moment. She simply said, “Oh! Publish it in a (news) paper…” (I am not influential enough to publish this photo in a newspaper, so I am publishing it on my blog. )

Now Masarabai (this is her name) was extremely happy with me. She started chatting with me. A woman of 40, with married son and daughter, holding a small farm, working hard with her husband, illiterate had suddenly lot of things to share with me. As she was aware of my lack of knowledge of her language, after every three sentences she was asking, “Do you follow what I am saying?” After two three ‘Yes’ from me, she again ordered me, “If you don’t understand what I say, you should ask these men. They know both the languages”. I was enjoying the domination of this smart witted woman.

She asked my colleagues to take me to her home (a few kilometers away) and offer me tea. “But who will prepare tea?” I asked. Masarabai had simple answers to all my questions – “My daughter in law will.” Then she turned to my colleague and told him in a matter of fact tone, “If she is not there, you prepare a tea and give it to madam”. We all laughed and somehow convinced her by saying that next time I will have food at her house.

We were discussing the cash flow of the family – annual income and expenditure and how they mange the loss. Masarabai was listing various expenses, when her neighbor remarked, “Tell Madam, how much you spend on alcohol’’.

Masarabai was silent for a moment. Then she turned to me and asked, “Don’t you drink (alcohol)?” I said, “No, I don’t”. “Why?” was her next question. I suddenly found the question very difficult. “That is not the tradition of my community”, I tried to answer sensitively.

“Do you eat meat?” Masarabi asked. “Do you like meat?” I tried to bypass her question. Masarabai answered, “Yes, I like meat very much. I like chicken too. Have you tested it?”

My colleagues and the community men were getting upset at the conversation. But I thought if I can ask personal questions to Masarabai, she has every right to ask similar questions to me. I also sensed that by asking these various questions, she was trying to relate me with her life, her situation. She was assessing me in her own way, and she was deciding whether I was trustworthy or not.

I said, “No, I do not like meat and chicken. But next time when I come to your home, if you cook meat or chicken, I will eat it.”

She disapproved my polite statement. “If you don’t like something, you should not do it just to please someone, not things like eating meat and chicken ……”

Masarabai was silent for couple of minutes. Then she declared, “Ok, I will give up alcohol. But I like meat and chicken and I will eat more of it.” We all laughed happily. “Is it ok Madam?” she wanted my assurance.

Whether Masarabai will really give up alcohol or not, only time will tell. But I am amazed at the strong character of this tribal woman. Her thinking process is very clear and she is ready to accommodate strange ways of life (of others). She is assertive, rational, humorous, emotional, and sensitive. She has strong likes and dislikes, but she is not forcing others to accept those as the only desirable ways of living. She is ready to change.

By interacting with Masarabai, I feel enlightened and more empowered.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

25. The Shaving of Shagpat

Just about 24 hours ago if someone would have asked me what ‘The Shaving of Shagpat' means, I would have probably shrugged shoulders and pleaded ignorance. But not now. I am enchanted by the efforts of Shibli Bagrag, Noorna bin Noorka, unfortunate Bhanvar the Beautiful, Sword of Aklis... everything that George Meredith wrote.

No, yesterday I did not know anything about George Meredith either. I went to a book shop with a colleague; saw a book written by one of my most favorite Marathi authors Mr. G A Kulkarni. GA (as he is popularly known) was a fantastic writer and one of the best translators. I have read almost all his books. Presently I have none of his books in my collection. I was planning to purchase one GA book. So, I grabbed it.

This particular book I have purchased is a translation of ‘The Shaving of Shagpat’ by George Meredith, which was published in 1856. It always amazes me when I read books from earlier period. So much has happened before I was born, and so much more will keep on happening after my death… and still I cling to this life as if nothing else is important in this world….

Shibli the hero of the story is a barber…. very interesting. One Astrologer had told at Shibli’s birth that the child is destined for great things. Shibli keeps on wandering in search of that opportunity to enact the ‘great task’. Here George Meredith says, “a wandering person has a wandering mind, it cannot have peace”. I have been wandering for many years. Frankly speaking, I was shaken by that statement as if struck by lightning. It opened many doors within me.

Funnily, the whole efforts of Shibli and Noorna are directed towards shaving Shagpat, whose long and wild hair have some magical power. That’s right! Many times Power is more of a myth cleverly created by the powerful. Power comes through heredity, through seniority, through better education, through a particular religion… … then why not through uncut hair? George Meredith is sarcastic at his best here. And the idea that a common man like Shibli can challenge the existing authority is also interesting.

The book is an ‘Arabian Entertainment’. It is about magic … good and evil both. It is about greed and shattered dreams. It is about loneliness and it is about myth of power. It is about cooperation and humility. It is about love and distractions. It is about simplicity and ambition. It is about determination and direction. It is about learning while doing. It is about efforts and it is about destiny. The main statement is that the destiny drives human being in a particular direction, to a specific end. If you cooperate with your destiny, your journey is made easier (with different gifts approaching you), if you don’t you have to carry the burden of your sorrow. (I remembered the shloka from Bhagvadgeeta – ‘swadharme nidhanam shreyah, paradharmo bhayavahah’)

There are stories within the story and poems have been used very appropriately. The story of ‘Bhanvar the Beautiful’ is absorbing. For a moment, she wishes for a precious jewel… and what price she pays for that one moment of lust! Life and Death are woven together … and the complicated relationships made me wonder about my own existence. For some time, I could feel that everything around me is unreal … and reality evolved through that solid unreality around me.

If you are a complete adult, without any trace of child in you, you will definitely question the logic of the story. But if there is a child in you, (does not matter if it is latent), you will enjoy the book. It completely takes you to other world and slowly brings you back to your own world. In real life there is no Sword of Aklis and no drop of water can make all things around speak……

One realizes that even with all these magical wonders; life is a combination of happiness and sorrow. It is up to us, what we choose and how we live. George Meredith highlights this age-old truth meaningfully and artistically. Thanks to GA, otherwise I may never have read this great story.

Please, read this book. You can find digital version at any search engine. I found it easily on Google.

If you want Marathi translation by GA, you can have my copy.