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
Meeting a wise soul
and listening to him could be an eye-opening experience. Let’s listen to his
words of wisdom:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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?
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….
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.
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.
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.
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