Some of us breathe life..others just breathe oxygen 

You either live with the guilt of doing something or not live at all.

You either live with wounds that eventually turn into permanent scars or not live at all. 

You either make choices and live them or not live at all. 

You either make mistakes and learn to live with them or not live at all. 

You either let go off things to live or not live at all. 

You either face your fears everyday or not live at all. 

You either fight with your tears and be alive or not live at all. 

You either live with courage or not live at all. 

You either smile through pain and live or not live at all. 

You either live an imperfect life or not live at all. 

“ये दो किनारों में रह जाते हैं, मेरे होकर भी अजनबी हुयेगिर जाते तो मुकम्मल होते, पर ये आसूँ भी बड़े ख़ुदगर्ज़ हुये”

Random writing

कुछ ऐसी भी है ज़िन्दगी,

जैसे बासी गेंदें कि खुश्बू है;

झरोकें से झाकँती चादंनी हो;

हवाओं से उल्झते सूख़े पत्ते;

और रास्तों में गिरे वोह लाल रेशम के फू़ल,

न मुकम्मिल है न का़मिल है;

फिर भी कुछ ऐसी है ज़िन्दगी,

जैसे भुजती आग का धुआँ हो;

शाम कि आखिरी रोशनी हो;

कुछ फेके हुए मिट॒॒टी के कुल्ल्हर्;

ऐसी भी है ज़िन्दगी बस ज़िन्दगी के जैसी है…

The euphoria known as Banaras..”ख़ाक भी जिस ज़मीं की पारस है,शहर मशहूर यह बनारस है”

Banaras continues to astonish me..more so since the time I have been living away from this mystic city. Not many would be aware about a tradition as old as the city itself.. Before Holi, on the occasion of Rang Bhari Ekadashi a different Holi is played at the Shamshan Ghat.. This tradition is narrated divinely by famous vocalist Pt. Channulal Mishra in “khelen masane mein holi..” Masane is the Hindi word for crematorium. This is an age old tradition, where people play holi with ashes from the funeral pyres. Though ghastly it may sound to the ears, it is subliminal to the souls of Banarsis. 
It is believed that Lord Shiva played holi with His devotees on Manikarnika Ghat..applying the ashes of those who have been cremated, on each other. Where else would you celebrate death in a manner that it becomes an eternal part of life? Divided as we are in life by untouchability and discrimination, united we are in death for it has no prejudices. There is no fear for death because it is the only certainty in this uncertain world. The dead transform the alive into ecstatic beings. The colours of ‘abeer’ and ashes smeared on the faces of people is a symbol of life after death. It resonates that death is as pure and as complete as the God himself. 

Who knows one day our ashes too may be smeared on the foreheads of people we never knew celebrating holi with our death while the Ganges will silently witness life and death.

मां खेलैं मसाने में होरी,

दिगंबर खेलैं मसाने में होरी,

भूत पिशाच बटोरी,

दिगंबर खेलैं लखि सुन्दर फागुनी छटा की,

मन से रंग गुलाल हटा के ये,

चिता भस्म भरि झोरी,

दिगंबर खेलैं, नाचत गावत डमरू धारी,

छोड़ें सर्प गरल पिचकारी,

पीटैं प्रेत थपोरी, दिगंबर खेलैं मसाने में होरी।।

भूतनाथ की मंगल होरी,

देखि सिहायें बिरज की छोरीय,

धन-धन नाथ अघोरी,

दिगंबर खेलैं मसाने में होरी।।

Behind every happy and successful woman should be a woman

Another 8th of March has been celebrated , women across the globe congratulated and reminded of their inner strength. Offices organized motivational seminars, distributed gifts, and acknowledged their female workforce. I, for once received a lot of messages from my male colleagues but I hope they realize that I command the same respect and equality on other 364 days as well !

I heard a lot of people talk about the equality and freedom which we deserve in the society or at workplace or at home. But the protagonist of these speeches was the ‘married woman’. Sadly we still believe that marriage is the ultimate accomplishment of womanhood and it is the married women who feel the brunt more than the ones without a man by their side. Marriage is just one of the many events that shapes a woman’s life. It is not the only testimony of a fulfilled life. 

And one issue which is latent when we speak of women empowerment is: a woman can only be empowered if the other woman/women in her life contribute to it. I strongly feel a woman is most threatened by another woman. And before you try to leash my thoughts let me explain why I believe so:

  • A mother-in-law can be the reason for a happy and successful marriage; If she sees her daughter-in-law as another woman and not as source of dowry or merely a child bearer or a threat because her son now has another lady in his life or someone who would just take care of the house. But how often does it happen? How often do we hear a mother-in-law protest against dowry demands/deaths or domestic/emotional abuse? 
  • How a mother raises a son impacts the life of a woman who will eventually marry the son. Our sons are raised with ideologies like a man is not supposed to help in household chores, a husband is equivalent to a god, a husband is never wrong, a wife is meant to be subjugated. How a woman raises her son has a direct impact on how the son will behave with other women. 
  • A woman boss very rarely will allow a woman subordinate to develop and nurture at workplace. She instead of steering the female subordinate often destroys the spirit of womanhood. 
  • How many times female colleagues help each other overcome obstacles? The competitive nature often dominates the need to develop together. 
  • How many times does a mother tell her daughter that freedom and equality also means freedom over your sexuality, your choice of partner, how you wish to lead your life? That it is okay to make mistakes and learn from them?
  • How many times a woman’s character is questioned by other women in the society?

I do not wish to offend anyone but I do want to ask a question: why celebrate 8th March when as a woman I can’t decide when to go out for a party or watch a movie or have a drink with friends, when to fall in love, rights over my sexuality, when to marry, when to have a child, when to abort a child if I feel it’s the right thing, when to quit my job, when to passionately pursue my career, when to travel without my husband or kids, when to wear revealing clothes or when to be all covered up, when to look married and when not to, when to wear a lipstick or just be without makeup, when to do so many other things without being judged by men and women and without being stereotyped..?

Most of these shackles are created by women only and until and unless we accept with all humility that only we are responsible for women empowerment, many 8ths of March will come and go. 

Feminism is not about fighting with the society but rather fighting for a better society for women, which includes fighting with the women if required. 

From the city of Shiva to the land of Krishna

Last weekend took me to Brindavan and Mathura – the land of Lord Krishna,  which was a stark contrast to the land of Shiva, Banaras. It was an exhilarating experience partly because I love road trips and partly because I love to explore different cultures, cities and their people. So even a day’s trip was an adventure to quench the thirst of my soul, tired by the monotony of an exhausting corporate life. 

The Yamuna express way is a class apart and it was a delight traveling on it. Such things are what we call a necessary evil. The ever growing demand for better infrastructure by the increasing population has to be met by sacrificing the essentials, like the agricultural land. 

Nevertheless the road trip proved to be quite promising. The outskirts of Brindavan are like any other village and reminded me of Banaras. The farms being ploughed in the traditional manner with a plow and cattle, the produce fresh and pesticide free ready to be taken to a mandi, hand pumps and tube wells still operative, men and women working together under the sun. Their smiles as pure as the air in the village; we in cities with amenities have forgotten how to smile, but they, with minimalistic possessions, live life to the fullest. 

The Yamuna looked pristine…untouched by the sins of us humans…not choked by our deeds but flowing freely to sustain life for those who revered her. The very river which Lord Krishna passed through as an infant, is treated so differently in the two cities; Brindavan and the capital. 

As I entered Brindavan, I realized it was no longer the same place where Lord Krishna mesmerized the humans. The town with hardly any green cover appears to be gasping for fresh clean air. The roads are being widened to accommodate heavy transportation. It has a plethora of temples but the local government does not shy away from building many more majestic temples to honour gods. If only building schools was as important to us as building places of worship. But that is another debate. 

The devotion to Radha and Krishna is manifested in every possible manner. All residential societies, shops, parks are named after Radha and Krishna. They not only worship these deities but also live them. 

Coming from a place where Shiva is worshipped – who is a symbol of detachment, where death liberates us and one will presumably attains moksha, Brindavan depicts a different perspective of life. Krishna always celebrated love and life though He too preached detachment in doing any ‘karma’; going through the cycles of life and experiencing the moments was as important to Him as attaining moksha when you are ready for it. His former avatar Ram is a symbol of discipline but Krishna knows no boundaries, for Him right or wrong cannot be distinguished as strictly white or black. He was never a king like Ram, still he ruled and continues to rule the hearts of many. He himself experienced all the cycles of life.

The Galis of Brindavan are no different from  the Galis of Banaras, only the chanting of ‘har har mahadev’ is replaced by ‘Radhe Radhe’. Such was the purity and strength of Radha’s love that mere chanting of her name brings the devotees closer to Krishna. Though not united they still remain inseparable. There are shops selling beautiful and delicately adorned clothes for gods. The famous pedas stacked up in every shop ready to be offered to Him. The intense fragrance of desi gulab and marigolds fill the air..faraway you can hear the temple bells  gravitating you towards Him. The famous Banke Bihari temple was flooded with devotees and we could only catch a glimpse of the God. The temple beautiful from inside is a must to visit if you are in Brindavan. The darshan of a few seconds did not help in invigorating my soul and the only realization I had was that the idol here was black and indeed Krishna is not the fair one. It was the sight of his black face that struck me as I was pushed towards the exit by the moving crowds. Some ‘sevadars’ were applying chandan and roli to all the devotees. Not to miss this opportunity I jostled my way towards them and my forehead was heavily smeared with chandan. This experience had only one flaw – the guides and beggars cling to you literally and do not like taking a no from you. They touch you, block your way, talk rudely – not realizing how deterrent it could be to people who only wish to have a peaceful interaction with the Almighty. 

If you are in Brindavan then ISCON temple is another place to witness the supreme devotion for Krishna. It was the time of afternoon aarti when we reached ISCON. The crowd definitely more disciplined and respectful. Witnessing the aarti was blissful. We chanted ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ along with many others. People from different countries, caste, creed, were united with these words. With folded hands we prayed to the one who gave us Gita. Devotion surmounted every thought, every heartbeat, the soul drenched in spirituality. Bowing your head in front of Him was in itself occult-you forgive yourself for your sins, you seek for more knowledge, you find strength to forgive others and you have an urge to find yourself. Socrates said ‘know thyself’. Does Gita too not help you to find yourself? 

The other temple which I visited is popularly called as Mayya ka Mandir. It is a replica of Vaishno Devi temple. A humongous idol of Durgaji is built above the temple. A worshipper of Durga, I could not resist visiting the temple. It is my perennial wish to visit Vaishno Devi and in no way this could be substituted! I seek my strength and resilience from Her and though the atmosphere resonates with Radha and Krishna I did find peace standing inside the replica of Vaishno Devi. 

We returned with a lot of pedas (!!), with peace in our hearts and with a hope to find wisdom as we go through the cycles of life. May we all be blessed…

Radhe Radhe!!