Chief Want In Life.

“Our chief want in life, is, somebody who shall make us do what we can.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson,

This is one of life’s paradoxes. Completely baffling in its simplicity, truth and high impracticality.

This post has been inspired by my coming across that quotation earlier this week and connecting it to Cheerful Monk’s quoting, one of my favourite quotes by Viktor Frankl back to me.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and happiness.”

This was in my post Unpaid Carers. It will be worthwhile visiting that post to get the context for this post.

I responded:

“I am in that space CM. My response has been to take personal responsibility for the care of my father. My response was not to abandon him to a home or to his own devices. And that response has been the purpose that Frankl talks about. I have no doubts whatsoever that, I am growing spiritually and finding happiness in the process. It may not be the happiness that others may wish for me, but in my own way, I am happy doing what I do. My compassion will not allow me the luxury of abandoning my father to a home, irrespective of how far it is from my home.

Happiness however, is not a permanent state of mind. There are moments, when my fallibility comes to dominate my mood and I have learnt to handle it in my own way.”

Viktor Frankl says that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living; life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death. Frankl offers the thought that, for everyone in a dire condition there is someone looking down, a friend, family member, or even God, who would expect not to be disappointed. Frankl concludes from his experience, that a prisoner’s psychological reactions are not solely the result of the conditions of his life, but also from the freedom of choice he always has even in severe suffering. The inner hold a prisoner has on his spiritual self relies on having a hope in the future, and that once a prisoner loses that hope, he is doomed.

I certainly have the freedom of choice even in the present difficult phase that I am passing through and certainly lots of hope for the future. Does that mean that I am looking down on myself from some detached level, and I do not want to disappoint that other self? Or, is that someone that Emerson talks about, my father, whose current health problems makes me do what I can for him?

My brother Barath thinks that I write about my experiences as an attention seeking device, seeking strokes as he calls it. Am I doing that? Or have I taken Web Log as a diary where I share my inner thoughts and let others read them for the sheer joy of writing and sharing? I ask that because no matter what I do, I don’t think that I will disappoint any of my siblings or other members of my extended family who know the background; nor my wide circle of friends. But I also wonder if I have already disappointed them by doing what I can under the circumstances!

Right now my chief want in life is to get through one day at a time and that the situation doesn’t deteriorate below what it is today.

Cheerful Monk also quoted another favourite quote back at me.

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.”

~ Zen

I responded:

“I have seen three springs since my father came to live with me, and indeed, the grass has grown by itself and also withered by itself. I have not yet lost my marbles!”

I think that another Zen quotation will fit in admirably here.

“Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.”


Human Values.

I received this as a forwarded email from a friend who called it very profound. I agree.

“An anthropologist studying the habits and customs of an African tribe found himself surrounded by children most days.  So he decided to play  a little game with them. He managed to get candy from the nearest town and put it all in a decorated basket, at the foot of a tree.

Then he called the children and suggested they play a game. When the anthropologist said “now”, the children had to run to the tree and the first one to get there could have all the candy to him/herself.

So the children all lined up waiting for the signal. When the anthropologist said “now”, all of the children took each other by the  hand ran together towards the tree. They all arrived at the same time divided up the candy, sat down and began to happily munch away.

The anthropologist went over to them and asked why they had all run together when any one of them could have had the candy all to himself/herself.

The children responded: “Ubuntu. How could any one of us be happy if all the others were sad?”
Ubuntu is a philosophy of African tribes that can be summed up as “I am what I am because of who we all are.”
Bishop Desmond Tutu gave this explanation in 2008 :
“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being  human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about  our interconnectedness.  

You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality –Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World.  When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”

I am one of the blessed ones. I think that I belong to a tribe of family and friends. I cannot think of any one of those members of the tribe who are not deeply rooted in the value of ubuntu. In practical terms, the sheer volume of help that I have received from the tribe is mind boggling.

On the other hand, I know why my friend sent me this forward. His tribe, one glorified in all literature of all times for their sense of brotherhood, the armed forces, has let him down in a big way thanks to the machinations of a few rotten apples. When I came to know about that particular aberration, I opined that the rotten apples will pay a price for their misdeeds. I also told him that he was lucky that he is alive as the situation could have well resulted in his being bumped off by the rotten apples and his response was typical. “Yes, I am lucky that I am alive, but the rotten apples are flourishing and may indeed have to wait for their next incarnation to pay the price for this life’s misdeeds.” How true!


A dear friend of mine Tilak who is an economist of the Free Market persuasion, another friend Karl, an aspiring philosopher and I, recently had an interesting exchange of views on the subject of progress. The background is that the three of us often share information on published material on economics and sociology and in this particular instance, it followed Tilak’s recommendation that the other two read Matt Riddley’s The Rational Optimist. I promptly read it and have passed it on to Karl who is still to start reading it, as he is preoccupied with more urgent matters pertaining to his post retirement life. Another book that formed the backdrop to this discussion is The Better Angels Of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Decreased by Steven Pinker which too had been read by Tilak and me.

Karl would like to take the world with him to simple ways rather than progress/growth as we now understand it and comes up with utopian ideas of how to go about achieving that, whereas Tilak and I while differing on some aspects of economics, agree that we have no choice but to use economic tools to remove the appalling poverty wherever it exists.

The hand wringing that I talk about is Karl’s reaction to some of Tilak’s ideas on what needs to be done.

RR: Tilak, it appears to me that a lot of unnecessary hand wringing can be done away with if we can completely destroy the word “Progress” and replace it with “Change”.

TD: How about “change for the better” for the largest number of people in human history?

RR: Now, that would open a can of worms Tilak. “Better” is another word that means different things to different people! I suspect that our friend is trying to live a life without being judgmental about anything. You know, Satori!

TD: Having the luxury to define what “better” means only applies to those who already have achieved decent standards of material welfare, which thankfully is increasingly common! But, it is churlish to not want to recognize the achievements of recent human history. Steven Pinker’s book is a historical tour de force on this subject.

KD: I’ve been dipping into Jiddu Krishnamurti’s conversations. One, with Rahula Walpola, an eminent scholar of the Thervada tradition, held me. In it K sums it all up. He asks – psychologically, is there tomorrow? Meaning, I think, that what he calls a change of heart, what the historical Buddha was silent about, what Christ likened to a camel passing through the eye of a needle, cannot be learnt, developed or progressed towards. Scientific methods yield accumulating material progress. Not in the psychological/spiritual dimension. Psychologically men are still primitive. Technologically, the West has achieved fantastic standards. But what of the psychological standards articulated with such simplicity in the 10 commandments. Their very technology hard wires them to break these commandments. Surely all this is evident?

The discussion then meandered towards other matters and the exchanges continue regularly, stimulating our rapidly ossifying brains.

I find that to use the word “Change” instead of many others like improvement, progress, advance etc, are less controversial for the reason that the others are subjective and can be interpreted to mean different things to different people. The difficulty is in getting those fixed interpretations to “Change”.

Having established my intellectual pretensions till now, let me go a little personal on change. And, once again instead of reinventing the wheel, let me quote Thomas Harris to illustrate what I recently went through. Regular readers of my posts will immediately catch on to what I mean.

“Three things make people want to change. One is that they hurt sufficiently. They have beat their heads against the same wall so long that they decide that they have had enough…… Another thing that makes people want to change is a slow type of despair called ennui, or boredom……A third thing that makes people want to change is the sudden discovery that they can!

A very powerful prayer is built around the phenomenon of change. It is used worldwide in English and many translated versions by support groups like the AA.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
~ Reinhold Niebuhr

To conclude, I hope that my readers will find this as inspiring as I did.

Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where twelve of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Grannymar, who has seen and successfully tackled more changes than I ever will in my life time. The eleven other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, ocdwriter, Padmum, Paul, Rohit, The Old Fossil and Will. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!

When I Saw This Girl.

Hindi Lyrics Translation
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha
Here is the song ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha’ from movie ‘1942 A Love Story’.

ek ladaki ko dekha to aisa laga…
when I saw this girl, she seemed to me like…

jaise khilata gulaab
like a blooming rose;

jaise shaayar ka khvaab
like a poet’s dream;

jaise ujali kiran
like a glowing ray of light;

jaise ban mein hiran
like a deer in the forest;

jaise chaandani raat
like a moonlit night;

jaise narami baat
like a soft word;

jaise mandir mein ho ek jalta diya
like a candle burning in the temple.

ek ladaki ko dekha to aisa lagaa…
when I saw this girl, she seemed to me like…

jaise subah kaa ruup
like the beauty of the morning;

jaise saradi ki dhuup
like winter sunshine;

jaise vinaa ki taan
like a note from the lute;

jaise rangon ki jaan
like the essence of all color;

jaise balakhaayein bel
like a twisting vine;

jaise laharon ka khel
like the play of waves;

jaise khushbuu liye aaye thandi havaa
like a cool scented wind.

ek ladaki ko dekha to aisa laga…
when I saw this girl, she seemed to me like…

jaise naachataa mor
like a dancing feather;

jaise resham ki dor
like a silken thread;

jaise pariyon ka raag
like a fairy melody;

jaise sandal ki aag
like the fire of sandalwood;

jaise solah singaar
like the sixteen (traditional) ornaments of beauty;

jaise ras ki phuhaar
like a refreshing mist;

jaise aahistaa aahistaa badhta nasha
like a slowly growing feeling of intoxication.

ek ladaki ko dekha to aisa laga…
when I saw this girl, she seemed to me like…


That is my latest heart throb Myra, the daughter of another favourite person Mona.

What did you expect? That I would cavort around my bed, trees and other improbable places, and chase a lissome young lass?

Music Back In My Life.

When WorldSpace went bankrupt three years ago, music also stopped for me. I packed the receiver set and stored it away just in case they ever revived service again. Some noise has been coming on and off about revival and I still hope that they would return. I of course listened to some music from internet based radios and youtube recordings and occasionally overheard music coming from Ranjan’s room too.

I had been missing listening to music which was very much part of my life almost on a must have basis, including listening to it while going for my walks on the then popular walkman followed by the discman and so on. I decided last week that I must get it back into my life and went about it quite systematically.

Ranjan had gifted an iPod sometime ago to me after down-loading a lot of music that he knows I like on it. I first needed to charge the battery. So, on Friday, I left it on charge overnight.

Last Saturday, I retrieved the amplifier and speakers from storage and hooked the jing bang lot up to the iPod. With a prayer that everything would work, I turned the system on and music was back into my life.

After listening to various favourite musicians throughout Saturday, I decided that I should get myself a tuner so that I could listen to some local radio broadcasts as well. I went to sleep with that thought on my mind and woke up on Sunday with a brilliant idea.

Before his hearing was impaired to the extent it now is for my father, he had wanted a couple of radios which he could hold near his ears to listen to news. I had bought a largish transistor set which he was uncomfortable with and so had bought another smaller pocket sized one. For the past year or more, he had stopped listening to the radio and got his daily dose of news from the TV every evening by tuning into channels with subtitles.

On Sunday, I asked my father if he still wanted those radios and on his saying no, I retrieved them from his room and hooked the smaller one to the system and am now up to listening to newer music from our FM stations. The larger set that could be operated from the mains was sans the cable to hook up to the electric supply. So that had to be kept aside. I eventually got a cable and linked that set, up in the kitchen. Now I can listen to FM whenever I am there.

I however miss the old days when I used to listen with headphones on while reading or doing my crossword puzzles. I can’t do it now because I am the doorman who answers the doorbell, telephone operator, attendant etc and need to keep my ears open for calls from the high command too.

But, what is more important is I have a complete system now in operation and I have music back in my life whenever I am awake and at home. It does not bother my father as he can’t hear it. TGFSM!