Sunday, 26 September 2010

Questions, questions, questions

The simplicity of Krishna's argument, and the utter difficulty of practising it, always stuns me. Krishna, through out the Gita, makes a very simple point - Do what you must, what the situation demands (from a larger cosmic point of view) unfettered by personal desire, power, lust, envy, anger, fear, vengance or any other emotion. Do it out of love he says. Not the love that is personal and exclusive, but love that is as large as life and all inclusive. Only then are you acting in favour of the cosmic balance of the universe.

It is this same principle that allows Krishna to manipulate and break the rules of righteous war, to dupe the Kauravas at every stage of the battle, allowing the Pandavas to win. Yet, at the end of the war, the Pandavas have done Krishna's bidding without understanding his purpose (with the possible exception of Yudhishtra who is the only Pandava who enters heaven).

Yet, as an individual, when I think about anything, it is hard to view a situation free of personal prejudice. How does one, at any point, determine whether a course of action is being undertaken because that is truly what the situation demands or because there is a subconscious desire for a particular outcome that one has not been able to identify yet? When do you know that you have peeled back all layers of prejudice and conditioning and desire? How does one calculate the merits and demerits of a situation without taking into account the gain or loss (happiness or sorrow) that one is expecting from it?

Yet another reading of a retelling of the Mahabharat and I only have more questions. Still more questions and no answers at all (that in itself is perhaps, a good thing).

PS: I do recommend everyone to read at least a couple of retellings of the Mahabharat. The retellings themselves are an exercise in understanding perspective and points of view. Some of the ones I've read are:
  1. Mahasamar (Narendra Kohli): This one is in Hindi and was recommended by a friend who knows the epic better than anyone else I know!
  2. Palace of Illusions (Chitra Banerji Divakaruni): The Mahabharata told from Draupadi's perspective, the woman who is the pivot of the plot of the Mahabharata.
  3. Mahabharata retold by C Rajagopalachari: This one was my first, perhaps the simplest, as the tale would be told to a child.
  4. Difficulty of being good (Gurcharan Das): This is not a direct retelling of the Mahabharata but an analysis of its characters and plot, the lessons that can be drawn from it and the continuing relevance of the epic in present times.
  5. Jaya (Devdutt Pattanaik): This is one I just finished. It is a simple retelling but what I love about it is the little side stories and the notes at the end of each chapter pointing out the moral, sociological and political debates and setting the historical context of vedic lifestyle for the reader. It brings out both the context that created the Mahabharata as well as the underpinning values that make it eternally relevant. 
All of these books are available in India on and
At this point, I am regretting not knowing to read a vernacular language such as Tamil. Would love to read a folk retelling of the epic!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The memories we talk about

I recently finished reading a book by one of my favourite Indian authors - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The book is called One Amazing Thing. To cut a long story short, it is the story of 9 people trapped under the rubble of the Indian Embassy after an earthquake. And as they wait to be rescued, they begin to tell each other stories of that one amazing thing or moment or event of their lives. And as I was reading each story I realised, they were all sad in some measure. No story was completely happy, from start to finish.

And so I started thinking back I realised that we tell our sad stories more than our happy stories. We take the happy stories for granted and wallow in the sad ones. Like telling them somehow eases the pain or gives more purpose to our lives. And that's really all wrong. Purpose in life should come from its happy parts. The things that made you giggle and laugh till your jaws hurt, till you are clutching your tummy and rolling around helplessly, hoping something will make you stop before you choke. And those moments are rare. Much rarer than all the sad things that life has to offer (it really has plenty of those).

One Amazing Thing is poignant and the stories are beautifully told. But somehow, I finished thinking amazing things should have left me smiling more than sighing.


A per chance conversation had me thinking about "Home" and I realise that whenever someone asks me that question, I don't really have an answer and my answers are hardly ever the same. Today, "home" might be Delhi, tomorrow it'll be my little flat in Mumbai and day after, it'll be Chennai. I don't have a definite space that has been home since i can remember. Home for me has been transitory, changing, more a function of where I find comfort than a specific house in a specific city.

It's this way for several reasons. I've grown up and lived in several places - Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi (which was my longest stint @14 years and even there I've moved three houses), Ahmedabad and now Mumbai. Till some years back, it was really simple. Delhi was home. I'd lived there the longest, made some of my best friends and happiest memories and my parents still lived there and I still went back there for little breaks and holidays.But now, I haven't been there in almost three years - since my parents moved back to our "home town" of Chennai, my friends have move out and some have moved back and Delhi, people tell me is no longer the same. I definitely need to go there sometime soon... walk the streets of where I used to live and the nostalgia of times really well spent.

Today, for every long weekend, every festival I go back to Chennai. In my head Chennai has always been the city in which my grandparents live. It's never been happening and visits to Chennai have largely consisted of relative visiting, eating, more relative visiting and more eating. Some of that has changed. Now it's where my parents live and some of friends work there now and I get to see a slightly different, "younger" side of the city. However, though I try to think of it as "home" in the more permanent everlasting sense, it doesn't quite seem that way. Visits to Chennai or rarely ever comforting or even relaxing. If anything, they end up being more hectic and with more decisions to make than I do in my working week. It doesn't have the ease and innocence of childhood, nor any memories of the same (all those are in Delhi, remember). PS: And it seems like I don't even have any pictures of Chennai. Must click the next time I am there.

And finally, Mumbai - where I've been for the last two and a half years. It's a city in which I've truly lived alone, discovered many things, including much about myself that I did not know. I now have a little apartment here (on rent, but nevertheless!) that is my pride and according to me the most comfortable place to come back to after a day at work. Mumbai is full of advertures had, happy memories, sad memories, it is a place full of loves found and lost. At one time, I considered wanting to live here forever. But not anymore.

So I wonder where would I make home? Or for that matter, where is the place that has the peace and solace of good times spent with people who still matter?

And yes, slightly sentimental post to begin with but at least  I am writing again!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Things I am being lazy about

Things I am being lazy about 

So on an afternoon when I am getting bored, friend and I decided to put down a list of all the things we want to do and don't get around to doing. So he put up a post on his blog and tagged me. So here I go:

1. Write more... especially fiction
2. Enrol for dance classes
3. Learn swimming
4. Put up my friend's wedding pics
5. Edit my thesis for publication

There I go. This will hopefully get rid of writer's block also.

Tagging back:
Flyin Fiddlesticks

People I am tagging:
& Cynduja

Tag Name: I Dont/IDont/iDont (if you are an apple fan)