22 May 2013

Relocating to Edinburgh

I am relocating to Edinburgh. :) My husband's next project is there. Wow! For a lover of English literature moving to UK is a dream come true. I am truly looking forward to see the beautiful English countryside described by Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy's moor lands.

It is a long term project. Kindly advise what essentials should I take along with me? 

13 May 2013

Japa: Should you chant silently or loudly?

Prahalad Maharaj says in Naradiya Purana:

japato hari-namani sthana-sat-gunadhikah
atmananca punaty-uccair japan srotrn punati ca

'A person who chants harinama loudly is one hundred times superior to one who chants quietly. A person who chants quietly only purifies and benefits himself. Whereas, one who chants loudly certainly benefits himself, plus he purifies all who hear him, such as birds, beasts, insects, trees and plants. Such living entities cannot chant Krishna's names, but they can be delivered from the ocean of birth and death simply by hearing harinama.'

10 May 2013

Prioritizing Chanting

The evening hours are generally spent in relaxation. I was waiting for the clock to strike 7 to start cooking dinner. At 7:25 a neighbor dropped in to ask something and took away my 30 minutes. Initially I planned to cook rotis and subji. It is quite late and so I decided to make upma. Before entering the kitchen I got a phone call that kept me engaged for 15 mins.

I quickly fried, cooked and spiced up upma. By the time I finished offering upma to Their Lordships Sri Radha Krishna, it was already 9:15. It took another 30 mins to cajole and make my four year old to eat.  The next few hours slipped away in serving, eating, cleaning and organizing. It was already 12 o’clock by the time my head hits the pillow.

The next morning my cell phone alarm beeped at 4 am. I rushed to switch it off to avoid waking up my little one.

‘I will sleep for another 10 mins,’ I thought and got back to my sweet lumber.

Finally when I woke up it was already 7 o’clock. The mad rush for the day had started.

So much for getting up at Brahma Muhurta(2 hrs before sunrise) and chanting 16 rounds of Hare Krishna Mahamantra!

Many times a whole day can pass without getting time to chant a single round of Hare Krishna Mahamantra.  We feel guilty and useless.  We are not able concentrate even in our material duties.
Prioritizing can help us battle this situation.

The first things do every day is to chant our rounds. Planning is required to get up in the morning and chant.

We need to sleep early to wake up early in the morning. There is no point in torturing ourselves to wake up at 4 am when we have slept at 12 am. Going to bed early means we are working in tune with nature.

Chanting is at its best at Brahma Muhurtam. The primary duty of our life is chanting. When we complete our primary duty the first thing in the morning, the secondary duties can be easily performed as though we have been gifted with an extra set of hands.

09 May 2013

Short Story: I won't die!

A chilly night gave way to a foggy morning. It was 6:30 am and still dark outside. No trees around to host birds that chirped at the smell of dawn. Living in a brand new apartment means having to endlessly wait for greenery to grow and drown the cement smell. Vaidiyanathan was an early riser from his early school years. His father made it a behavioral standard at his home. 'If you can't wake in the morning, you are not fit to do any work', he remembered his father's words for endless number of times. At the age of 60, it not always pleasant to wake up early on a chilly morning in Bangalore. But it is better to take this austerity than to suffer the pangs of guilt of not meeting the standards set by his father. All his life Vaidiyanathan had been trying to uphold the values his father stood for and why shouldn't he? His father was his role model. Vaidiyanathan followed his father's footsteps in leading a clean life.

His 30 long year banking career was a testimony of the value system he upheld. Many a times when temptation to make quick money was thrown in front of him by unscrupulous men, his father's invisible voice acted as his savior. He retired with impeccable character record. Vaidiyanathan along with his wife were prudent with money. They invested wisely. They managed their lives comfortably well without having to burden their only son, Ramnath. Ramnath lived in Mumbai. He respected his father’s value system but secretly thought it was old fashioned. He wanted his 3 year old son to have a modern outlook.

Vaidiyanathan sat in his bed and planned his day. He retired from a nationalized bank as a manager.. He slowly got uncomfortable with his home and with other leisure he chose to spend his time. The hobbies he looked forward to pursue were not attractive anymore. He wandered around the new apartment complex listlessly just to strike a conversation with anyone he could meet.

Rathnam, Vaidiyanathan's wife was looking forward to his retirement. She hoped her husband would slow down and start enjoying simple things in life. During his working years Vaidiyanathan maintained strict schedules. He was uncomfortable to relax. Rathman could not recall any time when he would just sit and relax with a cup of coffee. At times she found it difficult to cope up with his pace.

Retirement for her meant relief and anxiety simultaneously. She was more anxious for her husband. She was unsure how he is going to take to empty hours post retirement. Her son Ramnath wanted them to stay with him and take care of his three year old son. With Gayathri, her daughter-in-law also working in software industry, they had to trust Anil, their energetic three year old with a full time maid. Though the arrangement is functional, there is nothing like having grandparents around.

Vaidiyanathan wanted to move to Bangalore post retirement. His last posting was in Chennai. He could not get used to the high humidity weather and the traffic snarl of Chennai. Two months before retirement he purchased an apartment in the outskirts of Bangalore. He liked the moderate weather and the rustic setup at northern outskirts of the city. He was close to the airport making it easy to plan his trips.

Ratnam was left with no choice in this matter. She, however, learnt to like Bangalore. Her neighbors were all young working parents with children of Anil's age. They respected her and Vaidiyanathan and there were many get-togethers in the association. Nevertheless, she missed being with her son and her grandson.

Rathnam woke up along with her husband and freshened up. She went into her clean, little kitchen to boil milk. Her daugther-in-law had gifted her an induction stove during the house warming ceremony of this apartment. Rathnam was amazed at how fast food gets cooked in an induction stove. 'If only I had got this gadget when Ramnath was in school, it would have helped a great deal', she thought. The busy years seemed to have slipped away between endless chores and responsibilities. She resolved to pursue her interest in gardening and craft. Her ground floor apartment came with a spacious sit-out and a small patch of garden space.

Inhaling the invigorating fresh coffee brew in the coffee filter, she mixed it with milk and sugar. Rathnam went to the sit-out and placed coffee in front of Vaidiyanathan whose face was hidden behind the newspaper. She sat in the cane chair next to him and looked out at her garden patch. She planned her spring sowing. This time she wanted to divide the patch in to two and grow some vegetables in it. She was glad she could occupy her time with a number of such small projects. She looked at her husband. Her heart sank to see him huddled towards the edge of the cane sofa holding the newspaper as though it sheltered him. Empty hours have taken a terrible toll on him.

Retirement has affected him more than she had anticipated. During the initial days, he would forget and get dressed up to go to office. The flash of awareness of his retirement would pain him. To hide the disappointment he would cover his face with both his hands and pretend to rub his eyes as though he had a sleepless night. Rathnam wished she could help him but was clueless what to do. He was a loving and a responsible husband and father all these years. They had a purposeful life bringing up their only son. They did have fun in their house, but not the kind people are used to in modern days.

When Ramnath was 12 years old, he lost a tennis match and was inconsolable. Rathnam in spite of all her efforts could not get him out of his room. Vaidiyanathan came home with a new violin and surprised his son. Ramnath joined violin classes that evening and it became a religious discipline for him henceforth. During tough times music given to him by his father soothed him. It embraced him and gave him the spirit to fight back.

The phone rang and broke the silence. Vaidiyanathan answered the call. It was Somu from Trichy. Vaidiyanathan and Somasundaram had been friends and colleagues for more than three decades.

‘Somu, tell me… what’s going on? How come you have called so early in the morning?’
Somu was anxious for Vaidy. He knew it would be difficult for Vaidy to spend his retirement days. He called to cheer him up.

‘There is something I wanted to tell you. First tell me how do you spend your day?’ asked Somu.

‘Ah! It’s ok…I am doing nothing,’ replied Vaidy.

Somu could sense frustration in his voice.

‘How would you like to work again?’ Somu asked.

‘Come on… I am not in a mood for jokes.’

‘I am not joking’.

‘Who will give us a job and what job will we do? I was thinking of doing some social service. But don’t know where to begin and whom to ask,’ Vaidy said.

‘There is an academy that trains young boys and girls to become probationary officers in banks. They need retired bankers to train them. Sounds interesting to me!’ said Somu.

Vaidy was interested.

‘Where is this?’ Vaidy asked.

‘It is Bangalore, close to your place. Do you want to check it out?’ asked Somu.

‘Yes. Why don’t you come down? We can go together. I am unable to sit at home not doing anything. The walls seem to cave in on me. There is nothing that interests me on TV. How long can I just go around my apartment and try to converse with people? I have to find the place you are telling. Try to book a tatkal ticket and be here tomorrow. We will get back to work. I need it,’ Vaidy spoke like water gushing out of a dam when the flood gates are opened.

Somu was pleased with himself. He knew his friend needed it. The flood gates had to be opened. He agreed to go with him though he did not intend to take up another job. He was spending his time involving himself fulltime in the Bhajan group. His family had been in Bhajan tradition for generations. He had planned his day meticulously from dawn to dusk. His family deity is been worshiped with sixteen upacharas after his retirement. His evenings were spent listening to pravarchans in his neighborhood temple.

Somu opted for voluntary retirement two years prior to his retirement age. He developed a severe back pain that made it difficult to sit for long hours. His children were well settled hence had no financial pressures. So he decided to quit his career and treat his back pain. Somu checked in to an ayurvedic hospital in Kannur, Kerala. He preferred to call it a relaxing holiday. He stayed in a comfortable cottage in the center and took all his massages and therapies that were recommended. Within two months of his stay he felt rejuvenated and his back got a new leash of life. He felt young again. He once suggested Vaidy to take to alternative rejuvenation therapy to relax himself. Vaidy smiled and said, ‘It can wait.’

‘Vaidy needs treatment to relax himself,’ thought Somu but could not get himself to speak out his mind. He knew Vaidy is not going to take it.

Rantnam stood there listening to one end of the conversation. She could understand that Somu has found a solution for her husband’s restlessness. She was feeling relived and a smile appeared on her face.
Vaidy looked at his wife in an apologetic manner and said: ‘I tried to be what I am not and I failed. I need to work to keep me sane. I know you wanted me to be around at least now that I am retired. I am sorry.’

Rathnam smiled and said: ‘I want you to do whatever makes you happy.’

Vaidy was involved in an animated discussion with Somu as they were returning from the interview.
‘I think I will take up the job. Pay is not important. It would be good to interact with young bankers. We could teach them what we have learnt all these years when we were working,’ Vaidy spoke excitedly.
Somu agreed with Vaidy. Teaching in a good profession. He was happy for Vaidy.

Vaidy joined the Academy the next day. Though teaching was new to him, he nevertheless enjoyed his new profession. His mornings were busy again. He read and referred to books that taught about teaching. Initially he thought it would be monotonous but as he involved himself more in the profession he found it challenging. ‘It is a good opportunity to interact with the younger generation,’ he thought.

Some of his colleagues were retired bankers like him. There were many more who were young bankers who chose teaching to banking. There were also soft skill faculties from whom he tried to learn many new concepts in self-development.

Ramnath called to inquire his father about his new profession. He felt his father is straining himself in his new found profession. He is aware of the strain a trainer has to undergo. He felt it is not suitable for his father at his age. Ramnath wanted his parents to come and stay with him. After his marriage he felt a void created in his relationship with his parents.

They never had any problems between them but he felt his parents have voluntarily taken a backstage in his life. They were mature and considerate in their actions. They didn’t want to interfere in his life and spoil their relationship with their daughter-in-law.

It did have the desired result. Ramath’s wife didn’t have to consult her mother-in-law before she bought new furniture for her house. Nor was Ramnath expected to consult his father before he quit his previous company to join another company. He wife, Gayathri speaks of her mother-in-law with respect and affection. ‘Thank you for making my life so easy and uncomplicated pa,’ Ramnath thought.
Vaidy gave Ramnath his independence in deciding what he wanted in his life. He respected the space his daughter-in-law required to get to know her life partner and settle-in without external pressure. Rathnam’s initial curiosity about their son’s marital life was contained after she viewed her husband’s approach. However, she later realized that it was good that she restrained herself from establishing her supremacy as a mother-in-law. Now she shares a caring relationship with Gayathri.

However, Ramnath missed his parents. He wanted to live with them. He wanted to see his father play with his son every day. He wanted his mother to make laddoos and murrukus and store in those large stainless steel canisters.

Vaidy answered the phone cheerfully. Ramnath was happy that his father was back to his usual contented mood. He inquired about his new job and received animated answers with lots of enthusiasm.

‘I guess you will work all your life, pa’, said Ramnath.

‘I think so,’ agreed Vaidy gladly.

Six busy months passed. Vaidy was learning many new things in his job. Vaidy felt there was more interaction in teaching profession. He learnt new teaching methodologies. He was also inspired to make his own lesson plans.

He preferred to commute to the Academy on his Honda Activa. Winter set in and it was getting colder day by day. The mornings were misty. He took a turn at the end of the connecting road and reached the four lane road that lead to the Academy. This part of Bangalore is not busy and the roads are well laid. The mostly empty road has impending dangers posed by late office goers racing against time.

Vaidy was on the left lane when all of a sudden he sensed unusual movement through the corner of his eye. He stopped his scooter to a screeching halt to avoid hitting a stray bull. The bull was petrified seeing a speeding bike opposite to him. The bull crossed the lane divider and halted in front of Vaidy’s scooter. The speeding biker lost balance and fell from his bike. The bike laid a few feet away from him; the engine still running and roaring. The biker was tossed across the road on to the pavement. He groaned with pain. Few people gathered around him immediately.

Vaidy did not get down. He had first hour class. He looked at the accident scene for a moment and thought, ‘there are people to help him’.

He rushed to the Academy; parked his vehicle; walked quickly to his workstation; greeted a few of his colleagues on his way; rushed to his class in the second floor.

‘I am on time,’ he thought with satisfaction. He was always punctual.

 Inside the class he took some deep breaths to ease his nerves. The students knew Vaidyanathan sir was always on time. They admired his orderliness and his dedication to teaching.

‘So today,’ said Vaidy after calming himself, ‘we are going to learn about risk management.’

The students fidgeted with their bags to take out their books for taking down notes. They heard nothing for an uncomfortable moment; when they looked up they saw Vaidyanathan sir gasping for breath. Some students in the front row rushed to him as he fell on his knees trying to grab support. His left side muscles contracted and face disfigured within seconds.

The students rushed him to a multi-specialty hospital where he was declared dead. He had simultaneously suffered a stroke and a heart attack.

Rathnam was planting her seeds in her freshly dug garden patch.

Ramnath was at his office cabin planning for his meetings.

We plan our lives meticulously. But the impartial hands of Death can strike at the most unprepared hour. Lets prepare for the inevitable by chanting the holy names of Lord Sri Krishna. 

Back after a long time

I am back after my long hiatus. My son goes to school now. I teach in a college. Things have got a little busy.

However, there were some nice comments from all of you there that inspired me to continue to write. 

I have moved to Bangalore. The weather is cooler compared to Chennai where I previously lived. Bangalore has a beautiful Radha Krishna ISKCON temple that I regularly visit. 

I am still exploring different places to get art supplies. There are a few pockets in the city that are treasure troves for DIY lovers. I will soon write about them. 

Thank you for reading my posts and appreciating them.