Sita

Growing up in India, one would have heard the ‘Ramayana’ in many different forms, languages, dialects and level of detail. What starts as a story to entertain kids gets complex with age. There are elements of human behavior that are interpreted and represented in absolutes or in shades of gray. This tale has a strong spiritual and religious sentiments attached and in the past led to riots and deaths. It’s remarkable, how a tale, considered by many as mythology, still manages to stir such strong emotions.

My first vivid memory of this epic tale was when I received a beautifully bound book with colored pictures presented to me by a good family friend. The font was just right and the pictures intriguing enough. This followed the Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana in TV. Anyone growing up around that time frame would recall how we would wait for the episode to begin every Sunday. It will be gross omission to forget the Mahabharat TV series, which enjoyed similar popularity. I will stick to Ramayana and its story in my life for this post.

With time, what changed was the nuance of characters in this beautiful epic. People into Telugu films would know of the beautiful movie ‘Sita Kalyanam’ by Bapu. His representation was lyrical and filled with such beauty that made one want to believe, may be God looks and talks like this. On a side note, my friends would know how much I like his artwork and in particular his representation of ‘Sri Sita-Rama Pattabhishekam’ (Sita and Rama’s Coronation). In many Hindu households, this picture is considered auspicious to have at home. (I ardently wish I am able to acquire one of Bapu’s original paintings, until then….)

Sri Sita Rama Pattabhishekam by Bapu
Sri Sita Rama Pattabhishekam by Bapu

What intrigued me, was the depiction of demure Shakti in the form of Sita, who could pick up the ‘Shiva Dhanush’ (Lord Shiva’s bow, weighing tons) and yet wait to be rescued when Ravana captures her. Sita needs to prove her chastity after her rescue, via the Agniparisksha (Fire test, where she emerges unscathed as she is pure). Sita and Rama are inseparable in spirit and their love, respect and devotion is unparalleled. Sita is ‘the’ perfect consort to Rama (the veritable Goddess). Yet he doesn’t bat an eyelid and sends her to the forest simply based on rumors (without telling her as much). I suppose these questions lingered and there has been certain discomfort in understanding this -injustice. Being a myth, one can have choose to believe what works well for one. Take it as a practice that was once held, abandon it, or consider the essence – it is purely interpretation that one is content with/not.

The last book I inadvertently picked up, was Devdutt Pattanaik’s Sita. A beautifully written illustration of the Ramayana. It is simply written and what makes it interesting are the references made to several previous re-telling of this epic tale, made constantly in the book. In some ways, it tends to get academic, but yet distilled for simple readers such as me who have no command over mythology. Pattnaik presents a concept of multiple eras / universes when the universe was created and then destroyed and every single time, it started with Ramayana and continued the story transpired through generations of thinkers. He says, ” Indulge me, for:

“Within infinite myths lies eternal truth

 Who sees it all?

Varuna has but a thousand eyes

Indra, a hundred

You and I, only two.”

Sita, Devdutta Pattnaik

Throughout the narration, Hanuman refers to Sita and her Ram or Ram and his Sita, because they are inseparable. Yet, in the story they are separate twice. Another perspective remains that this outward and meant for the sake of fulfilling their incarnation (Sree Maha Vishnu and his consort Goddess Lakshmi). Inwardly, they are the same as Shiva and Shakti – inseparable.

The book further brings to fore Sita’s attributes, how she introduces board games while living in Lanka and just by the aroma, recommends alteration of spice mix. Leading to a state of contentment in the dwellers of Lanka. The book highlights how deeply learned and well rounded is Sita – having spent time with her father at court and among learned men and women of the times and with her mother in the kitchen. Sita quotes a Upanishad when telling Trijata and says,

“I am the creator of my world and so are you. We can widen our world by breaking free from the maze of expectations. We can shrink our world by entrapping ourselves with expectations.” – Sita, Devdutta Pattnaik

She is portrayed as the (inwardly) unmovable ‘Shakti’ who takes it in her stride and follows the Dharma. As that is what Ramayana is meant to portray. It is the story of the righteous Rama, who never swerves from the path of Dharma. Sita understands things beyond what Rama  intended. It is hard to de-link from the image of Rama, whom one has been bred to love and believe in. As that is the only way one can understand why Rama takes his idealism to a new level – following dharma at the cost of reason or logic. This especially comes through in ‘Uttarakanda’ the story after the coronation, when Sita is sent away to the forest based on rumors floating about her. Many do not believe in this part of Ramayana, may be because it is highly ironic and taking things beyond reason.

When I was listening to a discourse by Sri Chaganti Koteswara Rao on ‘Sundarakanda’, the part where Hanuman finds Sita in Lanka and conveys Rama’s plans, he helps demystifies some of the questions as well. Ideologically, I may have differences on how some the patriarchal practices may have evolved and still exist. However, he goes on to say that Sita’s (inward) penance/ meditation in Lanka while waiting for Rama, was one of the main reasons why Rama’s was able to destroy Ravana so easily. Given that Ravana was a learned man and was near invincible, the 10 months that Sita remained imprisoned and his behavior towards Sita (goddess incarnate) led to the fall of his entire clan.

I remain mystified, may be slightly convinced, it remains one’s belief and interpretation. It is what would make one happy. I loved this quote from Sita by Devdutta Pattnaik,

“He is God – he abandons no one.

And I am Goddess – I cannot be abandoned by anyone.”

My love grows and the quest continues….

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My ‘Hitchki’ Moment

The Hyderabad metro rail opened early 2018 after years of waiting. A lifeline of sorts and hopefully with the network increasing we will see hope at the end of each new line – relief from traffic.

A stark contrast are the slums alongside the metro rail in Miyapur terminal station. The 15 children preparing to join a school and aiming to become a pilot, police officer, army man, doctor are working with their teachers in a make-shift room. This Sunday, I went around to drop-off a mat that I thought may be useful for this school. I had honestly no idea of how was the situation. The children in this school are taught English, Telugu and Math. They also had presentation session where each of them had to speak on a topic. I must say, they did very well and I was most impressed. This was followed by a card making session.

Yuvaneshwari, a.k.a Yuva, a sprightly young scientist took me through the Miyapur slums to this make-shift class room. She and her bunch of fellow volunteers spend few hours of their weekend to invest and help these curious young minds. The aim of this prep-school, is to help these 15 kids be ready to join a school. All the children here are school dropouts. Last year, Yuva and her team put them in Government school, soon to realise that all of them had dropped out. Reasons were lack of encouragement, parents asking them to work / beg at the signals and feed the families. This year, Yuva has another plan. She wants to help these kids get school ready and hopefully put them in NGOs/homes where the kids can stay and go to private schools.

This school #CKE – Chottu ki Education doesn’t need money (at least not right away). What these children need is committed volunteers who can spend some time and encourage them even after they join schools, and helping the parents or guardians see some sense. A lot like the movie-Hitchki – the societal pressures are the biggest barriers for these kids.

If you are interested in volunteering and spending some time with these kids, please get in touch with Yuva. Any student / parent / counselors are welcome to pitch in. There are many more kids who can benefit from your help.

Technology and Tradition

Last week, I was paying my milk bill when my milkman offered a flyer. It had details of an app called Mera Milk. I was pleasantly surprised and he told me that I could change my order or cancel my order for the next day using this app. Simply fabulous from my (customer)  point of view. Found out what made him adopt this and the reason was convenience,  helps deal with finicky customers and it’s efficient when it comes to managing at scale.

For those of you not conversant with the idea of milk being delivered home every morning, this is common in India. Something Amazon Fresh is attempting in a lot of cities in US.  So with this new app, the milk order can be recorded on an app. In India there are many more such services that are being brought onto a Platform and in the process making life easy for small business owners. Amazon India marketplace model is a testimony to it.

Staying with technology and it’s applications, I think making good use of technology relieves time and energy on mundane stuff.  It helps one concentrate on incremental innovations that make a huge impact in the long term. Recently came across two such innovations –
1) Tapping the kinetic energy from the ocean waves to generate electricity. Currently piloted off the coast near Denmark. What a clean way to generate electricity!  They say this process can provide electricity 5 times the world’s energy consumption.
2) The second innovation was a stationary cycling machine.  Cycle for an hour and you have electricity for a whole day
A simple physics law put to use brilliantly –  energy cannot be created or destroyed, it simply changes from one form to the other.
I believe going back to our roots and knowing why our ancestors did something in a particular way would help us gain a lot.  Simply disposing them all  as superstition may not be the most productive approach. After all life was much better in our childhood while we adopted many of these traditional and bio-degradable practices 🙂

Another sustainable design that I saw was Edible cutlery. Spoons made of millets and spices, which is great to eat and easily degrades if not eaten. Loved the idea and for it to take off, we need at least one or two adopters with large cutlery usage to popularize.

We need a larger section of people adopting tech and traditional practices for a sustainable future for our children. While they may be several skeptics and ignorant, this surely is doable. The activist in me has very recently made some head way into implementing rain water harvesting in our community. This after a lot of persistence for over two years.

Do share your thoughts on more such ideas that you have come across and the world needs to implement.

Withering?

Things change with time and its been 7 years since I migrated my blog to WordPress. I took to blogging in 2004 when I definitely had more of me time. Writing for myself continues to be amongst the top three things to de-stress for me. However, de-stress as a concept eludes me 🙂

Is my writing withering? May be not, its the opportunity to express in words that takes time and that time is a premium these days. Do I regret it, not sure, as life has a lot to offer. However, there are days like today, when I wish I could write more…

Flying over dusk

While sunrise and sunsets are ethereal from land, they move into a completely new paradigm when viewed from the sky. For a moment, it feels I am that much closer to the universe. I have always loved viewing the sun rising or setting into the night. There is a sense of peace and calm that seems to pervade when I get the chance to enjoy this phenomena in complete silence. I suppose, it is because of the certainty with which one witnesses the magic of clockwork like universe – the surety it gives us of a new day and new beginning.

One of the most beautiful sights is a flight over dusk. A few weeks ago, I took an evening flight into Benguluru. The beautiful shades of pink weaved into golden and azure skies were a sight to behold. For a moment, it felt that one is gliding over cotton cloud. It is a sight to behold! And as dusk sets in, one is engulfed into dark clouds and night engulfs.

I bow to the eye. Never can a camera do justice to the wonders experienced by the human eye. In spite of it, I did give it a try – I suppose that is part of being human :).

The Thirties

I have never given much of thought to age going by.Every turn around the sun has been packed with enough excitement to keep me happy, sad, angry, etc – in short engaged.

But, the thirties by comparison have been different. They have been different for me because:

  • What I want in life is far more clear than the previous decade
  • I know what make-up works and what doesn’t
  • Men – hard to say if I figured them all out – however, they sure have become predictable
  • I know the ‘type’ I usually fall for now
  • Marriage and being married – demystified
  • My daughter was a discovery – made me see things in ways I never imagined
  • Being a mother, wife, DIL, daughter,working professional – has not been a cake walk
  • I have looked better in this decade than I ever was – so I want to think 😉
  • The want to get away and be ‘Far from the madding crowd’ is a recurring bi-annual urge
  • DDLJ feels juvenile, but the idea of love is only strengthened
  • I have a greater sense of control – or so I think

All in all, I look forward to more.

Something, Nothing and Everything

I took D to her friend’s birthday party. She was super excited and has been so for the past two days. As a parent, I know what it is to give everything possible for your child. To ensure that she never has a moment when she feels disappointed or disheartened about not having something. This is merely being a parent. Again, I want her to learn on her own, make her own mistakes and handle disappointments. Nothing else in life teaches you better than experiencing whatever comes your way.

That was about me being a parent, and this is about how I believe I have failed. Rather heartening to see the J&K flood victims, the children who go hungry to bed and get up hungry in several countries dealing with constant strife. Except for donating money to some NGO and hoping that it would reach the victims, I can’t do much.

What makes me sad is that we need not go to these disaster prone areas. I simply need to go to the end of the main road near my house to see how people like us have failed the millions. There are children out there who will never go to a school or know where their next meal will come from. Children made to beg on roads and work as bonded labour. Every time I step out of my house, I end up spending Rs.1000 or more. How often do we stop and think of it? What if once in a while we can donate this to a child in need of help or a family that possibly survives for a whole month on this amount.

I see growing apathy and callousness among people around. It shows in the way people drive on the roads, it shows in the way people behave in the malls, it shows in every interaction that people have with a stranger and sometimes their own family. Its simply disheartening!