The Unadorned

My literary blog to keep track of my creative mood swings with poems n short stories, book reviews n humorous prose, travelogues n photography, reflections n translations, both in English n Hindi.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cooperating with an Oppressor

Last Republic Day while talking to a gathering of my colleagues after the flag hoisting I was serendipitously reminded of a story from the Mahabharat in the context of survival instinct. The story was about Bhima who killed the demon called Baka. Of course the obvious intention of the writer of the epic was to show how powerful was Bhima, the second of the Pandava brothers. But a close reading of the story reveals how we indulge in funny things just to ensure our survival even to this day. This is probably is the remnant of our ancient mindset, say the spontaneous technique adopted to survive the primordial ordeals.

The story goes something like this. The Pandavas were lucky to escape the burning house into which they were deceitfully led. It was Vidura who knew the conspiracy even before the mishap actually befell the pitiable characters. The Pandavas were tipped off by Vidura, their uncle who had a scent of this secret information. However, escaping the danger of being burnt to ashes, the Pandavas and their mother were running from place to place, trying not to be found out by the Kauravas.

It was during their aimless wanderings that they came to a village called Ekachakra and became the guests of a Brahmin family. During their sojourn they came to know that their host was really tense. The master of the house  could not decide what to do except offering himself along with a cartload of food to the demon Baka to be devoured. It was the agreement. The villagers, in order to escape the anger and the lurking possibility of extermination in one go, had decided to placate the demon by offering a fortnightly quota of food which included a human. It was a funny agreement, but had worked so far, nevertheless. The Brahmin family consisted of the Brahmin himself, his wife and a daughter. Now if the Brahmin offered himself to be eaten by the demon, who would take care of the family? There would be a widow and a fatherless girl left to face the vagaries of a pitiable existence. Pathetic, wasn't it so?

Then the story goes on and succeeds making its point how powerful Bhima was. For a gluttonous fellow like him, famished for days on end, it was an opportunity he was waiting to grab. For his mother, it was a relief to find so much food coming as a godsend for her ravenous son. Which mother doesn't like to see her son finishing every morsel of food served to him? That's where the pleasure of breastfeeding comes from, isn't it? Anyway, Kunti was happy to offer her son Bhima to be eaten by the demon Baka, or rather to eat himself the share of the demon and finally to kill him. A funny sequence in the epic, after all.

Finally, as all the readers of the epic would expect the course of the event should lead to, Bhima kills Baka and makes everybody happy. The beginners and the children like the story. I had once liked it too. There is a hero living up to the expectation of the readers--the story is not only told but also unfolded with much to be seen. Don't they say a story is not to be told only; it is to be shown?

My quibble is that if the villagers could come together to decide on offering themselves to be eaten by the demon, why did they not agree to challenge him? Why did they not kick up a row? Agreeing to a difficult and decimating plan like this should be a more difficult an exercise than offering themselves to be killed one by one. Is it not our tendency to cooperate with our oppressors to spare us for this time with no guarantee that he would not revisit us with his diabolical plan of oppressing us? Think of the psychology of the person offering to be eaten in this story. Is he willingly going to be eaten in return for his chance to live so far? Or is he imbued with a sense of altruism that 'let my death secure respite to my fellow beings, even if it is for a fortnight'?

This is a funny little story--one can read it again and again, and more than that can read between its lines.
A N Nanda


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ek Saal Baad--A Relook

Almost a year ago, Dr Mahalakshmi, the H. O. D. of Hindi Department, Nehru Mahavidyalay, Malumuchampatti, Coimbatore-50 had given me this review of my book "Ek Saal Baad". This happens to be the first and the only review of the book that has been attempted by a south Indian reader of mine. Dr Mahalakshmi is no ordinary reader; with a Doctorate in Hindi literature behind her, she is eminently qualified to take up review of any book in Hindi, Tamil, Sanskrit and English. Having a Hindi lover in South India like Dr Mahalakshmi is a sign of definite strength for popularisation of the national lingua franca. Going through this I was so moved by the gesture that I had immediately assured her to get it published. Somehow I could not. Now that the time to leave this lovely city of Coimbatore has finally arrived, I thought I could publish this as a blog post. At least it would get some more readers. The review is quite thorough and it shows enough proof that she has gone through each and every story in this collection. At this point I can only thank her...the beautiful soul in her that loves Hindi and a humble Hindi lover like me.
हिन्दी साहित्य की सेवा में हिन्दीतर भाषियों का योगदान सदैव रहा है। उस श्रृंखला में श्री ए. एन.  नन्दजी ने भी अपने को जोड़ ली है। इनके कहानी-संग्रह 'एक साल बाद' में 30 कहानियाँ संग्रहित हैं। तीसों कहानियाँ एक दूसरे से भिन्न होकर एक नया संदेश पाठकों के सामने रखती हैं। 

'बिदाई' कहानी एक पिता - बेटी के संबेदनशील रिश्ते को उजागर करती है। 'छोटू और शंकी' कहानी बचपन की आकांक्षाओं एबं माता - पिता और बच्चे के बीच के कोमल रिश्ते को दर्शाती है। 'मुछंदर का कमाल' प्राचीन काल की वास्तविकता पर करार व्यंग कराती है। यह सिर्फ सत्य को ही नहीं बल्कि उसके पीछे दोहरे मतलब को भी समझाती है। 'गंगा-यमुना' वास्तविक जगत की काल्पनिक घटना है जिसमें दो बहनों में तुलनात्मक दृष्टिकोण की परछाई दिखाई गई है। 'आखरी जंग' हर गृहस्थी में होनेवाली पति - पत्नी के बीच में मन मुटाव को दर्शाती है। 'सर्वहारा' कहानी दो भिन्न विचार के व्यक्तियों के बीच मित्रता का बेहद सुन्दर संगम का चित्रण देती है। 'अम्माँ' यह कहानी लेखक की एक कोशिश है, कहानी को सत्यता की चौखट तक ले जाने की।  'चार्वाक का चंगुल' यह एक ऐसे व्यक्ति की घटना है, जो है तो एक आम आदमी परन्तु तरक्की होने के साथ - साथ वह अपने प्रियजनों की ज़रूरतें पूरी करने के लिए क्या करता है, इसका चित्रार्थ है यह कहानी। 

झूठ-मूठ : यह कहानी एक साधारण-सी वस्तु के असाधारणीय मोल को उजागर कराती है। राज पोखर नामक एक तालाब के इर्द-गिर्द घूमती यह कहानी मानवीय मानसिकता का अतुलनीय उदहारण है। 

तलाश: एक साधारण व्यक्ति की अपने स्वरूप के लिए असाधारण खोज है।

हुक्मबरदार: यह कहानी परिवार की वृद्धा 'दादी मां' के बारे में एक ह्रदय तात्विक कहानी है।

कमरा नंबर साढ़े 3: यह कहानी मानवीय मनोविज्ञान के ऊपर एक व्यंग साधन है। यह एक ऐसी कहानी के बारे में है, जो ज्यादा खास तो नहीं, पर लेखक के नाम परिवर्तन के बाद सबको खास लगने लगती है।

मकान मालकिन: मानव की मनोस्थिति की बहुत आम परन्तु अलग लेख।

खैरात: व्यक्ति के जीवन में मूल वस्तुओं की विशेषता बताती कहानी।

एक साल बाद: एक आदर्श जवान दम्पति आशीष एवं मानसी के वैवाहिक जीवन पर प्रकाश डालते हुए मानसी के द्वारा यह बताया गया है कि परिस्थिति के अनुसार स्त्री का मानसिक परिवर्तन अति स्वाभाविक है।

जाते-जाते : व्यक्ति के अंतिम क्षणों को दर्शाती एक कहानी। 

गोदावरी: एक मामूली - सी लड़की का जीवन संघर्ष है गोदावरी।

सदगति के लिए: वैवाहिक जीवन की विडम्बना है - सदगति के लिए।

आधी रात की बिरयानी: यह वैवाहिक जीवन के कुछ हसीन झूठों को दर्शाता है।

राज की बात: पति -पत्नी के जीवन में एक दूसरे के छोटे - छोटे राजों को समझती है राज़ की बात। 

घाटा: मानव की मानसिकता में फायदे एवं नुकसान को दृष्टिगोचर कराती है यह कहानी। 

आज़माइश: मानव जीवन के उतार - चढाव की कहानी है आज़माइश। 

साया: स्त्रीयों की विचारधाराओं को प्रकट कराती है यह कहानी। 

अगली छुट्टी में: यह एक ओझे एवं एक अनाथ बालक की कहानी है जो मानव का मानव के प्रति रुख उजागर करता है। 

वैद्यनाथधाम विद्यागाह: यह कहानी एक ऐसे व्यक्ति के बारे में है जो आर्थिक कमजोरी के होते हुए भी खुद को कमज़ोर नहीं मानती थी।

रानीबाई: एक निम्नस्तरीय   नारी की रुचिपूर्ण कथा है रानीबाई।

कल्पवट: शहरीकरण में पर्यावरण पर हो रहे मानवीय दुष्कर्मों की झाँकी है। 

बाबा: यह एक भ्रष्ट शहर के रूप में भविष्य में उठ रहे भ्रष्ट समाज को दर्शाता है।

अधूरी मुलाकात: एक बेजुबान जानवर की विचित्र कहानी है यह। 

किताब से बाहर: इस कहानी में यह दर्शाया गया है की हमें अपने से बड़ों की बात तब माननी चाहिए जब उस बात का फल मिलने के आसार हो। कभी - कभी बड़ों की नासमझी हमारे जीवन को दु:खमयी बना देती है। मगर हमें बड़ों की बातों पर सोच - विचार कर अमल करना चाहिए और नज़रअंदाज़ भी नहीं करना चाहिए।

वर्णनात्मक शैली लेखक की खासियत है। उर्दू शब्दों का अधिकाधिक प्रयोग देखने को मिलता है। मुहावरों का प्रयोग हर कहीं बड़ी सफलता से की गई है की गई है कि वह पाठकों को भाषा की असली मज़ा लेने में मज़बूर कर रहा है। 

एक ओडिया मातृभाषी ने उत्तम हिंदी कथाकार के रूप में अपने को प्रस्तुत करके यह निरुपित कर दिया है की भाषा कभी हिंदी साहित्य सृजन में रुकाबट पैदा नहीं कर सकती है। बस, "जहाँ चाह वहाँ राह"।

मैं स्वयं एक अहिन्दी भाषी हूँ। तमिलनाडु प्रान्त में पली बढ़ी। इनकी रचनाओं को पढ़कर मुझे लगता है की मेरे जैसे अहिन्दी भाषियों के लिए लेखक श्री ए एन नन्दजी एक प्रेरणा स्रोत हमेशा बने रहेंगे। 
Dr K V Mahalakshmi
Head of the Department
Shri Nehru Mahavidyalaya of Arts and Science
Coimbatore - 50

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

निर्बल के बल राम


The other day I realised to my utter chagrin that I had long moved away from my routine--a writer's routine. Don't they say somebody serious in this field must write at least a few hundred words every day so as to be able to beat the chill of inertia? But then where was the inspiration? And where was a topic to ramble about?

Gingerly I went near the bookshelf that had never ever failed to emit the pleasing smell of creativity, nay the vibes of nostalgia. Sooty and disarrayed, with CDs competing with books for space, the alcove of mine desperately needed a couple of hours of my time to wear a clean look. Stacked there were the titles that I had once bought for reading, the scent of my hard-earned money that had gone to buy them still wafting from their mint-fresh pages. Not all of them were classics. I must admit once upon a time I was a compulsive buyer in the guise of a bibliophile. Those were days when everything associated with socialism was trendy and a few nicely bound red proletariat books had also found their way to my stack for the simple reason that they were extremely affordable. Now the situation is different; yet, despite the sky-rocketing price of books, I continue to be a compulsive buyer even to this day. The scale is, of course, a limited one now. A slow reader, a fellow with wavering concentration, I consider myself a moody reader. No wonder, as I rummaged my bookshelves I found so many titles lying there to be read, many of them left bookmarked and partially finished. There were complimentary copies too, books in English, Oriya, Hindi and Sanskrit, that I received from the self-published authors while I attended their release functions. Looking at those unfinished books I felt sorry, for I had not done any justice to them. More so as I considered the fact that they contained the hope of the givers that I'd eventually devote some of my time to go through their works and give them my feedback. In a way, my keeping them permanently shelved could be construed as a mark of disrespect to their authors, howsoever unintended it may be. As usual I renewed my promise to myself: 'One day I'll read them.' And the promise sounded shallow, so I had to, once again, qualify my resolve, 'When I've the time I'll definitely devote some of it to reading all of them.'

And then a book riveted my attention. It was "An Autobiography Or The Story of My Experiment with Truth" by M. K. Gandhi, ISBN 81-7229-008-X, published by Navajivan Mudranalaya, Ahmedabad and subsidised by Navajivan Trust. It's a book priced at Rs 30 only. I remembered, it was a gift from a friend who gave it to me considering my reputation as a good reader. Oh yes, people think I'm a good reader--maybe it's so as they think a writer has to be a reader first. Be it as it may, I have already read the Oriya version of the opus some thirty years ago or maybe even earlier than that, but a book of this fame has to be read again and again--this is my firm belief. I have seen movies on Gandhi: Attenborough's "Gandhi" and the latest one "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" of Vidhu Vinod Chopra--both rekindled my love for the soul and the principles he stood for. But nothing like reading "My Experiments...". It's like Shri Krishna himself uttering what to do in a situation like this and that, and a confused Arjun getting the knowledge to judge what precious little could be done without fear or favour. Gandhi's own words are the words of conviction. This is to be read and reread at various stages of life. I picked up one whole chapter [Chapter XXI. Page 65] to reproduce here:  निर्बल के बल राम and if I'm to explain why I decided to do so I'll quote one proverb from Oriya.
ରୁଚୁ ନ ରୁଚୁ ଖାଇବୁ ପିତା
ବୁଝ ନ ବୁଝ  ପଢ଼ିବୁ ଗୀତା 
Translated, this would mean: Whether it is tasty or otherwise eat something bitter/Whether you understand or not go on reading Gita. In time the realisation would dawn on you and that is for sure.

In this chapter Gandhi, before recounting his experience, gives the gist of what he is going to say. In his words, "Though I had acquired a nodding acquaintance with Hinduism and other religions of the world, I should have known that it would not be enough to save me in my trials. Of the thing that sustains him through trials man has no inkling, much less knowledge, at that time. If an unbeliever, he will attribute his safety to chance. If a believer, he will say God saved him. He will conclude, as well he may, that his religious study or spiritual discipline was at the back of the state of grace within him. But in the hour of his deliverance he does not know whether his spiritual discipline or something else saves him. Who that has prided himself on his spiritual strength has not seen it humbled to the dust? A knowledge of religion, as distinguished from experience, seems but chaff in such moments of trial."

How true!

Then he goes on to recount his experience, and a serious one at that. To quote him, "It was in England that I first discovered the futility of mere religious knowledge. How I was saved on previous occasions is more than I can say, for I was very young then; but now I was twenty and had gained some experience as husband and father.

"During the last year, as far as I can remember, of my stay in England, that is in 1890, there was a Vegetarian Conference at Portsmouth to which an Indian friend and I were invited. Portsmouth is a sea-port with a large naval population. It has many houses with women of ill fame. Women not actually prostitutes, but at the same time not very scrupulous about their morals. We were put up in one of these houses. Needless to say, the Reception Committee did not know anything about it. It would have been difficult in a town like Portsmouth to find out which were good lodgings and which were bad for occasional travellers like us.

"We returned from the Conference in the evening. After dinner we sat down to play a rubber of bridge, in which our landlady joined, as is customary in England even in respectable households. Every player indulges in innocent jokes as a matter of course, but here my companion and our hostess began to make indecent ones as well. I did not know that my friend was an adept in the art. It captured me and I also joined in. Just when I was about to go beyond the limit, leaving the cards and the game to themselves, God through the good companion uttered the blessed warning: "Whence this devil in you, my boy? Be off, quick!

"I was ashamed. I took the warning, and expressed within myself gratefulness to my friend. Remembering the vow I had taken before my mother, I fled from the scene. To my room I went quaking, trembling, and with beating heart, like a quarry escaped from its pursuer.

"I recall this as the first occasion on which a woman, other than my wife, moved me to lust. I passed that night sleeplessly, all kinds of thoughts assailing me. Should I leave this house? Should I run away from this place? Where was I? What would happen to me if I had not my wits about me? I decided to act thenceforth with great caution not to leave the house, but somehow leave Portsmouth. The Conference was not to go on for more than two days, and I remember I left Portsmouth the next evening, my companion staying there some time longer."

Having recounted his story Gandhi again comes back to the spot where he was before beginning it. He says, "I did not know the essence of religion or of God, and how He works in us. Only vaguely I understood that God had saved me on that occasion. On all occasions of trial He has saved me. I know that the phrase 'God saved me' has a deeper meaning for me today, and still I feel that I have not yet grasped its entire meaning. Only richer experience can help me to a fuller understanding. But all my trials--of a spiritual nature, as a lawyer, in conducting institutions, and in politics--I can say that God saved me. When every hope is gone, 'when helpers fail and comforts flee,' I find that help arrives somehow, from I know not where. Supplication, worship, prayer are no superstition; they are acts more real than the acts of eating, drinking, sitting or walking. It is no exaggeration to say that they alone are real, all else unreal.

"Such worship or prayer is no flight of eloquence; it is no lip-homage. It springs from the heart. If, therefore, we achieve that purity of the heart when it is 'emptied of all but love', if we keep all the chords in prayer tune, they 'trembling pass in music out of sight'. Prayer needs no speech. It is in itself independent of any sensuous effort. I have not the slightest doubt that prayer is an unfailing means of cleansing the heart of passions. But it must be combined with the utmost humility."

After going through this I reflected. Isn't it a statement of truth? All of us go through difficulties and come out of it unscathed. As Gandhi says, if we are believers we attribute the phenomenon to the grace of god and if we are not the ones, we still attribute it to chance. But then when we swerve away from a course of depravity, it is always out of our good sense. Who activates that? It may be out of our ability to listen to our voice within, but not all of us are the lucky ones to benefit from our own little abilities. We often go to buy a pencil from the shop outside without taking the pain of rummaging through our own alcoves where many of them lie hidden. Ratnakar the robber becomes Valmiki the poet and composes the epic of the Ramayana. And who makes him so? He just listens to both: the sage he is going to rob and the words of ungratefulness of his own family members. In any case he listens to the right voice...the voice from within. A saint with history can say it better...and a sinner should always know that there is future even for him, a future of respect, one that is compatible with the inner voice.

A N Nanda

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Wise Before Being Wizened

Today is Makar Samkranti, Pongal, a day on which the grand old man of the Mahabharat Bhisma finished his sanctimonious discourse and left for his heavenly abode. He was the same Bhisma who had no wisdom to apply when the woman of the royal family got disrobed in front of him. Wise people and their ilk live in India even to this day. They are to be heard. They need to be revered. They are to be copiously quoted...and 'liked' on the pages of Facebook. I thought I could ramble on them.

Wise before Being Wizened

Meeting a wise soul and listening to him could be an eye-opening experience. Let’s listen to his words of wisdom:  
1.       When everybody else starts behaving well, I’ll do that too. This is the path recommended by wise people in days of yore. I remember I had read it somewhere in my Sanskrit text book in my high school curriculum: In the Mahabharat Vidur advises Dhritarashtra that when everybody else is asleep a lone person shouldn’t keep awake. What does it mean? In my humble interpretation, one should not entirely rely on reason and be a do-gooder when the gesture is not reciprocated. So, why should I behave better when others aren’t doing the same? No akela-chalo [Go all alone] business, I must say. First of all, let others start behaving well and then I’ll do as expected of me, strictly according to the code books.
2.       I’m essentially a harmless soul, you know. Yet if anybody dares to harm me I’ll harm him twice as much. Well, I know how Gandhiji has warned us about the disastrous consequence of the principle of an-eye-for-an-eye: An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind. But then again, in the present world these words of caution are practically not to be heeded. So, I’ll harm people but only when there’s a harm—or at least a threat of harm from them. A thorn is to be extracted with another thorn, isn’t it?
3.       There’s no point paying back loans these days. Look how I repaid my loan the other day just to be told a devastating piece of news. And the news was that the banks had exempted all from paying back their loans. So it was a lesson for me: I’ll not do, once again, the foolishness of clearing the loans. Well, I can always take a bigger loan to pay back the earlier ones. I have finally understood what Charvak, the great philosopher of India had to say: Take a loan and live a life of comfort consuming ghee and be happy until you are alive.
4.       Nowadays I don’t save. Once upon a time I used to do that because it was taught in my schooldays that we should learn the saving habit from a bee—we being the intelligent creatures should appreciate how the tiny little creature saves for a rainy day. By saving we help the economy in building its own capital base and making the nation self-reliant. How patriotic! But my friends took a different route: they did not save, rather took loans to buy lands and gold. Look, how rich they are now! Sometimes they snigger at me for my foolishness. Now I’ll have to take my money and invest in something that will make up for my past foolishness. I’m just wondering if there is really any such way, the right way, the quick way. One thing is for sure—I don’t like the wrong way, the long way.
5.       Paying bribe is as bad as receiving it. Fine, who on earth can deny this? Still there’re occasions I have suffered by not paying it. I’ll not take a human example to substantiate it, for the simple reason that even any bribe-loving crook will say how horrendously he had to suffer in the hands of another bribe-extractor! He’ll come out in the open with his head capped white, just to participate in the anti-graft protest. But my example is drawn from my encounter with a posse of godly men. Once I went with a garland of lotus to offer Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. There, right in front of the goddess, I was demanded a fee of some whooping five hundred [was it six hundred? I really don’t remember it]. Then out of anger I hurled the garland at the goddess and left in a huff. Come to think of it I am myself astounded how I could muster courage to do something as dastardly as that. After the incident, when we had escaped to safety, people who accompanied me said I was just so very lucky, for the godly men in charge of Lakshmi spared me without beating me to pulp. Even people standing in front of god or goddess practise bribery. One can understand this better if he or she had ever gone to a court of law, nay the seat of justice! 
6.       They say begging is bad and encouraging beggars is still worse. But then there are other shades of opinion too. It is also said that one can never know in which form God would come to test one’s generosity. Especially these god folks have their own little mannerisms: they love to appear in the shape of needy and appeal to one’s sense of compassion. Besides, hasn’t Gandhiji said that the poor are the incarnations of god, daridra narayan? Mother Teresa spent her entire life helping and nursing those fellows. And, lo, there are funny stories of beggar being millionaires too—I mean beggars being richer than the givers. Nowadays they have even their bargaining power and they discourteously spurn anything given to them that is less than the minimum sum fixed by their associations. So it’s a confusing matter, out and out. Better adopt some innocuous gesture. I just salute them, the incarnations of god and look the other way. A wise response in a spiritually complex situation, isn’t it?
7.       Should a cashier at a departmental store or the conductor in the bus, while returning the change, inadvertently give me more than it is due to me, what would be my wise reaction? To attempt a hypothetical question like this, let me draw upon the philosophy of karma. My gain depends on the merit I earned in the past or in my past life. So if a few extra coins find their way to my hand it has to be on account of my meritorious deed in the past. In any way it is a godsend. And why should I do the foolishness of spurning the godsend? Again, if I get some money lying on the road what do I do? Well, this, too, is a hypothetical question. Anyway, my possible reaction would depend on the amount—I’d consign the lower value coins into hundi the gargantuan vault of the temple or even donate it to the beggars there whereas retain the higher denomination as a godsend. A wise person should not bother about a trifling sum: it is as simple as that.
8.       Yes, I do believe in the rule of third-class compartment. Who on earth doesn’t? Argue and jostle your way into the crowded railway compartment, somehow manage to occupy a seat. And then join the other inmates dissuading the aspirants outside pitiably entreating to let them in. Reason: there’s hardly any room inside to accommodate an extra pair of legs. So entry into the third-class compartment is guided by a rule, deadly appropriate and pragmatic and hence wise. At no cost this is to be discarded just like that. I wholeheartedly believe in it. In the similar vein, I am against the sale of more cars to protect the environment because I already own a car. Otherwise, the rule of third-class compartment is internationally acclaimed and practiced too. Aren’t the wise statesmen of the developed nations advocating a cap on carbon emission following the rule?
9.       Funnily nobody among the fellows I’ve so far voted for have won elections. What does it mean? It simply means that I vote for good fellows, the ones who have more goodness than cunning. Of course I’ve never ever won any prize in a game of tombola or a raffle. So while going deep into the reason why all my votes get so systematically wasted, I’ve to stray into the domain of fatalism. Anyway, of late I’ve stopped casting my vote, for I’m convinced that it’d make no difference to the result. Otherwise, democracy is too complicated nowadays which is beyond the comprehension of even a wise fellow like me. One needs to mug up oodles of colour codes: white cap, black money, creamy layer, blue blood….
10.   Didn’t you ask me why I don’t have a family? Before I answer that, tell me what’s, after all, a family? It’s nothing if not an institution to perpetuate inequity and unfairness. Let’s not be emotionally guided by the ideology of those who say: To each according to need and from each according to ability. In a family the ethos doesn’t prevail. If one is meek and complies with the norm, he just works and works…and others enjoy the leisure. If one earns, he has no time to enjoy the fruit of his labour…and others enjoy. There’s endemic inequality in a family, say between mother and father, sister and brother, elder and younger and so forth. So long as one gives, he’s the darling of all. The day he stops, he receives the brickbat. Then he has to adopt a stance of strictness and goes violent. Tell me, then, does a milkman voluntarily stop to milk unless the cow kicks him? Even family is a risky investment. Spend on the young generation and wait just to see how they look the other way when you grow old. Rather invest in a pension fund; at least there’s government guarantee. Invest on the children: they may or may not be grateful. There’s no guarantee. Isn’t a guarantee-less investment like this a risky one, then? So I don’t believe in acquiring a family.
11.   No, I don’t remember if I’ve ever lent money to any friend. The grace in lending money lies in not pestering for repayment. Once I lent one hundred rupees to somebody I hate from the bottom of my heart. And, being a wise man, I didn’t ask him to repay. I’m going to explain why I did so. As anticipated, the rascal didn’t pay back my money and hid himself from my view. So much the better—it saved me of the utter discomfort of seeing him every so often. So, the wise thing is not to lend a friend but a foe.
12.   Yoga-Ayurveda-Astrology: Who can deny their usefulness? Denying any of them its right to be accepted would be like challenging the existence of god. Don’t they say, if you believe in god no proof is necessary and if you don’t, no proof is enough? Say, for example, if one gets cured of an ailment after using placebo or Homeopathic/Ayurvedic medicines for that matter, it is said to be the result of the medication. And if he doesn’t, it is to be taken that the fellow has no patience to continue the treatment till he gets cured. In other words, these medicines to work, the patient should be really patient…and healthy. Even Yoga practitioners claim that Yoga can cure cancer. Nobody should contest that…and more particularly wise people should not. Whether a person suffering from cancer has the stamina necessary to practice Yogic posture or not is a different matter. As if Yoga itself is not sufficient, yogis these days are taking the help of Ayurveda. A deadly combination! A winning formula! Similar is the case with the astrologers. Like no doctor should treat themselves, no astrologers should predict for themselves. Otherwise, they know how to get rich themselves, and why they are not rich so far etc. That’s why these professions are not to be questioned. They are born infallible. I’m simply wise, not infallible. People become wise learning from their faults. That’s why I’m wise and they’re infallible and I don’t question the usefulness of infallible people. 
13.   I don’t have any particular prescription for government. It’s a big affair in the ultimate analysis. A wise man like me looks more into inner self than into macro affairs like economy and governance. However, what I see through the present-day discontent is the phenomenon of the government getting poorer than the governed. You may ask me how? It’s because there are fewer roads than cars, isn’t it? It is the duty of the government to build roads whereas the privilege of the public is to buy cars. If there’s money, one is tempted to do things he is not supposed to do. Government has to use head to do anything, for the information on its activity can legally be obtained by spending an amount as paltry as ten rupees. Yes, I do mean RTI. But the governed need not use heads as long as he has the face power, I mean facebook and stuff. Now mobs are not formed spontaneously but created: the flash mob. Even people across the continents come together through web to die at a particular moment by a suicide pact—just for nothing, nay for the fun of dying. There is no restriction if the tired activists against the spread of alcoholism actually consume alcohol at night to get rid of their fatigue. Nobody prevents a consumer that has not paid his electricity bills from taking part in a protest against the mismanagement in electricity department. Even leaders aspiring to rule and cleanse the society encourage people not to pay their electricity bills! Leaders needing the support of students ask them not to write their exams. One thing is for sure: A wise man may not be of much help when there are no takers of wisdom.
And thus continued the wise man, on and on. There were many things he discoursed on, say on celibacy and the rights of transvestites and queers, on gender equality and empowerment, on intellectual property right and open-source software, on nuclear proliferation and trade in human organs, on live-in relationship and education reform and so on and so forth. But I could not remember the entire stuff. Wisdom imbibed straight from wise man’s mouth is not meant to be retained. People become wise after visiting cremation ground and listening to discourses but how many of them retain their wisdom? Even Krishna could not prevail on Arjuna after his discourse in Kurukshetra; He had to kill Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu to instigate him to fight against the enemy. Nevertheless I’m sure I met a wise man…and heard him saying wise stuff.   
A N Nanda

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