In our last blog, we had talked about the haunting beauty of some of our Puranic stories, and Pandit Nehru’s take on the subject. Lest we forget the shlokas and the stotras, here is a sample of the equally haunting beauty of some of them:
(About Rama-Lakshamana in Budhakaushika’s Ramaraksha):
Tarunau Roopa-sampannau,Sukumaarau Mahabalau,
Pundareeka Vishaalakshau, Cheerakrushna Jinambarau,
Phalamula shinaundantau, Tapasau Brahmacharinau,
Putrau Dashrathasyetyau, Bhratarau Rama Lakshamanau.
(Young, replete with fairness, youthful and mighty,
Blessed with large lotus-eyes, dressed in reed-cloth and deer-skin,
Subsisting on fruit and roots, penitent and forbearing,
May the brothers Rama and Lakshmana, the sons of Dasharatha, protect me.)
So unlike the GI-Joe Rama portrayed on Hindutva posters!
Talking about the Ramaraksha, a favourite with our community, one always used to marvel about one aspect of it’s recitation. We met our better half in the right sense only after our marriage, when she was 23. But the way we recited the Ramaraksha was astonishingly similar to ours. To her credit one must say that she is more musical- but the cadences, the pauses, the intonations, the highs and lows-they are all identical. So much so that even the mistakes are identical. For instance we always used to differ over the words ‘atasjjaadhanushyavrusprusha vrukshyashuganisangisanginau’ (its compacter in Sanskrit.) By habit she breaks the rhythm of the stotra while pronouncing those sesquipedalian terms, and we made every effort to teach her how to keep the rhythm there, but no headway -habit is habit. So we thought, until we heard mother making the very same rasa-bhanga as our missus, (fiercely) independent as they are of each other. In fact one can safely state that the stotras are sung in exactly the same fashion in all Mahabram house-holds- mince aksharshaha same to same, one can’t say about other brams. That’s culture for you- that’s how it works.
The Caste Factor keeps returning to haunt educated Indians, much as they would like to wish it away, much as they would agree with Macaulay, that it is the bane of our society. Caste is not the villain of villains, boss. Caste has a lot to do with culture. May be it is a villain in one context, but like it or not, it has to do with thought processes, closeness, ‘inter-se’ comfort of members, security in numbers, etc. etc., things essential to our existence. Growing up in a cosmopolitan city, knowing the deprivations faced by dalit friends, one, as a teenager would like to gnash one’s teeth at that villainess (caste is a he or a she?- ‘she’ appears in order) prepared to pounce upon her with all our might. Dad, mellowed with worldly experience, would look upon us indulgently, with eyes that said “shiksheel, shiksheel..” (you’ll learn, boy). Later one saw our MD, demi-God in our eyes, and an Iyer, promoting all (or most) Iyers coming his way, and so on, and then one thought ..sighh…may be…there is something to it. In fact, in India one always assumes that- if boss is a Bengali, Bengalis will rule the roost. If boss is a Kayastha, all plum postings to Kayasthas. If boss is from the South, say for example a Tamilian, he will operate in the following order: Tamilian, Malayali, Kannadiga and last, but not least, Telugu-and then the rest. If boss happens to be a Marathi, he will screw all Marathis, including himself. What an interesting place to live! But then juxtapose it, as we said earlier, with the cultural part, it does make a little sense. One remembers a passage from Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography (chewed on it as a three-year-old), which contained the following sentiment, if not the words “ I fervently hope that if my son falls foul of the law of the land some day, I shall have the strength of mind to side with my son”. Of course, it was couched by Russell in better words- He got the Nobel Prize boss, not me. One made every effort to get across to the exact words, but it is not there on Google, and there are better things to do than to go to the British Council right away. Well, we’ll do that, we’ll do that, when time permits. Ars longa, vita brevis.
And now to really become a caste-ist and a parochial-ist and a jingo-ist:
One first learnt about Vikram Pandit in 1995, when one read his name on a commemorative stone adorning the ‘Bhakta Niwasa’ at the Shegaon shrine. It said that Pandit had donated the entire amount spent on it’s construction. That hostel is lavish by Maharashtrian standards, a real comfort to Bhaktas of Gajanan Maharaj, of whom Vikram Pandit is a devotee. Maharaj was a simple, at the same time, a brilliant yogi, who had discarded all clothing-Digambar- and had nothing of his own. He is worshipped widely in Warhad (nee Berar)- you can say Vidarbha, from where we hail, at least in part.
Well, Vikram Pandit donates a few million dollars to the charity now and then, visits Shegaon regularly, and , and , and,… they also say…, he reads the sacred pothi of Maharaj at least every Thursday. He is better known as the CEO of CITIBANK.
When Pandit ascended the hot-seat, almost by default, the old hats about Indians were taken out, dusted, circulated, and regurgitated, as expected, by the western press. What cheek, these Indians, they said. Pandit was like a tight-rope artist gingerly negotiating without a net below, and the western financial pundits, like wanton spectators, yelling and hooting loudly to bring him down. If you type ‘Vikram Pandit’ on the Google search-bar, among the top ten entries, two are about his salary, and one about his being fired from Morgan Stanley. They called him the ‘most powerless powerful man on Wall Street’! But he went about as a Bhakta of Maharaj would, and the first step he took was to absorb all those illegitimate off-springs of CITI- the subsidiaries, where all the losses corresponding to the gains made by CITI, were parked. That’s integrity, one thought. Then, before every Congressional Hearing, the nay-sayers would write obituaries. But every time, Pandit emerged stronger, touch wood. Samarthachiya sewaka wakra paahe, asaa sarva bhoomandali kon aahe! Who, on this earth, can cast an evil eye on the Bhakta of Samartha?
That brings us to a poignant tale of the Pauranik variety contained in Maharaj’s pothi – Maharaj’s story written by Dasganu Maharaj- and we come back to where we began. We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
Maharaj is sitting inside his Shegaon mutt, looking on. Before the gate, on the street, lies the carcass of a dog. An orthodox Brahmin visiting Shegaon out of curiosity for Maharaj, approaches the shrine, intending to have a glimpse of Maharaj. He is horrified at the sight of the dead black dog, lying in the middle of the road. What imbeciles, what a crass town, don’t even think about putting that thing away, and alas, …what has made me come here… laments the Brahmin to himself. Maharaj reads the expressions on the brahmin’s face, come out, and says, … yes, yes, we are stupid bumpkins, no doubt, not as wise as you, but not to worry, and gently nudges the dog, and …lo! the dog gets up, shakes himself, and walks away!
No marks for guessing who, in this tale, represent Pandit, who is the Brahmin, and who is the dead dog who was restored to life by Vikram Pandit (that's a blatant give-away nooo..?)!
Pandit likened to Gandhi
on a British Site.
Didn’t someone say comparison
was a way of insulting
two at a time?