Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tribute to a Perfect Woman, Of Angelic Light

This morning did not begin like every other day. Because I do not start my mornings crying. But today was different.

Father called me and informed me early morning, "Chechi (his older sister) is gone." That is all he could bring himself to say before he kept the phone down.

This is Shantha valima, my father's sister. Kerala's 'Gana Gandharvan' Dr. K. J. Yeshudas was her most loved student. From high school itself, he used to call her 'Shantha teacher' and he used to say that she is the closest he had to his mother. Such was her unconditional love towards everyone.


Then my sister called. We cried, shared memories of our childhood vacations with our loving aunt. When we began talking, we couldn't stop. Because we had so much to share from the love she had brought into our lives. Continents apart, but we cried and cried.

But we also understood what Father hadn't said with that call. That she wasn't just sister to him. She was his mother, literally, raising her younger siblings like her own children. Not a day has passed by when Father hasn't told us about the sacrifices she has made for his welfare. Of how she would get him ready for school, cook and pack his tiffin and take hold of his hand while walking him to school and much more.

As the meaning of Father's words slowly sank in, I recalled fleeting scraps of conversation about a young woman who had the courage to study hard, excel and choose to work at a time when women chose to sit at home. My aunt Shantha Kumari got her Master's degree in Malayalam along with a B.Ed. The finest of Malayalam poetry and prose came to her naturally for such was her mastery over the language. She worked and managed motherhood almost single handedly and remained a mother figure for her siblings who looked up to her for practical advice and timeless wisdom. 

Must say, there's something heavy and unpalatable about the news of a loved one's death. The words sometimes feel like wood. They don't sink into your mind easily. You grapple with the weight of what has hit your consciousness. And then, when you simply sink down into a rubble of heartbreaking sorrow, you know that the words have finally crashed into your life, acquired the sepulchral meaning that only eternal darkness can convey. Then your mind absorbs the absolute oblivion. 


The floor beneath my feet seems solid just as any marble entity should be but the tears that ran down my face reminded me that a human being's emotions can run as pure liquid. As memories flooded my mind, I began to cave in to those timeless moments. Of family prayers that were conducted in a spirit of one family's sense of togetherness. Of countless family trips that had the scent of a loving aunt's painstakingly prepared delicious food with the tastiest pickles in the world, of family conversations at the dinner table where laughter had none of the social artifice or  pretenses that it has developed today among extended families.

Woman of Angelic Light

I cried for myself, for my family members who are plunged in grief and for a bygone era that had passed away with my loving aunt - the one and only valiyamma (paternal aunt) in whose home I have probably lived in for weeks and weeks during my vacations, eaten the most delicious meals and under her roof, I have slept soundly and peacefully without a moment's worry that I am not in my home. If something upset me, she would be the first person I would share it with. If i wrote something, she would be the one to read it first.Her home and her heart were my refuge in those days. She 

She - who constantly encouraged me to think, dream and write in a literary sphere and had ensured a constant supply of notebooks for me to buy and write in during those vacation months - is no more.


But now when she rests in peace, my mind is in a real mess, knotted up in a million memories of her inner strength, faith, serenity and all encompassing acceptance of destiny and of relationships that ebb and flow.

Looking back, I realize that what I respected most about her was her compassion and her strong aura of spirituality. Life hadn't been easy at all for her. But she always had a smile and a hug for all of us, never showing us a glimpse of anger or complaint. She had the strength of character that is so incredibly rare. She accepted everything in her stride and never complained about destiny's cruel twists that often came her way. Her strength came from her unflinching faith in God and her love for her family members. 

Now the day outside has just swung into action. The signs of life and activity seep around me.  
But somehow my tears just don't stop now. They fall through a torrent of childhood memories. The grey colored sky outside brings to life the permanence of ashes that we transform ourselves into even before we get a last chance to say goodbye to those whom we love or those whose lives we have touched.

Around me, the windows to my room remains closed and the sun is hidden from my tear stricken gaze. Somewhere it is as though silhouettes of memories were circling high above my head, settling nowhere, scattering glints of pain in the far horizons of memories.

I know this now with certainty: I loved Shanthavalima very deeply. More than words can say. I pray: May her soul travel ahead in absolute bliss and peace. 

My Humble Tribute to a Perfect Woman
The humblest tribute I can offer for my aunt is one that I am now borrowing from the immortal lines penned by my favorite English poet William Wordsworth


"A being breathing thoughtful breath,
A traveller between life and death,
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength and skill;
A perfect Woman, nobly plann'd,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.

The perfect wife, the perfect mother and the perfect woman have merged together today leaving me with one portrait of hers to hold, cherish and treasure for the rest of my life. I may not have made her proud of me at any point of time but slowly with time, I hope that some day from above, she will bless me for the love that I am sending out to her through the energy of these words.  My parents, sister and I are remain forever grateful to her for her constant blessing in our life and she lives forever in our hearts. 


Monday, July 15, 2013

Thought for the Day: In a split second of eternity, everything is changed, transfigured

Today's thought for the day is inspired by my friend Indu Muralidharan's post on Facebook. 

Here it goes: “In a split second of eternity, everything is changed, transfigured. A few bars of music, rising from an unfamiliar place, a touch of perfection in the flow of human dealings--I lean my head slowly to one side, reflect on the camellia on the moss on the temple, reflect on a cup of tea, while outside the wind is rustling foliage, the forward rush of life is crystallized in a brilliant jewel of a moment that knows neither projects nor future, human destiny is rescued from the pale succession of days, glows with light at last and, surpassing time, warms my tranquil heart. ” ― Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog 



                               [Image Credit: Pic Jumbo]

This is the kind of thought that I want to start my day with and the kind of book that I want to live in.

What are your favorite book quotes?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thought for the Day: Live the questions that seek you out

There's always a silver lining at the start of the day. I truly believe that. Here's a thought for the day that resonated with all that I believe and hold close to my heart.



                                [Image credit: Unsplash]

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer." — Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Thought for the day: No turtle ever rang another turtle back on the phone

Here's a very interesting thought for the day: 

"Turtles rarely pass up a chance to lay in the sun on a partly submerged log. No two turtles ever lunched together with the idea of promoting anything. No turtle ever went around complaining that there is no profit in book publishing except from the subsidiary rights. Turtles do not work day and night to perfect explosive devices that wipe out Pacific islands and eventually render turtles sterile.Turtles never use the word "implementation" or the phrases "hard core" and "in the last analysis." No turtle ever rang another turtle back on the phone. In the last analysis, a turtle, although lacking knowledge, knows how to live. A turtle, by its admirable habits, gets to the hard core of life. That may be why its arteries are so soft." -E.B. White, Turtle Blood Bank, 1953

By chance, I came across this passage. I read it several times because I loved the way each word is crafted and I couldn't resist reproducing it here. Don't worry, I am not into any kind of 'copy-pasting' disorder. 

Here's the source from which this is cited: http://www.hilarytsmith.com/2013/05/thought-of-day.html

Monday, July 8, 2013

Buddha is India's spiritual treasure, Terror attack on Mahabodhi Temple is unforgivable


I am not a follower of Buddha. Yet his teachings have inspired me in dark moments. From what I have read, Buddha has inspired many people across the world in different ways. In meditation, the techniques prescribed by Buddha have come in handy to tame the monkey-like state of the constantly flitting mind. The mere glimpse of Buddha's poised image has brought serenity and inner strength to many to embrace a new perspective and perhaps adapt to a new way of living. 


Terror attack on Mahabodhi Temple

For these reasons and more, the terror attack on Bodh Gaya is unacceptable and unforgivable. The latest reports indicate that nearly 13 bombs were planted inside the temple in Bodh Gaya. It shocks and disgusts me that a terror attack on one of India's most sacred Buddhist temples is given absolute lip service and nothing more from those at the helm of governance in this country. That the Intelligence Bureau had informed about the threat way back in October also indicates the callous indifference with which the state authorities treated this matter.


To humanity, Buddha represents absolute peace and serenity. Buddha is also India's greatest spiritual treasure.  Every Indian, irrespective of religion, has a duty to recognize and respect this.

To attack Buddha's temple is to attack every Indian's spiritual legacy. Irrespective of caste, religion or our own different spiritual beliefs, it is the duty of every Indian to demonstrate that terror attacks on sacred places of worship on this soil is simply not acceptable. It is no longer enough to read the headlines and move on. There must be a unified demand to ensure these acts of terrorism do not strike at places of worship. 

Politicians will promise the sun, the moon and the stars. Their words are as hollow and empty as their power-blinded selves. There is no point of looking to them for solutions. False promises are their forte. They will cash in on any incident to appeal to their vote banks, nothing else.

So, what can we do? We need to take steps.

Little Steps, Big Milestones

Here are some small initiatives we can take to make places of worship more secure:

1. Temples, shrines or places should constitute internal security groups to constantly track, tweak and ramp up new security initiatives in the premises.
Cameras all around the premises are a must-have, not a luxury. Security checks onThey could even hire the best security agencies in the state and work in tandem with them if monetary resources can be stretched further. Whatever happens, it is important to have direct involvement with the security related decisions of a temple, shrine or any place of worship.

2. Establish an open communication link with the local police without waiting for a disaster to strike. There should be a key contact who can be a point of contact for the temple/shrine/place of worship administration and vice versa. 

3. Community based volunteer groups can be formed to take rotative turns in ensuring the safety of pilgrims who visit. This should be formed by a group of active devotees.

4. A small percentage of donations can be kept aside to contribute to the security of the temple/shrine/place of worship.

Buddha said, "There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to Truth; not going all the way, and not starting."

We, as a nation, have a huge spiritual and cultural debt to the Buddha. The best way to at least make an attempt to pay back the debt is by embracing the path of peace more powerfully and taking bold steps to ensure that mistakes of this sort that happened in terms of security lapse do not ever repeat itself again.

Each Indian owes this to the Buddha.

Followers

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