So What? Who cares?

It’s the festival of Diwali once again. People have started celebrating with smoky & loud fireworks. Everybody seems to be happy except for a few people who keep cribbing always that fireworks cause air and noise pollution and that it should be avoided. These people have no sense of enjoying such an awesome festival. How can we enjoy the festival if the fireworks are taken away?

So what…
• If it causes so much sound that all animals and birds have to live in fear for a whole week? It’s OUR planet. We decide the rules.
• If it can cause permanent health problems to infants? We can live life thinking about the wellbeing of everyone else.
• If old & the diseased have to suffer due to the air & noise pollution? Why should we stop enjoying our lives just for the sake of a few people who are anyways going to die?
• If anybody’s health is affected? Just one person stopping crackers is not going to solve the problem of pollution.
• If we have to clean our own houses thrice a day due to the dust settlements caused by the air pollution?
• If our rockets crash into somebody else’s homes? They should be knowing that it’s Diwali and they should be taking the necessary precautions.
• If we have forgotten that it was the day Lord Rama killed Ravana in the battle to establish Dharma. Those are old stories, probably mythology. We have got a chance to celebrate & enjoy. Why lose the opportunity?
• If we pass on the message to our next generation that – This is the way to enjoy life. Never care about others. It’s your life. You live as you like to. Let others go to hell. It’s your hard earned money that you spend on such things and you have every right over it.
• If people can’t get sound sleep at night due to the sound of the crackers?

So what? This is not the first time Diwali is celebrated like this. It has been this way since so many years. Nobody seemed to be bothered by it earlier. Why should we be affected by it then? So what if all these things happen? Who cares about others anyways?

firecrackerh

We stand as one family bound to each other with love and respect

– Understandings from Swami Mitrananda’s talks for Youth Empowerment Programme 6th batch

Chinmaya Mission Pledge starts with these words – We stand as one family bound to each other with love and respect. The pledge was dictated out by Swami Chinmayananda in one of his inspired moods. Swami Mitrananda explained the first line with a great emphasis on three words – family, love and respect. Three words that we use daily but seldom do we think on its meanings in depth.

The feeling of a family is the strength. A family can achieve a lot more than separate individuals. When a group of individuals, be it among friends or at the work place or in a social organization, operate in the world with a feeling of a family, there is no bounds for what they can achieve.

When can we get this feeling of a family? Mere group of individuals will not make a family. In a family, there is a lot of bonding among the members. For each member, the welfare of other members is more important than his own. Everybody else’s needs become primary and our own needs become secondary. There comes a feeling of sacrifice and service to others. Only then the group of individuals can be called a family. Otherwise, even if a mother, father and children don’t carry these feelings for each other, they can’t bring out the essence of the family. Such a family is not strong and they can’t achieve much as individuals nor as a group.

Bonding requires love and respect. Women expect to be loved and men want to be respected. Many a times, we can see that both love and respect are demanded from the other person. But however hard we try, we cannot get love and respect by demanding. Love and respect can only be received by giving it to each other. In a relationship, if the man expects respect, he should be able to give love to the woman. And if the woman wants love, she needs to learn to respect the man. When love and respect is given 100% unconditionally, then there will be a good bonding and both man and woman will be able to operate with love and respect. Love is the price man needs to pay to get respect and vice-versa.

What is love is the next question? One of the best definitions of love is what Swami Chinmayananda has given – Love is not a passive ‘taking’ but a dynamic ‘giving’. If a person expects love, he is a beggar. One should be able to give love generously like a king. People in love usually say, “I cannot live without you”. That is not love. That is attachment. Today we have mistaken attachment for love. Expression of love is – One will be keen to see the person he loves to be happy. One will be ready to sacrifice (without expecting anything in return – not even the other person’s love) to see the other person happy. Expression of attachment is – When we demand something for our happiness. That is indeed a pathetic situation. It is like living the life of a beggar. Even if a person shouts or demands or forces his loved one to do something for him, he is only begging in a different tone.

The term ‘Love-Failure’ is a wrong one. Love can never fail, but attachment can. In ‘attachment’ selfishness dominates and in ‘love’ selflessness dominates. When we are able to grow out of our selfish desires and are able to act selflessly, others also learn this from us and they start reciprocating this attitude to us. It may take time, but it definitely happens; for, that is the law of nature – For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If attachment and selfishness dominate in us, we need not be surprised when the person we love gives in return the same thing.

A combination of love and respect is called Yagna. When people come together with a common goal, they should have Yagnabhava (attitude of Yagna). Collective-Thinking brings Collective-Action. To unfold our personalities and to achieve common or collective goals, we need to live in harmony like a family who are bound to each other with love and respect. For such a family nothing in this world is impossible. All we need to remember is three words – family, love and respect.

Lakshmanji – one of the forgotten heroes

…contd from the earlier article ‘Trip to Kanyakumari’

Lakshmanji – one of the forgotten heroes

I reached Vivekanandapuram and saw a picture exhibition of Swami Vivekananda. How much ever I had read about him would not fill my stomach. So I went inside to see the exhibition. It was a good one which gave a brief history of Indian Culture and Civilisation as well. After I saw the exhibition, I asked a worker of Vivekanandapuram where Lakshmanji stayed. I had heard from my father and one of the earlier Pracharaks of the Rashtriya Svayamsevak Sangh (RSS) about Lakshmanji and that he had a major role in the initial days of struggle for building the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. The worker showed me Lakshmanji’s room.

The door was open. It was a small room, with a smaller space inside (supposed to be another room). “Lakshmanji?”, I called out. An old man came out coughing and looked at me. “Come in”, he said. “Sit down. I’m sorry, I cannot recollect who you are”, he said. I introduced myself giving the reference of Gopi Chettan (Chettan – elder brother in Malayalam) who was a Vibhag Pracharak of RSS in Kerala many years ago. I told Lakshmanji that I have heard about him and wanted to meet him in person. He asked me where I am from, what I do for my living, about my family, etc. After talking to him for some time, I could see a smile on his face. A smile that we could see on a lonely person’s face when somebody has come to meet him after a very long time. I asked him about his role in the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. And the words that will be flowing next are what I heard from the horse’s mouth. For the next 30 minutes or so, different kinds of emotions gushed through me – of pain, anger, sympathy, sorrow, patriotism, and what not.

It was in 1962. There was no Vivekananda Rock Memorial at that time. People knew about the rock but it was just another part of the history. One day, Christian Missionaries who were very active in Kanyakumari, fixed a Cross on the rock. This news spread out to the RSS. A senior Pracharak of RSS, Shri Madhavji, who was one of the earlier dedicated workers of RSS in Kerala came to know about this. He met Lakshmanji (who was just 23 years old then) and explained that there is a situation we are facing. Since the Missionaries have kept a Cross on the rock, very soon they are going to come up with a church there. But it is a place where the great Swami Vivekananda had sat for three days continuous and contemplated on the agony he had seen throughout the country. It was there that he got the idea of going to the West and asking their help for our country. “We need to build a National Monument there, not a religious one”, he told Lakshmanji. “Can you go to Kanyakumari and work for this cause?” he asked. Without any hesitation, Lakshmanji gave an affirmative reply. “Good. Let me go and talk to some more people and seek assistance. But let me warn you, when you are going for this cause, keep in mind that you may have to sacrifice your life in this process. Are you ready for that?” Lakshmanji replied, “I am”.

Very soon, 12 – 13 dedicated workers (more like warriors) came forward from Calicut district (northern Kerala) for this Mission. Four of them went to Kanyakumari and stayed there for a couple of months. They studied the situation. They moved secretly in the town but still the Christian Missionaries came to know about this. They Missionaries even warned them. These guys knew that they were no match in number for the Missionaries so they kept mum and didn’t argue with them. After two months they came back with their team of 12 – 13 members. Soon, the Missionaries again came to know about the plan and were on constant vigil. One night, as the other members kept watch on the shore, four of them swam across the sea to the rock. They couldn’t use a boat lest they would be noticed by the Christian workers. They reached the rock and tried to remove the Cross. But it was deeply rooted on to the rock. They could break its upper part but could not take out the base out of the rock. They realized that they needed some heavy tools to do it and hence swam back to the shore the same night. Next night, they swam to the rock with heavy tools in their hands. (When I heard this, I was imagining, how on earth could anyone swim across the sea that was filled with big rocks, in the darkness of the night and that too with heavy tools in their hands? What must have been their dedication towards their Mission? What a great source of inspiration they must have had that gave them so much of strength? Of what material those fearless lions must have been made of?) They reached the rock and successfully removed the whole Cross. Next day, the Missionaries came to know about this. They started planning their next move. The Svayamsevaks were also alert. They expected attack on them at any moment. And they did face an attack by a mob at night. But lions, they were. How could some weak-hearted cowards try to kill them by a surprise attack? These men were so dedicated for their work that they breathed patriotism every moment. For them, every breath was for the nation. The Svayamsevaks drove those foxes away.

Within a few days, the Missionaries planned that they would fix up a Cross again on the rock on one night and the next day they would bring the Police to the rock at 7 am, show the Cross and once the Cross is there on the rock, the matter would go to the Court to decide whether the Missionaries can get a permission to build a Church (which they normally do get with this modus operandi). If the Svayamsevaks were spotted there, the Police would arrest them under Section 144 of the Indian Constitution. The Missionaries had sought the help of the present Police Commissioner who also happened to be a Christian. Somehow; their plan was leaked by a senior Govt. official to the Svayamsevaks. The Svayamsevaks knew that it was the final call. The day had come for them to fulfill their purpose. That night they went to the beach and were about to go to the rock. But suddenly they saw some white clothes in the sea. They understood that people were guarding the rock in boats. They waited till early morning on the shore. When it was 6 am, Lakshmanji said, “We should not wait any longer. It’s a do or die situation. I’m going in. Those who wish to join me can come with me”. Three others went with him on a boat towards the rock. The others waited on the shore for giving them signals.

They reached the rock at 6:30 am. To their luck, when they reached the rock, the guards went to the nearby waters for fishing (since most of them were fishermen by occupation) thinking that they guys will not turn up since they didn’t come all night. Lakshmanji’s task was to remove the Cross as soon as possible and the others’ duty was to protect him from anybody who would prevent him from doing so. It was 6:45 am and the comrades on the shore signaled them about the time. Lakshmanji took the name of the Lord and swung a heavy tool with full force. In one shot the Cross came out. They threw it into the sea and shouted with joy on top of their volume, “Bharat Mata ki Jai!”. Together they sang one of the patriotic songs of RSS, in Malayalam. The fisherman realized their stupidity and turned their boats towards the rock. Around one thousand supporters of Christian Missionaries arrived on the shore and came towards the rock in boats. Now, these guys were only four in number. Surrounded by water on all sides, there is nowhere to go. The sight before them is of a huge angry army coming towards them with weapons in their hands. Lakshmanji gave the command, “Svayameva Mrugendrata! We all stay together like lions. We will not run away. If we are attacked, we will kill as many as possible and die”. They had their danda (big bamboo stick used for self defense) in their hands and stood still – Fearlessly. The boat reached the rock. Seeing these four youngsters, standing in such a way that they have not known what fear is, scared the army. They all stood at a distance of fifteen feet. Nobody had the courage and go forward. They stood in the same posture for a few minutes and it was as if time stood still. By that time, the police arrived and gave a call using the speaker to avoid violence and return back. But the Father who was on the rock said, “No, we will not go back unless we kill these people. Kill them!” Still nobody moved. After a few moments, the attackers decided to throw stones Lakshmanji and others. The warning from the police came out again, “If you don’t start returning in 10 seconds, we will open fire.” They knew that nothing could be done now and they started getting back to their boats. Lakshmanji’s and his comrades’ faces were shined with smiles, smiles of having won a war, of having achieved their aim, of having done a great thing for their Motherland, of a great sense of fulfillment.

For many days to come ahead, they stayed in Kanyakumari under the risk of attacks. Very soon, the great Visionary – Shri Eknathji Ranade, came up with the plan of building a National Memorial on the rock and the work began. The rest is history. How he collected one rupee from every individual to build the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, how he fought against but finally got the Govt. support in building the Memorial is known to us. Eknathji had requested Lakshmanji, Balanji (another comrade) and others not to leave Kanyakumari till they die and to safeguard it all the time. For he knew, these were a few lions amongst the ones who are getting extinct. And it is only these few people who could lay down their life happily, who knew no fear, who were inspired from their role models – Guruji and Doctorji of RSS, they are the ones who could protect the Memorial. All of them agreed to Eknathji’s request and stayed there till their last breath. Some of them took seva work in the Rock Memorial and some worked in the boats that ferried people across the sea to the rock. Lakshmanji took up the job of driving the boat taking people across the sea to the Great Rock. And he is still doing that job at the age of 72. He has appealed for retirement and pension so that he can take rest now, for his health is failing. However, his appeal has fallen on deaf ears and he still has to work for a living. With his meager salary, he got his daughter married off and his son is doing a small job. Since he couldn’t make a good amount of savings from his small income, he still has to work from 7:30 am to 6:30 or 6:45 pm six days a week. He is the last one in the batch of those 12 – 13 men who served the cause.

For reasons unknown, in the pages of history, Lakshmanji’s and his companions’ names got disappeared. How many Lakshmans and how many Balans must have fought for such noble causes? This is one of the stories that luckily we came to know. How many stories like these disappeared without getting any notice? With such questions in my mind, I went to bed.

Next day morning he asked me for my name and number again saying that he might forget it due to his old age. I gave him my card. He put me on to a bus and bid me farewell with a silent smile. I could read a lot of feelings in that smile. With tears in my eyes, I left.

The purpose of this article is not to show any dislike or hatred towards Christian Missionaries. What is said herein above is a fact and even Christian Missionaries know about it. So, there is no need to be mute about it. The intention of this article is to inspire the readers with stories of such men who lived their lives like Lions, who created History, who didn’t wish for any recognition or fame, who loved their Motherland like their own Mother. All our country needs is a few men like these, who can make a big difference. The question is – “Are you one of them?”

WHO IS THE REAL ANIMAL?

(- a short story by Vinay Nair published in Tapovan Prasad magazine Nov.2010 issue)

It was a cloudy morning. The rains had been pouring all night long. I woke up and saw my companions all next to me, except for… Uncle Sam!!! He was no where to be seen. I got up and looked all over for him. Since the rope tied to my neck was barely 2 ½ feet long, I could not go very far. The kasai, as they call him, who used to take us out for grazing, never ever thought how roughly he pulled the rope tied to my neck. (But that was the plight of the other goats too.) As a result, an injury, which later turned into an infection, was caused and looked as if I was wearing a red necklace. Still I pulled my neck to the maximum extent to look for Uncle Sam. The pain of his disappearance from my vicinity had taken over the pain caused by the infection on my neck.

At the back of my mind I knew where he must of have gone, but I kept on compelling myself to think that he must be somewhere else. Suddenly I heard a cry from inside the slaughter house, “Baaa! Baaaaaaaaaaa!!”. It was a long cry. It was none other than Uncle Sam. I cried and cried on top of my voice (even though I knew it was in vain), but cry I did; until there was a big silence.

Not that everything was quiet, but I knew what had happened. My ears went deaf. I felt, my heart stopped pumping. In a few minutes, I saw parts of his body thrown out of the slaughter house and within no time some dogs pounced on it as if they did not get anything to eat since ages. The remaining parts must have been taken away by the customers. I felt like weeping, but it was as if my tears got frozen and pricked me hard from inside. He was the last relative I had and the one who was my closest too. He was a real intelligent one. Even the humans would often comment that he was a very clever goat.

Of course, it was not the first time I saw some one getting slaughtered. I still remember the fine summer day when everything was so perfect. I was running around merrily in my owner’s compound; when a man with a long beard came to our home. My mother was very scared and so was I. She took me near to her. Her body was so cold, as if she was dead. The stranger came nearer to us and took my father away. We all cried the whole day. I did not know where they were taking him and seeing my mother’s grief, did not feel like asking her about it. Later in my life, when I got closer to Uncle Sam, he told me that they had taken my father to the slaughter house to kill him. “Kill him? But why??” I asked. I was so bewildered. “Why would anyone do so?”, I asked.

He explained to me that our flesh was a delicacy to humans. I still could not understand because I had seen humans eat many other things like fruits, vegetables, etc. “If they have those things to eat”, I asked, “Why on earth do they have to eat us?” Looking at my astonished face, Uncle Sam said, “Human race is far more superior than ours, or for that matter, to any animal race. They are very powerful and intellectual. They do not lead a mechanical life like we animals.” He went on and on trying to clear my doubts.

A lot of thoughts came to my mind that night. I had seen human children troubling animals. But we ignore them, for we knew that they are children and do not know what they are doing. At the same time, I have also seen my younger brothers and sisters killed mercilessly in front of me by the humans. Now, if what Uncle Sam says is true, i.e. humans are Intellectuals and a superior form of life, they why do not they have mercy on our children? We goats never harm the humans in any way. That night, I did not sleep.

However, as time passed by, I got used to this kind of living. Whenever I was sad, Uncle Sam used to help me come out of it and say – “This is life, my boy. The earlier you accept it, the better for you.” Even though hard to digest, I somehow tried to make myself understand that philosophy.

Whenever I saw the chicken shop opposite to our shop, I felt that we were in a better situation. The chickens were kept in cages, one on top of the other. Approximately, 8-10 cages were kept one upon the other. And all the excretion of the chicken dropped on the below ones. But none of them shouted or even grinned at each other (Perhaps it was nothing to the pain that they were undergoing just like us – the pain of awaiting one’s own death).

Every morning I wake up with my pals who are half dead; with some body parts of our companions lying next to us who were killed the previous day; the smell of blood that would never go; the sight of hanging head-less dead bodies, upside down and flies infesting in it, of our beautiful children and friends with whom we lived till the other day; with hearts filled with fear; waiting for our turn to be taken for the kill.

Perhaps what happened to Uncle Sam was good in a way. He was freed from this miserable life. In fact, all of us have died a thousand deaths in this slaughterhouse and the final death is freedom. My only prayer is that it should be quick and smooth, without pain. May I be killed at the very moment the knife touches my skin. And after I die, if I get to see God, I would want to ask him this one question, “Who is THE REAL ANIMAL?”

IMPOSSIBLE is just a word!

One day my brother, Veeraj, got a call from his friend ‘K’ saying that his mother has been diagnosed brain tumor of size 7.4 x 4.3 x 5.5 cms. He said it needs to be operated at the earliest and that the surgery & hospitalization would cost somewhere between 3 – 5 lakhs. Knowing that K’s financial & social background was very weak, we were left with the only option of raising funds from personal sources. Our main challenge was to raise 1.5 lakhs in 24 hours for the surgery.

Immediately we all started calling up our contacts. It was then Veeraj thought of calling his friend Richa Kerjriwal, whom he had met in a CHYK (Chinmaya Yuva Kendra) camp. Richa was a sweet, caring seventeen-year old studying in the 12th grade. As Veeraj told her about the situation, she asked him to send her a copy of the medical report, hospital estimate sheet & request letter (for raising funds) by K’s family. It was then 12:45pm and she had to rush for college by 1:30pm. She suggested Veeraj to send it by fax. But most of the shops were closed for lunch. However, she managed to find out a shop and my father faxed it before 1:30pm. She assured that she’ll try her level best.

That afternoon passed. I had to go somewhere and I returned home at 6:30 pm. As I entered, Veeraj asked me, “Bro, I got a call from Richa”. “Ok..”, I said. He asked, “Do you have any idea how much she has collected”? When he saw my blank face he paused for a moment and said, “Forty Thousand. She collected Thirty Thousand from her college mates & teachers, and Ten Thousand from her relatives”. I was stunned. I saw the same reaction on Veeraj’s face.

I spoke to Richa after some time and this is what she said,”Bhaiyya (Elder brother), when Veeraj called me I told him that I will raise some money. I first approached my college authorities to see if I could get something from the college Charity Fund or Students’ Fund. But they told me that it could be used only if the beneficiary is a relative of the students of the college. I then talked to my friends who helped me with a sum of Rs.3500/-. I thought for a second, ‘What a small help would this be? Is this all that I could do?’ So I gave an application to the Vice Principal to allow me to request money from my college mates of 11th & 12th standard. His initial reply was to put it up on the notice board. Somehow I managed to convince him that it wouldn’t be of any use and that I have to go to the students if I need to raise money. I went to each and every classroom and introduced myself and explained the purpose of my visit. And I raised this money from my college mates. Some gave just coins, even 50 paise coins (In fact I paid Rs.60 as auto fare just in coins…I had so many of them). Some donated Rs.2, some Rs.5 and some even gave between Rs.100 – Rs.200 according to their capacity. I never said “No” even for the lowest donor. Another friend of mine had got a cash prize of Rs.6000/- from our coaching class today. When I asked him, without even thinking for a second, he gave me Rs.5000/-. I told him that this is a huge amount. You may give me Rs.1000, that’s fine. He replied that it was a donation. And one is not supposed to say “No” to donations. I happily accepted the money. My teachers also helped me with their contributions. Some assured me to give me a cheque tomorrow. My Principal helped me with the lead of an NGO who can even take care of the whole expenses. When I came home, my parents were shocked to see this money as they had no clue what was going on. My dad was impressed with the work and he also helped me with his contribution of Rs.5000/-. My dad has told me that he could also help me with an NGO who could take care of the expenses. My twelve-year old brother felt so proud about me that he gave his contribution of Rs.10/- (all that he had) to add to this”

When I saw that her list was going endless, I asked her to stop and said, “I don’t know how to thank you for the great work you have done. And that too for a total stranger. In fact you have done more than what we elders could do.”

That night, when I lay on my bed, I was wondering….

If a seventeen year old girl can have the ATTITUDE of loving and helping somebody whom she doesn’t even know,

If a teenager can have a WILL to do something for a NOBLE cause and not for her own selfish interest,

If a youngster can keep going without limiting herself with a specified target and only aim for the MAXIMUM,

… then to what extent our country can rise with a few teenagers like Richa who think – “IMPOSSIBLE is just a word!”

Richa