Saturday, August 16, 2014

Khuda Kahan Hai (Where is God?) - The Quest

Having had more than my fair share of failed relationships, I used every excuse in the book to say no, when the question of me getting married came up. But Baba was unrelenting, more so after Papa succumbed to cancer. The fact that Parag was an atheist was another excuse in my armour but Baba would have none of it. Having come from a multi-cultural, multi-religious background, I remained a nomad in my quest for answers and understanding of spirituality. My little sister Tulsi, all of 20 or 21 at the time, pronounced me agnostic! And here I fancied myself as the eternal Sadhak......

I argued long and hard till I was blue in the face. I did not want our children to go through ambiguity in that sphere of life. Be that as it may, my Baba counter argued saying that,”He is a good man and for now his way of life is his spirituality. He is also very intelligent and so he will eventually find his way to the quest.” I did not buy into it but nevertheless got married; because I wanted to and not because of the pressure I was under. I must confess though that I do blame Baba for my woes on days that Parag and I fight!!

But on a serious note, at some level this no religion, no faith, no prayers, only rationale bit, worried me, as the family grew. I always second guessed this aspect of our parenting style. I kept trying to understand Baba’s words and look for answers myself. And there it was, a simple forward from my dear friend Mini Naidoo, an artist and sadhak herself. She sent me a lovely story about three greats of Urdu literature – Ghalib, Iqbal and Faraz – and in a clean sweep, very vintage Mini-like, she set aside my misgivings and drove home the message that Baba had tried hard to make me understand.

Here is the story, in her words:

These three poets are legendary in Urdu literature as also their following couplets. The poets Ghalib (1797-1869), Iqbal (1877-1938) and Faraz (1931-2008) present their views on the universality of God in the couplets. It was not a feud. At best you can call it a poetic difference of opinion by intellectual and witty minds, spread across centuries.

Ghalib started it: In the 19th century, it was a bold statement. But then Ghalib was never known for meekness or following the crowd.

“Zahid, sharaab peene de masjid mein baith kar
Ya wo jagah bataa, jahaan Khuda nahin”

[Let me drink in a mosque; or tell me the place where there is no God.']

Allama Iqbal was not convinced and decided to reply about half a century later. So in the late 19th-early 20th century, his poetic reply to Ghalib

“Masjid Khuda ka ghar hai, peene ki jagah nahin
Kaafir ke dil mein jaa, wahaan khuda nahin”

[Mosque is the abode of God, not a place to drink. Go to the heart of a non-believer because there God is not.]

Faraz had the last word. (Later half of 20th century).

“Kaafir ke dil se aaya hoon, main ye dekh kar Faraz,
Khuda maujood hai wahaan, par usey pata nahin”

[I have returned from the heart of the disbeliever and I have observed:
God is present in his heart too, but he just doesn’t know it. (he is ignorant/sleeping].


Thank you Mini. Loads of love coming your way.....

Friday, August 8, 2014

Overcoming fear

I still remember the paranoia in the girl’s eyes when I took her swimming that year. She just refused to get into the water no matter the cajoling in combination with the threats of dire consequences made by Hitler Mom. She was six and the story was the same every summer since we had moved to Bangalore.

The club in the complex, we lived in, had a lovely pool and had facilities for coaching in the summer. I would register her for lessons and she would parrot every excuse in the book, to not attend classes. When she did attend class, she would have the coaches tearing their hair out; she would dig her heels in and refuse to get into the water. Given the large number of children they had to coach, they invariably ignored her and gave me "the look". I was at my wit’s end. Swimming was a skill I wanted her to master for the joy of weaving through water is quite unparalleled. Life is going to take her through the rough and tumble and swimming would be one of the greatest stress busters with zero need for the chemical anti-depressants.

The situation took a 180 degree turn when we landed in Nigeria and were introduced to Coach Tough!! She agreed to take her under her wing and coach her. The initial days were tough and the story seemed to repeat itself. But Coach Tough did justice to her name. And then there came a time when she swam the entire length of an Olympic sized pool, determination writ large on her face, never once flinching when she crossed into the deep end. Watching a nine year old overcoming her fear and being confident of her strength was overwhelming to say the least. My Mommy heart cannot thank Coach Tough enough.

Post her triumph over her fear, Aarzoo Elizabeth Kaveri Sen, aged 9,that year, wrote this piece......and made me proud and confident that she has it in her to turn the lemons into lemonade!! Here it is unedited; and I better duck for cover before Ms. Intensely Private bares her teeth and claws at me for sharing this.

Photo: Coach Tough and her wards

Our Friend Water

To all the people who are scared of swimming, deep waters, going to the beach or for who are afraid of water. Here is a story about me being afraid of swimming. I always would feel scared of going to the pool. I had these bad thoughts that would scare me like drowning, getting hurt, etc. No matter how much my coaches, my parents and relatives tried, nothing worked. I started having even more of these scary thoughts after my coaches said they were going to push me in the pool. I didn’t like the coaches. When my dad started working in Lagos, Nigeria, my Mom made me sign up for swimming lessons in Lagos with Coach Tough. When I went to sign up, I saw her and we spoke. I told her my problem and she told me not to worry etc. The club has two pools. One was 10 ft and the other was 9 ft. But they started from 3 ft and the other started from 3.5 ft. Day by day, when I learnt swimming, I realized I had overcome my fear. But still I was a little scared of the deep end, but I overcame that. My Mom always said, “You will never drown. Water is our friend.” Then she explained buoyancy etc. This was because of my Coach Tuff I overcame my fear. I love her v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v.v. much!!! She won a lot of awards in International Swimming competitions. She had swum for Nigeria. Everybody should know that water is our friend. You will never drown. ( I don’t know, depends!)