Goddess

goddess

Goddess, whenever I  look to you
I know you have known me
all my trials and tribulations
you wore them as a garland
to keep my worries at bay.

My offerings are to please you
but so trivial as they really are
when compared to the lovely gifts
countless that has been bestowed
these years on me by your good self.

In all my walks and moments
haven’t you walked with me
watching my every step that I took
correcting as a loving mother should
you were at my every beck and call.

I am greatly thankful to you
for having kept me company
I only wish you would hold my hands
lead me to places where I go after this
As I tread my steps now weary with age…

 

Happy Navratri and let Her blessings be upon you.

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Work is Worship

For those who have followed me recently, am republishing this post written 3 years ago, a long one for the happy weekend read.

Harish had come to the city 3 decades ago and barring a small stint at a bakery in his early formative years, he became a rickshaw puller just like thousand others across the country. Over the years, as the country progressed, there came the cycle rickshaws followed by the auto rickshaws but like many others Harish would not move up the ladder and persisted with his manual one and never thought of changing cities and pitched his tent in Calcutta where he had arrived in the 70’s.

Harish was in his late sixties and his daily schedule would be to have to his breakfast which consisted of rice gruel and a banana and then he would disappear into the big bustling city crowd and would be spotted at locations taking his passengers usually one or two with their luggage in tow. Passengers rarely remembered him, as for them, he was a means of cheap transport to be quickly forgotten as soon as they landed at their destinations. It always invoked the curiosity of people who have had the time to observe people like Harish to wonder about the source of  energy to pull their passengers with just two hands to their destinations miles away on roads that sometimes sloped upwards and downwards.

rickshaw puller
Credits: The Sunday Tribune

Harish due to some thought ingrained in his childhood had never visited a temple or never thought about the gods in them and always wondered whether people did get the benefit of visiting them. He must have carried hundreds nay a thousand in his umpteen trips up and down to holy shrines spread across the city. It was rather a coincidence, a strange one at that, having carted or transported so many devotees, he had never visited or entered a shrine so far, though he knew the gods and goddesses by their pictures that were splashed across by the religious minded across the city walls and in the outer precincts of the temples.

Harish lived alone all these years except for this month when he got company. It was Nandhu, a boy of 8 years, whom he had rescued from the streets on a night trip. Nandhu seemed to be abandoned by his relations in the city or he appeared genuinely lost as he thought. By the look of the poor boy, he appeared to be from a very poor background and experience told Harish to keep him with him till he grew up in age to fend for himself.

It was already 7 pm and since Nandhu was down with fever in the hut for the last two days, Harish had him at the back of his mind all day when he was scouting for work in the sun and rain who played their parts to perfection all through the day. Today was a bad day and he had made barely 60 rupees. Without at least 70, he could not take Nandhu to the doctor who lived near their shanty house for medicines. Moreover he had to get some food for dinner for both of them. He had been roaming through the city but somehow luck eluded him today. It only dawned upon him now that he had skipped his lunch like so many other days in the past.

A light drizzle had started and Harish was hopeful that someone would hail him to escape it. As minutes ticked by, he knew he had to reach and get Nandhu to the doctor before 9 PM after which Sarmaji, the doctor would not see anybody. At his wits end, his legs impatient and his mind failing to control them, in despair he cried out to the Lord, whom he knew very feebly, for help and looked around desperately for that one passenger who could give him the last 30 rupees after which he could wind up work for the day. With his legs aching and stomach on a raging fire he wondered if he would ever reach home today.  The small shops in the lane, where he and his cart were at standstill, were downing their shutters as the shop keepers too sensed that it was high time and with the rain not helping, they least expected any one to turn up at their shops.  The sun having set an hour ago, it was quite dark except for the feeble street lights which were quite a distance apart.

It was at this point of time, a couple emerged with some baggage and asked him if he could take them to the Ram Temple which was at a mile’s distance. The couple appeared young and dressed neatly in nice clothes, Harish wondered if he could reach them to their destination in time. Moreover the road to the temple was bad and had a slight slope and it would require all his strength to pull them across it. It was that moment of time the couple asked, as if in one voice, how much he would charge them. Harish was in two minds. He did not want to scare them away as he desperately needed the 25 or 30 as he had calculated earlier and asked them for 25, which was very fair considering the time and the weather.

The couple hopped on to his carriage after a bit of bargaining and settling it at 20 rupees not withstanding Harish’s fervent pleas. After the price had been fixed it was left to Harish to show his experience to handle the cart and his passengers deftly as he pulled them slowly on to their destination. It took him a short and gasping run in the last 200 meters before he reached the temple just in time or so he thought. The couple got down and thanked him and he had to wait for the lady to count 20 coins and hand them to his outstretched hands. A lightening streak flashed, as she handed him the money, with the help of which he could see the charming couple’s faces. It seems they were newly married and had come to the temple as was the custom in those places on a Thursday. He saw them climbing up the stairs and entering the shrine.

The despair call to the Lord an hour ago had worked and Harish wondered if it really was because of the Lord’s blessings, he had gained this last trip. Since it was so late and he having made his wages for subsistence for the day, he thought of entering the temple for the first time in his life. He had a lot of doubts as he climbed each step. What if the Pujari or the temple priest would shout at him for coming in such shabby and torn clothes? Nevertheless he walked on and entered the temple. There was no one in sight and having gained courage with each step, he walked on to explore the inner precincts of the shrine. He came to different places of worship allocated to each god or a goddess at various places inside the shrine. All this time, he was looking around with fear and awe, as with time, he still could not see anyone in the temple. Holding on to the coins, he at last reached the sanctum sanctorum where he saw the main deity and his consort and immediately recognized them by their robes and faces as his passengers who had graced his rickshaw, a few minutes ago.

Tears ran down his eyes and he felt his life had met its purpose having transported the Lord and his Consort in his rickshaw to the temple. As he prostrated on the floor in front of the shining glory with folded hands, he took care lest the coins would fall away and was struck with surprise when he counted them later to be exactly 25 coins, the price that he had asked initially and that too shining gold coins…

Story of a Ruin

 

Hindu temple, Ubud, Bali
Pura Temple, Bali

 

On the banks of a winding river
covered by shade giving trees
stood an old temple now a ruin
one day, was I mighty surprised
to see myself walking towards it?

The glaze from the noon fiery sun
as it struck many majestic pillars
at first blinded me; I could now see
a deity of a goddess unattended.

Offering my salutations to her
I looked around to spot anyone
who would come this desolate way
but alas, no one seemed to exist
except me, in these lost quarters.

I walked down the once trodden steps
when having heard a sharp noise
I turned around to see, to my wonder
the old sanctorum door now shut
who had shut that door, I wondered.

I went around to the farther side where
trees grew abound next to a cool pond
with water flowers growing amid aplenty
my eyes spied in the shade of trees
a monkey and a squirrel eyeing in awe.

The cool breeze and the fruits in bounty
took me to a dream of bygone days
I dreamt of that very place back in time
how festivities rocked the still ground
where people flocked and lost in joy.

The temple fair with all its pristine glory
had attracted one and all, near and afar
a visitor like me now in different attire
it was then I spied upon a beautiful girl
who stood in the precincts of the temple.

Was she beautiful, or was she radiant
there was something about her charm
eyeing all who seemed to be lost in fun
wondering who she was, bright as the sun
my mind at sea, churning with thoughts.

I climbed the well laid lovely temple steps
a flood of devotees praying to the goddess
somehow the glow on the face of the deity
could very relate to that on the young girl
one in divine and another in human form.

Making casual inquiries it was made known
she was the very child of the temple priest
a staunch devotee who cared for nothing
engrossed in the ardent service of his folk
worship of a mother who was his child.

I circled with the crowd, and at every turn
her radiant smile, of the ever mighty holy
my doubts cleared with the compassion
she bestowed on us with her look of love
a mother truly pleased at her children.

At a loss, to keep the discovery to myself
do I make it known, not had I, the courage
should I approach her the wonder she was
would she listen to me as others of her age
or be wise as a woman of a countless age.

One day, she was playing prank with kids
getting close, away from the little ones
when she sensed my faithful approach,
the graceful, the all knowing smile asking
how was I attracted to her, all these days.

Garnering courage, I went near divine her
while the kids were not at close quarters
asking her, was it true, what I had sensed
she being the divine in human form said
keep it to you, which I did all this time.

Days were spent meeting and asking
had she powers that she could exercise
could she keep the village blessed
she would wait for them to pass a test
would then, she decide to be a part of it.

A few months passed by, days of joy to me,
but one day, the priest’s daughter fell sick
the ailments added to her father’s plight
one said of a physician at the king’s court
might help her to tide over her such illness.

A journey to the palace place was too far
calling the physician might invite wrath
a young lad, i was to carry the message
private it was, to the medic to respond to
a person who still glowed, despite her pain.

I went to the king’s court and with difficulty
manage to get his consent, for the call
but he asked for a big fee, which I doubted
any one, of the village could well afford
but they could have grouped and helped.

With sad tidings, I brought the message
no one cared or willed to help the priest
who rendered selfless service for them
helped bring them blessings from Her
just as She had blessed him with Her.

Chiefs and the landlords refused to help
in kind or in money, left him disconsolate
the priest died,  heart broke, just as he was
was this test you told of, she faintly smiled
she was to pass away, with me by her side.

Rain clouds hovered to the delight of all
but my wet plight only, no one could gauge
I lost her that very night, her hands in mine
radiant as ever, her loving eyes upon me
was it in torrents, it poured from the sky?

The river, beside the village, rose in anger
submerged banks with all its people
the waves climbed the forsaken temple
did they also wash away our lost selves
I must be delighted to part with my body.

It all came back to me, I was driven here
a place where once, I loved a  girl of  glory
a divine Odyssey it was,  that got me here
I now, left to reminisce the story of a ruin
a pleasure if She would come again for me.

 

Dharma Questions

 In the Indian philosophy and religious texts, the word Dharma signify  ethical conduct or righteousness.

There is a pleasant narrative about the King Yudhisthira who was the son of dharma  in the Indian epic, Mahabharata, meeting his father Yama ( Dharmaraja or the God of Death) in the forest when they were in exile. Yama wanted to test his son and decided to set up a meeting.

A deer took the fire kindling kit of a  sage and ran away. The sage pleaded with the Pandavas ( the 5 sons of Pandu) who were living in exile at that time. All of them ran in pursuit of the deer who dodged them skillfully for a long distance and then vanished from sight. Yudhisthira , the eldest of them all, asked the others to look for a water source to quench his thirst, and the youngest Nakula upon his instruction went out in search and did manage to find a beautiful lake with crystal clear water and standing cranes. He was going to quench his thirst first when a voice alerted him.

“O Nakula! The water will turn into poison if you take it without satisfactorily answering my questions”.  Nakula, in arrogance, did not pay heed and he fell dead instantly. Nakula’s twin Sahadeva, coming in search of his brother, also found the same lake, saw Nakula dead, and was warned by the voice. But Sahadeva too ignored the crane and died after drinking the water. In the same manner, both, the great Arjuna and Bhimasena met the same fate.

When Yudhisthira , steadfast in dharma,  reached the scene, he was mortified to see his dear brothers dead. But when the invisible being told him what had happened, he was not angry and calmly asked for the questions, knowing fully well that this act could have been carried out by a mighty yaksha, or a  gandharva  to test him.

These were some of the questions asked of, and answered by Yudhisthira.

Question.  “What is heavier than Earth, higher than heavens, faster than the wind and more numerous than straws”?

Yudhisthira answered, “One’s mother is heavier than the Earth, one’s father is higher than the heavens, the mind is faster than the wind and our worries are more numerous than straws “.

Question . “Who is the friend of a traveler? Who is the friend of one who is ill and one who is dying”?

Yudhisthira responded, “The friend of a traveler is his companion. The physician is the friend of one who is sick and a dying man’s friend is charity”.

Question . “What is that which, when renounced, makes one lovable? What is that which is renounced makes one happy and wealthy”?

Yudhisthira replied, “Pride, if renounced makes one lovable, renouncing desire one becomes wealthy and to renounce greed is to obtain happiness”.

Question . “What enemy is invincible? What constitutes an incurable disease? What sort of man is noble and what sort is ignoble”?

And Yudhisthira responded, “Anger is the invincible enemy. Covetousness constitutes a disease that is incurable. He is noble who desires the well-being of all creatures, and he is ignoble who is without mercy”.

Question.  “Who is truly happy? What is the greatest wonder? What is the path? And what is the news”?

Whereupon Yudhisthira replied, “He who has no debts is truly happy. Day after day countless people die. Yet the living wish to live forever. O Lord, what can be a greater wonder? The truth about Dharma and duty is hid in the cave of our hearts, therefore that alone is the path along which the great have trod. This world full of ignorance is like a pan. The sun is fire, the days and nights are fuel. The months and the seasons constitute the wooden ladle. Time is the cook that is cooking all creatures in that pan (with such aids). This is the news”.

and now to end the story, I quote from the original source, the translated work in English available at the site link pasted at the bottom of this post.

The Yaksha asked,–‘Thou hast, O represser of foes, truly answered all my questions! Tell us now who is truly a man, and what man truly possesseth every kind of wealth.’ Yudhishthira answered,–‘The report of one’s good action reacheth heaven and spreadeth over the earth. As long as that report lasteth, so long is a person to whom the agreeable and the disagreeable, weal and woe, the past and the future, are the same, is said to possess every kind of wealth.’ The Yaksha said,–‘Thou hast, O king truly answered who is a man, and what man possesseth every kind of wealth. Therefore, let one only amongst thy brothers, whom thou mayst wish, get up with life!’ Yudhishthira answered,–‘Let this one that is of darkish hue, whose eyes are red, who is tall like a large Sala tree, whose chest is broad and arms long, let this Nakula, O Yaksha, get up with life! The Yaksha rejoined,-‘This Bhimasena is dear unto thee, and this Arjuna also is one upon whom all of you depend! Why, then, O king dost thou, wish a step-brother to get up with his life! How canst thou, forsaking Bhima whose strength is equal to that of ten thousand elephants, wish Nakula to live? People said that this Bhima was dear to thee. From what motive then dost thou wish a step-brother to revive? Forsaking Arjuna the might of whose arm is worshipped by all the sons of Pandu, why dost thou wish Nakula to revive?’ Yudhishthira said,–‘If virtue is sacrificed, he that sacrificeth it, is himself lost. So virtue also cherisheth the cherisher. Therefore taking care that virtue by being sacrificed may not sacrifice us, I never forsake virtue. Abstention from injury is the highest virtue, and is, I ween, even higher than the highest object of attainment. I endeavour to practise that virtue. Therefore, let Nakula, O Yaksha, revive! Let men know that the king is always virtuous! I will never depart from my duty. Let Nakula, therefore, revive! My father had two wives, Kunti and Madri. Let both of them have children. This is what I wish. As Kunti is to me, so also is Madri. There is no difference between them in my eye. I desire to act equally towards my mothers. Therefore, let Nakula live?’ The Yaksha said,–‘Since abstention from injury is regarded by thee as higher than both profit and pleasure, therefore, let all thy brothers live!”

Mahabharata – Yaksha Prashna

 

 

The lively professor

A professor when he was on the verge of retirement  dream’t of coaching eager students in his now retired life, so he thought, as he drove back from college on one of his last days.

He called up one of his old students who now worked in the press to put up a classified in the morning newspaper that would advertise his skills in accountancy, a tutor anybody would love and dream’t to have.

A few days back, 3 girls, all pals,  came to his house for coaching as exams were just a few months away but they saw a padlock greeting them on his door. They went away sadly as they could not meet the tutor who dream’t of teaching even in his retired life.

padlock

After a week they came again to inquire and this time they found him waiting and ready to teach. Not wasting much time, he taught the nuances about all he knew about the subject in those few months.

The girls loved him for his knowledge and more than that, the way he imparted it to them, making it look so easy. If only, they thought, all of the professors they met were like him.

On the day of the results, our girls were mighty thrilled and why wouldn’t they as the results outdid their expectations and they hurried to their old mentor to convey the great news but sadly the padlock greeted them this time too and they lingered on for him to arrive, for quite some time.

But arrive, he never did that day, and as it was late, the trio went back sadly each to their own homes. The next dawn they went back again to see the house still locked as they found it the earlier day. This time they inquired about his whereabouts with his not so near neighbors, only to know that he had passed a few months away…

 

Some good souls linger on to complete an unfulfilled wish…

The love within

You strayed many a time from your path
how you desperately wanted to come back
He helped you do it from his love within you
when you again strayed, his love persisted.

Repenting and confessing you do come to Him
your thoughts, your actions, He very well knows
He is as much a part of you as you are of Him
and how glad would He be if you stuck with Him.

He knows beforehand as the wheel of time
rolls with you as one of the so many spokes
remember He is the charioteer within you
who can steer you out of danger and to safety…

The Couple on a rickshaw

Harish had come to the city 3 decades ago and barring a small stint at a bakery in his early formative years, he became a rickshaw puller just like thousand others across the country. Over the years, as the country progressed, there came the cycle rickshaws followed by the auto rickshaws but like many others Harish would not move up the ladder and persisted with his manual one and never thought of changing cities and pitched his tent in Calcutta where he had arrived in the 70’s.

Harish was in his late sixties and his daily schedule would be to have to his breakfast which consisted of rice gruel and a banana and then he would disappear into the big bustling city crowd and would be spotted at locations taking his passengers usually one or two with their luggage in tow. Passengers rarely remembered him, as for them, he was a means of cheap transport to be quickly forgotten as soon as they landed at their destinations. It always invoked the curiosity of people who have had the time to observe people like Harish to wonder about the source of  energy to pull their passengers with just two hands to their destinations miles away on roads that sometimes sloped upwards and downwards.

rickshaw puller
Credits: The Sunday Tribune

Harish due to some thought ingrained in his childhood had never visited a temple or never thought about the gods in them and always wondered whether people did get the benefit of visiting them. He must have carried hundreds nay a thousand in his umpteen trips up and down the city to holy shrines in the city. It was rather a coincidence, a strange one at that, having carted or ported so many devotees, he had never visited or entered a shrine so far, though he knew the gods and goddesses by their pictures that were splashed across by the religious minded across the city walls and in the outer precincts of the temples.

Harish lived alone all these years except for this month when he got company. It was Nandhu, a boy of 8 years, whom he had rescued from the streets on a night trip. Nandhu seemed to be abandoned by his relations in the city or he appeared genuinely lost as he thought. By the look of the poor boy, he appeared to be from a very poor background and experience told Harish to keep him with him till he grew up in age to fend for himself.

It was already 7 pm and since Nandhu was down with fever in the hut for the last two days, Harish had him at the back of his mind all day when he was scouting for work in the sun and rain who played their parts to perfection all through the day. Today was a bad day and he had made barely 60 rupees. Without at least 70, he could not take Nandhu to the doctor who lived near their shanty house for medicines. Moreover he had to get some food for dinner for both of them. He had been roaming through the city but somehow luck eluded him today. It only dawned upon him now that he had skipped his lunch like so many other days in the past.

A light drizzle had started and Harish was hopeful that someone would hail him to escape it. As minutes ticked by, he knew he had to reach and get Nandhu to the doctor before 9 PM after which Sarmaji, the doctor would not see anybody. At his wits end, his legs impatient and his mind failing to control them, in despair he cried out to the Lord, whom he knew very feebly, for help and looked around desperately for that one passenger who could give him the last 30 rupees after which he could wind up work for the day. With his legs aching and stomach on a raging fire he wondered if he would ever reach home today.  The small shops in the lane, where he and his cart were at standstill, were downing their shutters as the shop keepers too sensed that it was high time and with the rain not helping, they least expected any one to turn up at their shops.  The sun having set an hour ago, it was quite dark except for the feeble street lights which were quite a distance apart.

It was at this point of time, a couple emerged with some baggage and asked him if he could take them to the Ram Temple which was at a mile’s distance. The couple appeared young and dressed neatly in nice clothes, Harish wondered if he could reach them to their destination in time. Moreover the road to the temple was bad and had a slight slope and it would require all his strength to pull them across it. It was that moment of time the couple asked, as if in one voice, how much he would charge them. Harish was in two minds. He did not want to scare them away as he desperately needed the 25 or 30 as he had calculated earlier and asked them for 25, which was very fair considering the time and the weather.

The couple hopped on to his carriage after a bit of bargaining and settling it at 20 rupees not withstanding Harish’s fervent pleas. After the price had been fixed it was left to Harish to show his experience to handle the cart and his passengers deftly as he pulled them slowly on to their destination. It took him a short and gasping run in the last 200 meters before he reached the temple just in time or so he thought. The couple got down and thanked him and he had to wait for the lady to count 20 coins and hand them to his outstretched hands. A lightening streak flashed, as she handed him the money, with the help of which he could see the charming couple’s faces. It seems they were newly married and had come to the temple as was the custom in those places on a Thursday. He saw them climbing up the stairs and entering the shrine.

The despair call to the Lord an hour ago had worked and Harish wondered if it really was because of the Lord’s blessings, he had gained this last trip. Since it was so late and he having made his wages for subsistence for the day, he thought of entering the temple for the first time in his life. He had a lot of doubts as he climbed each step. What if the Pujari or the priest would shout at him for coming in such shabby and torn clothes? Nevertheless he walked on and entered the temple. There was no one in sight and having gained courage with each step, he walked on to explore the inner precincts of the shrine. He came to different places of worship allocated to each god or a goddess at various places inside the shrine. All this time, he was looking around with fear and awe, as with time, he still could not see anyone in the temple. Holding on to the coins, he at last reached the sanctum sanctorum where he saw the main deity and his consort and immediately recognized them by their robes and faces to his passengers who had graced his rickshaw, a few minutes ago.

Tears ran down his eyes and he felt his life had met its purpose having transported the Lord and his Consort in his rickshaw to the temple. As he prostrated on the floor in front of the shining glory with folded hands, he took care lest the coins would fall away and was struck with surprise when he found them to be exactly 25 coins, the price that he had asked initially and that too shining gold coins…

Alms to the Almighty

Everyday on the side lane of a busy road
I wait for people, strangers to me
to act as good Samaritans, to stop by
where I am seated with no one to support.

Across the road is a well maintained shrine
with a carved metal box for devotees to gift
money to the deity for prayers to be answered
to support the shrine that has men to support.

Buses come by this lane with seated people
and as it negotiates the curve where am seated
they throw coins in the direction of the metal box
to support the deity who has men to support.

People coming my way pause in their steps
they fumble deep in their pockets for coins
that have long-lost both,  value and shine
throwing them at me, who has no one, to support.

I can see fruits and milk flowing by the gallons
given as holy offerings to the deity of plenty
they spend hours in queue and watch the deity
in all his glory longing to take in more of him.

With an aura of blessings, they come out
as they cross over to me, they just pass over
not one taking a second to glance at wretched me
while some feign to give, and walk out of sight.

It has been quite a few years since I shifted
places and faces, sitting here for alms
to test my devotees but am sad to say
most of them have failed the simple test.

 

When Life is tough

When you see a poor old woman
looking at her scanty store
she counts them through tears
when she is short by a penny
then life is tough.

When the winds batter you days on
the water having flooded your house
when there is no life in sight
to pull out your drowned self
then life is tough.

When you see a little girl in pain
who picks rags for a living
crying out to her dear mother
when she prods her to pick more
then life is tough.

When the little abandoned dog
in the rain, with nothing to eat
and nowhere to go, knowing not
what to do and looks at you
as a savior, when you ignore him
then life is tough.

When the hungry come to your door
and ask you for a pan of gruel
and you turn them away
saying the meal isn’t  ready
when you just had your fill
then life is tough..