Friday, November 02, 2012

Managing without Electricity

When my mother was a child she lived in a village which had no electricity. Children going to tuitions in the evening had to carry kerosene lamps, she said. The significant word for me in that statement was not ‘lamps’. It was 'tuitions!' There were tuitions in our country even before electricity? How shocking is that?

Anyway, that is not what I am here to talk about, so let me move on. The lamps were called ‘hurricane lanterns’. This is because by design they could work even during a hurricane.  You could hang one on the mast of a ship and sail straight into a tempest-- I was told-- and the lantern would do its job.

This topic came up as the passing cyclone made the authorities decide to shut the power down in our locality; uprooted electric posts pose a mortal threat to citizens. Earlier in the day, while I was at office, my uncle had called from Bangalore asking me to get home early. He had a graphic tale to narrate. A snapped wire had come in contact with a bus and had instantly electrocuted everyone in it. It met its purpose of persuading me to take his advice. When I stepped out, the cyclone was a few hours from hitting the coast but I could feel its effects right then. The wind seemed to flip and flap loose hair and big bushy trees with the same nonchalance.  As I took it in, it brought with it a cocktail of myriad aromas; of sweat and perfume, of diesel chugging the generator, of a dead rodent, and of course, of the salty ocean. It seemed to tell me, “There is no place I haven’t been!”

Soon after I reached home, it became dark and I was left with nothing to do but sit before a candle listening to the heavy buzz of the draft outside. It was getting unmanageably boring, but hey--  how did mom handle this every single night, back in her electicityless days? I probed and she said they had three huge hurricane lanterns to light the whole house. They finished all their business soon after dark, blew off the lanterns (or turned them off, however they were supposed to be turned off) and went to bed. Also, she said there was this dude who came every night, poured oil and lit lamps placed on posts along streets.  Yes, there was a guy employed just to do that. I wondered what his designation might have been: street-lamp-oil-pourer-and-lighter?

And once during those times, my mother had gone to Bangalore to stay with some relatives for a few days. And guess what she saw when she returned to her village? A marvel of modern science, a manifestation of the ingenuity of human mind, a hallmark of technological advancement, a sophisticated gadget that glowed magically without the need of having to pour anything into it… A Tube light! And she says what she witnessed that day-- the same old things in her same old house come to life with a brand new brightness-- is still fresh in her mind, more than half a century later! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ode to the Sea

"Oh roaring sea! Oh lapping waves!
You impress me none the more,
Oh roaring sea! Oh lapping waves!
You amuse me none the more!

A while is past, since we met last,
You are as blue as before;
Great ocean vast, please tell me fast,
Are you deeper one inch more?"

In much unrest, I slept that night
The sea wasn't such a bore;
It left a mark, that sublime sight,
What I said had made me sore.

In my mind, the tides were changing
To settle there lay a score
Next day with a different feeling,
Straight I headed for the shore,

"Dear sea, lied I yesterday!
You impress me all the more!
Each time I sea your sprawling bay,
You bewitch me more and more!"

PS: Written when I came to Madras and revisited the ocean after a sizable hiatus

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ode to the Cow!

Hey cow, I send you love,
For the warm feelings you inspire!
Say now, exactly how,
So calmly you ever retire?

Dogs bark, flies buzz, men scream;
You close your eyes and cogitate!
Cars honk, sticks lash, lights beam;
You remain still and ruminate!

Hey cow, how you allow,
To squeeze out milk that you prepare!
Then thou, art slain we plough,
Leather for our selfish attire!

Halos of God-men pale,
When they see how you meditate!
Using your magic tail,
Do you secretly levitate?

Hey cow, I send much love,
For no wrong you ever conspire!
No dove, I bravely vow,
Can so much peace, as you, inspire!

PS: Wish you all a happy Mattu Pongal!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In Harmony with Providence

One of the greatest forces in the universe is that which makes life prevail, proliferate and flourish. Our planet has been pounded by massive meteors, been frozen by ice age, been subject to great climatic changes and now is being gradually submerged under water. And still today, peacocks continue to dance, the great whites continue to hunt, the corals continue building reefs and humans continue making newer versions of software! Life shows tremendous determination to survive and express itself in all it diversity in an extremely dynamic and unpredictable environment. What people worship as God is merely a form given to this spirit of life.
All of life taken together is like an army that is constantly struggling to persist and develop and each one of us is a soldier in that army. We will be given all that is needed to fight this battle; this is the promise of God, this is what keeps us going. All these blessings: the circumstances, the articles and the qualities that have brought us so far and that will continue to take us forward, put together is our Providence.
This perspective towards life can help us greatly in drawing fulfilment from it. We realise that we are not individuals fighting a battle all by ourselves. Instead we are a member of an enormously huge army: The army comprising of all life. Now if we can align our own motives with the motives of this great army, we will get all that we need in life. We will be in Harmony with Providence. Being in this state God himself falls on our side. And when God is with us, who can be against us?
While making decisions, forming ambitions and setting priorities most people put themselves in the centre of this process. When we do this our desires and actions often come in conflict with that of the army we are fighting for. On the other hand, if we take into account the effect our actions have on each form of life concerned and act in the best interest of all, we align ourselves in Harmony with Providence. This is not a sacrifice. For when we are in Harmony with Providence, we become a very important component of life. Being the great survivor that it is, life efficiently recognises us and does all that it takes to maintain us and keep us happy. It spreads before us every form of true joy that exists in the world. This is the practical explanation to why a person with good morals and values leads a fulfilling life.
The software company Google in its site for its charitable venture “project 10 to the 100th” states, “ studies are reinforcing the simple wisdom that beyond a certain very basic level of material wealth, the only thing that increases individual happiness over time is helping other people.” This is because by helping others we align our motives with the motives of the army. We not only become great warriors ourselves, but we also empower others to do so. And thus we make our life fall in Harmony with Providence.
People who are greedy, selfish or corrupt seem to be enjoying their lives but their joys are always short lived and incomplete. They are in discord with Providence. Sooner or later such people become failures. This is because their battles are for themselves and are not in the interest of the army.
Thus we see that greater impact we create on the world around us, the more fulfilling our lives become. On the other hand, the more self centred we get the lesser becomes the true joy we can extract from life. A person who is perfectly in Harmony with Providence leads a perfect life.