An oasis of Peace

Reading about violence, here, there and everywhere, leaves a sick feeling in the heart and the mind. The ones who die are always people going about their daily lives, no way connected with the violence. It is as if life has no value, maybe it does not for people who commit these acts. As it is we can never be very sure about what will happen the next minute, but most people do not worry about that. We lead our lives, living the present and planning for the future. But these violent acts leave their mark in a very negative manner. We start worrying about the unexpected.

When the mind is troubled I remember Sri Aurobindo Nivas in Baroda, Gujarat. It was in 2011, we were exploring that city and along one  street we came to the gates of this beautiful place. We walked in and it was like walking into a different time and place. It was an oasis of peace and serenity. Sri Aurobindo lived in this house from 1893 to 1906 and worked for the Baroda State Services. We stayed there for a long time enjoying the beautiful atmosphere and the old world charm. There was such a protected feeling about the place. I remember that place, that oasis of peace, whenever I read about meaningless, violent acts taking place not only in our country but elsewhere too.

“And so, to the end of history, murder shall breed murder, always in the name of right and honor and peace, until the gods are tired of blood and create a race that can understand.”  ~George Bernard Shaw, “Caesar and Cleopatra” ( play written in 1898 and first staged in 1901)



Wild berries

Growing up in a village, and surrounded by fields and forests, my husband  grew up enjoying the taste of  different wild berries, each having their own particular taste.

Fortunately , in our small place, on our hill sides with its wild  shrubs and bushes, we find so many wild fruits, some sweet some sour and some bland. They have their own seasons and we go out to collect them and of course eat them as we gather them.

My husband’s grandfather used to love small red berries called ‘ Kepla Hannu’ in Kannada. My father-in law was telling me that his father used to eat them while walking by the fields. There is this custom which most people observe when they visit the holy place of Kashi. They voluntarily give up eating a fruit and a vegetable which they love. It seems my husband’s grandfather gave up eating these small red berries which he loved so much. My grandfather had given up eating apple which he enjoyed a lot.

Thoughts  about these small pleasures  came to  me as I was reading Pather Panchali by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyaya. He has written with so much of feeling about the lives of these two children, Opu and Durga. It is as if the author has become those children and lived their lives as them. 

“Opu and Durga , they were young and their palates were untrained, that is why they were eager to sample everything they could , particularly things that tasted sweet . They had never been able to afford to satisfy their craving for delicacies…They were children of a poor home , like poor children everywhere they were driven to find their sweets on jungle bushes; yet coarse and astringent though these simple fruits might be in a world which lives on luscious food, the kindly goddesses of the forest had contrived to fill them with a honeyed nectar all their own.”

The black and white photo is that of my husband’s grandfather, he passed away in1956.

Wild berries

Generation Gap:))

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”   

 George Orwell

Sometimes I wonder if generation gap is just the difference in the number of years and in the way of thinking between two generations or something more?  Of course there is a lot of difference in the way each generation thinks.

 Some time ago I had started reading ‘ Lectures on Ramayana’ by V S Srinivasa Sastri.  These lectures were given in the Madras Sanskrit College Grounds in 1944. In the first lecture Srinivasa Sastri, says,  ‘he is filled with grief and sorrow that the  Ramayana is not quite as familiar  to the younger generation as it was to those of the older day.’ I was very amused to read this as the younger generation that he spoke of was my father’s generation. And his generation thinks the same about mine and my generation thinks the same about the younger generation and I think it will go on.:)))

Sometimes  I think this generation gap is that of the arrogance of youth and the stubbornness of old age. The youth believe  everything is in their hands and they can do anything they want to . Of course not everyone does that. I  don’t like  those sweeping general statements. There are many of the older generation who are stubborn as mules and just not ready to accept that others know better than they do. They just do what they want to do. In a way they take advantage of their age. They believe they can get away with anything they want to. And generally people excuse their behavior by saying that it is old age which makes them so stubborn or that old age is a second childhood. Of course it is different with people who become mentally weak as they grow older. But not everyone becomes mentally or physically weak.

Then why  the stubborness ? The same behaviour on the part of a younger person would be labled as nothing but  selfishness.  

It is very difficult to understand human nature.

Books and Books:))

There are books and books and books, some interesting, some serious, some boring and some disgusting.

And there are books which are simply beautiful. As we finish them there is this feeling of satisfaction of having lived a great experience.For me one such book is Pather Panchali, written by   Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay.  Long back, I used to finish a book in one sitting but   now it is just not  possible  and that is a blessing in disguise. I am able to enjoy a book for many days, and each time there is this  nice feeling  of returning to that world. Pather Panchali is the story of two children, Durga and Opu  in rural Bengal in the first half of the 20th century.

My grandfather had written about his life in two notebooks at the insistence of his elder daughter. My father had xeroxed it and I have one copy. Life was not very different in Karnataka and in Bengal in those early  days. My grandfather’s childhood in his village and the life of the two children in the book are almost the same; social life, social customs and the important part that festivals played in the life of the people. During those days, barter system  was more prevalent and people  rarely had money in the form of cash. There was a lot of poverty . Life went on for years without much change as there were very little outside influences.

Pather Panchali is a beautiful book , the feelings and thoughts and emotions of the children are beautifully portrayed and they become a part of our lives. There is a feeling of sadness on reaching  the last page. The characters are so real that we are left wondering about their future lives,though we know that they are just the creations of the author.

He has very nicely said  this about Life-   “They were journeying  towards an unknown horizon along a road that twisted on its long unending way like the serpent of the world; and at every bend there was something waiting to welcome them, fruit or flowers, laughter or sympathy, with a welcome that was always new.”

Our Trees

Trees have been worshiped from time immemorial in our country and also in countries across the world. They are a part of our life and give a meaning to it. And it really hurts when they are cut down, a cold blooded murder, all for the sake of money and more money. Fortunately there are people everywhere who are doing their bit to keep the green. One of the trees to be worshiped is the Banni tree, also known as Shami.
The importance of this tree is written in our Mahabharatha.
My father has very fond memories of the Banni tree. He grew up in a small town in the northern part of our state. He, his sisters and many other children walked to school not very far from their home. On the way there was a Shami, tree.
During exam time, the girls in  the group would stop by the tree and say their prayers.
That is one thing which has never changed-  remembering God during exams!
There used to be a stone at the base of the tree and the girls would make their offerings of banana or jaggery, before proceeding to write the exam. The boys usually followed them. They would also say their prayers, but in addition to that they ate the jaggery or banana kept there.
I wonder if the girls realized what was happening to their offerings?
My father tells me they never came to know who ate what they had offered to God. When trees are so much a part of our life, then why are they being cut down? Is it not the right of the future generations to live in a planet full of trees?

Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.

Kahlil Gibran

Living History

My father in law is 87 and has lived all his life in a village in South India. Listening to him talk about his younger days is like living History. He says in the first sixty or sixty five years of his life there were very few changes. Life went on as it had for generations.

But in the last 15 or 20 years there have been so many changes that it difficult to understand all that is going on around him. There are changes in all aspects of life. The people of our community were mainly agriculturists, cultivating paddy, areca and vegetables and fruits. They settled in valleys where plenty of water was available for their needs.  Each small village was usually self sufficient. And families were joint families, with work divided among the different members.

He remembers those days when areca nuts from the farms were taken to the nearest  railway station many miles away. They were transported in many bullock carts at night to catch the early morning train. Sometimes thieves  used to  pilfer away areca nuts from the sacks piled in the last cart !! These areca nuts were transported to the Market in Mangalore Port. They were then sent in steamers to Bombay. The British rule or the World Wars did not really have a great impact on the people of this small village in South India.

What happened to him and the people around him were not those major events that happened in the country and about which we read in books. But listening to him we can just imagine the life of the common people in those years of the 20th  century.

History is a novel for which the people is the author.  ~Alfred de Vigny