Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My Article in The Sunday Hans - I Know, I Know

Anjali - Acts of Uncommon Kindness

I was reading a book or watching TV a couple of days ago when suddenly Anjali sits near my feet and says 'stretch your legs out Nanna.'
I smiled and did.
She sat down near my feet and held one and examined it. I am very conscious of my feet and became even more so. They are not the prettiest of feet going around.
Sunshine and love
'Nanna, you don't take care of your feet at all,; she said. 'Don't you apply any cream.'
I shook my head. I don't. Why would I apply cream to my feet? I am not used to taking care of myself and my body parts with any extra love. And I am certainly not used to others being interested in me.

'I will apply cream to your legs ok,' she said.
I liked that. She asked me and after I nodded she went and got the cream.

Then she sat on a cushion and carefully applied cream to my feet with utmost focus. It took all of ten minutes. After she was done with both feet, she looked at my calves.

'Look at them. They are all white. You don't put any cream Nanna. You don't take care of your legs.'
I looked on with a guilty look on my face.

'Ok stretch your leg,' she said.
The calves got the treatment too. And once done she got up and went off after pointing out how nice my legs were looking. They certainly felt much nicer and looked nicer.

But frankly I am not used to such acts of kindness and care from other people who take an interest in my good. I am just not used to even look at myself for my own good so I am really surprised when others do that. I was touched when Anjali did that and for a while stepped back and let her take over. Now she is 10 years I think she has so many other things on her mind but obviously not.

I am amazed at the things kids do so easily. I am sure adults do too - only it takes a lot more stuff than the simple way Anjali went about it. Ok, seems to be a problem here, let me sort it out the way I know it.

Could one be that way? I suppose so. Seems pretty simple. To give and to take, both are possible.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Anjali - On Contentment and Abundance

I was thrilled with the line I read in Tao Te Ching which said something like 'The man who is contented with what he has, is rich.' I loved the idea.

Yesterday evening I told it to Anjali and went on about it.
'That means Anjali, that one can be poor or rich, but if one is content with what they have - 10 rupees or 10000 crores - they will be rich. One the other hand if one is not content with what one has, then one rupee or ten thousand crores will still make one feel poor. See, its a matter of attitude. Richness is your attitude.'

I was trying to drive home the point that made such an impact on me. Now I can be content. And rich!

Anjali listened keenly. Then she said.
'I do not know why they say poor people are contented with little, and rich people are discontented with however much they have. All stories say that. Actually it is not about being poor or rich behaving differently - being contented or discontented. It means that you are rich or poor depending on how contented you are.'

It took me a minute to get that. But that was so nicely put.

That's an even better perspective. Why glorify the poor and rationalise their poverty with contentment and why put down the rich who have earned their money. Can we look at the attitude and not what they have?

Beautiful. That's two different perspectives in one day.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu (Translated by Arthur Waley)

81 are the principles of Lao Tzu. Tao cannot be explained and can only be experienced. The only thing is that when someone puts it across like Lao Tzu does, we can only nod in agreement if we have experienced it sometime. But if there is one thing we learn from the Tao it is that the world's principles are of seeming paradoxes. Certainly of least effort, of softness, of yielding, of weak, of being supple, of bending and bowing, of egolessness, of dignity, of beauty, of receptivity, of unity, of contentment. The symbols are of supple and weak plants, of water, of low lying lands, of empty spaces, of those who stand behind and desire no war.
Translated by Arthur Waley

"True wisdom is different from much learning
Much learning means little wisdom"

He talks of doing things without doing. Of being soft. Of bending. Of being gentle. Of not having any firm likes and dislikes. Of seeing things as they are. And buy being so, achieving all and more. Some lines that I noted down.

He who rids himself forever of desire can see the Secret Essence.

He speaks of the danger of choosing one - because it will give rise to another. When we are attached to beauty we face ugliness, when we choose virtue we encounter wickedness - better not to be attached to one.

Rule people by employing their hearts, filling their bellies, weakening intelligence, toughening sinews; make people knowledgeless and desireless."

The way is to be empty - but can draw without needing to be filled. Valley spirit never dies. Draw as much but it never dries.

Put yourself in the background but always to fore; remain outside but always be there, strive for no personal end - to ever last.

The highest good is like water - benefits all but does not scramble, content with the places that all men disdain. Profound thought, gentleness in friendship, true words, order in government and no strife.

When your work is done, then withdraw.

Rear them but do not lay claim to them, control them but never lean upon them, be chief among them but do not manage them.

It is in the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel, the house, depends. Just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognise the usefulness of what is not.

He who is dealing with the empire regards his high rank as though it were his body is the best person to be entrusted with the rule. He rules his subjects as one should love one's body.

Do not fill yourself to the brim. Then you will endure all wear and need no renewal.

Strive towards void, quietness. The root of all things is quietness. Submission to fate. He who has room for everything has no prejudice.

The sage says not a word. The work gets done. And people say it happened on its own.

It is only when one thing appears that the other arrives.

It is only when there is desire that people sway. Give them things to do, that occupy them, keep them busy.

Banish learning and there will be no grieving. 

To remain whole be twisted, 
To become straight,let yourself be bent, 
To become full, be hollow
Those that have little may get more
Those that have much are perplexed

It is by not believing in people that you turn them into liars.

The small man, a man of consequence, will not be separated from his baggage wagon
The lord of 10000 chariots allows himself to be lighter
If he is light the foundation is low
If he is active, the lord and master is lost

Perfect activity leaves no track behind it.

Return to a state of infancy, to the state of the uncarved block
The greatest carver does the least cutting

Discard the absolute, the all-inclusive, the extreme

Fulfill purpose without boasting, pride, as a step that could not be avoided, without violence

Even when he conquers, does not regard weapons as lovely things.

The uncarved block is greater than anything under heaven
Once the block is carved there will be names
As soon as there are names, it is time to stop

Understand, conquer yourself,

Being content with what you have is to be rich

Tao produces but takes no possession
By not making a show of greatness, achieves greatness

Tao is to use, not see or listen

Dim the light before it shines bright, do the opposite of what needs to be done first, soft overcomes hard, weak overcomes strong

Get things done without doing
And 10000 things are transformed

After Tao was lost came power
After power was lost came human kindness
After human kindness was lost came morality
After morality was lost came ritual
Ritual is husk
Full grown men takes his stand upon the sorted substance and not husk

Humble is the stem upon which the mighty grows

Tao - the only motion is returning, weakness is the only quality, being is the product of non-being

Great form comes without shape, great music comes with faint notes, large squares have no corners

No man of violence can come to a good end

Teaching without words, action that is actionless, few understand it

He who grudges expense pays dearest in the end
He who has hoarded most will suffer the heaviest loss
Be content with what you have, none can despoil you
Who stops in time, nothing can harm

The most perfect seems to have something missing but works perfectly
Most full seems empty but never fails
Most straight seems crooked
Great skill appears clumsy
Staying still overcomes heat
Limpid calm puts everything right

No lure greater than to possess what others want
No disaster greater than not to be content with what one has
No presage of evil greater than that men should be wanting to get more

He who has once known the contentment that comes simply through being content, will never again be otherwise than contented

The further one travels, the less one knows
The sage arrives without going, sees without looking
Does nothing, achieves everything

Tao consists in subtracting day by day
Till one has reached inactivity
By this inactivity, everything can be activated

No heart of his own, the heart of the people as his heart
Good and bad he approves, and thus he gets goodness
For the world's sake, he dulls his wits
Seems dazed with fright

He who aims at life achieves death
He who has a true hold on life is not touched by animals or weapons, has no death spot

Rear but do not claim, content without leaning, be chief without managing

Strength means holding on to what is weak
An infant has the highest power, soft bones, strong grip
But to fill life to the brim is to invite omens,
Vigour invites decay

Those who know do not speak, who speak do not know

Do nothing, and people transform
In inactivity, people become prosperous
I have no wants, people return to the uncarved block

When the ruler looks depressed, people are happy and satisfied
Upon bad fortune, good fortune leans
Sage squares without cutting, gives light without shining

Running a large kingdom is like cooking small fish

A large kingdom must be like the low ground towards which all streams flow. The point where all things converge. Must be the female and get underneath to conquer the male. Large kingdoms needs inhabitants. Small kingdoms need some place to send surplus inhabitants

Tao is like the south west corner of the house, the treasure of the good man

Everything difficult must be dealt with when easy, when small

Deal in state of not-yet-being, put in order before confusion

He who acts harms, who grabs, lets up

Heed the end no less than the beginning
And your work will not be spoiled 

The more knowledge people have, the harder they are to rule
Those who rule without giving knowledge bring a stock of good fortune to the land

In order to be above, speak as though you are lower to the people

Only he that pities is truly brave,
Only he who is frugal is profuse
Only he who refuses to be foremost is capable of being the Chief of Ministers

The best charioteer does not rush ahead
The best fighters do not make a display of their wrath
The greatest conqueror wins without joining issue
The best user of men acts as if he were their inferior
This is the power of not contending

It is he who does not delight in war that wins

When you doubt your ability to meet the enemy's attack, take the offensive yourself. 
If you doubt your ability to advance an inch, then retreat a foot

To know when one does not know is best
To think one knows when one does not know is a dire disease
Only he who recognises this disease as a disease
Can cure himself of the disease
The Sage's way of curing the disease
Also consists in making people recognise their diseases as diseases and thus ceasing to be diseased

If you do not harass people they will not turn away form you
Know your value, but do not place yourself high

Conquer without striving, get answers without speaking, get things without beckoning
Coarse are the meshes but nothing slips through

He who tries to do the master carpenter's chipping will most likely cut his hand

People starve because people above them eat too much
People are difficult to keep in order because those above them interfere
People attach no importance to death because those above them are too grossly absorbed in the pursuit of life

When he is born, man is soft and weak: is death he becomes stiff and hard 
When things are alive they are supple and soft, but when they are dead, they become brittle and dry
What is stiff and hard is companion of death
The hard and mighty are cast down; the soft and weak are set on high.

Nothing under heaven is softer or more yielding than water
But when it attacks things hard and resistant there is not one of them that can prevail
The yielding conquers the resistant and the soft conquers the hard

It is Heaven's way, without distinction of persons, to keep the good perpetually supplied.

True words are not fine sounding, 
Fine sounding words are not true 
The good man does not prove by argument
And he who proves by argument is not good
True wisdom is different from learning
Much learning means little wisdom

For Heaven's way is to sharpen without cutting
And the Sage's way is to act without striving

My big lessons. About spending. About weakness. About softness. Read and reread. It's a never ending story. But more importantly, practice. Tao is not to listen and see, but to be.

Anjali- Sudha Murty-The Magic of the lost temple.

This book was a birthday present from my best friend.It is based about a citygirl from Bangalore.
Anoushka aka Nooni is a brave,courageous but simple girl. She has to stay with her Ajja  and  Ajji in their village  for her summer vacations.She learns bicycling,trekking and other things you could do only in a village with the help of Amit,Anand,Medha and the young college boy- Mahadeva.

After a few days when Nooni begs for a story, Ajji tells her one about King Somanayaka and the magic stepwell. Almost the next day ,Nooni along with her friends discover remains of the step well. As excited as Nooni, her grandparents inform the whole village. Shankar Master, Hanume gowda (head of the village panchayat) and Ajja plan it all out. The digging,the calling of certain people,the rules for the stepwell etc. With the help of Abdul Rasheed, a friend of Nooni's dad  they dig out the stepwell.

A fun book. All children must read it. :) 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Dazed and Confused - Movie Review

It's 1993. It's Linklater. The movie is about the last day of school in 1976. Issues the teenagers had then - coach of the football team wants players to sign a commitment that they will not do drugs or alcohol etc, parties, girls, sex, rules, rebellion etc.

The day starts with the school closing for summer. The seniors have a practice of ragging freshmen - some more seriously than the others. The freshmen are running for cover. Seniors have their own issues. The party house gets busted because the parents get wind of it. A run in with cops, some breaking of the law, some fights, some broken hearts, some new romances. And all the time there play the 1970s hit songs for Led Zeppelin to Nazareth to Alice Cooper to Kiss to ZZ Top.

And if that was not enough well there is Mathew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Renee Zelleweger etc who were  all a bunch of nobodys then. In that one day Linklater gives a pretty good idea of what society was like then and that makes for good cinema in my book.

Anjali - The Danger of Labels

We were discussing something about dog food today. Anjali told some story about how two guys ate dog food and survived. I told her of how Pedigree, the dog food, was good enough to eat - when we did a program for Mars they has actually invited us to the plant and to eat the dog food.

'Once we give a name it changes everything,' she said.

'Labels,' pondered Shobha.

'If it was not called dog food people would probably eat it like they would eat McDonalds or something,' said Anjali.

Wow! That's a bit thing to discover. That labels are so restricting. That they change our perception and they change our actions.

And just this evening I was reading the 'Tao Te Ching' and there is a line which goes something like, the moment it is called something is the time when you must stop doing whatever you are doing, because you are stuck with the label and it straitjackets you.

"The uncarved block is greater than anything under heaven
Once the block is carved there will be names
As soon as there are names, it is time to stop"

Good for you Anjali.