Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lesson from Ravan

The triumph of good over evil also marks the triumph of our soul's goodness over that of the egoistic mind. As a spiritual seeker, I believe that Ravan is not evil the way we like to portray him to be. His qualities such as his knowledge, his intelligence, sharp thinking and his mastery over anything he chose to undertake have not been appreciated but his ‘misdeeds’ have been highlighted over and over again.

Every character in the Ramayana has a well defined role and message to give to the world. We tend to see them all as the background characters but in fact, if you read the Ramayana carefully, you will realize how beautifully etched out each character is. Needless to mention, Ravana's character deserves more analysis and a deeper study. All I am saying is that Ravan is not evil the way we like to believe he is, period.

To me, Ravan symbolizes all that is perfect in us till we allow one powerful desire to blind us to what is ethically right. Ravan was a great spiritual seeker who failed coz he was Master of everything except his Mind. It led him to undertake destructive actions. He became blinded by the position of power that he occupied. He assumed that his power was enough to conquer anything in this world including Sita. Let me make it clear that I am not defending Ravan here.  

Lesson for us from Ravan: Master your mind before it becomes your master. 

Hey, I’d like to know your thoughts on Ravan. Do share your thoughts on this.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Do you know why you act the way you do?

In spirituality, motive is everything. Why you said what you did, why you acted the way you did and why you allowed your mind to think in a particular way. Yes, your motive is the most important thing, that one parameter on which you can judge yourself and be judged when the time is ripe.

                                                 (Image: Unsplash)

When you do an act of kindness, are you propelled by a need to be admired and respected? Then it's best not to do it at all. 

If you are doing good because it makes you feel your heart expand from within, embracing all of humanity, as part of your own Divine consciousness, you are at the right place.

Instead of judging others, concentrate on understanding and filtering your motive for every word and action that you undertake. Live in the moment but be aware of every breath you inhale and exhale. 

Your awareness of your own self is the essence of true spirituality.
What are you doing each and every thing for? What is the real motive? You've got to develop the habit of understanding yourself. That is the crux of spirituality. Everything else comes second. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Pakistan Politics: Were there two Benazir Bhuttos?

There is very little that I know about Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan except for the obvious fact that the media loved to showcase her glossy pictures, put the political spotlight on her and the intellectuals as well as the masses enjoyed speculating about her.

While reading William Dalrymple’s book titled The Age of Kali: Indian Travels & Encounters, the last chapter explores a fascinating account on Benazir Bhutto who was Prime Minister of Pakistan at the time the author had interviewed her.

Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto in Politics: Did we know her at all?

William Dalrymple’s account of meeting Benazir Bhutto caught my interest and l thought I’d write about it here. For example, he talks about how Benazir had English governesses during her childhood due to which she is fluent in English but struggles to speak Urdu and Sindhi, something she was criticized for in Pakistan.

Dalrymple’s  narrative about Benazir Bhutto suggests that she had two sides to her personality that confused people around her. For instance, the relationship she had with her estranged mother was almost ridiculous. They had had an open political war of sorts particularly because her mother favored Murtaz, who is Benazir’s brother, as the political heir.

However, every trip that Benazir made to her son was given a dramatic ‘daughter unites with mother’ type of a drama. No one was allowed to even hint that there were obvious politican differences between the two.

Benazir Bhutto who read Mills and Boons & believed in fortune tellers
While Benazir Bhutto was insecure and politically ambitious, there was a child-like vulnerability to her, as though a part of her had never grown up. It fascinated me because I strongly believe that each and every one of us has a hidden child within us that dictates and asserts its presence in us most strongly when we go through turbulent times. For instance, her brother tells William Dalrymple that Benazir sought out fortune tellers wherever she went and they were smuggled to her room so that she could ask them questions about her political future. She trusted these predictions almost blindly. 

Aptly put by William Dalrymple, “Those who know her say that there have always been two quite distinct Benazir Bhuttos. The emotional socialite from the wealthy background is generally the Benazir remembered by her Oxford friends…this Benazir adores royal biographies, slushy romances…The other Benazir is a very different kettle of fish. She fought hard for seven long years until Zia’s death and the elections made her, at the age of 35, the first woman to head a Muslim state since Razziya Sultana, Queen of Delhi in the early 13th century. This Ms Bhutto, Thatcher-like, is today renowned throughout Islamabad for chairing twelve hour cabinet meetings and for surviving on four hours sleep. This Benazir Bhutto is, in other words, fearless- sometimes heroically so – and hard as nails.”

Isn’t this fascinating? Doesn’t it ring a bell of sorts? For in some way or the other, each of us carry a hidden child within us that maniests when we least experct or want it to. The childhood is never forgotten, it lies within us waiting to be relived and sometimes replicated.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Mummy!

I landed up unexpectedly at my home in Kochi and my mother's first reaction on seeing me arrive at her doorstep was one of fear and worry. I knew instantly what she was worrying about. "Has something gone wrong that my daughter has come home alone unannounced?" is every mom's worst nightmare.  

The first thing I did was to hug my mom and reassure her, "I wanted to be there to celebrate your birthday. Everything's fine. Surprise!"  

On Mom's birthday, my brother Manoj got this beautiful cake for her. We placed it in front of our pooja room, we said our prayers and then my mom cut the cake. Her face had lit up with smiles. That's all I wanted to see. 

Happy Birthday Mummy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Indian Mithai: Visit Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale in Pune

While I was in Pune, I heard a lot about the mango barfi at Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale. I was told that it is a must-buy item to take back from Pune. I walked to the place, stopping to ask directions on the way to make sure I am on the right path and observing the young, vibrant crowd of college going boys and girls talking animatedly. 

So now you see that I was directed to this place. Everyone seemed to know where it was. I stepped in and there was a long queue of customers in the mango barfi counter. I bought two packets weighing half a kilo each.

Back home, my husband and my son really liked mango barfi. My son totally enjoyed it and knowing how food fussy he is, I was so glad to see his happiness. Perhaps the average Indian's love for food and sweet things comes from a longing to share happiness with loved ones.

What's the special food item in your city that you would recommend to those who are visiting your city for the first time?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pune Visit: Should I buy a Pepper Spray?

Last week, I had an unexpected two day trip to Pune. This was my first visit to Pune and with God's grace, a very memorable one. I reached very late at night and for me, it was a learning experience.

First Time Pune Visit at almost Midnight
Having grown up in a traditional family, the truth is that I haven't ventured out on my own like that in all these years. After marriage, I go to see places with my family and I don't go out on solo adventures of my own. I don't enjoy being without my family. That's simply not my way of enjoying life. However, this trip was work related and therefore, a necessity than a luxury and I was determined to learn something from the whole experience.

How safe are Indian women who travel alone? 
You know, I remember a friend from the US telling me, "I will not accept India is a developed country unless the women can travel to any part of India with a feeling of safety at any time of the day or night."

Day in and day out, we read headlines of what happens to some women who are picked up from airports by radio cabs and over time, we don't even give such headlines more than a passing glance.  I recalled all this when I was on my way to Pune.

Nervous wreck that I can be, I had a zillion questions zooming in and out through my mind like:

1. What are the risks reaching so late at night in a new city?
2. Can i take a taxi to the place and reach safely?
3. Should i carry a pepper spray just in case? (don't laugh, i am serious!)
4. What will I do if I am taken to the wrong place?

At the same time, I wanted to outgrow these fears as well. After all, i am not a kid to be made to feel fear. But again, this has a lot to do with the way I have been growing up. Always sheltered, protected and yes, a traditional Indian family set up doesn't easily approve of girls traveling alone. Now, thankfully, this is changing.

Pune Radio Cabs are safe to travel in
Anyway I reached at 11.45 pm and got into the taxi that I had booked. As we passed through some very deserted looking places, I kept praying inside my mind to God to keep me safe. I reached safely and there was no need for me to take a pepper spray...not that I had bought one :)

And from there, the interesting part of the whole journey began. Next morning, I went to the hotel where the conference was being held. I liked the coffee shop at The Marriott Hotel, located at Senapati Road. Two clicks:)

The atmosphere was welcoming and serene. I enjoyed it.

That was Day One special. Didn't go too badly, right? Cheers! :)


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