Category Archives: Story

A paradox of community, belief and reality

Seth Godin writes:

Belief happens when we combine community with emotion. It’s a way for us to see and understand the world, at the same time that we engage with some of the people around us. Belief is a symptom of shared connection, and community makes us human.

Reality, on the other hand, is widely experienced and consistent. Gravity doesn’t care if you believe in it or not, it’s still here. And that jar of jelly beans has the same number of beans in it, no matter how many times we count them.

When belief doesn’t match our experience of reality, stress occurs.

This stress can surprisingly make community stronger. There’s very little community among people who believe that the Earth is a sphere, no meetings or conventions of the round Earth people. That’s because you don’t need belief to know that the Earth is round.

There is a long history of building community cohesion by encouraging members to ignore the facts of the world around them.

The disconnect between what’s out there and the emotions that lead us to believe something that isn’t real can actually make a community tighter. Sometimes, the disconnect between belief and reality is precisely the point. When the disconnect gets really large and the community becomes more insulated, cults arise.

But in our modern age, this stressful disconnect between belief and reality also makes it difficult to spread the word. The outsider may be hesitant to sign up for the stress that belief in non-real things can cause…

End

The Story About A Cup Of Tea – Building Enduring Relationships

Time was running out. There was no option – my wife decided she would go to the bank (public-sector) to get the Tax Deduction Statement (TDS) needed for income-tax computation. She would not let me go because of my suspected friendly leanings towards Covid.

Expectedly there were few customers in the branch. She asked for S, an officer, and when he walked up, she identified herself. The magic words ‘TXX’ spoken ‘opened the doors’!

‘Yes, M’m, come in,’ S was all deference. One would have thought she was some high officer from the HO on a sudden field-visit.  ‘TXX spoke a while ago. If you’ll kindly be seated here…I’ll get it in a couple of minutes. It’s all printed and ready.’

As she sat down, a cup of hot tea was served with sugar to add!! A feat far beyond you to equal. Forget tea, I challenge you to get for yourself a glass of water – you would be politely directed to a watercooler standing in the hall. And rightly so, after all a bank’s charter of customer services does not include…

In all my years of regularly visiting the bank, I was always politely ignored by the friendly staff, never rude, envied for the attention by the young lizard lounging in the ceiling, despite trusting them with all my life savings – not a huge pile though being a salaried employee all my life. Strictly not true – I distinctly remember the occasion I was on the center-stage, very briefly though, drawing looks from everyone around when I had sent the glass crashing on the floor at the watercooler. Apologies for a little flippancy there, I couldn’t resist.

I was surprised when the lady of the house returned so soon, mission accomplished.

Ah, there were hardly any customers, so the quick turnaround – explains it.  

But the part about tea, that was still intriguing.

May be S was related to TXX or a close friend – simple as that.

When TXX called to follow up if everything went off ok at the bank – incidentally therein lies the subject of this post, you’ll find out soon – I told him about the service-with-a-smile-and-tea-to-go-with-it and everything was fine.  S was neither a friend nor a relative of his, I learnt. TXX was not even a customer of the bank.

It made it all clear as mud in rain.

So, why the tea, I persisted.

It emerged TXX knew the bank’s regional HR manager.

Ah…so that was it.

Well, it was like this: Until recently TXX was the big honcho in a diagnostic-services company. And the bank was his client sending its employees for annual medical check-up covered under various plans.  When it was the HR manager’s turn, at the request of his office, TXX expedited the matters cutting down the wait for him. Simply said, but not simply done – needed TXX, located elsewhere, to call up the testing lab many times to ensure the manager was not unduly held up at any test station.

That was the beginning of the relationship that endures till date, also the moving force for the service-with-a-smile-and-tea-to-go-with-it. Not a favors-done-favors-asked kind of relationship. It continues though TXX has retired from service since and is no longer in a position to help in ways he did during employment. Yes, the two have never met so far!

Many of us in our employment and outside are in a position to help or do favors and we do. Setting him apart is the sincerity and thoroughness of the process, winning the day and setting relationships in concrete for TXX. He doggedly pursues and pushes the problem-owner into action until the intended end result is achieved. In the above bank episode, offering to help, he calls the bank up ahead and tells them what was needed to cut out the wait for my wife and then calls her up later to check if we got what we needed without hassle or anything more had to be done.

This ownership, often far more than the problem-owner’s, endears him to those who seek his help!

It is not limited to those who go to him – he extends himself to any situation he thinks he could be of some help. Comes to him naturally. An engineer first, puts in place solutions not obvious to many, including the grunt work entailed.

Our own experiences of this kind are too numerous to recount here.

And, finally, I have no problems confessing I fall way too short by this standard.

End

A Secret Revealed – A Folk Tale For Kids

Part 1

In the holy city of Kashi – the oldest inhabited in the world, it’s said – there lived a cloth merchant Shivendra with his family of wife and three sons: Vishwa, Shambu and Hara. In a city boasting a hoary history for weaving brocades of silk and gold and cotton, Shivendra thrived in his business; textiles were a passion for him – sourcing top quality material, engaging artisans who conceived both traditional and innovative new designs and wove magic…coupled with his business acumen. Over time, his products became iconic with people coming from far and near to buy from him.

While the going was great, the stress of doing business was slowly getting to him. The sons helping him out observed he was getting slower on his feet, going about with greater effort. He did not go out to meet his suppliers and major customers as often as he did before – it required him to be on his feet longer. His visual acuity also was not as good as before – he was often passing defective material both at input as well as output that merited outright rejection in line with the high standards they had set for themselves.

Worst of all, he was increasingly losing his cool with his family over trivial matters, with vendors and customers during negotiations thereby seriously hurting the business. The sons saw this was more due to his lack of adequate sleep in the nights, an ailment he suffered from as far back as they could remember, rather than an innate part of his makeup. All kinds of mantriks and tantriks were called in to no avail. Reconciled to his lot he gamely carried on. Was it a genetic disorder? His past karma as some observed? Only now, it was beginning to show in ways that perceptibly impacted family life and business too.

The sons were fond of Shivendra, still young in his early sixties. They put their heads together wanting to do something about it. Finally it was decided one of them by turn would go out seeking remedies that must exist in some part of the land while the other two would stay back to help their father and the family. The parents reluctantly agreed after they were convincingly reassured about his safe return within a month or two.

Thus one day Vishwa set out northwards on his horse, adequately equipped. Set to go for the Himalayas in search of holy men (sadhu’s, yogi’s) for a miracle cure, he rode for several days until he reached outskirts of Sitamarhi (about 150 kosh or some 500 kms away by today’s measure), said to be the birthplace of Sita. Still an hour away from the town and it was getting dark, he stopped for an overnight halt at a village, taking shelter in a mandapam (a four or more pillared stone structure) standing by itself in the middle with the shrine it had served disappearing long ago without a trace.

Secured his horse to a tree nearby and settled down to watch idly the happenings in the village. It was just a single street lined with squat houses, about a dozen of them. Men folks were returning home from farms and wherever, the women lighted up lamps in their houses and children back in their pen after play-time. After a while, a kind lady from one of those houses came to him inquiring if he wanted water. Soon another came to him with some roti and sabzi, followed by some fodder for his horse too! Villages in our land were known for their hospitality even to strangers!

In an hour things quietened down further with no one appearing on the street. That’s when he saw an old man – must be in his seventies – emerge from the farthest house on the street, accompanied by a young man. The man walked with firm footing in the failing light, refusing to hold the hand offered by the young man. They came down on the street and walked slowly looking down all the time not missing an inch as if they were searching for something. On inquiry, the young man informed him it was indeed so. Earlier in the evening, his wife had dropped somewhere while walking on the street her diamond nose-ring. So?? Well, the old man was the vaidya (medicine man) revered in the village and had the sharpest pair of eyes. So it was…and truly in a few minutes he found the ring lying partially hidden under a stone!

Vishwa was mightily impressed by what he saw. He requested some time from the old man.

On the following morning, he went up to the vaidya’s house and told him all about his father and family and the purpose of his visit. He wanted some medicine to improve his father’s eyesight so he could as before keep a hawk’s eye on the business.

The old man patiently heard him out, asked a few questions…he then went away to the back of his house and returned after a while with a bamboo canister in his hand containing an herbal potion to be given to his father first thing every morning for a week…no need to continue thereafter. More importantly, he was required to do a few activities without fail to go with the potion and even after, never to be discontinued. Results would begin to show in about four weeks. All this, not before teasing him about the inevitability of ageing.

Something about the old man made Vishwa believe in him. He respectfully thanked the old man for his help, offered him appropriate dakshina (fees) and took leave of him carrying the canister carefully.

All at home were quite happy to see him with his horse back safely – it had been only a month.  

He explained his consultation with the vaidya. Happily for him everyone agreed on the new regimen he suggested to be put in place as early as the following morning.

The day began with Vishwa’s mother giving Shivendra the potion first thing in the morning.

It was not just with the potion. Shivendra reached the workplace before anyone else. He threaded every needle and loaded every loom ready for operation. When the workmen arrived at their workplace, they were surprised to see it was all set up ready to go. Shivendra waved them away when they fondly fussed about his straining his eyes needlessly, insisting on doing it again whenever needed during the day. All the same they were enthused and energized by their master ‘soiling his hands’ on the shop-floor like one of them in a new practice that had come to stay. It showed in the output at the end of the day.

Exactly what the vaidya had ordered!

In about three weeks they saw Shivendra doing it in half the time he took to begin with! Things got better where it mattered – he was catching flaws easily in the finished product passed by others. Likewise with the input yarn going onto the looms. The final validation came in by way of fewer customer complaints. And not just at work, it showed in the house kitchen too – his wife was happy and impressed to see him help her in her daily chores by unerringly hand-picking stones and mud-balls clean off the rice that went into the cooking pot,

A couple of months passed. One day, Shambu came up to express his desire to go out for a while like Vishwa did, to do his bit for the family. Vishwa told him how the vaidya he had met, certainly not a day younger than seventy five, had walked effortlessly without any help – he was the man if anyone could help their father with his legs. And it was now in evidence he genuinely cured. So it was agreed Shambu would exactly follow his brother’s footsteps, reach the village and consult the vaidya.  It was worth a try.

Part 2

On day 8, Shambu reached the vaidya’s house.

He was told by a young man, his attendant and household help, master was away on his morning routine to collect fresh herbs from up the hill nearby…he should be back anytime now. Did he hear right? Up the hill? Yes, he did it every day, Not once, but once in the morning and once in the evening – some herbs need picking only in the evening, the attendant told him. He sat down on the thinnai (porch) waiting for the vaidya’s return. In a little while, he saw a light drizzle sending towards the house an old man he rightly guessed to be the vaidya in a hurry without a stumble or slip, Muttering more to himself the ground would turn slushy in no time, he gave a perfunctory nod to Shambu and went in. Giving him a little time to dry himself and settle down, Shambu knocked and entered almost feeling sorry for imposing himself thus on the old man. .

When he identified himself, the old man did not appear to mind the intrusion. Recalling his meeting with Vishwa, he inquired about their father and was happy to learn his patient, unmet, was doing better. So why was Shambu here? If the potion given was exhausted, there was no need for more to be given, he already had said. Thereupon Shambu clarified he had come for a different purpose – it was his father’s problem with his legs and his curtailed movements. The vaidya heard him out patiently, threw a few questions and as before at the end he gave him a bamboo canister containing an herbal potion with same instructions – to be given to his father first thing every morning for a week…no need to continue thereafter. More importantly, he was required to do a few activities without fail to go with the potion and even after, never to be discontinued. And wait for four weeks for the results to show.

On his return, Shambu shared his consultation with the vaidya. With everyone in agreement, the new regimen was rolled out from the very next day.

Once again, the mother was entrusted with the job of giving Shivendra the potion every morning for the week it lasted. At lunch, he had porridge of crushed oats, horse gram and sprouts, sitting next to his horse also feeding on the same though prepared differently along with some green grass.  This was to be his largely unchanging luncheon menu, minor tweaking permitted, for three days in a week henceforth. The horse seemed to love sharing the table with the master!

On two other days he went out and met his suppliers and major customers, collecting inputs directly from the field. They too were happy to meet him and be heard. With improved bonding, many irritants of little value were not allowed to get out of hand simply though talking it out, letting them focus their energies on more substantial issues they faced. On one occasion, a supplier in jest remarked Shivendra would do well to tell his wife to guard him against any ‘evil eye’; for he had heard from many in their circles say these days he went about like a young horse, defying his age.

Which his wife duly did, exorcising any evil spells, by performing the prescribed rites, when he carried the supplier’s tale back home.

So some more months passed. While things were a lot better Shivendra still had the occasional bouts of irritation, impatience and anger. The lack of adequate sleep in the nights was telling. Did cause some setbacks in business and loss of goodwill; though not irreparable, a lot of energy and effort went into retrieving the situation whenever it happened.

One day, the youngest son Hara came up to say it was time he also did what he could. This time both Vishwa and Shambu advised him strongly to go back to the same vaidya, citing the successes they have had with his cures. So he set about following the same route as the other two.

Part 3

It was the tenth day and he was standing in front of the vaidya giving him an update on his father and telling him about his father’s problem of insomnia and how it affected life at home and workplace. This time the vaidya asked Hara questions at length about his father, his personal and professional life. Asking him to wait, he went inside the house. 

Half an hour had passed, still no sign of the vaidya. Hara inquired with the attendant. The attendant informed him his master was meditating in his room. Wrong timing, should have come a little later after he had finished his morning prayers, Hara thought to himself.

Another half an hour passed. Hara was pacing up and down impatiently now bordering on irritation. Again when he made inquiries, the attendant told him his master was scribing on palm leaves. Strange, they – his brothers – had never warned him to expect this. What was happening?

And then the vaidya emerged from inside. What, no bamboo canister in his hands? Instead, something wrapped in silk. Hara’s heart sank – may be the vaidya could not find in all this time a cure for the ailment in his books.

As if he read his mind, the old man said there was no easy cure for his father’s ailment. From all that Hara had told him and revealed by meditation, it appeared to be karmic in nature. There was no option but to live with it as he was doing presently. However it is fury could be somewhat mitigated thru medication…

Hara breathed easy.

The old man then asked him to take the package in silk to his father. In it was the medicine that would give him some relief from the ravages of the affliction. Must be handled carefully during the return journey, else the contents could crumble to pieces. This was as best as he could do.

Profusely thanking him and offering a generous dakshna Hara headed back home.

Part 4

They eagerly gathered around him, though a little disappointed he returned without the all too familiar bamboo canister. With the father’s permission, they opened the package taking great care not to damage the contents. In it there was no medicinal pudi (powder) or potion, but two palm leaves containing a prescription message from the vaidya.

They wondered if it would work. Nevertheless they decided to give it a try, beginning with once a week and stepping it up if it indeed worked. There must be something in what the vaidya said – he had not so far let them down.

It was the first day of their trial. A couple of hours before dinner Hara and his father set out to a neighboring village, much bigger than theirs, a kosh (about 3.5 kms) away. Prayed at the Amman koil (female deity). Came out and distributed food packets they had carried to the poor, handicapped, mentally deranged and destitute that usually collected outside, holding each one’s hands for a moment and possibly looking into his eyes – this part was specially emphasized on those palm leaves (social distancing was not in force then). They indeed felt they were giving out more than the food.

Armut in Indien

It wasn’t late for dinner when they returned after the good walk. The entire evening had been a wee bit tiring for Shivendra.

Next morning…

Hara found his father…a strange kind of peace on his face, more affable? …usually the first hour was the worst. May be he did catch some sleep after the rather busy evening.

In the evening, assessing the day, the family decided they should do it more often.

Sleep or not, one thing Shivendra certainly gained over the days was awareness and goodwill in the neighboring village with the inevitable rub-off on the business sure to follow.

Two months later with all the gains continuing through sustained efforts…the family was breathing easy and their business back on even keel thanks to the vaidya – he had been awesome, right for the third time and how!

Yes, joy of giving (charity) to the less fortunate seemed to be the antidote, satisfying to the soul, for ones inescapable karma…especially the touch and look – that was a brilliant stroke, pure magic.

(explanation would be needed about karma and soul)

End

Images: Vayalur temple, Pinterest, princesstrail.com

Make Your Own Happiness


Posted by: jyoti ranpura <jyotiranpura@yahoo.com>

At a building construction site nearby, I observed that lots of labourers were working there and their small  children used to play various games.

One favourite game was to hold on to one another’s shirt and play “train-train”.

Someone would become the engine and others would become bogies.

Every day, these children used to take turns becoming the engine and bogies..

But, there was  one small boy wearing only a half pant who used to hold one small green *cloth* in his hand and become the guard daily.

So, once I went to him and asked him ..”son, don’t you also wish to become an engine or a bogie some time?”

He softly replied, “Sir , I don’t have a shirt to wear so how will the other children catch me to make the train?

But, it gave me a huge lesson…. he could have cried and sat at home and fought with his parents for not having enough money to buy  him a shirt.

But instead, he chose another way to play and enjoy himself..

In life, we don’t get all things we desire and we keep complaining ..

I dont have a bike,  I don’t have car , I don’t have this or that etc….

Life is like that ….we need to make it beautiful, play the game with what you have and be grateful for what we have.

This too shall pass,

End

Who Is A Jagadguru?

Translated from a post in Tamizh from Kamalji Panditji.

This happened in 1933 on a tour to Kashi.

A grand welcome was arranged by the Raja for Sankaracharya. Erudite pundits, aacharya’s, dignitaries had assembled in good number. No shortage of them ever in a premier learning cum spiritual center like Kashi in those days when they were held in veneration.

Where there is scholarship, green-eyed monster of envy resides usually not far away. This occasion was no exception. Among those who had gathered were some who were envious of the attention the sage was drawing and his aura.

‘So this is the young man who carries the title of Jagadguru, eh? Let’s quickly show him for what he is,’ they thought among themselves.

As soon as the sage settled down, one of them heckled him: ‘Who is Jagadguru (jagad = world) here?’

‘I,’ said the humble sage.

So brazen? ‘Oh, so you’re the guru of this jagad, eh?’

‘Oh, no, jagadaam guru na, jagathi bandhyamanaa sarve mama guru.’

<’No guru of the world, I claim. On the other hand all creatures present in this creation (jagad) are my guru’s and hence Jagadguru.’>

The beauty (and ambiguity) of Sanskrit – a poet’s delight and readers’ woe – allows the compound word Jagaduru to be resolved in two different ways – one who is the guru for this jagad or one to whom this jagad is a guru!!

Smiling at them, he inquired, ‘What are these?’ pointing at holes in a wall of the room.

‘Bird nests.’

‘Who built them?’

Kuruvi’s (common house sparrows)’

‘The limbless kuruvi’s can build such beautiful houses for themselves that I cannot with the benefit of all my limbs. Blessed with creativity of this kind, they are my guru’s.’

He did namskarams with all humility and veneration to those kuruvi’s!

His critics were silenced…and won over.

He – Jagadguru Shri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal – was born this day (18/05) in 1894.

End

This Animal Did Change Its Spot

Received this Tamizh clip yesterday – it’s about actor Madhavan who is successfully holding his own for several decades now in the volatile world of seven-day wonders – Kollywood. Though not an avid film goer/watcher, rarely seeing a movie from start all the way to finish, I personally loved his comic sense whenever he appeared on the screen. A serial of his I watched eagerly and in full years ago where he appeared as a South-Indian groom in a Panju family. Not one of those mind-numbing antics passing for comedy, but truly and refreshingly hilarious.

Am told this is an old clip, date and occasion not known to me (My version of WP does not let me upload). He’s talking about Mother’s Day. He recalls affectionately, nostalgically, gratefully three pieces of wisdom given to him by his Mom that kept/keeps him going in his profession, internalizing and living them out:  a) Don’t hurt anyone intentionally b) Don’t cheat anyone out of his money; make a honest living and c) Treat people, big or small, like people with self-respect due to them.

Well, it seems to have certainly worked for him. Kudos to him for his assiduous following and to his mom for the sage advice

**

Got me thinking about my Mom and my life. No more now, my Mom had/was: an unwelcome father-less birth, a SSC-pass (given to reading Times Of India every morning!), a typical house-wife of her times, lived most of her life on my father’s meager income, poor on wiles and guile’s…

But I cannot recall any session with her when she sat me down and imparted wisdom.

The first third of my life was spent joyfully in Matunga where the entire neighborhood was friends, some closer than others. Soft-ball cricket, Chess, Cards, crazy over songs of Shankar-Jaikishen, O P Nayyar…, listening to the latest stories of James Hadley Chase (my friend went one up on his narration), fighting over who was more delightful to watch – Gary Sobers, Rohan Kanhai or our own Jaisimha…

Strangely no politics, no religion, no academics, no girls (I swear), no restaurants, gyms/clubs…Weird? May be, but it was fun. Mom used to search for and drag me home in the evening.

No time for the parents.

Then came college, job, marriage and children.

Once again, no time yet for the parents. Poor wife and children didn’t fare any better. The job taking away the second and a good part of the final third of my life – it was one big challenge as we were trying to make it in the emerging area of software and exports. We felt it was our show though we owned no part of it, giving it all we had to make it big.

Along the way a dear Aunt passed away, followed by my Father and then the Mother only a few years ago.

Those sessions just didn’t take place.

But in contexts very ordinary, the wisdom did come out, unadorned, unheralded, not in bold, italic or in quotes, that it was not recognized as such until later.  

To bear out what I’m saying, here’s a story:

For years, it was a daily routine every morning for me to go down and pluck flowers off the plants in our building (apartment complex) for pooja. With very few residents in the building, usually I was the only one at it.

One day a lady, probably in her fifties, unexpectedly appeared on the scene. She and her man had taken a flat on rent in our building recently. She began reaching the spot earlier in the morning and cleaning up the flowers before I got there, without any compunction. I was irritated, offended to see a new-comer, on rent at that, asserting herself so unabashedly in regard to admittedly a shared resource in this manner. My long-standing ‘proprietary’ and exclusive access was thwarted. So I did what I could – I rose even earlier to get to the flowers. Many days I did (she did not go entirely without flowers on those days), and some days I didn’t, returning with a poor collection. On those occasions, came home and bitched about it bitterly.

‘Why are you so upset? Won’t gods in her house also need flowers? It would be the same Krishna and Shiva of our house in theirs too. Would you deny them?’ Lifting her head up, my old lady would say it and go back to her chores.

When said, it did nothing to comfort me. Well, I thought why can’t the interloper buy her flowers from the market instead of taking away mine? She can certainly ask her son (living nearby) to get it for her.

Though not at first, the wisdom went home soon enough. And when it did, the profundity of those words facile hit me hard. Made so much sense. Coming from a lady whose views, I held, would not rise above her deep roots in tradition to a fundamentally true spiritual/religious insight, and hence were never taken seriously to avoid arguments. And how she surprised me time and again is a subject for when I feel encouraged to talk about.

Since then, my routine changed. Whenever I reached the flowers first, I would knock on her doors and offer her gladly a part of the collection. So much so, it wasn’t long before she totally stopped coming while I made the deliveries at her door-step.

The two became such a nice couple I grew fond of. How they had changed! (?!?)

Even today I go to pick flowers and freely offer to one or two neighbors who for some reason can’t venture out.

**

This is not the only spot (dhaag/blemish) this animal changed for a happier mind on the old lady’s say-so, totally undramatic without raising the voice, rolling the eyes, pointing the fingers or thumping the table.

As I said, that’s for some other day, may be.

End