Family

family

I was born in a family. I mean family in real Indian sense of the word. When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by my Grand Father, Grand Mother, my Parents, one of my married chacha (uncle) and chachi (aunt), another of my unmarried chacha, third uncle – one and half year older than me, my father’s unmarried sister, a cousin sister and host of Maharaj (cooks), servants, maids and chowkidar (gate-keeper). All lived under one roof. My father had five brothers and seven sisters. The day I was born, by then six of his sisters were married and a brother as well.

When I started going to school, our family consisted of 16 members. We used to eat our meals in kitchen called Chowka. Eating elsewhere was not allowed, accept breakfast.

During mangoes season, fruit was divided into two, with one kid getting one half. We were never deprived, but were also never had abundance.

All festivals like Holi and Diwali were celebrated together with preparations starting a week ahead of the festival date.

In school, our bill was combined, having serial number one and the largest in school. We were seven uncles and nephews studying in St. Joseph’s High School, Allahabad, at any given moment. My sister and a cousin used to study in adjacent St. Mary’s. In the mornings, three cycle rickshaws used to line up to take us to school and then to bring us back in the evening. As we grew, every new teenager was bought a cycle. All rickshaws and cycles used to go together and back together in the evening, as mandated by the elders of the family. A great security strategy it was for sure.

Starting of each new session, we all used to go to Universal Book Company in Civil Lines along with our eldest uncle to buy books, copies, etc. We had a bargaining power because of numbers.

What fun it was! After coming back in the evening and before study and home work time we used to play cricket in our small courtyard. We did not need anything for entertainment. We were self-sufficient. Everybody had a favourite magazine which they bought, including Phantom Comic, Raja Bhaiya, Chanda Mama, Parag and of course Dharmayug, which was a family magazine and was primarily meant for elders. These were shared by all, turn by turn. Of course, the person who bought it had the power to decide the turns. Not a single page was left unread by any one.

When we fought, we fought like mad. Ladies of the house had to get involved to separate the fighting boys. There was a room which was like a class room. Each of us had our own table and chair. In front of us Masterji (teacher) used to sit, to help us do our homework and resolve problems we faced. Immaculately dressed in a Bengali dhoti and a shirt, I believe he used to work in the administration department of Allahabad University. Evening study session used to be serious and dedicated. Masterji was responsible for our performance at the school.

Such was our relationship with him, that on every Durga Puja we were invited to his house. We were offered Bengali delicacies prepared by his wife. This was the event we used to wait for. After seeing the Chowk Dusshera Chowkis, we all boys used to parade down to his house. I still miss it so much, that whenever I visit Allahabad I take a peak where his house was, behind our house. Sadly it is there no more.

During summer holidays, apart from doing homework, we were assigned to write two pages of Hindi and two pages of English text every day. This was to keep us partly busy and also to improve our hand writing. Not doing this was a punishable offence. We all boys used to cycle down to Yamuna bank in the evening. Our family boatman, Sangam, used to wait to take us on his boat to teach us swimming. In the mornings, turn by turn, on Sundays we used to go with our eldest Uncle to bathe in Gangaji. On return, we would to buy a large water melon. In evenings, the whole family used to assemble in the courtyard to have a slice or two of that melon.

During afternoon we use to shut ourselves in a room and read whatever comics, magazines and books, we could lay our hands on.

Our distant family used to love coming to our house during summer holidays. With cousins joining us, it used to be fun all the way.

Marriages in family, of which we had many, were most sought after events. Mostly, it was a week’s event. First to come were a team of Halwais who used to set up big chulahs on the roof. A store was prepared to store sweets and namkeens. Over the halwais were staff and over them a supervisor, who had deep knowledge of sweets and namkeens. We had free hand to pick and choose what we wanted to eat, twice a day. The house used to be full of relatives, who were all assigned tasks, from peeling of soaked almonds to peas.

Today when I look back, I analyse that whatever I am today, it has lot to do with the joint family. Having good habit of eating all kind of vegetables came from my eldest uncle, who taught us to eat everything. Flair for gardening came from my second uncle. From my father I learned to be system oriented. Joint family teaches you so much, to face the world and to evolve as a good person.

Sadly, the families are becoming nucleus, for now everybody wants space. In the process they fail to realise the benefits of getting born and growing in a Large Indian Joint Family.

Peacock’s Tears

peacock

No doubt Peacock is the most beautiful animal in the Universe.

It is said that Lord Krishna cleanses the holy feet of Radha with Peacock feathers, during their play-times in Vrindavan. It is a symbol of beauty and knowledge. The eye in the feather represents the divine wisdom or the third eye of Krishna.

Lord Krishna adorns peacock feather on his crown. Story behind it is that, in Govardhan hills, once when Krishna was playing his flute, the sweet melody that poured out made the peacocks dance in joy and excitement. At the end of a long dance they spread their feathers and the King Peacock offered with great humility its feathers as an offering. The lord accepted it and adorned himself with it.

Questions remain that why Peacock’s feather are so much revered? There are two parts to it. First is mythology and other is the fact. I believe that both are equally important.

Mythological Part:

  • Folk lore is that the peacock is the only creature in nature that observes complete chastity in life. When he is happy, he dances with his wings and his eyes are filled with tears, Peahen drinks these tears and conceives. Peacock does not have, even a tinge of lust in his heart. That is why Krishna adorns Peacock’s feather in his crown. This is actually a myth. Peacocks do mate.

Fact:

  • They are one of the largest flying birds. Their length (including tail) can reach 5 feet. They can weigh between 8-13 pounds.
  • They are omnivores (eat both plants and seeds). They like to eat insects, arthropods, amphibians, flowers and seeds.
  • Colours of their tail will look different every time you change the angle of looking because of reflection of light. The tail feathers have eye like spots, surrounded with red, green and gold feathers. The brightness of the feather is due to the presence of barbules that helps reflect light. Presence of barbules on both sides makes it highly divine. The barbules help the colours to shimmer and different hues appear at different angles.
  • Peacocks are polygamous (mate with more than one female) and usually form a harem with 2-5 females. Left alone peacocks are very sad and heart broken.

Stories do develop around a bird of such an extra ordinary beauty and personality. Poets automatically start composing poems when they see Peacock spreading his wings and dances. It is just a matter of faith that how you behold use of peacock feather. It is belief only that converts a stone into God. I fully endorse that Facts and Beliefs have equal role in life.

We are like that!

We are like that

We Indians are very shy and still are over a billion!

We Indians get nervous when we encounter a policeman rather than feeling safe.

In India, shoes we wear are sold in Air Conditioned Show Rooms, whereas the vegetables we eat are sold on footpath.

In India, everyone is in hurry, but, no body reaches in time.

In India, we consider dangerous to talk to a stranger, but consider it fine to marry one.

We Indians spend more money on daughter’s wedding than on her education.

We Indians are obsessed with Screen Guards on their smart phones but never bother to wear a helmet when riding a bike.

In India, artificial lemon flavour is used in welcome drink and real lemon in Finger Bowl.

In Rudyard Kipling’s written movie Jungle Book, Baloo the Bear says to the child Mogali, when he sees elephants ‘Give them respect’. In India it is important that you give respect to SUVs, the Mercedes, the BMWs, the Audis and the Skodas, when they are on the road. The owners of these come with lot of history and brawn.

In India do have foot path, but, these are not meant for the use of pedestrians. This is additional space provided to shop keepers to extend their shops or park their cars. In any case pedestrians of India do not prefer to walk on footpaths. They prefer roads instead.

India or Bharat

Bharat

Sometime back my daughter Nupur sent a message on WhatsApp, which read – How we Indians describe beautiful places of our country “Go there and you will not feel as though you are in India”. True!

This time while staying with my son Ankur in Gurgaon, on being insisted, we went to Cyber Hub. Had I not remembered what Nupur had said, I would have exclaimed “For sure this is not India”.

Nupur’s statement triggered a thought process. Why do we say so? I agree with her. It comes out naturally when we come across a place or a building which is beyond our expectations or is something very Western.

What is India which I would prefer to address as Bharat? India is not wilderness of Africa, nor war zones of Israel and Palestine, or a modern country of Europe and USA and as primitive as Amazon. India is a combination of all. India also lives in ages. You go to a high altitude village in Himalayas or a tribal village in deep forest of Jharkhand or Chattisgarh; you will see people who have been living like this since thousands of years. There are people who have not seen a bicycle or a car forget about a train or a plane. For majority of people, flying in a plane is not even a distant dream.

In comparison there are people in India, who are part of the list of the world’s richest, fly 365 days in a week, own huge mansions, yachts, jets and the world’s most expensive cars.

India lives in thousand years at any given moment.

A good thermometer is the roads of Delhi. When a delegation of UK’s traffic police came to Delhi, sometimes back, for study, they remarked that Delhi has the strangest mix of traffic in the world. Just see what we have there – Cows, bulls, dogs, horses, elephants, camels cycles, man driven rickshaws, Electric Rickshaws, bullock carts, man pulled carts, Trucks, mini trucks, pick-ups, auto-rickshaws, tempos, scooters, motor cycles, buses and cars of huge variety and era.

On Delhi roads, we have old rickety Fiats, Ambassadors and the newest and the best of Porsche, Phantom, Aston Martin, Bentley, Audi, Skoda, Mercedes and all brands of Japanese, Korean, American, German, British, Italian and French Cars.

India, as you say, is evolving, in modern sense of the word. I defer here. India is fully evolved. India has been evolved since thousands of years.

In his book ‘An Era of Darkness’ Author & Politician Shashi Tharoor wrote: ‘At the beginning of 18th Century, India’s share of the world economy was 23%, as large as all of Europe put together. It has been 27% in 1700, when the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s Treasury raked in Pound 100 million in tax revenue alone. By the time British departed India, it has dropped to just over 3%. The reason was simple: India was governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain’s rise in 200 years was financed by its depredations in India’.

India has been on the height of culture, science, administration, art, trade, medicine, manufacturing since the days of Ramayana and beyond, which dates to more than 10,000 BC. Ramayana and Mahabharata, as depicted by West and Pseudo Intellectuals in India, are not mythology, but history.

We Indians, were made to believe that we are poor, backward and what not. This is not the fact. We see development in the Western World as modern. We do not consider ourselves to be educated till we hold a degree from West. Our greatest people and sages were educated in this land. Swami Vivekananda, Maharishi Yogi, Prabhupada, Pundit Ravi Shankar, JRD Tata, GD Birla, Narayan Murti and so on were all products of this land.

Ruled by British for hundreds of years, we have learned to not to appreciate anything Indian, rather look down at it. Today we have started revering Yoga and Meditation, after it was endorsed by the West.

We need to start appreciating our history, culture et al. We need to seriously look into what has been created by our ancestors. See Asoka Pillars. See Khajuraho. Think of the first Global University like Nalanda. See how Yoga has become world phenomenon. Indulge in these things.

India is unique. There is no country nor was parallel to it.