INTO THE WILD

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A biographical adventure film written and directed by Sean Penn. Superb editing and cinematography and amazing lyrics of the song “Guaranteed.” This is a story of an extraordinary student, Christopher McCandless, who abandons his possessions, and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness.

After watching the movie, I myself was lost in the wilderness. It took me a while to come out of that and get connected with my life in the real world. The impact compelled me to pen down my thoughts.

The nature never disappoints. When you are all alone in the nature, your suppressed unexpressed emotions suddenly become alive. You feel relaxed as you are free from the burden of fitting into the norms. And this makes you happy. You are free from being a false being but is this really the ultimate freedom? Running away to be your true self? Is it required to be all alone in the forest? I mean, it is so easy to be your true self in a forest. Why not with the fellow humans? You can live your life on your terms. You can be simple. No-one can force you to run the rat race.

Is money and power simply an illusion? Really? Or, the obsession or attachment with them is? When we talk about the ultimate freedom, it is not in burning dollars to end the attachment. Unquestionable freedom comes when you carry your dollars in your pocket not in your mind, without knowing it, without getting attached to it.

Leave, don’t run away!
Choose wisely, don’t abandon!

FIX SIN

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If God created everything then who created sin?

With the pandemic taking grip over our lives, many of us have started considering the virus as a divine punishment, as a necessary evil. It has made us to think that we have sinned, sinned against our human race, sinned against the Mother Nature. But how many times have we actually deliberated on what sin is rather than creating a hulla-baloo about sin, divinity and purity?

Right from our birth, we are told to drop anger, drop greed, drop envy, drop disobedience, drop this, drop that. The list goes on…

We tried, tried and again tried but is it really possible to drop all because no matter how hard we try, how much we sacrifice, one or the other thing will remain with us. Honestly, how many things can we drop in one single life?

Shall we drop trying?

Then we fall into the trap of guilt and fear and we fathom out that it is insurmountable to nose out of this circle of illusion, and that compels us to think.

But very recently in my life I have realized, especially with so much time in hand during this lockdown that I need to understand sin to fix it. I have understood that it is difficult to get rid of the forbidden because I am trying, or I must rather say that we are trying unconsciously. I am not awake, I am lost in my own world so as everyone else in their own worlds. Yes, forgetting myself is the only sin I commit.

If we are doing good things but if it is done without awareness then we are doing no good. We need to wake up from the slumber of forgetfulness. We need to understand the situation, emotion because to understand is the action which requires your awareness. Without awareness, we cannot understand anything.

So, wake up!

You can become a Buddha without becoming a Buddhist.
You can become a Jesus without becoming a Christian.

IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

With the announcement of exam dates of NTA JEE Main and Advance and NEET 2020 by HRD India, the internet is beaming with the offers of digital classroom program, some claim to give an edge to your exam preparation, some claim to boost your rank, some claim to improve your percentile. This buzz reminds me of my school days. Being born to an engineer I was supposed to be good at Maths and Science. My father tried hard to make me rise and shine in arithmetic but in vain. Poor Papa! He taught me with dedication but by the time he was ready to accept this fact that it is not just the teaching by an engineer that can make a child good at Maths, a lot of water had flown under the bridge and I had crossed the threshold age. It was quite certain that I was not very good at Maths but with the kind of insanity with which we were pacing towards our imaginary goal of having a finesse in Maths, we could never discover what other latent talents or interests I might have.

Even today, the parent-child duo is still pacing for the same imaginary goal with heart cold to other choices and mind closed to other options. I have never understood this obsession with Maths and Science. What’s wrong with our society and education?

When I joined academia, I thought I would bring the difference. But like most of social systems, education too is a system. A system of various players – teachers, students, parents, administration, law – all beautifully chained in such a myriad that it is difficult to determine who is dependent on whom. But soon in the initial years of my career I realized that I am at such point in this chain, which can only act as a link between players and game. I was not in a position to be able to determine the material and nature of links of the chain. I have seen parents not bothering about primary and secondary education. Nobody bothers about what a child is learning and HOW? “What” to some extent is well taken care of but “how” of the teaching-learning process is something that has bothered me as a teacher. We never let a child to be curious, to imagine. We simply enter a class with a subject matter to be fed to other matter through lectures. Till secondary school education there is no problem. Parents, students, school, society everyone is going with the flow. Suddenly, at higher secondary education parents get alarmed and race for marks begins. Here comes the ground for mushrooming coaching institutes. Mushrooms indeed they are! Growing on our decomposing school system. If a child is not well-taught during foundation years, how come will he do wonders simply by enrolling in a coaching institute?

I have no problem with coaching a child, the problem is coaching EVERY child whoever comes or for that matter, enroll the more the better. How can a coaching institute claim for every child who deposits the fee? This is a social crime. You cannot let everyone and anyone sit in the class to be trained for JEE and NEET. Do coaching institutes filter and take only selected students? No, rather parents are fed the delusion for two to three years that their child would do good.

The day the results of JEE and NEET are declared the coaching institutes start claiming the ranks as vultures, as if only faculties and teaching of coaching institutes had led students to that rank. If so, what about those who did not clear the exam? Who will talk about them? Nobody bothers for them after all they are just cash cows for coaching institutes.

Does the society need so many engineers and what exactly is being engineered? Are they not mere Xerox machines simply copying and carrying the same legacy on under the garb of working? Rather than replicating the same ideals of Newton, is it not the time to better grow apples?

Poem: Defeat

The Gita says: Don’t take victory to your head or defeat to your heart.

We can be amazed at the simplicity of the wisdom of both poetry and scriptures but when it comes to follow the wisdom, we fail. And again we look for some other self-help books, sessions etc. It doesn’t matter how relentlessly we ask on “Quora” about how to handle defeat, how to handle negativity, how to handle disappointment. Trust me, and this I say this by virtue of my own experiences and experiments, no answer helps.

I wish I was taught this poem and the teachings of “The Gita” during the nascent stage. I wonder why we don’t include such teachings in child rearing, both at school and home. Particularly, schools for they have become the breeding ground for weed like competition resulting in the meaningless and endless chase for victory or win, or what we more commonly call – success.

Why do we not practice life skills in schools? Had such things been included during childhood, the adulthood would not have been looking for so-called self help books and sessions.

We are so engrossed in charm of success, glory of victory that we fail to teach our children how to handle the opposites of life. The most important life skill is to understand that the opposites co-exist.

No matter how hard we work for victory or how much we long for success, we cannot avoid defeat or failure because it is bound to happen. The moment we understand this we know that everything is temporary.

Can we imagine a life only of victory or a life with only defeat? How can we say someone has enjoyed sunshine all the life whereas someone had only nightmares? Not possible, opposites will take their turn. They will come and go. The moment we understand this, we know that everything is temporary. Victory or defeat they will come and go.

We have to make this understanding a way of living just like brushing our teeth was made our way of living, long before we were taught the meaning of cavities and toothache.

Similarly, we do not just need to read and understand the wisdom of wise, we need to practice them. We just need to make them the way of living at the right time.

That Night in Kashmir Valley

The mesmerizing beauty of valley and mountains has always fascinated humans and I’m no exception. I read about Kashmir Valley, the Living Paradise, so much that I longed to be there. I was looking for a chance.

It was late 1990’s somehow I got the chance with a group to go there. I didn’t hesitate, as I was not ready to miss the chance knowing that it was not the right to be there as the Paradise was burning in hell.

Ignoring all the warning cries of the family I reached Srinagar. By the time I landed at the Dal Lake it was already dark. I remember that night how a series of street lights curved along the lake reflecting on the waters of the lake. I was in paradise, indeed.

File photo: To enable readers to imagine

We took a shikara and went to the booked hotel in the Dal Lake. The hotel was in the middle of the Lake surrounded by water. It was the days of PCO and STD calls. I remember how excitedly I called my family.

Then the exciting trips to the beautiful Dachigam. The silence I felt at that place still echoes in my memory. Thankfully it was not the days of smartphones, so memories captured in you, remains with you forever.

Though I didn’t get any sweet smell of flowers in the Shalimar Bagh and the Nishat Bagh rather the air was suffocating with a sense of terror.

While drinking water from Chashm-e-Shahi I felt as if I was having the elixir of life, the taste of royalty that made me forget the dreadful terror I had been feeling. I didn’t know what was so special about wearing a phiran and keeping a kangri but I was enjoying the feeling of warmth. The beauty of leaves of Char Chinar, a quiet spot in the Dal Lake was unforgettable. I was surprised how houseboats were personified with a lady name. And yes, our group didn’t miss picking paper-mache articles, chinon silk, articles made of Doon Kul and shawls…

Then came the last night of my stay. I was tired, slept early as I had a flight to catch early next morning.

Suddenly I was awake as there was a loud confusing cry, people running on the wooden floor of the hotel. I looked at the watch, it was midnight and I was scared to death. Someone was shouting Allah-hu-Akbar. It was so intense. The first thing that crossed my mind was that we were under terrorist attack. My heart pacing, my mind racing with time. What should I do, should I run or jump out of the window but where? How? After all, I was in the middle of the Dal Lake. For the first time I started cursing myself for being in the Paradise, wishing I should have listened to my family.

Later I was told that it was only an earthquake tremor and all the shikarawalas, who used to live in a portion of the hotel as you needed a shikara every time you stepped out of the hotel, were praying Allah-hu-Akbar to have mercy. That desperate call was for help and it was heard and there was no damage caused by the earthquake.

The dark fearful night ended in a bright peaceful dawn. I drove to the airport with all the memories and yes, with my shopping bag too.

MARS AND VENUS: CELEBRATING UNIQUENESS

During this quarantine and lifeless online classes, I thought to make my literature class interesting by starting a debate on certain topics which the students might find interesting and might also prompt them to read certain classics such as Pride and Prejudice etc. Perhaps, the youth considers it too dull hence a mind-stirring conversation is a must to ignite their thought process. I was surprised to see how misconceived the idea of gender equality is. Oh God, their radical thoughts and revolutionary goals!

Gender equality is a myth and hence will never be achieved. I have never simply understood the idea. Why asking for equality when both are different? And it is sad that they are losing their uniqueness while trying to be equal.

We need to change the outlook. Keeping-up a home, taking care of children, earning bread, all are different jobs required to be done to run a house and to rear a family. Some to be done by men and some by women, differently yet together as whole one process. So, where is the question of demarcating something as inferior and something as superior. Bearing children and nurturing them does not mean to be subservient to men.

Both men and women are strong but in different spheres and the thing is that they should be placed in the right sphere.

Aren’t we simply exhausting our time and energy to create equality? Which is not needed. Being different does not mean that they are unequal and if there is no inequality then where is the question of equality? The equality that we would be creating would be artificially imposed and would not be able to face natural tremors.

A woman is a woman and a man is a man, and it should remain like that.

It is so disappointing that in the race of being equal, women have started doing all foolish things done by men. If this is not sheer non-sense then what else is it?

If women are meant to be irrational then what is the rationality of the infinite wars fought? This means that both have their own flaws and weaknesses as they have their own strength and power.

Rather than fighting for equality we should respect, honor and use the diverse gifts and competencies bestowed on man and woman differently.

NECESSARIUM SPE

Necessarium Spe. Oh, no I am not going to describe or define it and I assume, if you are here, you would have surely looked for what the terms mean on Google or must have a good command on Latin. Hope is a very cliche topic to write on, so many people out there are already living examples of how powerful a tool hope is. At the same time, it would not be wrong to perceive hope as a very dangerous thing. The innumerable amount of questions that we have, the uncertainty we carry in our minds, all give hope a very enigmatic character.

But I must say here that the beauty of hope is that it is not empty, it is not dependent on anything. It is just there. It simply exists. You don’t need anything to be hopeful. You are hope. And while I say this, I am talking to you, just you, only you, right in your face. You are hope and nothing, absolutely nothing is required to be hopeful. In fact, there intriguing stories about never to lose hope always have roots in circumstances of utter despair and hopelessness. How simple it is to sit hopelessly and how difficult to keep trying, hoping!

Some may say that being hopeful means being unrealistic. Some may assert that hope is a very dangerous thing. But forget not that no matter how clear and cold the situation may be, there is always a room for hope. Again, don’t read me wrong hope is not day dreaming rather it pulls you to action, it gives you wings that keep you going for your goal.

Hope,
No fire can burn it,
No crisis can damp it,
No disaster can kill it.
Hope simply refuses to cease.
Hope simply refuses to leave us alone.
When you sow a seed, hope is manure.
When you water a plant, hope is fruit.
When it dawns, hope is a day.
When the night falls, hope is another day.
When I fail, hope is a second chance.
Hope is a garment that keeps off the dirt of suffering from me.
There is no pandora’s box without hope.