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He, the short sturdy, seasoned man
Whose skin tanned like a burned bread
With scars of all sea monsters’ shape
Came there with his kin a few years back
To save our families from a threatening river flood.
With their worn out catamarans and bruised fishing boats
They fought with ease every whirl and gush of the muddy river.
We were watching jaw dropped, how they risked their life
To capture from the clutches of death even the last old woman.
Once in my train journey a north Indian wondered and
Quizzed me, “Do you know Thoothoor, the land of
The legendary fishermen, short and sturdy, known
Around the world for their deep water fishing skills?
Once even whales learnt their forgotten paths from them;
Sharks were fleeing for life in their presence;
Water was their foam bed and crabs their children’s play toys;
Waves, the marauding jallikattu bulls, always they subdued.
We know, ocean is the greatest philosopher and even
Sophocles learnt life’s plots from it;
We know tossed between life and death every other day,
The fishermen need no other school.
But, what happened??
Like Hemingway’s Old Man they had umpteen forefathers
Who could predict things by a feather of a sea skull, tinge of a wind,
Shades of the sky and even flurry of the baby crabs.
Then, what happened??
I am standing here perplexed, bemused, chilled
When the wise, brave fisher folk who saved my kin
Shattered apart in life by Tsunamies and Okhies, of late.
Perhaps, we in our greed triggered the water God’s fury
By destroying the glaciers?
Perhaps, we in our pride, encroached all its paths
With our ultra-tech industries?
Perhaps, we as the disciples of Belial made the great oceans
As our dust bins?
Perhaps, we as governments spared nothing for theses rejected
Perhaps, we did the sin of Lucifer and they are reaping the sour fruits?
I see the fisherman’s spirit rising from its ashes in the eastern sky;
I see it attired in the cloak of glory for subduing mighty waves,
Violent tempests and deadly tsunamis.
True they died valiant deaths but all by the warriors’ rule book:
They don’t need your filthy freebies,
They don’t dance for your feeble tunes.
It is a business among the trio: the Creator, the Ocean and the Warrior,
We lesser mortals cannot know their mysterious ways.
From waves they learnt that the end of life is death and
The end of death is life again…
They learnt from their fishing stints that pain is but a passing cloud,
They learnt from their fishing nets that loss is only to those whose posses,
Sky is their roof, ocean their war field and life a journey for ever…
Technology can of course show as something that we cannot do in our life. Now in cinematography there is a technology to rewind or move backward. Suppose if we shoot a person’s life from childhood till old age, when it is played backward, it will be interesting to watch grey hairs give way to black hair, long pants fade away into nickers and in the background shopping malls change into petti shops etc. Hearing about uncontrollable pollution threatening the world, complexities of modern problems looming over human life, I sometimes ask to me the question, can we go back? If the answer is ‘yes’, then I will ask, should we go back? If the answer is again in the affirmative then the next question will be, where should we go back?
Some human problems and sufferings are eternal, for instance, old age, disease and death which moved the inner soul of Lord Buddha is still moving people to ponder, meditate and search for the truth. But unlike Gautama now we not only witness the degeneration and death of human beings but also the degeneration of the whole eco-system and the world.
Like Prince Gautama’s first endeavor to know the world I too want to know. But the world around two hundred years ago was comparatively quite small with less population and activity. He had to simply stand by the side his palace to learn the sufferings of life. But interestingly even though the world is so vast, alive and complex now I can know the world at my finger tips even without stepping out of my home. This is an example for the advancements we have reached. For those who have money there are more than enough pleasures to pursue. But on the other hand when I browse through the internet alarming cries pop up from around the world. So many species of living organisms are becoming extinct, world is becoming warmer because of pollution, terrorism is spreading like forest fire, world economy is dancing like jelly bean and old diseases give way to brand new. Can all these make me a modern Buddha?
Buddha claimed that he found out the root cause of all evils and it is greediness. But he frankly admitted, abandoning greediness is not a solution for old age and death. But surely giving up greediness would be a solution for various other problems that the world is facing today. The modern over consuming, aristocratic, techno-savvy humans have to give up their present practices and take a reverse journey to simple life. But as a middle aged Indian, living in the new millennium, I am confused. If I travel from Idukki hills to Ernakulam city in Kerala what I witness is mere contrasts and paradoxes. In one side there is a spectrum of natural beauty at its untouched virginity enclosing extreme poverty, illiteracy and poor health within it. But on the other side the city which is manufacturing all pollution and environmental problems but enabling people to live with all conveniences and comforts.
Now as an Indian what I have to do, should I say ‘no’ to development and urbanization when India hasn’t got light so for and when a major percentage of Indian population is reeling under poverty and poor health? Or should I say ‘yes’ to globalization and urbanization, having learnt that these modern devils are destroying the eco-system and they are not real solutions for poverty?
The new generation Indian has to be careful now. India has to develop, there is no alternative for it, but the development should not be rich becoming richer and poor becoming poorer or Ernakulam rising up and Idukki falling down or corporates building empires and farmers getting suicide. The development should not be in a rocket pace killing all the eco-system built up on greediness. The development should mean that all Indians have enough food to eat, clothes to wear, roofs to stay under and they lead a healthy, happy life with proper education and healthcare. The development should be moderate, steady, balanced and sustainable. It should not become a threat to the eco system instead it has to protect it.
As far as I know even today Gandhi is the solution for India, for that matters not only for India but for the whole world. Not globalization but village development and self reliance can be the solution. His principles of simplicity, truth, non violence, village level development and self reliance will be solution to most of the problems the world is facing today. Gandhi was not simply a freedom fighter who played a pivotal role in India’s liberty. He was and is a way of life, way of government that India has to follow, the world has to follow. To realize it, at least we Indians have to take some detour to restart.
In a silent evening when all nature’s sounds are clearly audible, watching a crystal clear stream closely is a blessing in life. The Sun spreads a gloomy dim light while all flocks scream and go back to their far away abodes. It is a magnificent sight, a divine experience and a real gift in life. Air conditioned chambers in multi story buildings in the ultra modern cities cannot match to this experience. But now a days it is an experience very rare to be endowed with.
When we get in to a road in real life we see two wheelers and four wheelers flying in high speed. All wish to overtake others without any patience. They don’t even stop a minute in a forest check post if not to get down for learning and experiencing nature.
Human beings are designed with only two legs, at the most four feet long maximum, who can walk or run a hundred kilometers in a day. It is our natural limitation as homo-sapiens. But had we been within our physical limitations not using our sixth sense or intelligence could we have found out that the world is round and there are millions of stars in the universe? Could we have achieved leaps and bounds in the field of agriculture, medicine, science and so on? We would have exactly lived like animals and there would have been darkness in the night.
We have invented gun powder, wheel, computer and satellite, found new stars, discovered new lands, sent humans to space, and what not. All are wonderful. We have eradicated epidemics and even conducted body parts transplantations. But on the other side more diseases and more complex problems are emerging. As a result of too much development we have found only increase of tablets. It is very difficult to explain now whether new diseases kindle the need of inventing new medicines or new medicines create different diseases.
Now, everywhere there are huge industries, giant constructions, unbelievable machineries, super fast vehicles, mega organizations and programs. If all these are for development then the developments are for what? If development is for the betterment of our world and human life, I am afraid it is not. If a small water body collapses the consequence will be less but if it is a big dam it may cause huge after effects. The same way buildings are growing beyond limits, technological, economical and governing systems are growing complex. What will be the end of all these?
In a gloomy silent night I happened to read a scientific essay of H.G. Wells long back, and I spent a sleepless night. According to scientists, the existence of earth is not constant. Our earth has come out of an accident. And again by accident only living beings have emerged. In this limitless vast universe a living being doesn’t have any hope outside of earth. Hence outside of earth and beyond death there is no hope for humans.
Luckily we can also see these facts from a positive perspective. According to science and religion we have only one magnificent earth and we are blessed with a fantastic physical life that is also only one. So it is our responsibility to live life meaningfully, joyfully and preserve the earth for the next generation.
Make a ball using clay. Make furrows, caves, deep holes and many big structures on it. Do it again and again and see what will happen.
We have already made horrendous mines, huge oil wells on earth. We are sucking out the blood of the earth. When everything is digged out and sucked out what will happen? We are in fact eating away like termites our wonderful house. One day it will collapse and that will be the end of life which is matchless and precious.
Science is good, development is nice but only if it makes our earth and universe a better place to live. If it is for personal profit and too much of pleasure, please stop a second and know that your greediness is heading the world towards its dooms day.
Even in the ultra developed countries like France the present generation is not as blessed as the previous. Now there is unemployment and other life problems. It is happening because of the over greediness and pleasurable life style of the previous generation. On the other hand the developing countries have just begun their turn to lead a greedy life exploiting all natural resources. They are asking the question that should we also have the right to live a life of international standard, which is unfortunately dangerous. By the time all counties in the world finished their course of leading a pleasurable life, the earth would turn to be a place not suitable for life.
We have fridge, car, air condition and what not. That means we are scratching the earth by using petrol, coal, electricity and other natural resources. Above that we are throwing plastics and non degradable and dangerous electronic wastes to the environment.
A motherly white cow is grazing peacefully, slowly and in harmony with the rhythm of nature. It is full, it is satisfied, it enjoys and lives life. My friend, who is riding a car so fast either to earn money or to be fit for survival, please stop a minute and watch how even a crow lives happily, fully. Oh enthusiastic, optimistic, scientist, economist, I know you are dreaming about building tents in stars but when it is a hundred years goal what about the next decade? Please stay and think how far you want to go? And for what do you want to go?
“Lucifer, we are yours who stiff and mute
Ride out of Worlds we shall not see again,
And watch from windows of a smoking train
The ashen prairies of the absolute”.
Pleasant sunlight spread through the dew drenched green plants and give sweet warmth to every living beings. Eternal love birds sing their everlasting notes from mango grooves. Majestic human beings in all their youth and vigour work, eat, sing, dance and lead joyfully their everlasting life. It is almost every human in the world love to have the above mentioned life; a life with ultimate pleasures, overwhelming joys, everlasting peace, unbiased equality and unlimited liberty; a life without pains, sufferings, quarrels, bondages, diseases and of course death. Perhaps this is only man’s ideal but this is what at least some idealists, philosophers, rulers and philanthropists have tried to achieve in this world to little success so much so it always remains an Utopia.
Liberty and equality are the two major needs of every living being. But ironically the same two have been restricted to the social animals by their own breed since the dawn of human civilization. Like Gautama, I too have seen sufferings, deaths, bondages, economic imbalance in our world time and time again.
When men were gatherers and hunters they were completely self sufficient and depending on nature. But slowly they started settling down, did farming, got surplus, started thinking and made equipments. When population increased, there arose a situation where experts were needed for doing different supportive activities. As a result they were no longer self sufficient rather they exchanged goods. Again population grew leaps and bounds, number of different trades increased and new economic systems emerged with the use of money. Kingdoms and Governments and their policies have played a vital role in determining the economic well being of a country and its citizens.
I have heard, read and seen kings, emperors, rulers, dictators, presidents and prime ministers, all fail in maintaining an economic balance in their countries.
One may argue that in a socialist country economic balance can be maintained. It is absolutely true. But the darker side is that freedom is sacrificed at the altar of socialism. This is something like sacrificing one eye to protect the other. In a democratic country of course people have enough liberty but unfortunately there are Lazarus’ waiting at the foot step of rich barons. Now in this globalized scenario it is more so.
Some argue enormous accumulation of wealth by a few business classes will ultimately benefit all the citizens. But it has been proved wrong time and time again as it only widens the gap between the rich and the poor.
Among all these political set ups, policies and philosophies no one could give a permanent solution to economic inequality. It is true that the most acceptable form of government today is a democratic government where all enjoy enough freedom even to exploit others. Here the survival of the fittest is encouraged so much so the huge void between the rich and the poor is ever widening.
Hence it is my absolute conviction that within the democratic set up what can create economic equality is a true socialistic set up . Whatever is the philosophy of a government and capabilities and noble visions of a leader if wealth is not distributed in a justifiable manner by a just democratic government then the world won’t change for the best.
In democratic socialism there is no compulsion. Every individual is entitled to share his surplus with others. It requires personal change of mind. This will be a civil responsibility and a part of responsible living. If every individual is not given more than his/her share then I am sure there won’t be poverty in this world if not economic inequality. This will be a humble step and only a step in building the ultimate Utopia which will be a dream for ever in this world.
Gazing from the Dover beach the Victorian poet Mathew Arnold could only have the glimpse of the darker sides of life. The sea revealed to him as it had revealed to Sophocles long ago, life’s secrets:
“… for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.”
But in another era, another milieu the sea revealed to David, the symbolic root of Jesus, the negligence and meagerness of human existence only to magnify God’s might and love upon them.
Seas and oceans like sky and mountains can time and time again reveal the unrevealed. They are everlasting sources of mystic experience and knowledge. Whenever I watch a sea from its shore I am awestruck and it makes me to forget about time and space.
The vast expanse of blue clothing, the horizon which keeps on setting renewed targets and the never ending waves take me to different lands and higher altitudes of philosophic and mystical experiences. To me waves symbolize life which is fickle yet constant: no two waves are the same but there are waves present always from eternity to eternity. The vastness of ocean outruns human history if not space. The sea has sparked the same fire since the beginning of human life in men and women of different times. Their feelings, emotions and thoughts have passed but the sea is there to evoke the same thoughts again and again in the minds of the new generation of people. So oceans tie me down with the humanity past, present and future. This is what the great mystic poet Walt Whitman experienced at the Brooklyn River:
“It avails not, time nor place-distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt”
Ocean and sky also give me a cosmic consciousness. Alone, watching the sky or ocean, especially at night make me feel the oneness with the whole universe. Sometimes I feel like flying from star to star, all powerful. I can smell and taste the expanse.
I am capable of thinking logically. But whatever logic disturbs my belief in God or in the super natural power it gets nullified when I look at the sky. When the eyes are raised towards the sky I come to know that there is no beginning and end to space and time. It reveals the truth that there is God or the supernatural power in the beginning and at the end of time and space.
When I experience the cosmic consciousness there is no time, space, boundaries, countries, castes, genus and species to me. All are the part of the one and the only one. This state of being is absolutely joyful that takes me to spiritual bliss.
If human beings have the physical state, mental state and spiritual state (super natural) of being then they have to have experiences in all the three. People have to occasionally go through the mystical or spiritual experience by becoming aware of the cosmic consciousness made possible by ocean and sky. If they learn to live with this cosmic consciousness then many problems in life would be solved.
Do experiences die? Have the emotions and actions expressed by the humans since time immemorial died never to return back? No. I believe the experiences of humans crisscrossing time are still there in the universe as waves. They become the collective knowledge, memory and consciousness of the universe. Hence when I gaze at the ravines and peaks of the mountains, sages and laymen of the past stand side by side with me to feel and think like me. If you have the collective consciousness, you can feel the consciousness of every cell move in the universe to the complete oneness because waves won’t die.
Of late I find peace and companionship in nature like the great poets of yesteryears. Every chirp and hum of birds, the gentle nods of bushes and trees at the touch of the impalpable breeze and of course the sky with its magic of colour gives me an enigmatic pleasure. This meditation reveals to me divine secrets. This meditation reveals to me the hands behind the art. This meditation reveals to me who am I.
Something pure is rare and great and something hybrid is versatile and fascinating. With all its bizarreness and oddities English is a fascinating language. Its attractive parts are perhaps the beauty of its rhythm, power of its words, flexibility, generosity and vast vocabulary. English has more vitality and depth because of its democratic nature. The way it evolved has been democratic and it has successfully survived the royalty and colonization with great elasticity and democratic quality. Perhaps it is the later which helped English to be versatile and accommodative in all circumstances, European, African and Asian. It is equally a language of a beggar and a minister, a layman and a scholar and a scientist and a poet. No rule can rule English because it is spoken in different ways even in different parts of England, of course like some other languages. Of late it has got the other varieties like American English and African English, at least the first having distinct spelling and way of pronunciation.
English was brought to India by the East India Company and established as the official language by colonization as in Africa and Australia. Since then for the last 300 years English has been a part and parcel of Indian life at first living only with the upper class and then very much with the middle class and lower middle class also. Now with 300 years of living with English and English’s 300 years of being with the Indian life, should Indians still follow the Queen’s English, waiting for every changes happening to English in Britain, switching on BBC news everyday to know the new words and cultural changes happening in the English life? Don’t Indians have their own English? Do they still just use the English of the British as an international language just for business communication and higher education?
Language and literature are inseparable. From the start of British colonization a separate literature in the medium of English has started to flourish in India. Slowly it has undergone some changes. First the British lived in India produced a literature in English with much of the memory of their mother land. Slowly they turned towards their life in India with their own observations on the geography of India and life of the colonized people. This literature – produced by the British living in India – is rightly called as the Indian Anglean writings.
Slowly the Indians educated in Britain or by the British started recording their thinking – mainly about freedom of their mother land and superstitious practices of the Indian communities – in English and it is branched as Indian writing in English. But when will we write in Indian English which has already become a part and parcel of Indian middle class life and dream, an English through which millions of Indians communicate everyday, face to face, through phones and emails, an English which changes and grows not according to the changes in the life and culture of the British only but also according to the cultural changes in India?
The first generation Indian writers in English comprising of the great R. K. Narayan, Raja Rao and Mulkraj Anand knowingly or unknowingly used Indian English. They were closely followed by the enthralling Anita Desai and naughty Kushiant Singh with Anita Desai having a little bit Western cultural background. Eventhough R. K. Narayan and Kushwant Singh were equally well received like Anita Desai with their Indian English by the Western readers.
But of late a new generation of Indian writers has mushroomed. They are well projected by the publishers International and Indian. Here the strange factor is that unlike R. K. Narayan and Mulkraj Anand most of these writers are living in an English speaking country or at least had their Education in a Western country. Again while R. K. Narayan and Mulkraj dealt with the life of the contemporary ordinary people the new generation is mainly dealing with the problems of Indian expatriates living outside and of course in India. They try to use international English, a little bit smeared in Indian culture.
India is a multi-cultural country having an underlying Indianness and unity. We have our own great literatures like Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Bengali and a handful of other languages. But do we have an Indian literature like American literature or Carrebean literature? Do we have a literature which unites all Indians and link them together? A literature which not only reflects the life of expatriates or the upper class but reflects all regions, cultures, classes of Indian life? Which is not only understandable to Indian readers but also to the international readers? The above said is possible only by Indian English which was used by R. K. Narayan, Mulkraj Anand and others and that which is still growing as Indian English.
Now if the existence of Indian English is a reality not only in the everyday life of Indians but in the Indian literature itself then there is a need of identifying it and knowing its qualities and exact boundaries. And perhaps there will be a need of dictionaries and other reference materials once they are identified. First there are some important questions need to be asked such as what is Indian English? In which areas Indian English differ from the British English or International English? I am not a great scholar to give clear cut answers to these questions. But in my limited knowledge Indian English in fact is British English taught in Indian schools, colleges and other institutions and practiced by the educated Indians in their day to day life – personal, business, professional and literary- absolutely smeared in Indian culture. This cultural influence and influence of the regional languages make the practical use of Indian English a separate variety.
In Indian English the grammatical rules of its mother form (British English) is followed. In spelling also British English has been closely followed and there is a slight lean towards the spelling of American English of late – because of the influence of computer packages like Ms-word in which American English spelling is followed. Mainly the Indianness is found in (i) the transliteration of many words from Indian languages into English (ii) translation of Indian idioms into English and of course (iii) the Indian way of arranging words in some sentences, asking questions and so on in everyday conversation (this may be mainly reflected in novels).
Merely anything made out of using English words cannot be Indian English. Grammatical rules must be closely followed. Authors must not take freedom beyond the limit where it is not understandable to the international readers. Indian English must be easily understandable to the international readers because it has the dual duty of linking various cultural backgrounds of India and of course taking the Indian culture to the world. So whenever a book is written in Indian English proper explanations must be given especially to the transliterated Indian words and translated Indian idioms in order to enhance the understanding of international readers.
In a recently published article in the Hindu, Anita Nair hi-lighted another aspect of Indian writing in English or Indian English. Having millions of educated, people – most of them youth and bilingual how on earth even the new generation Indian writers in English are so adamant in getting their debut book published in an English speaking country faithfully following their predecessors. Are there no publishing houses in India with enough confidence to take up the task of introducing novice or debut writers in English? In the second most populous country in the world with many of them bilingual by birth itself don’t Indians prefer to read English books or are they not good readers? Or does not Indian writings Indian English literature deserve reading?
Of course the last question must not be worth asking not because Indian books are published and well received abroad but because Indian writers and Indian English have already reached the level of producing great literature. The second question also gets nullified because of the fact that when Harrypotter, and the translations of old Russian writers are being sold off in India like hot cakes why not the books of Indian writers. Hence there must be adventurous publishers in the arena of Indian English writing to promote this national literature of India. It must be coupled with inculcating reading habit among the younger generation –reading of the regional language books, reading of English (Indian) books of Indian authors and of course reading of the books of international authors. Let us hope the time comes sooner than later.