Being alone in the crowd

Lotus Temple

“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone”

Blaise Pascal

Some time back, I had a chance to visit the famous Lotus Temple of the Baha’i in Delhi (The Baha’i Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent religions –http://www.bahai.org). I availed a leave from the busy schedule in office to join my uncle who had come from Kerala and halted in Delhi for a day before proceeding to Rajasthan on a new mission. I just thought of spending the day with him. As the departure of his train was at night, we had the entire day with us. Therefore, after breakfast, we went out to Nehru Place to see the Lotus Temple and spend some time in its premises. Though I have been staying very close to this place, I have never had the time to go there.

As we were waiting there in the queue to enter inside, some volunteers welcomed us and briefed about the Baha’i faith and the specialties of the temple. It is envisaged to be a house of prayer and meditation for all regardless of cast, colour, creed or religion. With us, we found people from all walks of life – elderly people, young couples, students and school children. There was total silence inside the house, where I could not find any idols of deities or religious symbols other than an icon in the centre of the dome. The house is having seating facilities for nearly 1500 people. No entry fee, no offering boxes and no priests around.

The house was almost full when we entered and found our seats in a corner. Some of the visitors were trying to enjoy the artistic beauty of the structure, some others kept looking what others were doing and a few people seemed to be enjoying the tranquility and serenity inside the house. The absence of deities must have helped them to visualise the god of their choice in their mind. They also seemed to be enjoying the silence that prevailed in the great hall. I felt that the urge in man to be alone with his self is increasing. Spirituality of all ages inspires man to listen to himself for solutions to all his problems. I have always found this exercise very useful. Whenever I feel that I am in a dilemma I spend some time somewhere in loneliness to listen to the inner voice that gives proper directions to make the right decisions and get out of the trouble.

Outside, we are living in a noisy society where everyone keeps on talking endlessly about their achievements, hopes, despairs, dreams, etc. through every possible means. Everyone wants to be heard, consoled and sympathized with. People feel that they can be happy only when they are in the company of others. They cannot tolerate loneliness. They look for solutions in people. But, be sure that people can never be what you expect them to be. You need to be happy with yourself as well as you are in the company of others. Be alone and silent for a moment to look inside where answers to all your queries can be found and where you experience the ultimate peace.

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“All that is beautiful has always happened in aloneness; nothing has happened in a crowd. Nothing of the beyond has happened except when one is in absolute solitude”

Osho

 

A visit to Champhai, Mizoram

champhai

Champhai is a lovely place. Those who plan to visit can stay in the Tourist Lodge run by the state government. A one-hour drive from Champhai will take you to the Indo-Myanmar Border. You can enter the territory of Myanmar and spend time there till 05.00 PM (local time in Myanmar).

As you cross the border and enter Myanmar, you will be welcomed by a good number of wine shops. For me, this was a real relief as Mizoram was a dry state at that time. I was very keen to go and see the Ri-dhil lake with which the Mizos have an emotional attachment. My friend Robert from Aizawl says that it is the abode of all their departed souls. However, I could not make it as the time did not permit. Anyway, I enjoyed a bottle of the famous Myanmar Beer and a special chow they served.

Reaching Champhai from Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, is a real challenge as it takes almost an eight-hour drive along the hills.

One can buy the dress materials, sweets, candies etc. imported from Myanmar in the local markets of Champhai. Since I am not a shopaholic, I just took a stroll along the market in the evening and did not buy anything. Champhai is also famous for a winery.

The traditional dinner at a friend’s place with rice, pork and other Mizo dishes will be cherished for a long time. It was an official trip for me. I don’t think I will be able to pay another visit to this beautiful land….

(A Presbyterian Church in Champhai is seen in the photo)

 

How much do we care?

2014-04-23 18.09.16-2

Sometimes people surprise us with exceptional gestures of care and concern. Someone in my family has been going through a chronic illness for quite some time. We tried most of the treatment options that came our way but nothing worked. Recently, during a meeting, I happened to meet a doctor who heads an organisation. We know each other for quite some time. During a casual conversation with him during the lunch break, I shared our struggles with him since he is from medical background. He told me about similar issues his brother had faced and how he was cured. He promised to link me with a centre that provides the kind of treatment which worked for his brother. A few days later, when I logged into my email account, there was this message from his side, “Dear Vipin, we are keeping you in our prayers. As promised, sharing the details”.

You might think what is so special about it. This is something we all do for our friends. This is so special because he himself is going through one of the most difficult phases in his life as his spouse has been recently diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and undergoing treatment. Still, he had time to think about someone else and let him know that he really cares.

 

There is always time to love,

Time to stop and listen,

Time to pray for someone,

Time to lend a helping hand.

It is these little things that make life worth living.

മോഷണം

‘സഖാവി’ന്റെ പിതൃത്വത്തെ അല്ലെങ്കിൽ മാതൃത്വത്തെ ചൊല്ലി അടിപിടി നടക്കുന്ന സമയമാണല്ലോ. സ്വന്തമായി അത്യാവശ്യം രസമുള്ള ഒരു സാഹിത്യചോരണ കഥയുണ്ട്. അത് പറയാം. പത്തുപതിനഞ്ചുകൊല്ലം മുൻപാണ്. കൃത്യമായി പറഞ്ഞാൽ 1998ൽ, സഖാക്കന്മാർ തേങ്ങ പിരിച്ചുണ്ടാക്കിയ മൊകേരി ഗവ: കോളേജിൽ ഞാൻ ഒന്നാം വർഷം പ്രീഡിഗ്രിക്ക് പഠിക്കുന്ന സമയം. ഒരു വർഷം മാത്രമേ അവിടെ പഠിച്ചിട്ടുള്ളൂ എന്നത് വേറെ കാര്യം. ഇപ്പോൾ ആംഗ്ലോ ഇന്ത്യൻ കമ്മ്യൂണിറ്റി പ്രതിനിധിയായി ലോക്സഭയിലുള്ള സർ. റിച്ചാർഡ് ഹേ വകുപ്പ് മേധാവിയായും നമ്മുടെ സ്വന്തക്കാരനായ സെബാസ്റ്റ്യൻ കാലാ ഇംഗ്ലീഷ് വിഭാഗത്തിലും ഒക്കെ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്ന കാലം. കോളേജിലുള്ള സമയത്തു് ഗ്രൗണ്ടിലും പിന്നെ ലൈബ്രറിയിലും കൂടുതൽ സമയവും ചുറ്റുമുള്ള സിനിമാടാക്കീസ്സുകളിലുമായി അങ്ങനെ ജീവിച്ചുപോവുകയായിരുന്നു പാവം ഞാൻ.

അക്കാലത്താണ് സഹപാഠിയായ കോതോടുകാരൻ രാജേഷിന് ഒരു കയ്യെഴുത്ത് മാസിക അങ്ങ് ഇറക്കികളയാം എന്ന ചിന്ത ശക്തമാകുന്നത്. മാർക്കേസിന്റെയും മറ്റും തടിച്ച പുസ്തകങ്ങൾ കക്ഷത്തിൽ വച്ച് അങ്ങോട്ടും ഇങ്ങോട്ടും നടക്കുന്നത് കണ്ടിട്ടുള്ളതിനാൽ ഞാൻ ഒരു ബുദ്ധിജീവിയും കവിതയെഴുതാൻ പ്രാപ്തിയുള്ളവനുമാണെന്ന് അവൻ തെറ്റിദ്ധരിച്ചു, കയ്യെഴുത്ത് മാസികയിലേക്ക് ഒരു കവിത സംഭാവന ചെയ്യാൻ എന്നോട് താഴ്മയായി അപേക്ഷിച്ചു. അവൻ എന്നിലർപ്പിച്ച ആ പ്രതീക്ഷ തകർത്തു തരിപ്പണമാക്കാൻ എനിക്ക് കഴിയില്ലായിരുന്നു. മുൻപ് സ്കൂളിൽ പഠിക്കുന്ന കാലത്തു് മൂന്ന് പേര് മാത്രം പങ്കെടുത്തിരുന്ന കവിതാരചനാ മത്സരങ്ങളിൽ പങ്കെടുത്ത് തേർഡ് പ്രൈസ് വാങ്ങിയ അനുഭവങ്ങൾ മാത്രമായിരുന്നു കൈമുതൽ. ഏതായാലും എന്നിലെ കവി ഉണർന്നു, എന്നിട്ട് നേരെ ലൈബ്രറിയിലേക്ക് വച്ചുപിടിച്ചു. അവിടെ നിന്നും പഴയ ഒരു മാതൃഭൂമി ആഴ്ച്ചപതിപ്പ് പൊടി തട്ടിയെടുത്തു. അതിന്റെ ‘കോളേജ് മാഗസിൻ’ സെക്ഷനിൽ നിന്നും കൊള്ളാവുന്ന ഒരു കവിത തിരഞ്ഞെടുത്തെഴുതി, അതിന് കുറച്ചുകൂടി ഉചിതമെന്ന് എനിക്ക് തോന്നിയ ഒരു തലക്കെട്ടും കൊടുത്തു. കവിത കിട്ടിയപ്പോൾ രാജേഷ് കൃതാർത്ഥനായി, അവൻ എന്നിലർപ്പിച്ച പ്രതീക്ഷ കാത്തുസൂക്ഷിക്കാനായതിന്റെ ചാരിതാർഥ്യം എനിക്കും. ഒരു നിമിഷം അവന്റെ തോളിൽ കൈവച് അവനെ നോക്കിനിന്ന ശേഷം ഞാൻ കോളേജിന്റെ ഇടനാഴികളിലൂടെ എങ്ങോട്ടോ നടന്നുപോയി.

പിന്നീടെപ്പോഴോ കോളേജിൽ ചെന്നപ്പോൾ ക്ലാസ്സ്റൂമിന്റെ മുൻപിൽ ഒഞ്ചിയംകാരിയും ഒപ്പം വിപ്ലവകാരിയുമായ ഒരു കൂട്ടുകാരി എന്നെ തടഞ്ഞു. ഞാൻ ചോദിച്ചു, ‘എന്താ ഹേ?’. അവൾ പ്രതിവചിച്ചു, ‘കവിത മോഷ്ടിച്ചാൽ ആരും അറിയില്ലെന്ന് കരുതിയോ ഹേ?’ നടൻ ഇന്നസ്സെന്റിന്റെ ഭാഷയിൽ പറഞ്ഞാൽ ഞാൻ ഇളിഞ്ഞുപോയി. ഒരു നിമിഷം എല്ലാം കൂടി ഇടിഞ്ഞുതലയിൽ വീണാരുന്നെങ്കിൽ എന്നും തോന്നിപ്പോയി. പിന്നെ രാജേഷിനെകൂടി താങ്ങാൻ ഉള്ള ധൈര്യം ഇല്ലാത്തതിനാൽ ഒരു നിമിഷം അവളെ നോക്കിനിന്ന ശേഷം ഞാൻ കോളേജിന്റെ ഇടനാഴികളിലൂടെ വീണ്ടും എങ്ങോട്ടോ നടന്നുപോയി. അത് നേരെ വീട്ടിലേക്കായിരുന്നു.

പിന്നീട് റ്റീസി വാങ്ങാനായി പോയപ്പോൾ ‘നോ ഡ്യൂ’ സെർട്ടിഫിക്കറ്റിനായി ലൈബ്രറിയിൽ പോകേണ്ടിവന്നു. അതാ മേശപ്പുറത് ആ കയ്യെഴുത്ത് മാസിക. പരിചയമുള്ള ആരും അടുത്തില്ല എന്നുറപ്പ് വരുത്തി ഞാൻ തിടുക്കത്തിൽ അതിന്റെ താളുകൾ മറിച്ചുനോക്കി. ‘എന്റെ’ കവിത കിടന്ന പേജിനു മുകളിൽ രാജേഷാവാം വേറൊരു പേജ് ഒട്ടിച്ചുചേർത്തിരിക്കുന്നു. അതിൽ മറ്റൊരു കവിത, അതിന്റെ ടൈറ്റിൽ ‘മോഷണം’ എന്നായിരുന്നു.

A tale of two freshers

I started job-hunt during the latter half of 2008 after completing my PG. I had been rejected by 3 – 4 organisations before landing in my first job. The reason was simple, no experience. I was getting fed up and finally told one interviewer to have the courage to give a fresher his first job and let him gain experience. He leaned back, looked at the ceiling and laughed out loud for a while before giving me the clichéd closing remark, ‘we will get back to you’. He did get back with an offer after 3 – 4 weeks but by that time I had taken up my first job with another organisation.

Today, while taking an interview, there was a fresh graduate sitting in front of me. The 2008 experience flashed through my mind and I asked him why should he be hired when we could easily get an experienced hand. He smiled for a moment and surprisingly hit back with the answer I had given to my interviewer in 2008.

We are getting him on board!

Man can be bigger than adversity

city of joy

No other Indian city attracted me like Calcutta during my school/college times thanks to the regular updates about the city in our newspapers just because of the notable presence of the Communist Party in West Bengal. Besides, their literature and cinema attracted me very much. I always feel that there is a strong emotional-connect between the people of West Bengal and Kerala due to many factors like this. I visited the city for the first time in 2012 with great enthusiasm and many times in the last few years and explored the city a little bit. This helped me to understand, appreciate and relate things better when I started reading the City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre.

From the dates of its foundation in 1690 by some British merchants until the departure of its last Governor on August 15, 1947; Calcutta had epitomized the white man’s domination of the globe. For nearly two and a half centuries, it had been the capital of the British Indian Empire and the largest city in the empire after London. It continued to be one of the most active and prosperous cities in Asia for one more decade in the post-independence era thanks to its harbour, numerous industries, metal foundries, chemical and pharmaceutical works, jute and cotton factories.

The city was also considered the cultural capital of the country being the homeland of Tagore, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Satyajit Ray and many others of the same stature. Calcutta produced more writers than Paris and Rome combined, more literary reviews than London and New York, more cinemas than New Delhi and more publishers than the rest of the country.

However, for the migrant workers and refugees, Calcutta represented neither culture nor history. For them it meant only the faint hope of finding some crumbs to allow them to survive until the next day. As Lapierre narrates, the mass exodus of refugees towards Calcutta was caused by many incidents in the history such as the earthquake that shook Bihar in 1937, the famine that killed more than 3.5 million people in Bengal alone in 1943, India’s independence and partition alone cast upon Calcutta some four million Muslims and Hindus fleeing from Bihar and East Pakistan, war with China in 1962, subsequently the war with Pakistan also added the number of refugees in the city. Besides, droughts, famines and cyclones in different parts of the Eastern side of the country added to the burden of the city. It was, of course, beyond the capacity of the city to accommodate and manage. The population residing in slums increased drastically. The governments could not even provide basic amenities to them. Many slept on pavements. Unemployment, poverty, epidemics and crimes added to the woes of the city and resulted in total collapse of the systems.

The central characters in this novel are Stephen Kovalski, a Polish Priest living a life of total renunciation in a Calcutta slum and working for its dwellers; Max Loeb, a young American doctor who joins Kovalski to run a clinic in the slum; Bandona, an Assamese girl who helps Kovalski and Max Loeb in their charity and relief work; and Hazari Pal, a farmer from rural Bengal affected by drought and set out with his family for Calcutta in search of work and end up in pulling a rikshaw for survival. For many who sought refuge in Calcutta since independence, the shafts of hand-pulled rikshaws provided a means of earning a living.

What appealed me personally in the book is the realisation of Stephen Kovalski that human suffering cannot be seen as part of the redemptive process as taught by religions and charity serves only to make people more dependable unless it is supported with actions designed to wipe out the actual roots of poverty.

As a whole, City of Joy celebrates the humanity’s zest for life, capacity for hope and the will to survive against all odds. No matter what happens, life goes on with an energy and vigour that is constantly renewed.