Posted by: Rajib | April 14, 2014

Vivekdeep

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For quite some time I was deliberating on the structure of a Social Outreach Program through which, I can give back to society in my humble way for all the privileges that I have had so far. An introspection to find the right path is indeed a difficult task. Somehow 7 of us got together, had several rounds of discussion on actual and imaginary roadblocks and decided to take the plunge.

I thought, if the power of discrimination i.e ‘Vivek’ is made clear, then it will act as a ‘deep’ (lamp) helping both the students and the facilitators walk on the right path. Thus ‘Vivekdeep’ was lighted. Looking at our limited capacity, we decided to start with 20 boys of the age group 8 – 12 years whose parents are auto drivers, gardeners, painters, masons and the like.

To draw up a curriculum, I thought to meet some of them informally to assess their academic caliber. It reminded me of the interactions that I used to have with the B Tech students of Univ of Hertfordshire, UK for the same purpose. I had no idea that I was in for a rude shock ! I could hardly hold my tears when a Class V student of Govt School could not read a single word in Hindi ! However, his shining eyes were full of life and willingness to do something in life- all he needed was just a caring hand ! This was the case of all the boys L

Thus we included Listening, Speaking and Reading capability in the curriculum. Basic Science and General Awareness completed the list. Value Education will be an inherent component in all the modules, as this most important aspect has vanished from our Education system :-( 

As I explained the program during the inauguration on 12th of this month, to the students and their parents, they all listened with rapt attention.  I could read disbelief written on their faces, when I said that it will be a 1 hr session daily, at the end of which a glass of milk and light snacks will be given to each student. And everything will be free of cost !

We have to organize funds, manpower, other resources, IT exemption under 80 (G) etc etc.

My wife Reena has agreed to lend her voice to this program. She wants to teach ‘Group Song’ every Saturday. Whether it will bring some colour to the monotonous lives – only time will tell :-) :-)Image

Posted by: Rajib | November 26, 2013

Clear Conscience

Yesterday I returned from Jaipur after attending a 2 day ‘Seminar on Religious Harmony’ and had the following conversation with my 10 year old daughter.

You had gone to attend some meeting ?

Ya. Yes. It was a seminar on Religious Harmony.

What does that mean?

You are a 5th grader. It is difficult for me to make you understand this.

You can explain it in a manner that I understand, like you do Maths and Science. Can’t you ?

Only if you continue eating your lunch.

Ok, I am eating. Now you explain.

Representatives of different religions spoke about the main teachings of their faith. And how they should remain with the believers of other religion, peacefully, without bearing any hatred towards one another.

Hmm. People of which religion had come ?

Christianity, Islam, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Hindu and some other religions.

In our class, we have a Christian girl, a Muslim boy , a couple of Sikh boys and girls and many Hindu students.

That’s natural.

We are all friends and do not fight. When we can stay together, then why do elders need to be told to respect other religions and not fight with each other?

{ I was speechless }

Posted by: Rajib | April 29, 2013

Empty Nests

Part – I

“Chooglee”.

“What does that mean?” I asked my 9 year old daughter, Riddhi.

“That is the name of the pigeon – birdie. It is going to grow up to peck”. She tried to reason out.

I have seen Riddhi watching the pigeon couple build their nest in our balcony with straw and dry leaves. Then an egg was laid and the birds took turn to hatch it for almost a month. Her heart skipped a beat every time our maid said that she was going to clean up all that mess.

All the while Riddhi waited patiently till one day she woke up to the excited chirpings of the birds. An ugly  birdie, smeared with muck all over making it uglier, was being welcomed by its parents.

Riddhi’s joy knew no bounds as she watched the little bird grow and make constant noise.  At times she scolded it also. After returning from school she would straight go to the balcony  and speak with the avian family for some time. She kept some grains of  rice and water for them before having her lunch.

For the next fortnight when the parents took turns to give training sessions on flying, the birdie made the loudest cry out of fear. It was then that the crows took note of the young one.

It was difficult to say whether it was previous night’s storm or the crow, next morning the birds were found to guard the listless body of their young one.

Speechless, and with tears welled up, Riddhi touched her Chooglee for the only time to certify that it was dead. All the mess was cleaned up but not before leaving a scar in a young heart.

Part –II

Sofia was a young lady when she joined as my grandma’s maid. With the passage of time, she got trained in the household work and commanded respect from all due to her simplicity.

As my grandma’s family expanded, so did Sofia’s responsibilities. She saw grandma’s children growing up, getting married and bearing children. My grandma nurtured a special relation with Sofia and both the ladies used to chat at length on topics they knew the best.

Even when grandma became old and her health failed, Sofia continued to serve her with the same earnestness. Despite my grandma’s daughters in law being always on the toe, Sofia would herself attend to grandma’s personal needs.

The evening grandma passed away, Sofia gave her a bath in the noon, washed her clothes and went home, only to return next morning as usual.

Early morning when we were about to take the bier out, my mom asked us to wait for Sofia. In the meanwhile Sofia came, and ignoring the gathering at the front gate, entered through the side gate and went upstairs to grandma’s room, only to be welcomed by her empty cot.

In a flash she understood everything. Giving a heart-wrenching wail she ran downstairs and flung herself on grandma’s listless body. “Amma , where did you go, leaving me behind ?”

Grandma had gone away leaving her nest albeit cot, empty.

Posted by: Rajib | February 5, 2013

A Smile or a Slap?

Yesterday I took my mom to hospital for her cataract operation.  Since we do not have our own conveyance in Ranchi, we had asked a known rickshaw-wala, well in advance, to come at sharp 8 am.

Kal subah aath bajey aa jana. [ Come at 8 o’ clock tomorrow morning]

Theek hai. [Ok]

I wasn’t much surprised when yesterday he pressed our doorbell at 5 minutes to 8. With utmost care he drove his hand rickshaw and dropped us at the hospital.

Have you had your morning tea? I asked.

No. He gave a sheepish smile.

Why? There was enough time.

What he said left me speechless.

Last evening he decided not to go home which is quite far off, fearing that he might not be able to turn up on time. And he did not want to fail his commitment as he knew that would result in much inconvenience to us. So he spent the cold night in his rickshaw (without any warm clothes). It did not matter much that he could not send a word back home regarding his not returning at night.

He finished his story with a smile.

I was looking at his disheveled hair, unshaven beard, untidy clothes, dusty feet and satisfactory grin.

Was it a smile or a slap? I wasn’t sure.

Posted by: Rajib | January 12, 2013

Swami Vivekananda : His relevance in today’s world

We often wonder what would be the relevance of the message of a monk today, who was born 150 years ago, lived the life of a mendicant and left for his heavenly abode at a very young age of 39 years.
Let us examine some important traits of Swami Vivekananda’s personality.
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) was born at a time when India was ruled by British. He saw the oppression of his countrymen from close quarters when he travelled throughout the length and breadth of India. Sitting on the rock at Kanyakumari, he meditated on not any god or goddess, but his beloved motherland for three days and three nights continuously. Thereafter he declared that India will again rise to her zenith far overshadowing all her previous accomplishments. Swamiji enthused his followers to sacrifice their lives for the betterment of his motherland. By doing so, he said, they will easily attain ‘Nirvana’. His messages were vibrant with utmost patriotism. Swamiji poured his heart out for the poor by saying, “I call him a traitor who, having being educated, nursed in luxury by the heart’s blood of the downtrodden millions of toiling poor, never even takes a thought for them”. He further declared,” They only live who live for others, the rest are more dead than alive”. It is no wonder that his books were regular companions of our freedom fighters, and the British government, at one point of time, had banned them altogether. Rabindra Nath Tagore said, “If you want to know India, study Vivekananda. In him everything is positive and nothing negative”. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I have gone through his [Vivekananda’s] works very thoroughly, and after having gone through them, the love that I had for my country became a thousand-fold.” According to Swamiji’s western disciples, whenever he used to utter those five letters I N D I A, it created such a shock in their body and mind which could not be explained by any language. Today, amongst us there are many people who have come out of their puny self-interest and started thinking for the society and the country at large. They have certainly found a meaning of their lives.
Swamiji was a scholar and a great exponent of scriptures. Throughout his entire life, he propounded the message of Upanishads. He used to say that the primary teaching of the Upanishads is “Abhi”, that is, “Be fearless”. Katha Upanishad was closest to his heart and Nachiketa was his hero. He wanted the youth to attain immense self-confidence and be fearless like Nachiketa. A person commits crime when he gets overpowered by his weaknesses – at physical or psychological level. Swamiji said, “Have faith that you are all, born to do great things”. He wanted the youth to have that much of faith by which they can uproot the mountains and drink up the ocean. Today if we look around, we will find that the key of each success story is limitless self-confidence and willingness to fight the odds.
Another aspect of Swamiji’s personality was his universal brotherhood. Speaking at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, he said, “As the different streams mingle their water in the sea, different paths which men take, various though they appear, all lead to the same god…. Upon the banner of every religion will soon be written, ‘Help and not Fight’, ‘Assimilation and not Destruction’ ”. Today the world realizes that to bring peace, there is no other ideology more proper than this.
Swami Vivekananda, who was said to have the intellect of Shankaracharya and heart of Buddha looks into our eyes and makes us realize that his messages are much more relevant today than ever before.

As a tribute to Swami Vivekananda on his 150th Birth Anniversary on 12th Jan, 2013.

Posted by: Rajib | December 19, 2012

Two blankets

Yesterday I took a relative of mine to the hospital for chemotherapy. While I was running around completing the admission formalities, I saw a sister in her spotlessly white apron coming out of the OT. She was carrying a new born baby close to her chest. She stood for a while and then started moving very carefully to the Private Ward. A group of 8-10 people who were waiting at the door, soon followed her. Bright eyes, lit faces with happiness overflowing. When the sister passed by me, I had a close look at the bundle of joy in her arms – a tiny face with tightly closed eyes blissfully sleeping in the warmth of a lovely blanket. Welcome baby.

After some time when I was passing by the Emergency Ward, a middle aged woman came out holding a child close to her chest. On seeing her, a group of 10 people waiting outside wailed together. A young couple in the group collapsed. Women howled and men had uncontrolled tears rolling down. The woman- possibly the grandmother stood speechless, expressionless, holding the weight of endless love in the body of a one year old child wrapped carefully from head to toe in a lovely blanket. Adieu baby.

Posted by: Rajib | November 9, 2012

Worthless

About a decade ago, once we thought of distributing our old clothes to the poor and needy.  Possessed by this noble idea, we searched our trunks, lofts, and closets and stuffed all the old garments in a couple of polythene bags. Then my wife and I headed to the Sai Temple of Lodhi Colony, thinking it would be the right place to do some charity. After all, I had seen swarms of beggars in that area every time I passed by.

No sooner did we arrive at the temple premise each carrying 3-4 polythene bags, we were surrounded by a strange group of people—matted hair, running noses, crooked black nails, naked and half-naked famished bodies holding bowls of various shapes and sizes. We were in for a rude shock. We had definitely seen beggars before, but had never been in such close proximity. By that time they had known that their objects of interest were in those bags so they became anxious to get them. They were certainly not convent-educated, disciplined, or well-mannered lot; we did not know how to start. Our inaction added to their restlessness.

I asked them to make a queue. Nothing happened. I raised my voice—after all I was their benefactor; again no change. They still hovered around us, looking greedily at the bags.  I tried again—this time my eyes popped out, veins showed up and hand stretched. They got a little surprised and stepped back two steps. Ah! it worked. I took out a dress and handed over to the first person without even seeing whether it was a frock or a shirt. We continued mechanically till the last piece was handed over. The result was that a toddler got my old trouser and a middle-aged woman got only a scarf of my wife. It was all over in less than a minute. A boy came and asked me what he will do with the frock he received. I was dumbfounded. We had not anticipated any ‘exchange offer’. We had failed, miserably.

After that incident, I introspected several times and each time I concluded that I was unfit for any charitable work . Is this the way how I should give back to society from where I have got everything in my life? All these days I am making a constant endeavor to prepare myself psychologically strong to share the pain of the deprived lot. Very soon I hope to be able to look into their eyes and bring some happiness in their lives because now I understand that,

“Key to happiness is how you manage when you have nothing, and also how you behave when you have everything.”

Let us pledge to decorate a face with a smile and bring some light in the eyes of someone who has seen only darkness till now, in addition to decorating and lighting our homes. That would be a true Diwali celebration.

Happy Diwali !!

Posted by: Rajib | July 11, 2012

I understand

Bathing in the light of the rising sun,

I was diving deep inside me.

When I want my life to be full of fun,

Why is it not granted by thee  ?

When I want to touch the shadow

Of someone close to me,

Or  feel the cool wind blow

Why is it not granted by thee  ?

Just then a rain drop fell on the leaf

Glided to the tip, cleaning its way.

I understand, my belief

Why you have made it this way.

Each drop,  howsoever short-lived and small

Plays its role to the tee

Collecting dust, dirt and all

As planned by thee.

People whom I have lost forever,

But still long to see,

After making  my walk easier

Have only gone back to thee.

As a respectful homage to my beloved father who, on this day 18 years ago paused for a while before resuming his eternal journey of life.

Posted by: Rajib | June 26, 2011

Beatific Bhutan : Day 5 of 5

Our Guide and Driver

Time to return home. After breakfast, Kinley and Jumbo saw us off at the border gate from where we had started our journey.

We bade goodbye to them and decided to cherish the memory of this

Carriage with the passengers

spotlessly clean country and its cheerful, friendly people for many years to come.

After a 4 day trip to the Land of Buddha, we returned with a rejuvenated body, mind and soul.

Goodbye at Bordergate

Posted by: Rajib | June 26, 2011

Beatific Bhutan : Day 4 of 5

Our last day of the trip. After breakfast we visited Paro National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (watchtower). Here an intriguing collection of artifacts provides a wonderful glimpse of the rich culture and heritage of this country. The multi storeyed building houses rare collections of religious artefacts as well as huge animal motifs. The Dress, Utensils and Arms sections are also worth watching. The Mask section is a must watch.  Here numerous masks of animal faces are beautifully displayed each depicting the intrinsic characteristic of the creature. Quite interestingly, these characteristics can be correlated with human behavior.

Idyllic Paro market

After lunch, we lazed around in the clean and empty streets. Paro market has many curio shops and is a good place for shopping. After we were done with, we drove to Phuntsholing to spend our last night in this Himalayan country.

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