Hero Worship.

I am an Indian. The original, not the American variety. We tend to build temples for our heroes and heroines and worship them as deities. Luckily for me, I was and still am not, quite that emotional.

I have had two characters from history as my heroes though, I never quite got around to worshipping them. Kattabomman and Spartacus. Both captured my imagination when I was a young lad and for many years I identified them with the film stars who portrayed them on screen, Sivaji Ganesan and Kirk Douglas.

As a young lad in school, rather than worship heroes from the world of films, I worshipped cricket players. Since most of my readers will not know them, I shall not list them but, they were there for me to emulate in my club level participation in cricket. Then came music and Elvis Presley became a hero as did Harry Belafonte.  Later on standing on my own feet and living alone, the rat pack became heroes to emulate and even today I have a soft corner for the music of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

I suggested this topic for today’s 5 on 1 weekly Friday posts to pay tribute to a man I miss terribly even today.  He was my mentor, friend, philosopher and guide from my childhood to his death.

That only and lifelong hero was my uncle, my father’s younger brother who came into my life when I must have been around four or five years old. He was then a bachelor with his own motorcycle. Every time he came home, he would take me for a ride on his bike with me sitting on the petrol tank. My mother would be pacing up and down till we returned. He was more of a father to me than my father who had other priorities in his life. For me and my siblings, our uncle meant the world as he spoiled us silly and gave us the love that the father demonstrably did not or perhaps could not.

He was a dapper handsome man who stayed my hero till his death in 1996. He hosted my younger brother and me on more than one occasion in his home and would give us enough pocket money to have a grand time in our mid teen years. He taught me to play golf and allowed me to borrow his car whenever I wanted to have larks. He arranged for the foundation for my youngest brother’s career and my younger brother’s engineering skills were encouraged by him by setting up a business in partnership with him. He thought the world of all of us and we in turn returned that without the slightest hesitation.

He taught me the greatest lesson of life when his entire world collapsed around him when his business failed and he went bankrupt.  The fortitude and patience that he showed during that adversity and cheerfulness that he displayed even during those dark days are still etched in my memory like writing on stone.  As he started to come out of penury as his sons grew up and started to earn and contribute to the family, how much he meant to many people in his life came to be known to me, about which none of us had a clue as he never boasted about them.  Some of those people and their children still remember him with much affection and that is the measure of that man’s character.

He died as he lived fighting dacoits who had invaded his farm house in the outskirts of a big city and he fought them till they tied him up and choked him to death by gagging him with some curtain cloth to stop him from shouting for help. He was ever the gallant and the way he looked after his wife in the latter’s later life due to dementia laid the foundation for my own caregiving life later.

I still remember some of the greatest lessons that I learnt from him in sales, marketing and people management which, helped me in my own fairly successful career.

No, dear Fossil, I don’t intend to be nor want to be a hero for you to worship. Please do not be afraid. I just hope that the others in our group have some such heroes to write about in their lives.

This is my take on this week’s Friday 5 On 1 blog post topic. The other four bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are Sanjana, PadmumShackman and Conrad.  This week’s topic was suggested by me. Please do go over to their respective blogs to see what they have to say on the topic. Thank you.

The Wagging Tail.

I reproduce below an article that appeared in one of our local newspapers recently. I reproduce it as I found it illuminating and indeed, fascinating coming from a neurosurgeon.

“The early morning winter mist only enhances the mystical ambience that envelops the atmosphere on my morning walk up the hill. Silhouettes of trees and the visible landscape are bathed in the serene silver hue of the setting moon. The trees are in slumber, as are their avian dwellers. Or so it seems. The isolated chirping of an early riser is audible in the hushed silence. The winding mountain path is barely visible, just enough to ensure that my feet don’t transgress the lateral boundaries. The only other sound palpable is that of my own breathing, which gets a shade heavier as I climb further up the hill.

The mind is almost thoughtless, till suddenly, an arbitrary thought breaches its stillness. Like a pebble thrown into the calm waters of a serene lake. Turbulence. Followed by a cascade of reactions, emotions, opinions, anxieties, and apprehensions. It’s amazing, how a mere thought can completely alter the interior and unleash a flurry of neurotransmitters that wreak havoc in the mind. Simultaneously, there follows a rush of corresponding hormones that prepare the body for possible combat with an unseen, virtual enemy.

The flight, fight or fright response is triggered by a random thought.

The skies get a bit brighter with the rising sun that surfaces from the horizon. I reach a plateau. My breathing eases a bit and the cone of visibility widens. Then, I spot her at a distance — the majestic Labrador, trotting obediently just ahead of its master. An unmistakeable feature of this gorgeous canine is her continuously wagging tail, a testimony to a perennial state of causeless happiness. She wags her tail ceaselessly. Happiness, beyond the cause-effect paradigm, oozed from her every pore.

I wonder what might be going on in her mind. Her dark brown eyes look blissful, with no trace of any anxiety, fear or chaos. This must be causeless happiness; perhaps even happiness that precedes any cause. My happiness had to be necessarily subservient to a tangible cause. And worse, I permitted my mind to ravage my happiness with irrational, arbitrary, virtual apprehensions.

My encounter with the happy Labrador suggested that being happy is a matter of choice. Being happy could be the cause and not the effect. Could the effect precede the cause? This paradoxical phenomenon is termed ‘retrocausality’. It was long considered that an effect preceding its cause, is an inherent self-contradiction, because, as 18th-century philosopher David Hume discussed, when examining two related events, the cause, by definition, is the one that precedes the effect.

The only distinction between cause and effect is temporal… If i decide to start wagging the tail of my mind, I know my mind will find a reason either in the past, or perhaps in the future. My ego cannot accept happiness without a cause.

So, i start wagging the tail of my mind vigorously, and — lo and behold!

I discover those dainty yellow flowers that are swaying gently; I feel the cool breeze caressing my face. I become an inseparable part of Nature and resonate with it. Happiness thereafter doesn’t remain a response. It percolates the here and now. Happiness loses all conditionality. It transcends to a state of unconditional bliss. A state where cause and effect merge into a moment that lasts forever. Eternal Bliss. Ananda.”

Deepak Ranade is a neurosurgeon in Pune.

Recap 2019; Highs And Lows. Hopes For 2020.

This Friday 2 on 1 post will the last that Shackman and I will be writing this year and Shackman has come up with this as the topic. I think that it is a brilliant idea to attempt a recap. I only hope that I don’t leave out anything important.

The year had its share of ups and downs and the latter being less but rather depressing as all lows are bound to be. I shall set out all the ups first and try to be brief on the latter.

Visitors and house guests from out station/overseas.

January started off perhaps as though to give an indication of things to come. My old colleagues KSRR and BP with their wives landed up to pay a visit. We were neighbours for a few years in the early seventies and I was meeting them after almost thirty years. Another colleague AK, who I had first met in the 1980s too came to visit as did Derek, the son of a late colleague who had come all the way from Canada. These visits took me back to a different time and friends and nostalgia was at its peak.

February saw my nephew Simon, niece in love Hannah,  grand nephew Finlay and grand niece Josephine spend a few days with us which was a very special treat.

We also had two long staying house-guests VS and AS on different occasions which while disturbed our normal rhythm, gave us enough time with them to learn many new things as both are much younger in very much in the midst of corporate and marital problems. The former rented a flat in Pune and has moved out and the latter, wound up his establishment in Pune and Mumbai and moved to Dehradun.

Three of my maternal cousins from Mumbai came to spend a day with me using the visit of the youngest of them from the USA. It was a day of sheer nostalgia going back to our childhood and teen years and many peccadilloes of our Mumbai days.

visiting in December first was my cousin Vijay from Australia who I had not seen since the late eighties. We had a marathon session of catching up with each other and learning about many common friends and relatives and all too soon he went back. Next in line, almost as if a Christmas gift, on Christmas day, my cousin Damu and his wife Asha from Navi Mumbai graced us with a visit.

Besides these outstation visitors, we had many guests over for lunch or dinner or just dropping in to check up on me or to repay visits that I had made to them. Each was a break in routine and very welcome change from it.

I was still mobile and capable of attending many meetings with my friends till the monsoon and I was able to make one trip to Lonavla for a reunion with ex colleagues from Mumbai and Delhi.

New addition to the family.

We had Koko joining us much to our delight. She is playful and affectionate but, due to her blindness afraid of any new noise and has to be looked after differently than our other resident Chutki who is being the senior respectable lady of the house in a sedate and sober way. Her behaviour has no impact whatsoever on Koko who simply refuses to change her ways.

Two stray cats decided to adopt us and come around demanding to be fed every now and then. They do not enter the main house and restrict their visits to the verandah and the garden and are a delight too.

Thanks to the social media’s outreach and membership, I was able to reestablish contacts with two very old friends, one of whom after 55 years and the other after thirty years. Thanks to my alma mater’s alumni office, I was able to reestablish contact with another Punekar now in the USA, after 48 years. He is visiting Pune early in 2020 after attending his class 50th year reunion and threatens to spend some time with me. Thanks to a cousin’s daughter publishing a best seller novel, I came to know about her from the family grapevine and was able to reestablish contact with two cousins with whom I had lost touch for over three decades.

Losses.

First to lose was my classmate and fellow Punekar AD. I lost one cousin aged 62 and two more, both aged 87. A very dear friend Abbas about whom I have written a number of blogs too died just earlier this month.

Health Issues.

My readers know that I suffer from COPD and from July that conditions has become worse and I am now forced to use a nebuliser instead of the inhalers that I was using. This combined with my stiffening artificial hip joints, makes it difficult for me to be as active as I would like to be but, that does not mean that I am a wheel chair case. I am mobile and independent at home but avoid going out unless absolutely necessary and only for very short periods of time. I have no other problems and so have a ball with my usual reading, crossword puzzles, WhatsApp, Facebook, the blog world and email activities. Phone calls and visitors add spice to such an ideal life and I am enjoying myself within the limitations that my condition entails.

Hopes for 2020.

My one hope is to spend the rest of my life without more health issues and without either troubling my family or friends with health issues. Other than that, I have none. At my present stage of life, I believe that I should live one day at a time and count my blessings and that is what I intend to do next year too.

Please do go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say about his 2019 and hopes for the new year.

Saudade.

Today is my late mother’s birthday. Had she been alive, she would have been just short of a century old. For us, the four siblings she was more than a mother because she sacrificed a great deal to see that her children flourished despite a dysfunctional marriage and home.

Wherever she is, I want her to know that for the three surviving children down here, saudade is the emotion today.  And, I hope that the missing sibling is playing bridge with her, her brother and sister in law.

Spirituality And The Media.

This week’s Friday 2 on 1 fascinating topic has been chosen by Shackman. I am really curious to know quite what he will have to say on it and, I am sure, so will you be. So, without much delay, please go over to his blog to find out for yourself.

For me, the most important media is the print one. I prefer that to any other and I am lost without my quota of newspapers, periodicals and books. The largest of these is the newspaper one and India’s largest, The Times Group in two of its publications offers daily small stories and every Sunday, publishes a suplement devoted entirely to Spiritualism.


The next in the Print series will be my monthly dose of publications from five separate institutions, though three of them belong to the same order, The Sri Ramakrishna Mission.

The next in line for me are shows on religious / spiritual themes on our television channels. India has a long history of such serials starting with the famous Ramayana Series by Ramanand Sagar in the eighties. Today too, there are any number of channels offering such fare and I watch one on Sai Baba Of Shirdi every week day for half an hour.

India has any number of Godmen as they are called derisively by the sophisticates, and I occasionally get links through WhatsApp to Youtube broadcasts on spiritual matters by some of them. Here is one by Satguru, a very popular religious leader which should amuse my American readers.

One also gets bombarded by messages on spiritual and religious matters via WhatsApp, email and SMS messages, all using modern social media and I often get quite annoyed at the sheer volume of stuff that I have to delete every day.

I can therefore conclude that this must be the single largest subject for modern media and I am sure that my readers will agree.