The Conversation

~~~~Book review of The Gita (for Children) by Roopa Pai

I am not a trained writer nor a reviewer of books but I do read a lot and love recommending them to friends and family. I had been planning to review a book for my blog for quite sometime now and this was one book that insisted that I pick up my pen.This  review is an attempt to put across my feelings and thoughts about this book.

Gita by itself is a vast huge topic, to write about it in 260 odd pages and to be able to get the message across loud and clear is a huge achievement. Ms.Roopa Pai take a bow! You have taken a complex concept (yes, I would like to call it a concept ), one which is the most valuable part of our Hindu,nay, Indian culture and present it in a simple, easy way that even a teenager would love to read this book.

A good book is one which keeps the reader engrossed,it compels the reader to keep turning the pages and never close the book before it’s over. This book is one those books. It’s not a thriller or an adventure book, its is about a religious scripture but never does it becoming boring or preachy and keeps you involved. It is written in an engaging manner almost as if the author was talk to you. The target audience (as the tittle suggests) are children, more specifically ages ten onwards and the author given such examples which they can understand and relate too.

Ms.Pai  has started off the book by writing why Gita is still relevant and important in today’s day and age. She has gone to give a gist of the story of Mahabharata so that even if the child is unfamiliar with the story , they can have a little heads up.The  illustrations by Sayan Mukherjee add spice to the book and help keep the kids involved in such a serious topic. The facts given along with everything keep the mixture interesting,specially look out for the fact about number 18!

The author then moves on to “The Conversation” as she calls the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna.The one fact that really stood out for me is that how she related all that Krishna said to Arjuna  to modern times, we even have Batman in the book!! All this I think makes it very relatable ,  bringing the message of Gita closer to children and to us too. However you should not think that this book just has some some funky examples ,each chapter does have at least one “shloka” in Sanskrit with its meaning in english, keeping it all in perspective. So not only are you reading a readable(!!) version of Gita but also reading a few shlokas of the mahakavya.

The charm of the book is that it is wonderful and engrossing read for the adults too. Admit it if original Bhagwad Gita was given to us most of us would struggle to read it , let alone understand it. Even the various versions  that I have come across are heavy tomes requiring seriousness and total dedication to understanding it. This book does the work of igniting our interest , it makes us want to know more , explore more about the truth. It shows us the path and asks us to choose, whether to follow it or not.

I would recommend this book to everyone as it shows us the beauty of truth. It shows us what God really wanted us to learn and how. This shows us the true beauty of our religion and our country.

reminiscing

reminisce (verb) : indulge in enjoyable recollection of past events

It’s Diwali round the corner, the Hindu festival of lights, spring cleaning is in full swing ( don’t ask me why I am calling it spring cleaning when its almost autumn in Dubai, but that’s the word that has popped into my head). Spring cleaning is almost mandatory for Diwali, the goddess Lakshmi will not step into the house which is dirty and who doesn’t want the goddess of wealth in their house ergo spring cleaning.

So while spring cleaning I come across pictures, lots and lots of them , from the time when digital cameras weren’t around and we posed and just as the person clicking clicked…..we blinked! So I have quite a few of those photos where either my eyes are closed or my tongue is out or I am looking some other place or if by any chance I am looking lovely in the picture, my partner is either looking down,or up or where ever.

But I am not going to throw away even a single of those snaps, you know why?

Because all of them have some or the other story behind them. It could be funny or ordinary or even sad  but its still a story and I do love a story.

There is a picture with two people sleeping on a bed. One of them I am sure is my better half’s cousin, the other I am not so sure. The reason one of them is lying away from the camera and the other one has the face covered by blanket. Now you might be wondering why I am saving this picture ( or even why I am telling you this story).

The answer is pretty simple, the photograph reminds me of a time when I was a young bride in a new country, it reminds me of setting up a house together with the person whom I loved very much(still do actually). The fun we had with our cousin, who stayed with us a couple of months, who looked up to me as a domestic diva though I was still learning and struggling ( like I still do). The bond that I formed with her that will remain with me always.

And that my friend is the power of reminiscing. It brings a smile to our face and it takes us to that happier place, the place when all was fine with the world and the sun was shining. When we see our old albums or the ones clogging up our hard disks and we decide to get some printed even now all we want to do is to hold on to that moment. To take it out again and again to savor it , or to polish it like a precious gem.

Because that’s what they are…..Gems!

My school trip

I had learnt cycling quite young and could be frequently seen cycling like a maniac to the grocery store 2 crossings away to get stuff for my mom. To my dismay though I had to wait till I was in 6th grade to start going to school on cycle, I had to manage in the auto with the auto uncle (frankly I detested going to school in an auto, too many children and not enough space to even sit properly, not to mention the hierarchy of the grades!).

Finally the day dawned lovely and clear, it was my first day of 6th grade and I was going to school on cycle all by myself!!(Of course the fact that the cycle in question was my cousin’s hand me down and already getting a little small for me was not even registered by me!!).Off I went zooming on the road, my legs pumping the pedals were full of energy and soon I could see the gates our hallowed school. Suddenly the front wheel went off the road onto the side and I tried to get back on the road.
I found myself flat on the road, I had actually maybe for the first time ever fallen from my cycle! So thus ended my first day of going to school on a cycle by visiting the infirmary and getting the dressing done.
This was by no means the last day though, I continued to go to school on cycle (even in a city like Chennai and on the main roads there). I had many more adventures, I used to go alone and sometimes with my group of friends, all of us girls chattering like magpies and cycling along. I don’t think that it is possible any more to cycle in groups of five or more and occupy the full road. In fact I don’t think it is anyway possible to cycle to school anymore, all the students now have scootys. I wonder though if they get the same thrill that I used to get when I used to cycle back home and time myself ( I have actually done it in 7 minutes!) or the sense of camaderie when one of girl’s cycle chain needed fixed and all of us would get our hands greasy and dirty(not to mention the scolding from mother for getting grease on the white uniform). The soaking in rain during monsoon when the downpour used to make raincoats redundant and there would be water in the shoes too! The wait for other people to come and pick up their cycles as they have fallen in stack and yours is of course the one at the bottom. The burn in the legs when you are pedaling furiously as you are running late for school and of course the power of scheduling when 5 girls could meet at a pre-decided time at a pre- appointed place and no mobile phones to coordinate the whole thing!

Ah the power of reminiscing, I can still feel the wind whistle in my ears as I pedal down the roads of Dalanwala!

p.s. in all my years of cycling to school my most detestable days were when I had to go with my sisters…..they were never ,ever on time!

How Green Was My Valley.

” Dehra  was a green and leafy place. The houses were separated by hedges not walls and the residential areas were crisscrossed by little lanes bordered by hibiscus or oleander bushes”.

                                                                                                             Ruskin Bond

( Friends from small places)

This was the Dehra my father grew up in. This was the Dehra I was familiar with though some walls had come up between the houses and the leafy places were getting fewer.

This is not the description of Dehra anymore. All I see around me are houses , tall palatial buildings  with their gardens hidden behind tall walls. I see cars parked on lanes because the people while building their palatial houses forgot to build garages. I see old canal on E.C. road covered to widen the road, but still no place for the people to walk.

In the Dehra I grew up in I could see the mountain from the rooftop of our modest one storey high house. I could see whether it had snowed in Mussorie or not. I saw spectacular sunsets in which hues of orange,yellow ,blue ,gray all blended together. Now from my rooftop I am lucky if I catch a glimpse of the mountains, sunset…..have yet to see one.

People say it is the march of time, the town has to progress , infrastructure needs to be provided to people. Seems to me that progress has somehow become synonymous with cutting down trees to build luxury apartments affordable to a select few (beware if you are planning to invest in any,Dehra is in high seismic zone) . Progress seems to mean more vehicles on the road so that you are barely able to walk ( or cycle!). Progress seems to mean garbage all over the city , even in the river beds, choking them. Why cant progress go side by side with nature? Why if some trees are cut down for a road and equal or a greater number of trees planted to compensate for that? Why cant affordable ecofriendly houses be built which blend in rather than stick out like sore thumbs.

While I was writing this a bird perched on the wire high above our house started warbling. It’s lilting music made me realize that maybe all is not lost still. There is still some hope as long as the birds sing.

If only the people would stop and listen to their music

For The Love OF God

It was Ganesh Chaturthi on the 31st of August. Fervor and religious devotion marked the day.

The visarjan or the symbolic immersion of the idols started from the 1st of September. The Facebook posts changed from the status’s of “Ganapati Bappa Maurya” to photos of idols lying on the beaches after the visarjan. It’s the same story year after year. I have been blessed by invited to quite a few Ganapati Celebrations this year. In almost all the houses I saw resplendent Lord Ganesha smiling benevolently at us. None of the idols were less than a foot big and they were all going to be immersed. Even if they were all made of clay (which I do doubt) the amount of paint itself that each idol had would cause quite a bit of pollution.

Every year thousands of Idols are bought and immersed in the name of religion. Interesting point is that the concept of big pandals and community worship was introduced by Lokmanya Tilak to ignite the nationalistic fervor against the British rule. Until that time it was inherently a private family function.

Now each year every family wants to have a better, fancier Ganapati than the year before. The question is why? Why is there a need to get a big fancy idol each year? Why can’t there be a symbolic immersion? Why can’t little bit of creativity be used to make idols of clay and decorations made of flowers.

God doesn’t see the size of the idol or the fancy decorations or how many days you keep it. God has the ability to see beneath the surface and looks into your heart.

And that is all that matters!