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.

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I'm a peace-loving married Indian male on the right side of '50 with college-going children, and presently employed under government. Educationally I've a master's degree in History, and another in Computer Application. Besides, I've a post graduate diploma in Management. My published works are:- (1)"In Harness", ISBN 81-8157-183-5, a poetry collections and (2) "The Remix of Orchid", ISBN 978-81-7525-729-0, a short story collections with a foreword by Mr. Ruskin Bond, (3) "Virasat", ISBN 978-81-7525-982-9, again a short story collection but in Hindi, (4) "Ek Saal Baad," ISBN 978-81-906496-8-1, my second Story Collection in Hindi.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wise Before Being Wizened


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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.
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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.   
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By
A N Nanda
Bhubaneswar
14-01-2013
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