Sunday, August 22, 2010

Boredom And Me

It is said that growing up is the realization that there is no one out there for you. You are alone right from the beginning for ever. Everything that begins is with you only to end with you.  Luckily, this truth dawns on most of us in bits and pieces. But if it happens through one big tragedy, life will be a trauma.

I have friends, quite many of them, both in real time and on Internet. I correspond with them. Quite a few of them quickly shift on a platform of exchanging personal matters, sometimes most guarded secrets of life. And in this matter of discussing personal matters, at least some of us, do it without hesitation with remote Internet friends than the real time ones. Strange though, it is truth. Why do we do this? Each of us is in eternal loneliness and we illusion that by sharing our innermost feelings with someone we ward off our loneliness. And when it has failed with known friends, we try with unknown and remote ones. Is it not so? But that loneliness promptly returns like homing birds and the nights, as usual, are long.

There are many people for whom a day is not complete if they do not chat on messenger with somebody. For them life is a bore without a message a day. For some, it is gossip and for some other it is a TV serial. We have invented millions of ways not to be bored; if it is business for you, it is on-line share trading for me. If it is keen interest in tennis and such other sports and games for you, it is spiritual, intellectual or science magazine reading for me. The funny thing is, the very method you adopt to get away from your boredom, could well be boring for me! While tennis is just a boring toss of a ball for me, you could be sacrificing your good nights sleep watching American Open on the TV.

If I do not solve at least one SU DO KU puzzle every day, I feel something amiss. A friend of mine goes to the nearby park where half a dozen senior people gather in the evenings to play chess. While two of them play, others take sides to make back room suggestions for the moves. For them the day does not pass without a game of chess.

We indulge in a lot of circus to get away from boredom, don't we?

What is boredom? Is that not a form of being alone? Is there a permanent solution to this problem of boredom? We have invented many things to counter our boredom, but boredom returns with vengeance. In fact, indulging in these so called solutions to our problem of boredom, many a time it turns out to be an addiction posing a new problem; is it not so?

So what is the real solution to our boredom? I think it is in realizing the eternal fact that we are all alone within. By turning inward and seeing deep inside us, gives the real solution to not only our problem of boredom but all our problems. That, in my opinion, is everlasting bliss; nothing outside me can give me this bliss.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hinduism - Is It A Religion?

It made an amusing reading yesterday, the news of Julia Roberts announcing 'I am a practicing Hindu'. The news read - "Julia Roberts has converted to Hinduism in the hope of having a peaceful life in her next incarnation and the Hollywood superstar regularly visits temples with her family to 'chant, pray and celebrate'..."

The basic question one should ask is - What is Hinduism? Is it a way of life, a sect a race or a religion? And if it is not a religion, is not converting to Hinduism an absurdity? Religions, of course, are framed in  rigid sets of codes of conduct. The very basis of a religion is disciplining a society in the hope of establishing an everlasting peaceful co-existence. Hence each religion is defined by its particular set of code, its beliefs and an assurance of good life in the next incarnation or a place in heaven, for the devout followers. Does Hinduism dictate any code of conduct to its followers? Does Hinduism demand following in the first place? Is Hinduism an expansionist organization? Is it a race?

Many learned thinkers have opined that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life which has to change in accordance with changing times and circumstances. That is why they vigorously argue that Hinduism is the most vibrant way of living. Many say that Hinduism gives total freedom to question all and sundry teachings including the Upanishads, which incidentally is universally agreed upon by top level spiritual thinkers as the core essence of Hinduism. Hinduism does not promote blind following, does not dictate terms for living.  They argue, it is the influence of various religions that make people blindly follow certain Hindu beliefs without questioning their veracity, making Hinduism yet another religion. In fact, true Hinduism has a place for atheism too. Hinduism offers an atheist to argue his case with the very rationalism he believes in. The Upanishads say, - do not accept God just because your teacher says so; discover God yourself.

When such is the case with Hinduism, where comes the question of conversion? When true Hinduism suggests discovering without blind following, every born human being is a Hindu. The beliefs come later as dictated by the prevailing society. Hinduism begins in nothingness, giving every opportunity in every split moment to realise life. Perhaps that is why the scriptural sayings like "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The whole world is one family)" and "Dharmam chara; satyam vada (Dharma the way of living - Hinduism , is moving, vibrant; truth is stationary, permanent)"

Coming back to Julia Roberts, an accomplished actor highly capable of doing any movie role with great ability to depict the character very successfully, adapting to a given role is just like changing frocks to her. And it is so very natural for her to think that "practicing" religions is also a matter of adaptability. But Hinduism is not practice; does not offer you any rewards for your devout following or practicing and above all Hinduism is the only way of living in this world allows one the courage to question the belief of reincarnation and Karma.

At the end of the news column, one Trupti Patel of Hindu Forum of Britain aptly said "If Julia Roberts wants to call herself a Hindu, we welcome her into our Dharma and hope that she can be helpful in various charitable causes for the education and betterment of  Hindus around the world....." The HFB also hopes that it not just a cheap publicity stunt. (Julia's upcoming film Eat Pray Love is recently shot in India) Quite possible in today's world briskly selling "Yoga" and "Kundalini" in the lucrative spiritual market.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Taste Of The Mango 'Saatt'

I don't want to rake up much of the sweet nostalgic memories. But the taste of 'Saatt',- dried mango pulp, is known only to those who have tasted it sitting curled up at a corner of the house, looking and listening to the torrential monsoon rains, in a small town in South Kanara.

45 years is really a long period of time, since I migrated from my native South Kanara, now renamed as Dakshina Kannada in line with linguist chauvinism. I was born and brought up in a small town called Panemangalore near Mangalore (now Mangaluru!). My primary schooling was in the sleeping small town itself but for secondary school education I had to walk a couple of miles to neighboring Bantwal, another town, a little bigger at that. Both the towns were situated on the opposite banks of river Nethravathi and there was a steel bridge built in 1914 by the British. There were only a couple of dozen pupils from my town and neighboring villages walking daily to have 'higher' education!

A word about the bridge and the monsoon rains needs a mention here. I don't know why the British selected the particular location where the river bank is almost the widest, to construct the bridge when there were narrower places, not so far away. The bridge, still in good condition though for restricted use, is having about 15 spans of about 100 feet length each. My memory is not that sharp to say the correct statistics, yet the bridge was known to be the longest in the vicinity next only to Ullal Railway bridge at Mangalore on the same river just before joining the Arabian sea. The spans are supported on stone and cement pillars. The sand bed of the river could be seen in summers at about 30 feet deep from the bridge. Today the bottom cannot be seen because of the dam constructed a few hundred meters away on the flowing direction from the bridge site. There are also two new bridges, one each for rail and road traffic on either side of the old bridge.

Academic year started with roaring monsoon rains simultaneously every time. Tropic monsoon rains those days was a terrifying experience with thunder, storms and lightning. If we boys and very few girls while going to or coming from the school, were caught by these stormy, heavy down pours in the middle of the bridge, a fully open area for cross winds, we all would simply shut our umbrellas and squat firmly on the road close to each other so that none of us was washed away into the river! There is strong steel structural parapet on both sides of the bridge, but at the pillars it was only some 3 or 4 parallel steel tubes, through which it is easy to be swept away!(Our juvenile fears). Also there are gaps in the steel parapet structure design, enough for school going children to pass through. When there were good continuous rains, the water level in the river rose rapidly and came up to almost 4 feet below the bridge flowing with fierce speed. The bridge is on the highest level compared to the dwellings in the surrounding area. Floods sweeping tenements in low lying areas was quite common in monsoon season. After the construction of this bridge, since 1914 the water level of the river never came above the bridge (look at the British foresight!). Yet there were two occasions when both Panemangalore and Bantwal were completely submerged under floods. Once in 1923 before I was born and again in 1974 when I had already migrated. Normally, the water levels rose and fell quite often during monsoons for about 45 days. A number of times we used to cross floods submerging parts of our road to Bantwal up to 4 feet, which was quite normal when the water of the river was below danger level. Today all the roads are heightened and the danger level is significantly risen up. Above all, I don't think the monsoon rains are as much today as it was in those days. In those days, a piece of 'saatt' in the half pant pocket would always come in handy!

South Kanara is home for a number of varieties of mangoes. There are at least a couple of dozens of wild varieties, both sweet and sour. If they are sweet, why then they are called wild?- you may wonder. For one, they have big stone (seed) with full of veins (called beard  or coir in local parlance). Quite a few wild varieties are used in making good pickles from tender to different stages of maturity. Also there are a few varieties from which curries are made. For this also mangoes, though are wild, they are special because you cannot make curries from all wild varies; more the vein and juicy pulp with equal sweetness and sour is better. Saatt is made from almost all wild varieties, yet fleshy pulp is preferred. All these special wild varieties were plucked at right level of maturity for different kind of usages, sorted, brought and sold from door to door by tribal people dwelling by the forests, during my times. The fruit was available in abundance in those good old days. Today this practice is totally out.

Mango is considered as the king of fruits in the region. Out of a large variety of 'Kasi' (grafted) mangoes, 'Mundappa' variety is considered the king of mangoes during those days in South Kanara. There are other kasi varieties too such as Pairi (Raspuri), Malgoa, Apus (Alphonso) Kalappadi etc., which are not only very sweet but also have thick pulp with rich flavour, very small stone and almost no veins. Tart is made from a selected kasi varieties such as Mundappa. To make tart, mango should be fully mature but not ripe. It is a pity that the present generation has no access to such wide and mouth watering preparations of mango except perhaps those in deep rural (?) areas of Konkan, Goa, North and South Kanara. And that is why I said in the beginning, to have the taste one should practically taste under the same circumstances, - heavy monsoon rains, curled up in a corner preferably under bedsheets and chew the mango Saatt!

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