Every Day Life is a Quest for the Unknown
Every day life is a quest for the ideas that will carry us happily to the other shore,
Every day our material existence is an anchor-line to our happiness and dreams.
Every morning a sleeping hope struggles to wake up,
To try out the theory that life produces what you sow in it.
Every day is a tumultuous exercise in the hope of creating happiness,
But some days end in despair as we may capture nothing tangible.
Every day we see the same tussle of ideas, idealists versus the realists,
Pessimists overpowering optimists, fact-checkers striking on dreamers.
Arguments on life deter us to enjoy it,
Why was it created in the first place, to what purpose?
A state of mind, like an action-drenched brain, stays on course,
Intensity with endurance is the vehicle of dreams.
In our times material well-being is considered endowed with happiness,
But we know most of the rich people are not happier, only more comfortable.
God made human beings from the atoms of dreams, love, and hopes,
Anything that destroys this ethereal fabric destroys life.
Suffern, New York, July 25, 2020
Welcome after your long journey on high oceans,
Storms and lost directions, confusions and calamities,
The world is a cyclone without a rest,
It defies meaning and feeling.
While you were there you made it look easy,
You were ever adorned with smile and grace,
Little did people know you travelled light,
Dropping riches and recognition on the way.
Tomorrows were waiting for you in serene joy,
The burdens of yesterdays were discarded,
Todays were smooth happenings,
Unrehearsed and goalless.
The world around was moving by a success design,
But you were fixed on serendipitous experience,
What was their severe defeat was your placid victory,
They possessed but you absorbed.
Now you are a denizen of eternity,
Where time has frozen and materials vanished,
There is a time to sing and a time to pray,
A time to dance and a time to laugh.
Suffern, New York, July 7, 2020
Grace and Courage : Anupamaji is No More
When I met her first many years ago in India, I was stuck by her reticence. She sat with noble quietness. After a while I felt that it fit very well with the architecture of her rectitude. Great personalities, generally, are quieter than the common folk. I guess it is because they are more communicating with themselves, rather than with others.
I learned through a common friend that Anupamaji had been divorced many years ago, so she must have managed her life by herself. That is indicative of her courage and tenacity. Quiet people often have gumption.
Recently I met her while she was traveling outside India. Again, I was stuck by her gracefulness and quietness. Behind her sleek demeanor must have resided toughness and discipline.
The world is a poorer place without Anupamaji. Her family has lost a strong anchor, her friends a shoulder to lean on. The richness of her personality cannot be easily described. I would attempt to describe her as a large, strong, perennial tree in a garden, which is always there to sooth you silently. But now with its absence one will be able to reliably measure its strength.
Anupamaji, you now belong to eternity, where angels dance and sing the glory of righteousness and redemption.
Suffern, New York, July 14, 2020
I Look Back Neither in Pain or Despair – Babu’s Soliloquy from Heaven
I have been in the pastures of heaven now for about five weeks:
Quiet and unhurried, swimming in a painless existence,
Everyday is grand, every event here is magical,
Life lifts in blissful ecstasy, serenading the colossal majesty of the cosmos.
Every since I arrived here I have had no time to think on my earlier existence,
But now I am slowly drifting in that direction:
I see a lot of affectation and wishful thinking by people on earth,
Lot of foolish customs and rituals, foolish hopes.
Good people struggle for existence while bad people have it made so easy,
Relationships are often sweet lies, selfishness often holds the sway,
Love is often a wrong word used by people when they should have been saying my- interest,
Modern lifestyles have reduced life to mere self-interest and physical enjoyment.
I do not recall the scooter-truck accident,
That shattered my life beyond any repair,
I have stitched a timeline out of others’ recalls,
A futile effort to give semblance of order in my tragedy.
When life’s center-of-gravity shatters any efforts to fix it is a waste,
One must accept one’s defeat and live for small kicks,
Have you seen flowers blossoming after a storm blows them off,
To accept life without a personal reward is the greatest sacrifice one can make.
For forty-seven years I labored to exist,
Without a job, wife, or children,
There was no ambition for which I would have willingly bled,
There was no dream for which I would have broken my right arm.
I was on a road without a destination,
Travelling without a purpose or reward,
Life was a garment stitched in days,
Weeks rolled into months; months melted in years.
My relatives treated me with tenderness, love, and friendship,
They would never ask me if I was bored, lonely, or depressed,
Their pleasant inquiries were keenly edited,
To make a false impression that I was having a great life.
I had nowhere to go but forward,
Past was my death-knell, future did not exist,
Present was my life,
I was a prisoner within its walls.
While parents were alive there was someone to ask me,
Whether I had eaten anything, whether I was tired,
There was someone to give a loving look,
A warm voice saying goodbye or welcome.
With their exit I lost the greatest human touch in my life,
After that my life was a long stretch of vast loneliness,
But I did not fold or bend,
Kept my life on the fast-track.
I went to several libraries every day to catch up the news,
Eat at Mac three times,
Retired home by 9, slept by 11,
Looking to another day.
Many years passed thus,
And started showing a mark,
I began losing interest in the libraries,
I thought I must work.
I sent several hundred applications but none was acknowledged,
I started becoming depressed,
What to do, where to go,
End seemed to raise its head.
As my curtain started to draw down
I reflected on my life,
How I spent forty-seven years in
Silent struggle, unshed tears, permanently jailed in loneliness.
People pitied my existence
But never speaking a word about it to me,
I pulled my own iron curtain,
Never telling them my true feelings.
At times I wondered why I was being punished so severely,
As I had committed no sin in my life,
But then the thought came that it may have been from the past life,
I was sentenced to life imprisonment without a judge or jury.
Coming here I feel I could not have done better on earth,
All I had was a strong will to live,
I did not believe in chest-thumping,
Life has only one purpose: stand up and walk ahead.
The big drama about human life is that people believe
There is a moral code attached to it,
It is a dream flying by the wind of chance,
It is thrilling as long as it is in the air.
I did my prison-time on earth as best I could,
I shed as few tears as I could,
I complained about my pain as little as I could,
Do not make me a hero, I was only doing my duty.
Suffern, New York, September 11, 2019
Babu’s Tryst with Destiny
Destiny is not what we make it to be ordained by some super powers,
It descends from the center of universe and shoots down digitally to its object,
Its mystery is awesome, its mystique transcending,
Its message is final.
When Babu was young he was considered by some to be a light-weight,
He had this playful winsome smile playing on his lips,
His thinness was only matched by pencils,
His long nose was innocent compared to many Kaul noses.
Babu grew from a lightweight to the carrier of an intense ambition to win,
He dreamt of many journalistic writings,
In this he was his father’s son,
While still in teens he got an article published in Illustrated Weekly.
He did not put Kaka’s hours, nor was he as humble,
He dreamt of big things, which he thought should come effortlessly to him,
Foreign affairs was his passion, so he took the exam,
Stars seemed not bright enough for him.
He marched on and on, all wheels revving up in a crescendo,
Here was his moment,
He had to make it big,
He cannot lose the chance.
The scooter-riksha wheels went berserk,
Babu in the customer chair yelling at the driver to watch the truck,
Driver annoyed ignores him and drives even faster,
The truck in the opposite direction was coming down the middle of the road.
Destiny is never clear until the last moment,
Then it thumps and whistles and knows its Shiva-moment has come,
Babu felt blessed by destiny’s lips,
The only thing he didn’t know was that truck had its own destiny.
When the two vehicles came to a crash drivers knew they had no choice,
Destiny gives no choices, its command is final,
Babu was in a daze not knowing what happened,
He remained unconscious for three days,
Till the hospital found some bags of flesh behind a door,
Sub-dural pressure was relieved and Babu swathe light.
IFS was a distant dream broken rudely,
All the universe seemed a mad dance,
Destiny is the only thing that seemed to matter,
Forty-seven years later he was yet in front of another destiny,
A fire started by his fellow-humans.
Suffern, New York, August 6, 2019
Clara’s Fourth Birthday
Clara seemed self-conscious on her birthday,
Sitting on a child-chair just outside her garage,
Balloons fluttered dreamily as her mother greeted
The guests and helped with the drinks.
It was a daytime party set outside her house
To ease the terrible trauma of social-distancing,
Neighbors came selectively falling in line with
The group Dad Yashar supports in Boardgate scandal.
They stood in small circles talking nonchalantly about the
Most splendid weather in the last six months,
There were long pauses in conversations,
As two months of lockdown had vacuumed out their excitement.
No one complained about the lack of cake and candles,
Appetizers, champagne, lunch, and dessert,
There were no gifts for Clara,
No hugs and kisses either.
Still Clara seemed enthusiastic and frolicking,
Busy with her friends, coolly ignoring the grown-ups,
Who seemed were just managing to pass time,
Under the siege of Satan corona but never mentioning it.
Suffern, New York, May 3, 2020
Some Reflections on Coronavirus
1. The Lesson from Coronavirus:
How a sub-microscopic entity such as coronavirus is tormenting mankind tells us that we are essentially a creature of nature, though we possess the entity of mind. But human mind only gives us ideas, it does not make us live biologically. So, human existence comprises of a biological system essentially and a human mind to guide it. Let’s discard our ego and live in harmony with nature. Let’s work for peace, brotherhood, and search for beauty.
2 Coronavirus and New Understanding of Life:
People ask how do they find new wisdom, new vision, or new direction to break off from an ongoing calamity,insufferable suffering. One would say go to the thinkers, poets, and sages. But, sometimes even they are unable to mitigate the ordeal we are in. Then at the end of the long night of travail arises an intuition, a reflex, an inclination that becomes a new paradigm in human wisdom. So, in human life not every brilliant idea can be thought of, some things can only come from experience. Coronavirus is a transcending experience for mankind. Out of it will come a new understanding on how to live life for some of us.
The Cruel Emptiness of D-5
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the nights
And wonder how things are at D-5,
When I open its door its neat emptiness hits me,
A deep poignancy grabs me and I feel God was not fair
In treating its denizens the way He did.
Dad got it built after numerous postings abroad,
To find a refuge in motherland after a long care-worn life,
To savor a modicum of rest,
In preparation for the journey to his eternity.
Mother pined for a bunch of grandchildren
Running wild around her,
A bevy of daughters-in-law deferring to her every word,
But in the end her God was the only companion that gave her solace and grace.
Babu’s life was that of a man who was attempted to be killed but survived,
He lived a half-alive life, wounded and vacuumed of all ambition,
He felt a hurt when he laughed,
He saw his life as a tale told by an idiot.
After a nightmarish struggle I lock the door at D-5,
I drive back to my home thinking of how life
Copiously flowed there once in spite of its haunted tragedy,
How all the laughter there vacuumed into a graveyard headstone.
Suffern, New York, October 10, 2019
When you go again to Lakes Placid and George
When you go again to Lakes Placid and George
Years from now, do not trouble to think of me,
Your visit should be your own,
Your joys pouring out of your pores.
Lake George is a symphony of joy
But Lake Placid comes from the delicate fibers of one’s being,
Aren’t they the two sides of the same phenomenon,
How can one exist without the other?
When you visit them again do not think of the past,
Think that you have discovered them by yourself,
The pain of memory is avoidable,
If you think your life is unique.
There is beauty out there:
A reflection of your being,
Do not think of me,
As I will have become a leaf on a tree at Mirror Lake,
Waiting to serenade you.
Suffern, New York, October 3, 2019
Book Review : Days of Destiny by S.S. Ambardar – Maharaj Kaul
This is an epic autobiography written in extraordinary detail, with a deep undercurrent of nostalgic pained emotion, in exquisite English. Starting from author’s deep past, from the early childhood, to his near end, it contains a panoramic as well as a detailed sweep of his existence. The author’s soul is present behind every word he has written.
After reading the 565-page book, one is choked by the inquiry, which has been incrementally rising during the reading, who is Mr. Shanti Swarup Ambardar. One is smitten by his intensity, depth of inquiry, and faith in human goodness. There is only once when he tried to depart from the accepted life of a Kashmiri Pandit, when he wanted to renounce the world and become a sanyasi. Otherwise, he stood ramrod-straight on the path of his life. His love for human beings, especially for his relatives, was intense. This included his Muslim friends. We can summarize his stellar qualities by saying that he was a man of deep faith, which was of higher value to him than even his strong intelligence.
Shanti Ambardar describes in excruciating detail the personalities and events from his mega-family. There was a lot of love present in families those days, which found an easy outlet during the celebration of religious and social events. There were uncles and aunts, and cousins and other relatives, besides your parents, who created a stratosphere around you of love and family bond, welded with family folklore and mythology. The economic poverty of Kashmiri Pandits often remained buried under these securities, not getting a chance to raise its head often. This architecture formed a permanent ornament and security over the author’s life.
The book’s title, Days of Destiny – A Memoir, is apt as it is essentially an autobiography. But it strongly connects with the prevailing Kashmiri Pandit culture and philosophy, and Kashmir Problem. The author was born in Kashmir in a middle-class orthodox Pandit family and studied up to M.Sc. in chemistry. The timing of his birth was critical as it was just seventeen years before the birth of independent India in 1947, which lead to the birth of Kashmir Problem the same year. So, from the impressionable age of seventeen through his demise in 2016, he lived in its severe clutches. The book clearly shows that if Kashmir Problem had not existed, the author and his wife would have lived a serene life in Kashmir till the end.
After his college finished in 1952, the author picked a job with Intelligence Bureau of Indian Government in 1953. Not being happy with it, he made a bold but consequential step in moving to teaching in 1956. Starting with St. Joseph’s College in Baramulla, Kashmir, and ending up in Sri Partap College, in Srinagar, Kashmir, in 1986. The teaching profession gave him quite a good perch to be connected with the culture, politics, personalities, and places of Kashmir and the world. The book is a mosaic of the day-to-day life he lived with his family and friends, with the surrounding realities of living as a member of a minority community, Pandits, with the majority community of Muslims, evolving Kashmir Problem, and the emerging India after its independence.
There are no grand events or stark revelations in the book, but only the trajectory of three generations of a common family in Kashmir from 1930’s through 1980’s. But it is the way the narrative has been written that makes it so compelling to read. The author has woven his tale in one-day-at-a-time fashion, focusing on the circumstances and emotions present within the milieu and culture of the times. The language he has used is spartan and serene, in fine and elegant sentences. He is never excited, angry, or philosophical: just a cameraman and a commentator on the scene. So, the book is a cool narrative on the life of a sensitive, thoughtful, and good family; who, unfortunately, suffered a lot in its last phase due to the evil designs of Kashmir Problem.
Ambardars had a serene, secure, and a mentally rich life in Kashmir, which tragically was shattered by the politics of the place they lived in. Kashmir Problem was much larger than any single common family’s life. Starting in 1947 as a political situation about which newly formed dominion the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir should belong to, India or Pakistan, it mushroomed into an epic war between the original inhabitants of Kashmir Valley: the Kashmiri Pandits, who trace their roots in it to 5,200 years, and Kashmiri Muslims, who trace it to 550 years. At the exit of Britain from Indian subcontinent in 1947, the areas directly under their control, called Provinces, and the 565 areas indirectly under them called Princely States, had to be divided into two new dominions of India and Pakistan. There was no third choice. While the division of the provinces and the 562 princely states was cut and dry, the choices of the three princely states: Junagarh, Hyderabad, and Jammu and Kashmir, became problematic. The affiliation of the first two was resolved by 1948, but that of the third one, Jammu and Kashmir, continues to remain unresolved in the eyes of Kashmiri Muslims, even after seventy-three years. Pakistan claims Kashmir Valley because of the Muslim affiliation of the majority of its residents, while India claims it because its prince in 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh, opted freely to join India under the treaty called Instrument of Accession, which was the criterion used for all the 565 Princely States to join either country.
While Kashmir Valley, a part of Jammu and Kashmir State, is legally securely a part of India, it was the mercurialness of its legendary Muslim leader, Sheikh Abdullah, and the machinations of Pakistan to absorb it on the basis of its Islamic majority, that has kept Kashmir Problem alive so long. India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir Valley, but the one in 1989 was the most damaging and dramatic. One of the upshots of it was that Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave the Valley. Out of their original population of 400,000 there, only 8,000 remain. Kashmir Valley has been more than a motherland for Pandits, it has been a part of their religion. It is this loss of sacredness of the place that has riven irreparable holes in Pandits’ psyche and soul. There have been other people in history that have been forced to leave their motherlands, but driven by human instinct to survive they have moved on. But Kashmiri Pandits cannot accept the loss of their sacred land, the birthplace of their gods.
Ambardars’ forced expulsion from their sacred land is the tragic undercurrent of the story of their lives narrated in this book. Without the presence of Kashmir Problem, their lives would have ended serenely. So is the case with almost all other Pandits who were compelled to leave the Valley. This book is studded with a detailed, incisive, narrative on Kashmir Problem as it evolved from its inception in 1947. The account of Pakistan’s attack on Kashmir in October, 1947, popularly called Qabailis attack, based on the author’s conversations with the people who witnessed it, and other sources, is excellent. It describes the painful details of the attackers’ inhumanity and the valor of Indian army to repel them back. Incidentally, the author’s nephew, whom he raised as a son, fought in one of these wars. Only an intelligent and honest Kashmiri living in Kashmir could have produced such a comprehensive narrative of a demonically complex problem such as Kashmir Problem.
Kashmiri Pandits must read this book as it reflects on their or their relatives’ lives before and after their tragic forced diaspora from Kashmir. It will make them re-absorb the veil of the rich cultural tapestry they lived under, their serene and nuanced existence in the land of their forefathers and gods. Others should read it to understand why Kashmiri Pandits are so pained to leave their motherland, when other people in history who were also forced to undergo that have borne it relatively calmly. The book’s 565 pages may daunt some, but they should then think of it to be two books on Kashmiri Pandits’ culture and ethos. The fateful tragedy of Kashmiri Pandits as narrated in this book moves you deeply.
Suffern, New York, March 7, 2020
Every day life is a quest for the ideas that will carry us happily to the other shore, Every day our material existence is an anchor-line to our happiness and dreams. Every morning a sleeping hope struggles to wake … Continue reading
Welcome after your long journey on high oceans, Storms and lost directions, confusions and calamities, The world is a cyclone without a rest, It defies meaning and feeling. While you were there you made it look easy, You were … Continue reading
When I met her first many years ago in India, I was stuck by her reticence. She sat with noble quietness. After a while I felt that it fit very well with the architecture of her rectitude. Great personalities, … Continue reading
I have been in the pastures of heaven now for about five weeks: Quiet and unhurried, swimming in a painless existence, Everyday is grand, every event here is magical, Life lifts in blissful ecstasy, serenading the colossal majesty of the … Continue reading
Destiny is not what we make it to be ordained by some super powers, It descends from the center of universe and shoots down digitally to its object, Its mystery is awesome, its mystique transcending, Its message is final. … Continue reading
Clara seemed self-conscious on her birthday, Sitting on a child-chair just outside her garage, Balloons fluttered dreamily as her mother greeted The guests and helped with the drinks. It was a daytime party set outside her house To ease the … Continue reading