Monday, August 15, 2016

SEVENTY YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE: Thoughts on Political Freedom and Personal Meaning


Image Courtesy: www.historytoday.com

What does Freedom mean? We are gathered on this Monday, 15 August 2016 to celebrate the political freedom India earned from the British Empire. What does this notion of political freedom mean to the present generation of Indian citizens? The scars of the freedom movement and the partition that came after the attainment of the epic resolution are no longer the priority for the younger minds. As a teacher, over the six years that I spent with the young Indian citizen infused me with an understanding that underscores the indifference they experience towards the colonial past. I mean, all of it is a good story. Having physical and close-psychological encounter with the colonial rule is the only way to experience that fact as such. No representation, verbal, visual or auditory is enough to put the person through whatever transpired in those two hundred years of slavery. In fact, in India, slavery under colonial rule must be differently defined, since slavery has been in existence in various forms and manners throughout the centuries.

For the younger generation of this great nation, freedom and independence are words that should be redefined. A mere political interpretation would not help at this stage when, at least a minority is attempting to threaten humanitarian values to attain their own version of political correctness. Freedom should make a meaningful place in their heart and spirit. Only a spiritualization of life would matter at this stage when vigorous politicization has failed miserably.
 
Image Courtesy: newsworldindia
Freedom must be looked at with a spiritual looking glass. Are you free from hatred? Are free from fear? Freedom may mean the freedom to love your enemy, freedom to be free in the face of the most dreaded adversary. But such freedom comes with a price. The price is to learn, to acquire wisdom through learning the tradition. There were many who came before us; who among the face of great danger and adversity, showed us that spiritual truth could bless us with treasures more than any material could offer. One of my gurus, Dr. Wayne W Dyer registers this notion thus in his book, You’ll See It When You Believe It: “we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

It is to this spiritual source that I suggest we should channel our younger generation to. The body is always limited, but the spirit is innately eternal and limitless. When freedom and independence are only notions celebrating a relativity of political events—one in which the people of this great nation were enslaved by the British, and the other in which the people are enslaved by their own elected leaders—any thinking individual would lose his or her sense of relevance. Unlike any other animal on planet earth, humans are wired to experience and long for freedom and independence. Independence and self-reliance are stages top on the psychological evolution.

In order to take the younger minds into the arduous task of nation-building, it is important to inspire them with ideals as well as ideas. Politicization of social life and its aftermath—mass corruption—have lead many to lose hope in the very notion of nationality itself.
Image Courtesy: www.dailyevolver.com

Important deed is to bring the young ones closer to the path of service. Serving the nation can indicate serving the people of this nation and the values that we stand for as one nation. This, one could expect these young men and women to ooze out only if they are given a sense of meaning and concrete purpose to perform so. This could be achieved not through the abstract act of politicizing memories with political archetypes. For the young mind, these are abstract notions that, perhaps, their grandparents went through at a distant time.

It’s important to make them patriots, but with a renewed sense of purpose. It is not jingoism but a sense of spiritual reward, sought by the rishis and great men of wisdom of this ancient land that could bring our new generation together in the task of nation building.

The Commentator   

Thursday, August 11, 2016

DELHI IS NOT FAR BY RUSKIN BOND: A Love Story without Losses

Image Courtesy: Penguin
“…and I know that this one lifetime, however long, cannot satisfy my heart” (111).
__ Ruskin Bond

The Commentator says;
When it’s about love, some believe it’s natural to make mistakes. The truth is ‘mistakes’ and ‘love’ do not coexist. Mistakes are not love. Love is not a mistake. Before the book review, let me recount to you a love story flew by my life a couple of months back. As some of you know, I love blogging. As some others of you are well aware, more than blogging, I love the experience of writing. Blog or my other publishing ventures, this love for writing is at the core of it all. A couple of months before, I had thought of writing a review of the book Delhi is Not Far by Ruskin Bond, author of The Lamp is Lit. Opening a word document, I wrote the title of the book with the author’s name as a ‘clever’ appendage. Then I kept it to gather some inspiration and relevance. Then I forgot. To be more precise, I pushed the priority to love to another rather unimportant spot and, for the time being, foregrounded some other necessities. Dry as they may be, these necessities were significant to fortify the walls of my small personal world.

Then came a day when my own spirit knocked on a tiny window on that wall. It was time to push old priorities back into position. I opened a word document. Decided to write on Delhi is Not Far. Wrote a title, this time a better one and hit the shortcut keys on the keyboard to save the document in the same folder I save them always. The computer said the file named the book title already existed.
Image Courtesy: Google

Delhi is Not Far is a novella about two men who fell in love with a woman in a rural small town in India. The story takes place in Pipal Nagar, an imaginary small town in Northern India. The protagonist of this novella is a male writer, a convenient alter ego of the author himself perhaps. His name is Arun, a writer of B Grade crime novels in Urdu language eking out a living in Pipal Nagar.  Arun tries his hand on various jobs in Pipal Nagar, jobs that only a small town could offer like an attempt at selling vegetables. Those who have read The Lamp is Lit may find an element of autobiography in this action. Apparently, Ruskin Bond himself, as a young man, tried vegetable business and failed.

Arun’s companion in Delhi is Not Far is Suraj. Their common interests are Kamala, a prostitute and their liberating bicycle rides out of Pipal Nagar to the green, nostalgic countryside. Going to Delhi, the nation’s capital and becoming successful is the motive that guides Arun, Suraj, Deep Chand, the barber, etc.

The title, Delhi is Not Far perhaps demonstrates the sense of fulfillment that these characters want to achieve once they undertake the quintessential journey to Delhi, the land of their opportunities. It also suggests a sense of distance. Distance is the major ingredient of nostalgia, one of Ruskin Bond’s most common themes.

Ruskin Bond’s parents were British. They came to India as part of the colonial mission. When the empire withdrew, Bond’s parents and relatives, (most of them) went with the Queen. He stayed, however, along with some of his relatives in Dehra Dun. After his education he worked in Channel Islands in the U.K, where he worked for two years and also started honing his writing craft. The location helped emblaze his longing for India. The commentator feels that it was perhaps this experience of going away that Imbued Bond’s style with his classic nostalgia or longing for the good old days of the past.
 
Image Courtesy: Google
Now, as I mentioned earlier, the thing we love would get to us. It’s hard for someone to get away from true love. The Commentator thinks that the measure of true love is the ‘pull’ one feels at the strings of the heart. Arun, finally, travels to Delhi, leaving behind his friend and Kamala. The story is wonderful as it touches deeper layers of one’s psyche.

In this story that the Commentator thinks is a love story, no one loses. It’s a deeper understanding of the human condition and its magnificence that envelops the ending of the story. Delhi is Not Far rekindled my love for rural life and eye for elements that spell originality in the Indian context. Ruskin Bond’s narrative style is uniquely Indian and lovably universal.
               
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