Theory And Practice (A Short Story)

meghalaya-ladrampai-coal-mine-labourer-from-nepal-shaym-prasad-pokharel

It was early morning on the 16th day of Margazhi (the month). The day’s discourse concluded on the 16th Thiruppavai paasuram (see note on Thiruppavai at the end), peeling away its literal sense to uncover its manifold metaphorical allusions:

*naayaganaay ninRa, nandagOpanuDaiya
kOyil kaappaanE!* koDit tOnRum tOraNa
vaayil kaappaanE!* maNik kadavaM taaL tiRavaay*…   

The audience dispersed, some to the adjoining temple for darshan and some spilling onto the street heading homewards.

The man and the woman, the first to emerge, paused at the gate where footwears were left behind on the outside before entering the temple.

She saw here and there and said: ‘I can’t find my chappals. Had left them right here.’

The man: ‘Look carefully, it must be somewhere here.’

‘I’ve seen all around…it’s not here. It is a new one.’

‘Whoever told you to wear a new pair to the temple?’

Losing one’s footwear, especially new, at public places like temples is not uncommon.

The man turned to the meek looking Nepali in a crumpled ill-fitting khaki standing at the gate: ‘Watchman, did you see anyone take off wearing her chappals?’

The poor immigrant was used to rudeness: ‘No, Sir. No one was here in the time I’m standing here on watch. You’re the first to come over here.’

Giving him a disdainful look reserved for an erring domestic, the man to his wife in Tamizh: ‘Who knows, this fellow may have swiped it himself. You can’t trust them at all. Days are such…’

The Nepali guessed they were talking about him, none of it complimentary. Mumbling to himself: ‘Don’t they know I’m here to guard the temple’s things and god’s against theft and not for keeping a watch on footwears left outside?’

Just then the woman cried an excited ‘Eureka’: ‘Oh, I found them…thank god. Some mutt had left his jumbo shoes on top of my chappals. That’s why…’

They left, not looking back.

Back at home, his mother to the woman: ‘So how was it today?’

Every day when they returned from the discourse, his mother always wanted know. It would not be out of place to mention she had been to at least half a dozen discourses on the subject before her knees gave way. Still…

The woman summed it up for her: ‘Amma, it was very nice today. In today’s paasuram, the thOzigal (cow-herd girl-friends) are up and ready – they have assembled in front of Nandagopan’s palatial house, also Krishna’s residence. And you know what? This is so much like what happens today…to gain entry into the house for Krishna’s darshan, they try to enlist the support of others who matter – first, the guard at the main gate, then another watching the courtyard and the inner door. That’s not all – once inside, they now appeal to Krishna’s elder brother Balram too and mother Yashodha. Even here, see how smart they’re: when they address the guards, it’s not by their names, but by describing the important job they are doing – remember how Krishna is under constant threats from asura’s assuming unimaginable forms – massaging their professional pride! The operating principle here’s: ‘When you go to seek favors (god’s grace), don’t offend others on the way. In fact it helps to get them on your side!` Just like what we do today, isn’t it? Digressing briefly at this point, the upanyasakar (the speaker at the discourse) pointed out, how many of us understand and appreciate, whenever we go to temples, the job dwarapaalakaa’s (the two iconic door-keepers depicted on the doors at the entrance; full-sized stone moorthy’s (icons) in bigger temples) do – keeping watch on in-comers – and are worthy of our serious devotion as noble servants of god?  And, we hardly notice them much less bow to these watchmen…’

End

 

 

Source: Image from United We Blog!

On Thiruppavai (from Wiki):

The Tiruppavai is a collection of thirty stanzas (paasurams) written in Tamizh by Andal, belonging to the pavai genre of songs, in praise of the Lord Vishnu. Andal assumes the guise of a cowherd in these 30 verses and is intent upon performing a particular religious vow to marry the Lord, thereby obtain His everlasting company, and inviting all her girl-friends to join her. Sri Vaishnavas sing these stanzas every day of the year in the temple as well as in their homes to bring peace, prosperity and Divine Grace. This practice assumes special significance during Margazhi: each day of this month gets its name from one of the thirty verses. There are references to this vow in the late-sangam era Tamil musical anthology Paripadal.

 

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Pritamji And His Nuska’s (A Short-Story)

walk-in-indiaThe park had a track laid out along its periphery, used by joggers in the morning and by senior citizens for their evening walks.

One evening, reaching the track, I saw him already doing rounds all by himself.

I fell in step with him: ‘Namshkar, Pritamji, you’re early today! Or, am I late?’

‘No, my friend, you’re very much on time. It’s just that I wanted to go for a few extra rounds starting a little earlier and finishing with you.’

‘Looks like only two of us today. Wish I too could go with you full length but for these knees…’

Too late, the words had already gotten out. No phrase in English, as far as I know, captured my predicament so vividly as Hindi’s ‘Aa Bhail, mujhe maar’ (Dear bull, I invite you to hit me). Oh, boy, now for the music, sure as night follows day.

‘I told you and you won’t listen. Let me meet Bhabhi and tell her. I’m sure she would ensure you do it. People have reported dramatic improvements within two weeks.’

Rummaging my memory did not yield any recall of the subject conversation.

A little bit of a background is in order here so I don’t lose you: Pritamji, my co-walker for a couple of years now, is a likeable soft-spoken ex-shop-keeper who has handed over the reign to his children and now spends time watching on TV and sharing with a willing audience – he’s perceptive and considerate –  all about how indigenous patthe (leaves, herbs), powders, pastes or potions are far more effective and affordable than the ‘poisons’ pushed by these foreign pharma companies. He calls them MNC’s, Multi National Colonialists, a new breed ominously redolent of the infamous East India Company of the good old Brits. Did it have anything to do with what he had told us some time ago – the pharmacy abutting his shop in the market-place had refused a few years earlier to sell him some space for expansion at any price. Perhaps, not – we never brought it up.

Now, do I make a willing audience?  Before I respond, consider this for a moment: I subjected myself for years successively to various nuska’s (prescriptions) for diabetes – karela juice (bitter-gourd) on empty stomach first thing in the morning, methi seeds (fenugreek) with dahi (curds), pomegranate seeds mixed with ghud-maar (gymnema sylvestre) powder, water left standing overnight in a copper vessel with/without pieces of okhra soaked in it, wearing a brass-band on the wrist, looking out-of-the-world with green-gram seeds press-pasted visibly on nerve points all over the limbs, etc. etc. And, if you rush to me with one of your own, not figuring in this list, the one you thought would have if only I had, I must tell you it’s all over now, water under the bridge, with me going on emergency under the knives wielded by a leading cardiac surgeon a few years ago. And, post-surgery, diabetes managed by frequent and liberal doses of insulin every day.  This being the case, I’m sure, you won’t fault me for my disposition towards these gharelu nuska’s (home remedies).

This doesn’t mean I shut him up whenever Pritamji gets going. He’s a nice and friendly guy. I must tell you they don’t do it to me either when I wax on philately in general and in particular about my collection of stamps of island states. Each to his eccentricities.  In fact, there are a few in our group, easily outnumbering the interest in stamps, keen to hear him out and even try out a few of those prescriptions. On those evenings like this one when there are only two of us, I still let him, of course within limits, unspool updates, new finds and whatever, responding passively with appropriate ‘interesting’, ‘really’… And, he too knows how I feel about the subject, but that doesn’t discourage him from pursuing his suggestions with me.

Going back to where I left you off with my failed search:

‘Pritamji, I’m unable to recall the occasion you’re alluding to when we talked about my knees.’

What made me say this beats me even now. This was more like rolling out the red carpet to the bull yet undecided on the invitation held out last.

He was pleased with my hitherto-never-evinced ‘interest’: ‘Doesn’t matter if you don’t remember. I’ll be too happy to repeat for you to benefit: Collect tender neem leaves from a plant-tree that hasn’t grown higher than ten feet, heat it with a few betel leaves and a pinch of camphor in til (sesame) oil on a slow flame until the leaves turn crisp. Mix it with enough of rice flour – ah, take care, it must be from unpolished rice – to form a paste. And it is this hot paste that’s slapped onto your knee caps. Every night, lying on the bed, this paste is applied on each knee-cap, held in place by a tightly wound piece of cloth; no movement of the limbs for twenty minutes. That’s all to it, so simple, isn’t it?’

I had no intention of stringing him along any further. Kept a bunch of queries to myself: Won’t it scald the skin? Won’t it spill onto the sheet? Besides, the room would be soaked up in an odor strong enough to drive away anyone within twenty-five feet. Not to mention the stiffness in the lower limbs. Are neem leaves sold backed by some kind of a provenance statement on their source to ascertain if they indeed come from a plant-tree?

He read my mind and was ready: ‘As for the spill, smell and stiffness, well, don’t they say: ‘No pain, no gain, eh.’?’

Gain? All I wanted was ‘no pain’.

The one he did not read was on provenance of the leaves.

I let it go for the same aforesaid reason.

Like a hound on a scent, he was not to be easily shaken off: ‘While on neem, let me tell you something else: a group based in Rishikesh has done research and found a preparation of these leaves takes years off your age, if reports are to be believed. Am trying it out on myself for a month now…I intend finding out more about it. Haven’t told anyone about it. You’re the first to hear.’

‘Am honored, Pritamji. But, wait a minute…’

‘Yes, you heard it right, my friend, you live longer.’

This was something else.

Seizing the ‘baton’, I said light-heartedly: ’And do what, Pritamji? Did you see today’s TOI (The Times Of India)? A boy killed his mother and sister because she scolded him for not studying.  You want to live through witnessing all that? Kalyug, it’s predicted, would see unabated spread all around of despair, disease, disaster, debauchery, depravity and devilry.’

Admittedly I got a little carried away there.

Encountering an unexpected objection to living long, the usually unflappable Pritamji showed a mix of irritation and incredulity at this ‘imbecility’: ‘Life is not what TOI sees and says. There’s so much more to life…So much one could be doing…’

Precisely at this moment Pritamji’s exposition on gift of life was prematurely ended by the sudden arrival of his wife.

Namashkar, Babhiji,’ I greeted.

Namashkar, Bhaisab,’ she then turned to her spouse: ‘Bhool gaye kya? Dentist ka mera appointment hai in half an hour.’ (Have you forgotten my appointment with the dentist?)

I winked at Pritamji, untainted by mock or malice, I assure you: ‘Kya, Pritamji, aapne koi nuska naheen bathaya Babhijiko?’ (Didn’t you recommend any of your prescriptions to her?’)

Babhiji assumed the strike: ‘Arrhe chodiye ye nuske, vuske ko. (Leave all that aside) Don’t get me wrong, am not against it. It’s perhaps good for health in peace time boosting defenses against diseases. But not fast enough when you’re riding an ambulance hosting some specific ailment…’. She quite seamlessly mixed Hindi and English with enviable felicity.

To her spouse: ‘Maaf keejiye, Shoharji, you know how it sits with me.’ (Am sorry, dear husband…)

To me, softening it up a little for Pritamji: ‘Bhaisab, don’t go entirely by what I’m saying. It might work for you, who knows. Listening to those guys on the show religiously every day, my patidev should know what he’s talking about.’

Pritamji was somewhat mollified to be back in the game.

Some insights were shared: ‘In fact that’s all he watches on the TV…for about half an hour in the morning. These days, he finds newspapers – purveyors of gloom and doom, books – too many pages to make a point, magazines – voyeuristic, music – just loud sans melody, places – crowded and noisy, travel – a hassle, spirituality – a leap into the unknown, gadgets – too complicated with more keys than a piano, gym – a myth minted by mass over mind, money matters – if money didn’t matter…’

At this, a self-congratulatory smile appeared on his visage, pleased with himself for an accurate assessment of the world around us. Therein was also an invite, it seemed, for me to join him on his take.

Regrettably I did not oblige my co-walker on this occasion, me thinking: ‘So, turning his back on life, what did he do with his days?’

Babhiji saw in it something none of us did and quite seriously: ‘Did I miss out anything, dear…You know what? Come to think of it, you may be onto something big – a nuska to relieve boredom. You’re hardly ever, if you noticed. I did. Ever thought of it?’

Oh, my…she was right. He never pulled a long face, cursed anything or anybody, held his head between his hands or whatever people do when weighed down. . Was it the neem leaves? Can’t be…for one thing, it was only a month of usage. Moreover, if it did work as claimed, it would only aggravate the ailment, piling more time on his table when our poor dear didn’t know what to do with the time he already had with him. Then, what was it?

I was not the only one pondering over it. I saw Pritamji already off the starting block in a race of self-inquiry and self-discovery for the elusive nuska, proudly his own.

Before he could cover any ground Babhji called a halt: ‘Sunoji, dheri ho raha hai. Vo khadoos doctor naraaj hojayega. I don’t want an upset doctor holding a drill to my teeth.’ (Come, let’s go, it’s time. That moody chap (doctor) would get annoyed…)

Till date our group is on its evening rounds with the fond hope our Pritamji would share his nuska with us first; this time he’s sure to have an audience, much larger than he can imagine, and willing too.

End

 

 

 

PS: This is largely fictional, written in jest, not to put down nuska’s.

Source: Image from yoga-anatomy.com

Friendly Neighborhood

Shuchi Krishan

At the dinner table, it was unusually quiet.

“Over the last few days, you’re not your usual self, I’ve been observing. Is something the matter? Are you alright? What’s eating you?”

Tongue-tied, none of the chirp and cheer of the last couple of weeks in evidence since we booked ourselves on a 10-day tour of Europe fulfilling a long standing wish of hers.

“Oh, nothing, don’t fuss.”

“Come on, look at yourself in the mirror…you know, long face, this trip has gotten to me too now.  Am going to tell K (the tour operator) to give us at least half a day at Louvre.  Anything less is scandalous.”

“Tch…I wish I had not pestered you for this tour…Incidentally no one full of life likes visiting museum’s that are but dwellings of the dead.”

“Why? What happened? You were like a kid before his birthday and now…Incidentally, Mona Lisa residing in Louvre is 500+ years young, outliving everyone of her contemporaries, and going strong!”

“Last week I told Sneha aunty about our tour as matter of neighborly courtesy.”

“That’s good. She can receive any courier packets coming to us.”

Mathlabi…that’s not it. Ever since I told her, she has been cautioning me with one thing or the other. It’s scary. Tell me, was there a crazy shootout a few days ago in Brussels at a crowded shopping mall randomly killing innocent public? I missed the story – these days I don’t read papers like I used to.”

“Happens all the time in some part of the world or the other. The trick in life is not to be there at the spot at the time.”

“Ha…why, these guys send you a sms before rolling out their vile plans to let their pal get out of harm’s way? Get serious. This is another thing – is winter in Europe severe this year? People getting stranded for days? Can you imagine us cooped up in some hotel miles away from humanity? Aunty got these horror stories coming from her cousin in Zurich.”

“Dear, this is an annual phenomenon.  It’s winter. Unless hell is freezing over, guys out there cope up with it day-in and day-out. If it does become unmanageable, I’m sure, K would cancel, reroute or do something about it.  Why think of and worry about a worst-case situation?  Don’t forget there are eighteen others going with us on the trip. It’s amazing our aunty keeps tabs on far beyond the walls of her house, even across oceans!”

“Oh, she reads papers, watches news channels; have no doubts –  her stories are authentic, put out by sources trusted world-wide. And today, you know what?  Poor dear tells me – I could detect a tinge of envy – I’m lucky to have you take me to these places while Arvindji (her husband) doesn’t even think of it, not even to places within India, all the time worrying about the expenses. I thought he had a good business going in Kalbadevi. They don’t look hard up…That reminds me, last month apparently our Rupee slipped badly against the Euro and continues to be weak, pushing up costs in Europe by 15% to 20%. Curse our luck.”

Ah, so that’s what it really was. Now it all made sense. Well, the problem was not without solution, though this was not one of them – much as I hated to admit: I didn’t think my persuasion skills were that good to get Arvindji to change his time-hardened ways. On the other hand I could certainly…now let me not get ahead of myself.

Picking it up from where my wife left off: “I presume this also comes from our aunty since you don’t read papers these days. Didn’t know currencies and conversions too receive her attention. What a waste of talent to confined within the four walls of her home, a truly world.wide.woman!”

“Correction: I said “not like I used to”. Doesn’t mean I don’t look at it all. Let’s keep the lady out of this – sizing up her expertise, its reach and depth are no part of the agenda here – and get back to Rupee vis-à-vis Euro.  Looks like we’re going to be over the budget by 15 to 20%. All this had to happen just when we’re stepping out.”

“Don’t lose your sleep over it, it’s not going to majorly impact us. Remember, we booked the tickets two months ago? K is bound to hold the prices. And ours is an all-inclusive tour, K taking up all expenses. Yes, some incidentals we incur would be pricier – but that’s not big-ticket. Now, you feel better about going?”

“Yah…if all that you say is what it is. Though aunty may not think so.”

“Quit worrying and get ready – we have no more than 72 hours before we leave and so much to do. And, as a measure of abundant caution, you may wish to go to the temple sometime and pray for our safe journey and back.”

“Please don’t jest in these matters. And, I certainly intend to at the earliest.”

So, we made it finally. The days were so packed my wife quickly forgot all about her apprehensions (or, aunty’s, to be accurate, whom we ceased forthwith talking about since last injunction) and gave herself up fully to the excitement of travel, sight-seeing and sumptuous food. We were lodged in hotels where our rooms were clean and comfortable. Bonus: We made friends with other families going with us on the tour adding much spice to our experience.  The tour was an unqualified success and an unforgettable experience for my wife – as for self, it was not as novel, having visited some of these places earlier while in service. Mercifully, the gentleman, Murphy, for some reason, had not thrown his rule-book at us.

We returned late evening on a Friday. Saturday was spent in running some errands and in doing some chores – emptying the travel bags and stowing them away, collecting clothes for wash, sorting out toys, trinkets and gifts for friends and relatives.

My wife walked in just then: “Hey, that handbag looks classy, thank you.”

“Sorry, not for you.”

“Don’t tell me once again this is for your boss’s wife. She must already have the largest collection in the land, a good part of it coming from you. And, I never noticed it, when did you buy this?”

I just shrugged. Another tip for blissful life: “It’s not always questions need to be answered.”

On Sunday, in the afternoon, we had our aunty inviting herself in.

She was all cheers, half-hugging my wife, as much as their torso’s permitted the maneuver. To my wife’s surprise and delight, she asked at length all about the places we went to, people whom we met, the food we had and so on.

As she got up to leave at the end of it,

“Next you must go to Scandinavian countries, very scenic and tourist-friendly places, my cousin tells me.”

“Oh, the one in Zurich? Aunty, since it’s further up north, the temperatures must be closer or below zero.”

“My dear, all you need is the right kind of clothes. After all you handled European winter and not any worse for it.”

“What about random violence?”

“Which part of the world outside of your house is totally safe from the crazies these days, tell me? You must plan it for next year.”

As she stood on the landing outside of our door,

“Oh, how remiss of me, I forgot all about it. Thanks very much, dear, for the prettiest purse you got for me. And of course, the chocolates-n’-candies hamper. So nice of you to have taken the trouble.”

Parting time: “And don’t forget what I said about Scandinavia.”

As my wife turned around closing the doors, I got ready to explain myself.

How did it end?  Well, realization – there indeed was a problem and it was not with her – took a while and recognition – the fix was swift, smooth and smart – a little longer. No harm in tooting one’s horn once in a way, right?

End

 

 

 

Source: Painting by Shuchi Krishnan

A Love Story

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” A piece of glass shatters, sighing

it was the promise of a stone to be its protector.”

 

End

 

 

Source: Pinterest

 

 

Monks Tell No Lies

Time again to turn to the artist adept at ‘sewing coats give the mere buttons’ – no two alike – that leave you wondering at the cut and the fit and wanting more!

Here he walks you down a don’t-know-where-it’s-headed path until in a flash it’s all laid bare, only some 100+ words later!

Momus News

The Spaniards arrived at the temple first, looking for gold. New to Cambodia, their translations were incomplete. All the Spanish got from the monks was, “Beware the Nangalang.”

Fearless leader Diaz merely scoffed, “A monster?” He stepped inside the entrance, screamed, and disappeared. The remaining Spaniards fled, telling stories of the horrific monster guarding the temple. Rumors spread across Europe.

In the 1930s, fearless treasure hunter Idaho Johnson braved the temple. He disappeared in an instant.

During the Vietnam War, fearless war hero Colonel Davidson heard about the terrifying monster guarding gold. “Beware the Nangalang!” warned the monks. He ignored the “superstitious” natives…and screamed as he disappeared.

In the 90s, High Priest Dong-Hue introduced his son to the temple. At the entrance he said, “Beware the Nangalang!”

“Right, Dad,” said Quok, obviously fluent in the local language. “I’ll watch out for the hole in the stairs leading to a bottomless…

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A Known Story And A Hither-To Unknown Moral Or A Super-Dad!

The mother read from a picture book a story for her 6-year old at bed time, along the way explaining words that were new. The story – quite familiar to us from days we were knee-high or even before – goes like this:

A farmer in the village had four sons who always quarreled over one thing or the other. All attempts by the man to bring them together were to no avail.

sticks Four_Sons_Moral_story.png

The matter assumed greater urgency in view of the man’s failing health. He decided he would make one last try before leaving them to their fate.

He called them to his bed. When they had assembled he bade the eldest to bring some dry sticks and a piece of rope from the back of the house.

The sticks were tied together in a bundle. The eldest who was also the heaviest was asked by the farmer to break the bundle into two. He tried hard exerting himself to the limits, but he couldn’t.  His brothers too tried one by one and failed like he did. They gave the bundle back to the father, crest fallen.

Thereupon the farmer asked them to untie the bundle and gave them a stick each. This time they could break the sticks rather effortlessly, all of them.

sticks 2a

At this point the mother paused, as she always did in these story-telling sessions, put the book away to quiz the girl on parts of the story including questions like what-would-do-you-do-if-you-were, inevitably ending with what-is-the-moral-of-the-story.

The girl thought for a moment screwing up her eyes and then broke into a smile:

‘Mom, this is exactly what I do. If ever you’ve a difficult problem to solve, take it to your dad. He’ll find a way out.’

Just then dad walked in and seeing the mother holding her head in her hands, silent, searching for a response, inquired: ‘Why, what’s the problem?’

End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS: Based on a real experience at my daughter’s place.

Source: Images from kutties.in, kidsultimatezone.blogspot.com

Breaking a Habit – The Beggar on the Bridge

Storyteller's Campfire Blog

It was over my morning cup of coffee today that it occurred to me that as much as I like to think of myself as a spontaneous and free spirit, there are realms in which I am very much wedded to my habits. The coffee itself is a case in point. If there has been a day in the past decade that I didn’t begin the day with ‘the black water medicine’ I can’t recall it. I can stumble out of bed, dreams still clinging, barely awake, and make my way, eyes closed if I wanted, and find the drawer with the filters, the cabinet with the ground beans, the bottled water dispenser, the electric pot… each in a different place, and complete the morning ritual. At about 6AM everyday, you will always know just where to find me.

And so it was with the philosophy students and the beggar…

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