Les Miserables – Chennai pe charcha

December 4, 2015

I would like to keep this short. That said, I would like to start with the rather long opening line of Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”…

Chennai in the Crisis that Had No Name….

How did it feel for me? Pardon me, if I say that this last week was a bit like what one experienced during the tense times of watching 26/11. For us here in Chennai, with no electricity, water-water-everywhere-but-not-that-much-to-drink, pounding-pounding-pounding of non-stop rains, with the knowledge in one’s bones that this one was the real thing – the disaster that we were afraid to even fear… The knowledge that out there, there would be thousands and thousands who would be suffering far more than I, and the feeling of guilt that accompanies that silent knowledge… And then, by the time it was Day 3, and still no signs of end, the desperate question, “is this for real? Is this really happening?”

And when the rains did seem to stop, the deluge that followed… With the waters being released from the bursting catchment lakes…. With sudden rivers flowing through city streets….

And the other city… The noble Chennai… No dhakka-mukka in the few shops that opened up… No sudden sky-rocketing of prices… Ordinary people helping each other… Many going out of their way…. The dignity of India… While it lasts… Surely, this wont last, and soon commerce will take over… As will politics….

Remember, we had no TV. Our phones were out… Most of us were in complete Radio Silence. And when the first crackle of signals did come, there came the SOS-s from friends and relations… Each of us perhaps knew some people, personally, who were marooned with water coming up to first floor… Wanting drinking water, and milk if possible… Even as I write this, I have a cousin’s family whose only mode of transport is by boat, and they have no electricity yet – and they have at least four people at home who are above 80 years of age – and so please don’t say ‘Why can’t they go to Bangalore?’

And again, even as I write this, the rains have started once more.. Maybe just a short and sharp shower… But such has been the pounding of last week, that we shall be suspicious of every shadow of a shower….

Oh I could go on.. But here’s some plea, if I may

Let us, as a nation, get our disaster-management act together…

Do not inundate sufferers with dozens of different agency numbers and options, out of which we hesitate to call any (Take your pick Army, Navy, Boat Agencies. Food relief folks Government Bodies etc etc). Please have ONE number that people should call – and let that number be manned by a Command and Control centre that routes the right relief to the right place.

Take control of communication. People may not have phones working. How do you get messages to them? Have clear and purposeful messages. Get them across. Do not make the sufferer sift for signal from a flood of meaningless noise.

For sure the rescue workers from Army, Navy and other Government agencies did terrific work. Help them by having a well designed Disaster Management Plan. Let each one know exactly what they would be doing. And let there be an overall control mechanism….

As I write this, I see a message in one of my groups where someone is asking – “Can someone suggest what medicines need to be got? One relief truck is coming from Bengaluru”. One more helping hand waving uncertainly…

One more request… This one to news channels.. Please do not come to Chennai and interview people in Hindi (although, I humbly submit ki some of us can match you gaali to gaali in khadi boli) … And if you can, please do not bring in words like Secular etc into this conversation. You agree to that, and I grant you your right to scream from your studios that your channel saved Chennai… And tomorrow (why tomorrow, even today), you may go back to your recently all too familiar ‘Papa beats Momma’ theme of ‘India Intolerance Unlimited’.

mujhe tumse kuch bhi na chahiye
mujhe mere haal pe chhod do
mujhe mere haal pe chhod do


(… ai maalik tere bande hum… )

 

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Kotwal of the Capital – 1

November 10, 2015

Tucked away in the heart of New Delhi, in the upmarket Vasant Vihar area, in a locality known as Vasant Gaon, is this temple of Hanuman. A massive Hanuman idol stands tall here. Sculpted out of a single granite rock, it is forty feet tall, and weights a hundred and fifty tons. It is installed on a twenty five feet foundation.

And this was my first visit to this temple. To me it was amazing that I had never been here before. Having spent many years in Delhi, surely I should have known of this temple. How can you miss a 45 foot Hanuman? Well, at least I have moved out of Delhi for some time now, but my friend Ravi, who came along with me now to this temple, has been in this very area all his life. And he too had never visited the temple, although he had heard of its existence. It was one of those things… It was right there, and yet wasn’t visible until you cared to see!

Hanuman - Basant Gaon

What a sight! A tall Hanuman could be seen, right at the back of a long flight of steps that led up to an open-to-the-sky temple courtyard. The sounds of a katha greeted us from the courtyard. Many young Brahmachari students were sitting and listening. They would have been students of the Sanskrit School being run here. Some elders, including priests, were also in the audience. It was informal (Oh the informality of open skies!), one felt like a bird in lazy flight. We were all chakora birds, Hanuman was the full bright moon. In the presence of this massive Hanuman, one felt as secure as a baby in his parent’s care.

I had come looking for this temple, having recently read about the amazing sage who founded it.

His name was Swami Prabhudutt Brahmachari.

The Wikipedia entry about him is rather bare-bones. Here is what it says:

Sant Prabhuduttji Brahmachari was an Indian guru and freedom fighter who ran a Sanskrit school in Basant gaon, New Delhi. He founded his ashram at Jhusi to organize Kumbh Mela. He became close to Golwalker in nearly 1950 and then Rajendra Singh and Golwalker persuaded him to stand against Nehru on the cow protection platform and against the Hindu Code Bill. In 1951, he openly challenged Jawaharlal Nehru’s election to the 1st Lok Sabha from the Allahabad constituency, challenging Nehru’s stance on the ideology of Hinduism in independent India.

This all-too-brief description hardly does justice to the persona that he was.

Prabhudutt Brahmachari was born in 1885, in a village in District Aligarh, in a poor Brahmana family. Early in his life, he took deep interest in Sanskrit studies, and also took a vow of lifelong celibacy. Leaving home, he went off to study in Gurukula, in different places, leading up to Varanasi. Swami Karpatri Maharaj was one of his co-students.

He was also drawn by the fire of freedom struggle and became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Becoming an activist, he jumped into the fight for independence, and was interred in jail by the British, undergoing rigorous imprisonment. One of his prison-mates was Jawaharlal Nehru. The irony is that he would later stand against Jawaharlal Nehru, in the first elections held in independent India.

Swami Prabhudutt Ji was deeply spiritual, and undertook tremendous tapasya, right from his early years. He became a wanderer, and met many sages, including the great sages Udiya Baba and Hari Baba. He was deeply inspired by these two saints, and took every opportunity to take their guidance. Fired with dispassion, he decided to go away to Himalaya, and not return until he attained the Supreme State of Spiritual Jnana. Udiya Babaji, sensing this fire in him, encouraged him by showing him a picture he had, of Buddha. In that picture, Buddha was seen in almost skeletal state – his body completely wasted by the intensity of Tapasya. Showing him that picture, Baba told him a related shloka

इहासने शुष्यतु मे शरीरं त्वगस्थिमांसं विलयं तु यान्तु |
अप्राप्य बोधं   बहुकालदुर्लभं इहासनान्नैव समुच्चलिष्ये ||

In this seat, (where I do tapasya), well may my body dry up, my flesh and bones decay; But without attaining Self-Knowledge, which is extremely difficult to obtain even after eons, I shall not stir from this seat, whatever it takes.

Perhaps the picture was one like this

Buddha

Taking this upadesha, Prabhudutt ji left for the Himalaya. But after serious Tapasya, he became very ill, and could no longer continue. Breaking his resolve, he returned to the plains, and going to Udiya Baba, he conveyed his state. Baba was a Jnani, who could gaze into the heart, and see such things as eyes of flesh do not see. He was kindness itself, and said – “No problem. In failures, seeds of success lie hidden. You have a pravrtti (predilection) for reading and writing. Go write books”.

And so began the writing life of Prabhudutt Ji. And what a library he has written. Starting with the life story about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he went on to write on a whole range of subjects. His magnum opus is Bhagavati Katha. This is a series of 118 parts, each of 200 to 250 pages. The first 68 parts are a rendering of Srimad Bhagavatam in traditional Hindi (Vraja bhasha), including translations and commentaries on key verses of Bhagavatam. Parts 69-74 of the series contain a commentary on Bhagavad Gita. Parts 74 to 106 contains commentaries on 191 upanishads. Imagine this… 191 Upanishads!! This is incredible! Perhaps no one else in history has done commentaries on as many Upanishads.  Parts 107 to 118 contain explanations of different schools of Indian philosophy and a commentary on Brahma Sutra.

For writing this magnum opus, he opted for complete solitude. Delegating all his secular work to others, he acquired a houseboat which he anchored in the middle of Ganga river. And there he worked undisturbed, focused fully on his writing work. What a tapasya!

The Bhagavati Katha is respected as a great spiritual classic. The Vraja language verses are sung with devotion even today… And we had been privileged to hear some of them during this first visit of ours, to this temple of Hanuman in Vasant Gaon, New Delhi…. Bhagavati Katha was being narrated now…

Swami Prabhudutt Brahmanchari’s main Asram is in Jhusi, near Allahabad, where he is said to have done terrific tapasya of Gayatri Mantra, standing in a state of Samadhi in the waters of Ganga …. In this Asrama, he held vibrant festivals of Nama Samkeertan, which were attended by some of the greatest sages of North India of those times.

Swamiji felt that Hanuman was the “Kotwal”, the Guardian, of the capital of India. And so he had this temple built in Basant Gaon, which then, was in the outskirts of Delhi, on the way to the Palam Airport. The temple was completed and inaugurated in 1990.

Swamiji lived to see the “Kotwal of the Capital’ installed. And he passed away the same year, at the ripe age of 105.

More about the temple and the sage, in the next post…

Monoliths with no name

October 30, 2015

Some forty years ago, when my father was bringing us all back from some pilgrimage, I saw a landscape with some standing rocks that looked so fascinating, that their memory etched in my mind. We were returning by car, and I remember that we were either going to or from Vellore in Tamil Nadu. Now, these rocks were like four ancient pillars, standing next to each other, like sentinels of time, withstanding erosion of eons.

That memory remained with me, and I did ask Cyril, a friend of mine in Ranipet (near Vellore) whether he had sighted any such rock formation. He said he may have, and tried to locate that site by asking others. But the trail led to a blank.

And then, last Sunday, on 25th Nov, when I was on the road on the way to Tirupathi, in the horizon, I saw them…

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That’s it, I said…

Driving nearer, I clicked again

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These are pretty tall monoliths. I guess they would be a hundred feet or more in height.

Here is a picture from the other side.

Monoliths TN 2

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Had this been America or Europe, it would have become a place of importance from Geology point of view, and made into a tourist attraction. Perhaps, souvenir replicas would have been sold, small restaurants sprung up, and in a controlled manner, a rope-way or some way to go to the top… But this is India… One should be thankful that these have not been blasted by Granite quarry men. (One could see that granite quarry folks had cut into rocks in that area. But for some mysterious reason, they had spared these monoliths…)..  In a country where hundreds of temples that are hundreds (some thousand and more) years old are all in various stages of neglect, what chance do some stray monoliths stand? Sigh..

But who knows. Maybe the site is documented by the authorities as geologically important and declared a protected site in some Government circular. Let me grant the benefit of doubt.

I guess that we were probably traveling from Tirupathi to Vellore when I saw them the first time, decades ago. But yes… After four decades – magic happened, and I saw these monoliths from my memory spring back into matter.

Signing off with one more pic. Jai Ho!

Monoliths TN 1

Dilli in waiting…

October 2, 2015

October tip-toes in…

Early morning walk in my customary park…. Summer is surely over, but winter is not yet in… The morning walkers present a somber picture… Tensely quiet… None of the bluster of summer, nor the fight of winter… They walk listlessly, as if they are not sure whether they are waiting to write a will or to inherit from one… There is expectation in their strides, and yet there is resignation in their eyes… Old ladies are sitting on park-benches and cud-chewing some topic or the other in the manner of Goddesses of twilight passing judgments on daylight matters, more out of habit rather than with purpose…. Girls (Ladies), young and old, are doing yoga, holding poses, stopping time, looking at the sky, locking their eyes on some unseen God, who, surely, would blink first… A cluster of senior citizens are standing in a circle and doing their own thing – clapping hands, doing some stretches, and ending up with Laughter Asana, laughing HA-HA-HA-HA in unison, thrice… Each time louder than the previous time… They know that time shall have the last laugh… So HA HA HA…

The shrubs are displaying the last flowers of the season… Take-it-or-leave-it blossoms…

Walking along two elders chat about “nothing lasts”. “Let us take this walk. Who knows how many cells have died in our body, and how many born since we started this walk. In fact, the whole blood stream is completely replaced every six months…” says, one to the other. “Yes, yes, that is why three months average is best measure of blood sugar” says the other to the one. They both heartily agree, and say “HbA1C”, in one voice, like two children trying out a nice new word… Rumpelstiltskin…

88! (“Two fat ladies!”, shout the Tambola criers, when they announce the number 88.) Well, two eights are walking, and one tells another, about a third 8 who is not present – “uskee Thyroid problem hai… That is why itnee soojee hui hai … (She has a thyroid problem. That is why she is so bloated).

Two kids playing shuttle cock… Up and down, back and forth, like a tease of time…

A couple of stray dogs are basking in the sun. One is on his back, legs up in the air, allowing the Sun to gaze at his navel. And the other sits a short distance away, unconcerned, examining his own fur, as if checking if they are ok for the coming winter…

The wide lawns are covered by a dew carpet. Looks like moisturizer spread across earth’s skin that is soon going dry …

Mortality is in the air… Every creature is transacting from a perch of frailty… Winds are holding their breath…

Life now, seems like this flower in the park… Streaks of color… The white of age…

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दिनयामिन्यौ सायं प्रातः
शिशिरवसन्तौ पुनरायातः ।
कालः क्रीडति गच्छत्यायुः
तदपि न मुञ्चत्याशावायुः ॥

Day and night, dusk and dawn
Winter and spring, on and on…
Time sports , Life runs away,
Yet no respite from desire-storm sway..

Hickery, Dickery, Dock!

Rama Katha… An episode from Sundara Kaanda

September 6, 2015

Athato…

Hanuman lands on top of Lambaa mountain in Lanka, crashing through the forest tree carpet, and as he lands, he is covered with flowers, so much so that he looks like an ape made of flowers.

More…

Watch. A ustream recording of the katha narration….

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Siyaavar Ramachandra ki Jai… Pawan-sut Hanuman ki Jai…

Neighborhood News

August 9, 2015

Dear You,

A tidbit, if I may

Sharing a surprise I came across… Some factual goachies but heck, so what…

Click here for a little news item in the neighborhood newspaper…
                                                                                                                      …
Yours almost truly
Dear Me

Crazy About Ramana

July 16, 2015

It was sometime in May 2015. I got a call from “Crazy Mohan”, the famous Theater artiste.

(His Wikipedia entry says – “Crazy Mohan (born 16 October 1949 as Mohan Rangachari) is a Tamil comedy actor, script writer and playwright. An engineer by profession, Mohan started writing plays and dramas for stage and established his own drama troupe called Crazy Creations in 1979. In addition to dramas and tele-serials, he has worked as a dialogue writer on a number of comedy films. He has written over 30 plays, worked on over 40 films and played cameo roles in each of these films, and written 100 short stories.”

That’s not the whole story. Mohan is a ‘drawing’/’painting’ artist. He is a terrific Tamil poet.

At heart, he is a simple, down-to-earth, foodie.

And he is a devotee of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Mohan has written a four hundred verse Tamizh biographical treatise titled ‘Ramanayanam’, which was serialized by Tamizh magazine ‘Amuda Surabhi’.)

I have had the joyous opportunity to work with him for some years now, on a column for  ‘Ramana Way’ – the monthly journal of Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning, Bengaluru. Working with the Editorial part of the journal, I had approached Mohan in 2012 to seek a column for one issue. We met and spoke, and that blossomed into many conversations, that were carried as a regular column since that time – “Crazy About Ramana” By Crazy Mohan, As told to ‘yours truly’.

In May 2012, he called me and asked me “Why not bring out ‘Crazy About Ramana'” as a book. He was to stage 777th show of his superhit comedy drama ‘Chocolate Krishna’, on July 11th, for which he was inviting superstar Kamalahasan as Chief Guest. And could we release the book on that date?

Mohan knew that the iron was hot. And Mohan is known for his Super-hits!

It happened as planned. On July 11th, 2015, at Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai, Kamalahasan released both, ‘Ramanyanam’ (in e-book form) and ‘Crazy About Ramana’.

Click here to read a writeup from The Hindu on that 777th Show.

And here is a video clip of the books release…

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So, ‘Who’s Crazy?’. What has humor to do with spirituality? Get a glimpse of the spiritual odyssey of Crazy Mohan… Read the book….

To buy the book, connect with the link “Buy some products and help a cause” in the blogroll below.

Or contact, ‘Anbudan Store’ (number 9941622793) – 11 am to 6 pm,  or email to rasa.experience@yahoo.in

Hasta Manana!

Children’s World

July 5, 2015

Welcome to my childhood world of books! .
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You would have heard of the Dolls museum in New Delhi… Started by the greatest Grandfather of all time – Shankar of Shankar’s weekly immortality (far more than fame)… It is Shankar who started this museum, sometime forty or fifty years back…. A place where I have spent a substantial part of my school holidays, in the magic world of children’s books… It started like this. Maybe I was ten or eleven years old… I had written a poem and showed it to my father. The next day he took me to Nehru House, the building which houses Dolls Museum, and introduced me to the one and only Kesava Shankar Pillai … I remember the day still.. Shankar fixed his eyes on me… Read my poem… Spoke to me… Went in somewhere and came back with a load of children’s books, and just gifted them to me… Books published by his Children’s Book Trust… Many written and illustrated by him. He then took me to the BC Roy Children’s Library, right there, and enrolled me as a member. A world of children’s books opened for me… I went there whenever I could. Fact that my father’s office (CAG office) was right opposite helped. I would go with him, spend the day in the library, and then return with him… My favorite was Billy Bunter Series. I read them all. Then there were all the Enid Blytons, the Hardy Boys series, Three investigators. Biggles, Jennings, Nancy Drew, etc etc etc… After I passed out of school, I had to leave Delhi, to pursue my engineering studies. And I never went back to see the library. Till a few weeks ago. Last month, in June, when I was in Delhi, I was in that area. Having lunch with a colleague. After lunch, I took him along, and went checking on the library. It was still there…. I went up, feeling rather like a child, somewhat nervous, and opened the door… And I looked in… It was like coming back to heaven… A heaven of one’s childhood, which had not changed a bit…

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An elderly librarian waved us in…. The layout was more or less the same… The shelves of books had were in the same places. The walls were lined up with children’s paintings. The low tables and chairs were still there… Stamps from around the world were showcased in glass…. Lets pause a moment… Who was this BC Roy after whom this library is named? Many of us would have seen greetings of “Happy Doctors Day’ on 1st of July…. That day is celebrated in honor of Dr BC Roy. He was born on July 1 1882 and he died on July 1 1962. About him, here’s an excerpt from The Hundu, in article tiled “A Doctor Par Excellence’  – “Dr. B.C. Roy was one of the foremost national leaders of the 20th century. A legendary physician, distinguished political leader, philanthropist, educationist and social worker, he was one of the longest serving Chief Ministers and is rightly hailed as the Maker of Modern West Bengal.”..  A look at his Wikipedia entry will tell us how great a man he was. He was awarded Bharat Ratna too, and he was one who deserved that and more.

As great as him was the man who made the library named after him. Sri Kesava Shankar Pillai. His wikipedia entry begins – “Kesava Shankara Pillai (Malayalam: കെ. ശങ്കര്‍ പിള്ള) (31 July 1902 – 26 December 1989), better known as Shankar, was an Indian cartoonist. He is considered the father of political cartooning in India. He founded Shankar’s Weekly, India’s Punch in 1948. Shankar’s Weekly also produced cartoonists like Abu Abraham, Ranga and Kutty, he closed down the magazine during the Emergency of 25 June 1975. From then on he turned to making children laugh and enjoy life. He was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1976, the second highest civilian honour given by the Govt. of India.[2] Today he is most remembered for setting up Children’s Book Trust established 1957 and Shankar’s International Dolls Museum in 1965.

For me, as for thousands and thousands of children across the world, Shankar was someone from Devaloka, Our house (with many children) subscribed to ‘Children’s World’ magazine that he brought out. All of us brothers (four) have written poems and stuff, in the magazine. I have participated in the annual Shankar’s On the Spot Painting Competition, which was held in Delhi, sometime around February (I think). The competition, which commenced  sometime in early 1950s and is on till this day. There was also the worldwide Shankar’s International Children’s Competition, of art and writing, which now gets more than a hundred and fifty thousand entries every year….. And the prizes, in those days, was given by dignitaries such as the Prime Minister or President of India.. Such was it’s magic! How can one ever thank that world’s greatest and most hard working magician, Sri Kesava Shankar Pillai!

Coming back to my visit to the BC Roy library.. The rows of bookshelves are designed keeping children in mind. Books within easy reach of small kids. Rows narrow walkway in between…. Broad for kids… .

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I instinctively walked to the shelves which had Billy Bunter books…They were not there… I went to the catalog, just like I did forty years ago, found some Billy Bunter books and went looking for them…. They had all been borrowed. Found some Hardy Boys books.. .

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My friend was chatting with the librarian.. Called me over… The librarian told me he was there since the early 70s, which meant that he was there when I had been coming. I said I remembered a Malayalee librarian. He said – Yes, that was the main librarian, and he and another lady assisted that gentleman… He had joined the library when he was in his early 20s… A lovely man. Serving the cause of children’s reading for over forty years. Surely some award should be given to him. Here he is… A Mr Rana, if  I recall his name right.

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Reluctantly, taking leave of the library, I went down to the Children’s Book Trust shop… What a spread! .

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I found books that were presented to me by the great Mr Shankar, all those years ago. Still there. Still beckoning me with their magic. I  bought some of those books, the very titles which I had savored when I was a kid. I bought them now, as a gift for my new born grandson, for him to read a few years from now…. .

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It cost less than 200 Rs for five books.. The four above, and one biography of Shankar, written by his daughter in law Alaka Shankar, all in good paper, beautifully illustrated (by Shankar himself), large fonts… I also found ‘Children’s World’ magazine, and bought one for Rs 20…. Browsing through the biography of Shankar, I found an old black and white photo of the BC Roy library…. I think I am there in it. .

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The one in the black shirt, right in the middle. I think that’s me, and on my left, my elder brother… Not sure…

But back now,
here’s me,
just as happy,
in a selfie,
in the BC Roy children’s library…

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That’s all for now. This is Inky, Hurree Jamshet Ram Singh, the Nabob of Bhanipur, signing off from the library of Greyfriars school!

The joyfullness is terrific! 

Teerth Yatra … To the land of Yamuna and Ganga… – 7

May 23, 2015

3 Arp 2015, Friday, Uttara Phalguni day

Around 2 PM, or so we start from Hari Baba baandh… To return to Brindavan…

Bobby, our Guide, has updated his mind’s road encyclopedia with the vagaries of the day, and has suggested a slightly different route for the return trip… And we are on our way….

Sometime around 4 pm or so, Bobby gets a call on his cell. He  speaks excitedly, and after the call is done, he tells us that there is a terrific hailstorm in progress in Brindavan…. He says the whole courtyard of the Asram is under ice… It’s a white carpet, he says….

Where we are, there is no rain….We drive on, unconcerned.

About half an hour later, Bobby gets one more call. Its is Shyamji from Brindavan, asking whether we are all ok. He is concerned about the Swami-s… He says he hail has been severe, and he asks if we are stranded, do we need any help, should he send any vehicle to fetch us etc etc… Well, we were perfectly fine…. No problems at all…. We were maybe 20 or 30 kms from Brindavan.. And we had experienced no rain… What were these people talking about….

And then, around 5 30 pm. when we entered Brindavan… The deluge… Water, water everywhere… Rains has stopped… But we could see hailstones all over the place… We stopped the car, got down, to check out.. Huge hailstones, the size and weight of golf balls… And it was at least half an hour since rain had stopped.. Yet, the place was a lattice of white hailstones… As we made our way to the Ananda Vrindavana Asrama, we noticed the damage. Cars with windshields broken. Houses with windows damaged…

See for yourself…. (The damaged car was parked in Ananda Vrindavana Asrama… The other pics were shared by my good friend Sanjay, who got it from his Brindavan brotherhood).

Click on any picture, and browse… Have a look….

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When we entered the Asrama, we found most people to be appearing shell shocked. They had never seen anything like this… Everyone had a war story to tell… It was as if the God’s had singled out Brindavan for this aerial bombardment…

A news article in a local Vrindavan news site reported  “It was around 3.30 p.m on Friday, the sky became dark then the hailstorm began with thunder. The base ball sized hail pounded on the roof, roads and fields of Vrindavan for two hours. The glasses of many vehicles were broken. The plastic water tanks out on the roofs were not spared either. It made holes in the water tanks….”

“The hailstorm was so severe that it killed four persons including a woman, while 150 others were injured. Hundreds of pigeons and other birds were also killed, which also included three peacocks….”

“The majority of crops were destroyed in the hailstorm. The actual loss of the farmers couldn’t be ascertained….”

Vrindavan Experience, a Facebook page, mentioned “Heavily beaten monkeys, dead birds, shattered windows and car wind shields, a cover of green leaves that got all shaved off of the trees and shredded, all in just 5 minutes. Wires ripped apart, no electricity at some parts, internet cables torn apart. And no, things like this doesn’t happen regularly…

Here is a video clip of the hailstorm shared in Facebook page of Vrindavan Experience.

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No, thing like this don’t happen even remotely rarely….

When we were in the shelter of the main building in Ananda Vrindavana Ashram, an elderly devotee came to pay his respects to Swami G. His car had been damaged severely by the hail. He looked a bit shaken, but was was floating with the lightness of being that comes to one when one has seen  an ‘act of God’, which demonstrates how powerless one really is… And talking to Swami G, he mentioned that they had escaped lightly. He wondered, how it would have been, few thousands of years ago, when Indra had unleashed his fury on Brindavana by a dam-burst from the sky…. And how, by an act of supreme mercy, Krishna, the boy, had lifted Govardhana hill and held it up like an umbrella, under which the all creatures could take shelter…. Swami G blessed him profusely for reminding us of this divine incident….He praised the Bhakti of this devotee, that he had remembered something that had occurred to none of us… Overcome with emotion, in extreme humility, the devotee just fell on Swami G’s feet and wet it with his tears….

Around 7 pm or so, we left Brindavan, to return to Delhi…. We decided to take the  Yamuna Express Highway route for our return trip…. Inching our way out through the heavy traffic (many cars with broken glasses, bonnets with crater depressions), we made our way to the highway, after which it was a smooth drive….

An hour or so later, when we stopped at one of the highway toll-booths…

“Radhey, Radhey” said the boy in the toll booth… “Heavy damage in Brindavan, huh?” he asked… Ah yes, the word had traveled….

After reaching Delhi, I spent a few days there. When I showed some friends the pictures, they could not believe what they saw…. No newspaper, TV, had mentioned anything about this hailstorm. Who cares about what happens in a small town in UP, especially one that is an ancient center of Hindu reverence.

We had started off the morning (refer the first blog post of this series) by whatsapping a picture of Krishna holding up the Govardhana Giri… Krishna Leela it is, that we ended the day, with a small experience of what it might have been on that day of storms….

Signing off this post, and series, with the same picture…. Govardhana Giri Govinda!

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Krishna.

Bolo Brindavan Dhaam ki……    Jai!
Krishna Kanhaiyaa Laal ki… Jai!
Bankey Bihaari Bhagavan ki… Jai!

Jai Jai Sri Radhey!

Teerth Yatra … To the land of Yamuna and Ganga… – 6

May 17, 2015

From Ganga snaan at Narora, we were now proceeding to Hari Baba Baandh at Gavaan-Badaayoon.

We backtracked to Dibai, and turned towards Gavaan. Soon we were in the town of Anupshahr. The town seemed to be one long market road, which just went on and on. There were shops on both sides, and the road was narrow. One was wondering what would happen if any vehicle came from the opposite direction. As it happened, there was just enough space for two cars to pass, so there…

Anupshahr is another ancient place. Originally known as Bala Bhadra nagar, the place has been known since times of Mahabharata. Bala Bhadra Nagar was named so because Balarama, Krishna’s brother, is supposed to have done teertha yatra here and done tapasya. Later, during Mughal times, King Jehangir had given this place to Gujar King Anup Rai, whose valor had greatly impressed Jehangir. The name of the town was changed to Anupshahr.

Anupshahr is famous for its Karthik Poornima festival. Around 10 Lakh pilgrims come here for the festival every year, to have Ganga snaan here. A vibrant mela is held, and it is a feast for the heart and senses. Now, who in urban India or in mainstream media, is aware of this? India carries on despite the “educated elite” who usually know little (or do not care) about the culture that they belong to….

Be that as it may…

Coming back to our group.. We are seven in the Toyota Innova… The driver Praveen and Siva in front. Swami G and Swami M in the middle row. Soota, Brahmachari R, and Bobby. Bobby was our local guide. He ran a cab himself, and knew this area well…. But for him, we would not have known how to get to the Baandh… Such are the best kept secrets of spiritual India…

For those readers who have not kept up with this blog thread, a brief explantion… Hari Baba Baandh is a baandh (dyke) of around 34 kms length, built by Sage Hari Baba. He motivated the local communities to volunteer and build this. The entire work was carried out in just six months (in 1923), and entirely done by people chanting the name of God. Every bit of mud and stone here is soaked in God’s name, and the whole feat is a repeat of the Rama Setu built by the vanara sena during the times of Ramayana. The building of this baandh saved hundreds of villages that would be regularly submerged by floods in Ganga. The entire region prospered after this baandh was built. The baandh itself became a great centre of pilgrimage. The list of God-Realized Sages who used to visit this baandh is too long to mention. Akhanda keertana has been going on here till date. The name of the Lord, sung non-stop, on the banks of Ganga… You don’t get more holy than that…

We see a large tract of Khaadar ( Khaadar or Khadir are plains that are low-lying next to a river. Khadir areas are prone to flooding and sometimes include portions of former river-beds), and then we see baandh, low and long… We drive on to a road that is on the baandh itself…

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Baandh

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And crossing the baandh perimeter, we drive a bit and enter the rear gate of the holy Ashram at Hari Baba Baandh.

Word has reached that the Swami G and Swami M are coming here… The managing people at the Ashrama are waiting for our group with a rousing welcome. All I can say is that nothing in the world prepared me for the kind of welcome that was given that day…. The chanting of Lord’s name (Hari Bol) greeted and swallowed us…

See for yourself…. The wonder that is India…

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You can see in the video above, our being welcomed and led to the Bhajan hall…. Akhand Keertan is going on here… Non-stop…. At least eleven people sing Bhajan all the time…. Each day a different village has the turn for doing this keertan…

You can see in the hall, the altar with a banner on top… The first line on the banner reads:

हरेर्नाम हरेर्नाम हरेर्नामैव केवलम , कलौ नास्त्येव नास्त्येव नास्त्येव गतिरन्यथा।

(Hari’s name, Hari’s name, Hari’s name alone! In Kali Yuga, there is no other, no other, no other, way or goal)

And the next line has the Mahamantra –

hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare      hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare

From the bhajan hall, we come out and enter the inner complex…

We find a cluster of temples. Brahmachari boys from the veda pathashaala here are standing in front of a shrine.

That shrine is the Samadhi of Hari Baba… You can see a statue of Hari Baba installed here… The Samadhi is an enclosure….

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As the Swamiji-s are with us, the Ashram authorities open the enclosure and allow all of us to go inside to pay homage to statue and the Samadhi…

Here is Hari Baba…

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After we come out of the Samadhi, the Swamiji-s are once again given a welcome – a Vedic welcome… Veda Pathashala boys chant Swasti Vacana from Veda, north Indian style…

Here is a video clip…

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After the swasti swaagatam, we are taken on a tour of the Ashrama. I am walking barefoot… Someone notices and asks me about it. I tell him that I had noticed Brahamachari R leaving his footwear in the car and I decided to do likewise… Brahmachari R smiles and says – “Tapobhoomi!” ,and we all nod….

Have a glimpse of Ashrama… Click on any picture in the gallery below, and browse….

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At one place we find a board that lists all the villages that have given Anna Daan here in 2014. It is a list of over 200 villages….

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Around noon, we are given prasad Lunch…

One of our hosts tells us that he has been serving the Ashrama since his childhood. He is a landlord in this region… He tells us about his peculiar diet… He only takes milk as food. No rice, wheat, sabzee etc. He has milk many times a day. Other than milk he does take Prasad of sweets or dry fruits. That’s it. And he had been on this diet always… He is well over 70 and looks stronger than most of us…

The food served to us is simple, wholesome and delicious.

After food they give all of us some gift. What can one say…

How does one describe the ambiance of the baandh… There is expanse… There is peace… There is the Ganga in the horizon… There are simple villagers sitting in the shade, here and there… Young boys in the veda patashaala, now playing cricket…. Peacocks walking around… And the constant sound of bell of Hari Baba going clang-clang-clang, as the akhand keertan goes on…. One is tempted to borrow that statement about Kashmir, and proclaim – “Gar firdaus, ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin asto” (If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here).”

Around 2 PM or so, after a feast for the palate and the heart, we are now ready to take leave of Baandh Bhagavan…

A large group of people come to see us off….

Before we leave, we go into the Bhajan hall once again, to get one more taste of the keertan

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Ready to go… Next stop, Brindavan… And we do not know that God has some interesting plans for us there….

** To be continued **