Tuesday, November 14, 2006


A laughter as one the Gods themselves be jealous of;
A laughter as the roar of the first thunder on the Earth;
A laughter that could rend the worlds asunder.
RudranArAyaNa Sastry was the nityAgnihotri of his village. He had completed a thousand chanDi homAs till date. He was the foremost authority on tantra in his kingdom. Yet he lived as an ascetic, living on alms and prasadam of the village kAmAkshi temple. He breathed KAmAkshi in every breath. He lived in a small house in the shadow of the kAmAkshi temple. He was born every moment as the son of his loving Mother, and died every moment pining for her eternal love. To him She was the beginning, the end, and everything else.

It was VijayadaSami, and it was the last day of rudranArAyaNa Sastry's old life and the first day of new life, the day when he would call out to the skies waiting to carry out his orders, the day when he would start living without dying every moment, the day when he would finally reach his Mother in her heavenly abode.

The divyachandana lEpita utsava-vigraham of the Heavenly Sankari was adorned with flowers-

SevantikA vakula champaka pATalAbjaiH
punnAgajAti karavIra rasALapushpaiH
bilvapravALa tulasIdala mAlatIbhiH
tvAmhi pUjayAmi jagadIshvari me prasIda!

The utsava vigraham was kept on the ratham and dozens of devotees slowly dragged out the enormous vehicle of the tribhuvanESwari onto the wet road after a rainy night--

chaturbhuje chandrakalAvataMse
kuchonnate kunkumarAgashoNe
haste namaste jagadekamAtaH

It has been held that the ratham should never stop on the road till it reaches the tank at the other end of the village. And it never did till now. While the people were pulling the divine vehicle ahead, none but he saw a pool of water on the road right in the path of the vehicle. The pool was deep and wide enough for the huge vehicle to get stuck. But the people dragged it along chanting the Mother's name.

And he beheld Her, his mother, coming towards him in this Divine chaos with mangaLa Arathi being offered to her. There were people everywhere. And a thousand bells were ringing at the same time. And She seemed to him--

As vAgdEvI saraswathi early in the morning to be worshipped in his small house with white lilly flowers,

Manikya vInAm upalAlayanthIm
madhAlasAm manjula vAg vilAsam
mahEndra nIla dyuthi kOmalangIm
mAthanga kanyAm manasA smarAmi.

As AnnapUrnEsvari at noon in the corn fields with turmeric, rice, corn, and chrysanthemum

prAlEyAchala vamsa pAvanakari kASIpurAdhISvari
bhikshAmdEhi kRpAvalambanakari mAtAnnapUrNESvari

As padmagandhini mahAlakshmi worshipped in the evening in the temple with lotuses, and marigolds,

lakshmIr kshIrasamudrarAjatanayAm srIrangadhAmESwarIm
dAsIbhUtasamastadEva vanItAm lOkaika dIpAnkurAm

And as kAtyAyanI kALika with bright red flowers at midnight in the cremation ground.

KALika VarALika
Prachanda jvAla mAlika
kapAlamAla dhArika
Dushta samhArika

And so he laughed.
Yea! It was the same laughter as one the Gods themselves be jealous of;
Yea! It was the same laughter as the roar of the first thunder on the Earth;
Yea! It was the same laughter that could rend the worlds asunder.

The bells were still ringing.

So he realised this is how he has been ordained to ascend to his Mother. This is where the door opens for the path to his Home. And he laughed again. People looked at him with wonder and fright. But they kept dragging the ratham. It was almost over the pool. rudranArAyaNa jumped before the wheel of the ratham and covered the pool with his body.

The ratham went on unhindered. The bells kept on ringing.
And the devotees sprinkled the water from red pool over their heads.

I have died today,
My Mother has come for me,
I am born today.

kAmAkshi-- in VarALi by SyAmA Sastry, set to misra chApu. Rendered by Maharajapuram Ramachandran

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Shadows of evening slanted through the high windows. It was not time yet to light the lamps. In the fading light is the silhoutte of a female figure sitting across the front door with head back, resting against the open door. The smell of sandal and jasmine was floating around the house. Dressed as a bride, ThakuraNi Roopmati was staring into the sky. Her hand was playing instinctively with the colourful bangles she had worn--red and green and yellow and of of gold with pearls and stones set in them. Suddenly, she felt a tinge of pain and gave out a gasp. She lifted her head and brought her gaze down onto her right thumb. The bleeding had long stopped but the wound would take a day or two to heal. It was in the early morning that she applied rakta-tilak to her Thakur and sent him to the battle wishing that he come back victorious, as always.

They had said the enemy was already at the gates of the city. They had said they were outnumbered. They had said there was slim chance of victory. But this was not the first time that the Thakur led his regiment to battle to under the leadership of the MaharaNa. She remembered how she had laughed at the prospect of war and how spectacularly magnificent was the huge feast they organised, as was the custom of the household, before war. MaharaNa himself had visited their house.

Yet, there was a deep sense of misgiving and a premonition in her heart right from the time she received the news of the battle and slowly, those vague warnings and notions in her heart began to take a shape and become clearer. And when she saw her Thakur's face, blazing like the Sun, in the glow of evening lamp, she was no longer in doubt. She knew her Thakur was not going to come back this time. She knew this was her Thakur's last feast. She knew that she will be seeing her Thakur for the last time the next morning. But she was a Lioness among RajputaNis. She had a huge reputation of lifting the spirits of others around her. And so she hid her sorrow. No. The Thakur shall not sense her state of mind. He has to go and the battle has to be won. At any cost. She remembered how she had succeeded in lifting the sagging morale of other women who were aghast at the rumours of the losing battle and she smiled wryly at herself.

It was almost night, and Roopmati still did not get up to light the lamp. It was a sombre evening with dull skies and no wind and a few melancholy birds wailing. Lamps could be seen dimly flickering from Neighbours' homes. She succeeded in rallying the neighbourhood to thw cause, but who would assuage the storms raging in her heart? She wondered what was the use of the Durga puja, the tilak, and other such rituals when she could clearly see the truth naked in front of her waking eyes.

An hour later, an errand rider came running to her and bowed to her:
"Victory to you ThakuraNi!"

She did not move and kept staring far away beyond the horizon.

"ThakuraNi... Thakur fought valiantly and saved MaharaNa's life."

She still did not move. Her eyes closed, and tears waiting in her eyes saw enough reason to flow out.

Shree raaga.
Alap and dhamaar by Uday Bhawalkar.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Those green valleys with those lush meadows,
The bee on the flower and the birdling in the nest,
That trickling stream, running down the mountains,
Those drops of rain and the gentle breeze sweetest,

Those high aims, those lofty ambitions,
Those long struggles and those victories great
Those melancholies and bursts of mirth,
Those smirks to self at treacherous turns of fate,

Those benign people living in inviting homes,
Those smiling faces, with greeting hands,
Those times spent in the pleasant company,
But mere images drawn on the eternal sands.

The feet move with ease by themselves
The hands held aloft on their own,
Away, away my heart, I am carried off,
Yonder to the place He does own.

Shivam Shankaram Shambhumeeshaa na meede!
(From Shivashtakam)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


The four were not yet born, the eight still far away in thought.
The five were one yet, the universe still was not wrought.

Not even darkness. Not even nothing.

Then there was nothing. Darkness everywhere-- all engulfing, all encompassing-- A defeaning darkness. Issuing out of the depths of that nothing, and going back into that unseen chasm of nothingness.
Out of that nothingness was born the First of All-- Experience. And out of the Experience came a horrid fright. A fright that held the Unborn Universe as She saw her own Nemesis was being born before She was born.
A fright that would have made Man tear his own flesh and drink his own blood in a maddening dementia.
A fright that gripped even the Nemesis as she saw her own End -- slow, painful, and eternal.
A fright that struck and shook fright itself.

When would this torture end?

And fright called out:
O Most Powerful, Most Fearsome, Grandest and Greatest!
O Warrior of the Beyond, Slayer of the Great Foe unsown!
O Harbinger of the Eternal peace, my Only Saviour and Recourse,
Wilt Thou not take me, ere I drown in the venom of mine own?

There were swirling vortexes of blackness all around. Everything feared everything else and itself. Everything engulfed everything else and itself. Unmanifested realities contested among themselves without any rules and shattered themselves into a million fragments with indescribable elan. New unborn realities, formed from those fragments took their place and led the battle to newer planes of rage and passion.

A heavy burden of inexplicable melancholy. A feeling of permanent distress. Yet, no, this cannot be permanent, said a voice within. For anything permanent has to be blissful. Only a passing phase. Only Pangs of Birth. A grim determination arose-- To carry on. To suffer the pain. To brave the blows. To face the fear. To wade through the violence.

And PaSupathi opened His eyes to the Universe born as the Unborn, Unheard Sound--AnAhata Adi nAda.

Paarvathi Naatha Shiva Shambho,
MahaabaLi, Mahaaroopa, Mahaadevatha jaage!
(Dhrupad in Puriya-- chautaal)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Swadeshi and Matrix

The swadeshi movement started by Gandhiji was one of the most potent manifestations of the Indian freedom struggle, and I single it out not just because it stands as a monument of defiance of the British authority in India, but it also was a necessary step for the survival of the struggling Indian industry. Simply put, the british were taking raw materials like cotton, jute, iron-ore, etc, fromIndia (did I mention at throw-away prices?), mass manufacturing them into finished goods and selling them back to us as finished products. One can imagine the conditions of the local industry! In this light, the swadeshi movement is one movement that was not just a maneuver to defy the British rule like the Salt Satyagraha or to throw the British off balance like the Quit-India movement, but something that must have hit the British in a very sensitive place! Imagine the worry of the British manufacturers! So... they literally forced the Indians to buy their goods. Well, it might have worked only moderately, with the entire nation of India rallying behind Gandhiji.

Cut to the present--
A Joke: A Yadagiri (in India) asks his friend, lets say a Srinivas, in US to get him a shirt, may be not a costly one, but something from The USA. The Srinivas diligently goes to wal-mart, and picks up a very decent one of about $35. On his visit to India, he proudly gives his friend Yadagiri, a glimpse of the American product. The Yadagiri looks at it in awe, but something near the collar catches his eye, and he throws the shirt back at the Srinivas! On the tag was written: 'Made in Pakistan'. Damn the American honesty!

But no, I dont want to talk about either American honesty or the quality of shirts in Wal-mart. I want to highlight that the same thing that was happening then, is happening now. All the these foreign manufacturers (Van-Heusens, Peter-Englands, Oxemburgs ??) buy raw material at dead-cheap rates from third world countries, mass manufacture them, and then sell them to the same countries! The bad thing is, we are lapping it all up without any sense of awareness or compassion to that good old tailor who used to sew our clothes about a decade ago. Why?

Cut to Matrix Reloaded, the second part of the trilogy-- The Architect tells Neo:
"The first Matrix I designed was quite naturally perfect, it was a work of art - flawless, sublime. A triumph equalled only by its monumental failure..."

As you would remember, Agent Smith tells Morpheus in the first part that "the first matrix... was a disaster.No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. "

(please note the word 'crops'. It warrants another discussion... not now though!)

The Architect continues "the answer [to the problem of designing a self sustaning matrix] was stumbled upon by another - an intuitive program, initially created to investigate certain aspects of the human psyche..."

"...she stumbled upon a solution whereby nearly 99% of all test subjects accepted the program, as long as they were given a choice, even if they were only aware of the choice at a near unconscious level."

Aah! So there you are! More than a grain of truth in there! Force doesnt always work (in fact, it doesnt work most often!), but given a choice, even if at a sub-conscious level, the human always chooses what s/he is expected to. No one is actually stopping us from getting our clothes stitched by the tailor. Yet we feel compelled to go to a mall and buy clothes.Hmm!

But wait! Thats not all. The local tailor, well, he certainly is out of business. But thats not the worst! People will always find alternate routes to support themselves. So, the tailor might get a job somewhere in the factory of some Levi's. Thats ok. But there is a bigger problem. Now, the ex-tailor is a part of the Levi's process chain... condemned to do a specific repetitive job over and over again... a part of the highly optimised and mechanised design. So, his skill is lost. And the generation of those who call themselves tailors might no longer possess that kind of skill.

All said and done, though the end seems inevitable sooner or later, one saving point in India is that its really difficult to reach the last leaf of the last branch of the tree. It takes a long long time for any sort of change to come into India. So lets wait and watch!

In the meanwhile, spare a moment for the local tailor who used to sew your clothes in your childhood (applies to middle class only!).