Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I LOVE OCTOBER

ABC Wednesday 'O'
'O' IS FOR OCTOBER

October is one of the seven months with a length of 31 days. It takes its name from the Latin word   “Octo” meaning eight. Originally, Roman calendar had ten months and October was the eighth month. However, it retained its first name even after January and February were introduced into the calendar.

Frankly, I nurture a soft corner for this month. For one it is mild mannered and the other, it harbingers promising changes in the weather. I welcome it with open arms as it mercifully brings long awaited respite from the debilitating, stifling and irritatingly sticky September weather. The temperature slides down and the suffocating humidity comes down to normal levels. Doors and windows dry out the moisture and start fitting properly.

Finally, we enter the ‘breathe easy state’ in the lap of sweet October.  Its ambience bolsters our spirits and sagging moods and restores the sapped energy. People appraise pending jobs and start making plans to execute them. Soon there is feverish activity all around. People get busy hiring painters and labor to get their houses white washed and painted. Festive spirit slowly takes over the lethargic tempo of the preceding months. Excitement in anticipation of the coming festivals and festivities slowly builds up.

October ushers in Dussehra, our much-loved festival. It is celebrated in most parts of the country as a symbol of ‘victory of good over evil’. On this day king, Rama killed the demon king Ravana who had abducted Sita his wife through vile deceit.  The effigies of Ravana and two others representing evil are consigned to flames at Ram Lila grounds in most regions of the country.

Exactly 20 days after Dussehra comes Deepavali “the festival of lights”. On this day, King Rama comes back to his kingdom after attaining victory over the evil king Ravana . People celebrate his arrival with rejoicings and lighting clay lamps.

Around Diwali there is surfeit of sweets, exchange of gifts, bursting of crackers and lighting of earthen lamps and sparklers. Strings of multi colored electric bulbs shine and twinkle on the parapets of houses. During the 20 days prior to the gala day, people engage in marathon cleaning sprees of their houses and surroundings. Special decorations are done to welcome the Goddess of wealth and good luck. Consumerism peaks before Diwali.
grain market scene with paddy filled bags

October also signifies abundance of life sustaining  grain. Around the end of October, farmers harvest Paddy and grain markets are flooded with the produce.
I clicked this beauty at the front yard of my son's house in the US

In our part of the country, nature heralds the ripening flavor of autumn. The deciduous trees prepare themselves for shedding leaves. Later leaves fall in droves on windy days.

The beauty of this season is resplendent in the West. I experienced the most enjoyable autumn in the company of riot of color last year in the US. That unique panorama of sensuous pleasures, I’ll cherish forever.
In the western world, the carnival of Halloween falls in this month. It is an important cultural event, where children have a blast of time wearing outlandish costumes and going from door to door chanting trick or treat. At the end of the day kids’ buckets overflow with confectionery collected from neighborhood.

The weird looking pumpkin lamps adorn the front yards of the houses.

October has its fair share of glory. It follows a middle path and shuns extreme weather conditions. It is considered an auspicious month for solemnizing weddings and other family functions.

Friends, your comments are welcome.
Image courtesy: Google

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NARCISSISM IS AS OLD AS HUMAN NATURE

ABC WEDNESDAY

         N is for Narcissism

Friends, do you know that some peoples’ main credo in life is I, me and mine? While healthy interest in oneself promotes happiness and success,  foolish obsession with one's physical and mental superiority is tragically binding. Such people even start believing that the world exists only for them. Others’ reactions or opinions hold no significance for their cocooned minds. In fact, they brush aside any opposing stance to their own as contemptuous. Sometimes over trifles, they pretend to be hurt and victimized. They often accuse others of malicious intent towards them, where none exists. Harboring fantasies of grandiose schemes where they are the chief protagonist wielding power is their compulsive addiction.

Self-absorption and expecting others to toe their line ever, becomes central to their narrow thinking. Vanity and self-admiration acquire the status of their nagging need. Their worldview is confined to their own internal perceptions and they jettison the ground realities of life by a nonchalant nod.

The term 'Narcissism' originated with Narcissus from Greek mythology, a handsome young man who falls in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and fails to pull himself away. Subsequently he pines himself to death.

Later Sigmund Freud used this concept in his psychoanalytic theory. He developed the idea further in his book ‘On Narcissism’ as a personality disorder afflicting many.

One of the greatest examples of destructive Narcissism in literature is that of Shakespeare’s King Lear. On being asked how much she loves him, Cordelia his youngest daughter,  who unlike her cunning older sisters declares, “I love  your majesty/ according to my bond, no more no less” which so  enrages Lear that he curses Cordelia, disowns her and distributes his entire wealth and kingdom between his  other two daughters. His misery and humiliations that followed at the hands of his crafty daughters rouse pity at his ignorance of human nature. His childishness to expect the same authority, entitlements and sycophancy from his kin and minions, even after relinquishing his kingship speaks of intellectual immaturity even though he was the all-powerful king. How he fails to see through the empty rhetoric of Regan and Goneril claiming to love him above everything else in the world proves his shallow and tragic overestimation of his self.

Another fable, which is also a metaphor for tragic self-love, is that of a stag. He comes to drink water at a stream in the forest and is so mesmerized by the reflection of his majestic looking antlers that he fails to sense danger on time and though he runs for his life, his antlers get entangled in the bushes and he meets his death in the ferocious attack of the lion.

The worrisome part is that the malady of preoccupation with the self is becoming a rage amongst modern youth. Studies point out the electronic gadgets and social networking sites take up so much of their time that actual human contact becomes a casualty. Coupled with that the trend of being soft on children even when they make mistakes, for the false fear of lowering their self-esteem has contributed to the erosion of discipline and parental influence. The clich├ęd syndrome, ‘I am on my own’ is feeding isolation and irresponsible individualism.

The  spread of this unhealthy culture of arrogance and rude assertions such as ‘others may go to hell’  need to be debated seriously for the good of society.

Images courtesy: Google

Friends, pl. leave a comment

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

MORNING MANTRA

ABC Wednesday


M is for Morning

I feel deep reverence for the mystic allure of each morning. When my eyes open to the sweet morning light, stealing benignly through the bedroom window, the whole body responds eagerly to the sensation of freshness and tranquility. Even when up and doing, the silence of the morning connects me to my spiritual self, making me feel light and hopeful.

The first cup of tea pours energy into the system and there you go chasing the morning chores.

In fact, morning sets the mood of the day. For me, the most important activity is the morning walk in the nearby park. It is the greatest mantra for maintaining well-being, which I have adopted since my retirement. There are no more urgent household tasks to be carried out before leaving for work.

Undoubtedly, morning walk or some exercise regime is necessary for a healthy living for all of us. There are no two opinions about the belief that the threesome of prayer, meditation and exercise performed in the morning, work wonders for overall wellness, creativity and productivity.

I experience morning walk as a channel for the restoration of mind body connect, which we have almost lost in the fast pace of modern life. Walk in a park surrounded by trees and floras that emit oxygen in the morning, fill the lungs, improving blood circulation. Brisk walk provides muscular strength to the skeletal and lubricates joints and cells, promoting fitness. It is also your ‘me time’ when day’s distractions haven't  yet invaded your mental space.You converse with your inner self. The greenery around soothes the eyes, envelops you with grace and resilience to face the day.

It’s pure joy to watch the frolicking squirrels and buzzing honey bees and other insects flitting around blooming flowers and creating their own music. It is however, the birds, which steal the morning show. They flutter overhead, chirp, tweet or squeak on the branches conducting an orchestra of improvised notes. It is like nature’s lyrical poetry. Nevertheless, the experience is as holy as participating in a sat sang to rejuvenate the soul.

Morning is time for thanksgiving to God for His countless blessings. Also the consciousness of proper planning for a purposeful day happens in the morning.

A light and healthy breakfast is a great beginning to the day. It accelerates your brain functions, and alerts your responses.

Morning exudes vibes of inexplicable sensuous charm and spontaneous positivity. Childlike innocence of an unpolluted mind is the persona of the morning hour.  Sweeping away inertia, it adds swing to your movements and sees you through the good/bad of each day.

Friends, pl. share your thoughts on the subject.

Image courtesy: Google

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

THE ANIMAL FARM





                                   L is for lampoon


image courtesy; Google

George Orwell’s famous novel “The Animal Farm” has always been a thought provoking reading. It was published after the Second World War in1945.  It is a political novel written in the form of an allegory with the animals as the major characters. It was, in fact, written to lampoon the despotic regime of Soviet Russia after the ouster of the Tsar by the revolution of 1917.  

Orwell superbly fuses two levels of the narrative, which run parallel in the plot structure. At the manifest level, it is a humorous story of farm animals and at immanent level, a subtle lampooning of the totalitarian Oligarchy, which usurped power and entrenched itself menacingly through cleverly devised propaganda and  intimidating threats. Orwell’s animals show human qualities and represent easily identifiable characters of the then prevailing corrupt system.

The novel was inspired by Orwell‘s firsthand experiences of appalling political upheavals during Spanish civil war and two World Wars. He could gauge the extent of suppression of the public, especially after Stalin wrested power by defeating Trotsky. The atrocities leashed against Russian people by a handful of wily leaders who seized power after the October 1917 revolution shocked him. He felt duty bound to reveal the tragic consequences of absolute power wielded by a tyrannical group, which controlled all forms of freedom and infringed upon people’s rights.

Ironically the principle of equality and freedom, which were the slogans before the overthrow of the cruel regime of the Tsar, were tacitly twisted to mean ‘all are equal but some are more equal than the others.’ Moreover, they maintained, masses need to be controlled for their own good.

At first Lenin’s and later ‘Stalin’s coming to power was engineered through malicious power struggles. Stalin’s rival for power Trotsky was dishonored called a traitor and exiled. All the dissenters met the same fate. The revolution betrayed the people. Working class got such a raw deal that thousands died in abject poverty due to exhaustion and misery, whereas the rulers enjoyed a luxurious life style.  The system of double speak, hypocrisy, lies, false propaganda, and distortion of history to foil any comparisons, form the basis of Orwell’s incisive lampooning which shook the reading public throughout the world.

A well-meaning socialist as he was, his anxiety for social justice was an intensely felt genuine concern. The leaders of the revolution made empty promises to provoke the people against the Tsar and the capitalists. They named it a class war between the owners of property and the poor masses who did all the backbreaking tasks and the profits of their labor went to the rich.
Karl Marx’s philosophical treatise "Das Capital" theorized about a classless society that was okay on paper but too confusing to implement. The system, which was established post revolution, was more reprehensible, despotic, and tyrannical than the former. People’s hardships and woes far from being addressed were aggravated. Dissent was unlawful and opponents were purged through summary trials on made up charges. Private property was abolished and there was no incentive given for innovation or hard work. Farm output went down drastically and thousands of people died due to wide spread famines.  

After Gorbachev’s Perestroika and glasnost (the opening up of the system), the world came to know about the dark side of communism practiced in Soviet Russia. Orwell’s fears proved right.

A brief overview of the characters:
 
Before his death the old Major (Marx) addresses the (People) animals and outlines the future action to overthrow Mr. Jones (Tsar) who is the enemy of the working class. The speech is satirical portrayal of the perfect society envisaged by Marx, which turns out to be impractical.
Snowball a boar in the Animal Farm (Trotsky) is a strategist and imaginative but fails to outwit Napoleon (Stalin) in the power struggle and is discredited and exiled.
Napoleon another boar (Stalin) is crafty and uses force to have his way. There are periodical purges of the malcontents by him. Finally, he becomes a cult personality and a deified leader.
Boxer a carthorse toiled hard to build the Windmill but is sent to the slaughter house when he falls sick. ‘Clover’ a mare supports animals in all situations.
Benjamin a donkey is a cynic without any hope of betterment of workers plight.
Moses (a crow) represents organized religion and talks about Sugar candy Mountains where life is better. Stalin initially bans church services but later restored it as he considered religion as a useful opiate to delude the masses.
Squealer a porker stands for the propaganda machinery Of Napoleon (Stalin) to hoodwink the poor animals.
The Dogs: Napoleon’s bodyguards and secret police who strike terror in the hearts of his opponents.
The sheep: the uneducated masses who bleat the slogans repeatedly without understanding.
Most of the other animals represent average citizens.
Apart from Jones the previous owner of The Manor Farm, there are three other human characters. After Jones ouster by the animals, it is renamed as Animal Farm.

Friends,Your comments are welcome!