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!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

157. Footnote

What happens when you observe more space occupied by footnote than the main text?

And what when it happens page after page? When it looks like never ending? With lot of patience I counted footnotes on the first 100 pages of the book and I came across as many as 123 footnotes. Is it not an overwhelming number?
Footnote is not something new to me. I have come across it as a reader and have used it – but used sparingly – as is the norm.  I generally find them useful.
But during last few days, while reading The Life of Ramkrishna by Romain Rolland, I found too many footnotes.  A dramatist, novelist,  art historian who has prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature in his name, cannot be doubted about his writing skills.  I was baffled with the amount of footnotes he has used.  That I found some of the footnotes highly interesting did not make things easier for me.
There is another interesting phenomenon I have observed simultaneously. I have this book in my collection since January 1991, for the last twenty years.  Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is one of my favorite teachers. My journey with him has been  interesting. I was attracted by his simplicity and clarity but at the same time he challenged my rational thinking - it was a difficult task for me to understand him. But he never demanded anything from me and thus won my head and heart both.  I keep on reading this book as and when I want.I read it partially or fully as per my desire. In my earlier readings, I never remember to have noted these many footnotes – maybe I just went ahead without paying attention to them. Why I stumbled across footnotes this time is another mystery – but I will save it for another time.
Footnote is supposed to provide additional information. Wikipedia says: Notes are most often used as an alternative to long explanatory notes that can be distracting to readers. Most literary style guidelines (including the Modern Language Association and the American Psychological Association) recommend limited use of foot and endnotes. However, publishers often encourage note references in lieu of parenthetical references. Aside from use as a bibliographic element, notes are used for additional information or explanatory notes that might be too digressive for the main text.
What do these excessive footnotes indicate?
  • That the matter under discussions is complex?
  • That the subject has too many interlinks – all of which cannot be explained?
  • That the author has much more information on the topic and he is limited by the space?
  • That the matter of this book depends on many external resources?
  • The first edition of the book was published in January 1929. So, does this indicate that norms and practices change as per the time?
What does my observing those Footnotes and thinking about it indicates? That sometimes I observe obvious things very late? That I interpret the world around as per my wishes?
Maybe, there is one lesson for me.
I should be cautious about Footnotes taking precedence over the Main Text. 
Keeping those two at their respective places with the right perspective is the key towards making life more meaningful.

You might like to read Appeal of Despair

Sunday, December 18, 2011

156. Missing Link

While leaving, I felt that I should not have visited the place at all. I had not visited the place for years - in fact, it is my first visit and today was no special reason to visit. However, this day was marked for you; it seems.

Almost everyone got down at Red Fort from the HoHo bus, and the guide looked at me enquiringly. I told her that I wanted to go to the next point. I was the only one getting down there.  

The entry was not a problem at all. No security check, no queue, no tickets.
But everyone is asked to take shoes off. I keep the shoes in the stand and come across one of your well known statements. You say:

The simplicity of your words is touching. I stand there for few moments – asking the question to myself I guess. I don’t have to go inside and take your ‘darshan’ – for that matter you are no God for me. If I could have met you, I would have certainly argued with you and you know I am hard nut to convince. But that is not to be – we never met and will never meet.

I move inside and watch people clicking around – just clicking and clicking.

Only few foreigners are interested in your life and in your actions. At least some people are talking about you finally – better few than none.

I move further around. The original idea of the place must have been great. The surrounding cell-like structures (sort of open cabins) should be a good place to sit and think – like the one they have in Buddhist monasteries.  

But they are so dirty, one cannot sit there. If you were there, you would take a broom and start cleaning those. To young ones who wanted to join Freedom struggle, the first task you gave was toilet cleaning. At least I know story of one person whom you had given this task.  Now you would need more people to clean things around – you alone won’t be able to do it – even with your ‘weapon’ of fasting. I know, weapon is the not the right word!

I sometimes wonder why I treat you as if I know you fully well. I have hardly read anything you have written. You had time enough to write volumes and I don’t have time even to read those.

The truth is: I am not interested.

Do I think you are outdated and hence irrelevant?
I don’t think so. Otherwise why should I visit Rajghat on a foggy Sunday morning?

But what is the relevance? Where is the connection? Where is the bridge? Where is that thread? Where do we stand in the scheme and the dream you talk about?

The link is still missing.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

155. Guilt

I know Mumbai has only two seasons – Summer and Monsoon; no Winter at all.
It took me one year to understand that Delhi too has only two seasons – Summer and Winter – no Monsoon at all. I mean it rains, but it is not like a ‘rainy season’.

So, while moving around Nehru Place, I was thirsty. Though it was month of July, the Sun was blazing. I was amused with this habit of Delhi to name Malls after great historical persons. Nehru Place, Bhikaji Kama Place, Aurobindo Place, Rajendra Place …. All these places are basically Shopping Complexes.  

I went to a small shop. There were many ‘cold (soft) drinks’. I almost don’t like any of those. Maybe I should drink water – I thought. Suddenly I experienced some movement at my side. A young girl was standing by my side and looking at me expectantly. She was about 8 to 10 years. Her frock was torn at many places but it was clean. Her hair was unkempt. She looked weak. Her eyes were big – maybe because of her malnourished status, the eyes looked bigger. She was touching my Kurta and was trying to smile.

I smiled to that young girl. I asked, “Are you hungry?”
“No, I just had some food,” her honest answer surprised me.
“Well, “ I did not know what to speak next.

“What are you going to drink?” she asked me.
Well, I was thinking of drinking water – but I knew that was not what she expected.
“What would you like to have?” I asked.
She looked at me in disbelief.
I repeated the question.
“I never had that” – she showed me one bottle with some hesitation.

The shopkeeper was getting impatient.
“Madam, don’t pay any attention to her. They are beggars. All the day they follow some or the other. Give her a rupee or two, that is all.” He advised me.

I asked the shopkeeper to give two bottles of what the girl had indicated. It was badam milk – cold milk with almond pieces and sugar. It was good. I liked it.

The girl was trying to finish the drink in a hurry. I told her not to hurry.
She looked happy and satisfied.
When she finished half of the bottle, she stopped suddenly.
“What happened? Don’t you like it?” I asked.
She was clearly in two minds.
She looked at the half finished bottle once and looked at a distant corner again.
Then she came to a decision.

“I want to take this to my young brother. Can you wait for five minutes? I will just take the bottle to him and bring the empty bottle. You know he too never had this, I liked it and I want him to have this” she pleaded.
I was touched by her innocence. Who would give something for others so easily?

The shopkeeper and the people around were watching the scene with interest now.
I smiled at them, they smiled back to me.
“Finish your milk first. Will take another one for your brother,” I told the young one.
I asked for the third bottle. Gave that to the girl. Asked her if she wanted any more.
She said, only one bottle would do – as her elder siblings and parents have tested the badam milk some other time.

I asked the shopkeeper to charge me for the price of the (empty) bottle – in case the girl forgets to return the bottle to him.
“What are you talking Madam? We are not so bad. Let the girl take the bottle and return whenever. Does not matter if we miss one empty bottle,” he said, everybody around nodded.
“After all she stays here. We are sort of neighbors. But many customers don’t like them around and so we shout at them,” another one explained.

“Come again,” the girl said to me.
“Do come again Madam,” the shopkeepers said with smile.

Who knows, I might have been in the place of that girl!
Or if life changes to worst, I might have to beg one day!!
At times even if I cannot give money or food to beggars, I treat them with dignity.

Life is full of uncertainties – but I have no fear.

Guilt? Yes I feel some sort of guilt.
How can I say that I live in a cultured society where people have to beg for food and have to live on streets?
How can I spend so much for non-needs when millions have no ways of fulfilling basic needs?

Yes, I feel guilty of being not able to change the reality around – as I would have liked!
I guess I will have to live with this guilt forever! 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

154. Other Way Round

There are occasions when I do not understand what to do, what to decide, which road to take.
These are not necessarily very serious situations. On the contrary in serious situations I take my heart’s call and hence never have dilemmas.
However when problems are very simple, I tend to get more confused. Sometimes I try one aspect and sometimes I try another one. But so far I never have been able to arrive at ultimate solutions to these dilemmas. Whichever way I go, it hardly makes any difference; - so, in fact, it should not be a problem; still it is.  
For example, today I am struggling with what to order for dinner. I want something simple to eat – maybe just daal and rice - but as I am put in a luxury hotel such ‘simple food’ is not available here. To make a choice out of what is ‘not my choice at all’ is more difficult.
Well, when I am clear about what I want, everything seems to be easy. When I am confused, everything seems to be difficult.
Clarity comes out of choices and preferences.
Confusion comes when there are no choices and no preferences.
Whenever I have ‘no specific choice’ I seem to invite trouble – though temporary, it keeps on coming in different forms.
Is it not funny? I thought– having choices would make my life difficult.
It is rather the other way round.