Friday, November 20, 2009


Extremism is so easy. You've got your position and thats it. It doesnt take much thought. And when you go far enough to the right, you meet the same idiots coming from the left.

- Clint Eastwood

Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy – by one or more or all of them. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines or dogmas or rituals or books or temples are but secondary details.

- Swami Vivekananda as quoted by Paul Theroux in ‘Ghost Train to the Eastern Star’

Defeat has a dignity which noisy victory does not deserve

- Borges as quoted by Paul Theroux in ‘Ghost Train to the Eastern Star’

A great writer is, so to speak, a second government. That’s why no regime anywhere has even loved its great writers, only its minor ones

- Solzhenitsyn, in The First Circle, as quoted by Paul Theroux in ‘Ghost Train to the Eastern Star’

Next to the right to create, the right to criticize is the richest gift that liberty of thought can offer

- Nabokov as quoted by Paul Theroux in ‘Ghost Train to the Eastern Star’

When buffaloes fight, the grass gets trampled

- Burmese proverb

……’Nessun maggior dolore
che ricordarsi lempo felice
ne la miseria….’

……’There is no greater sorrow
than to recall our times off joy
in wretchedness……’

- Dante’s Francesca da Rimini

A word said is a shot fired

- Uzbek saying

Ten dervishes can sleep under one blanket,
but two kings cannot find room in one clime

- Babur-Nama

He was a very kind man and very sincere, with a strict devotion to his religious calling, although, like many Chinese, he had a very bad temper

- Dalai Lama

……he was over polite, which is invariably a sign of someone not to be trusted

- Dalai Lama

From ‘Never a Dull Moment. With Men of Honour and dishonour’ by R D Pradhan
A conversation between Lt. General Thorat and Jawaharlal Nehru

“You know, Thorat? You Maharashtrians are like mules. Normally you are good and docile, but when you dig your toes in, it is impossible to dislodge you.”

“Is it a bad trait when you know that you are in the right, sir?” I ventured to remark.

“Well-no,” he said, “but it’s most irritating.”

Monday, November 16, 2009

From ‘Towards the Silver Crests of the Himalayas’ by G.K.Pradhan

……………..“You will also find that you have completely subjected or enslaved your mind to follow a particular pattern, either of your choice or choice forced down upon you by somebody. In such a condition your mind is not free, your intellect has a projection towards a definite objective, your ego moves in an orbit so to say defined for it, and your mind has to follow dictations of your heart, intellect and ego. Yours, therefore, is a most confused state and pitiable condition. What else could you expect from such a confused state of mind but dissatisfaction, want of peace and misery? When your mind and intellect are free from any bondage, then only you will be able to see or rather enjoy every effort that you make. Every action of yours will give you immense joy as well as peace. You will be able to understand this only by experience and not by intellectual conception…..When the mind is free, intellect is not burdened by any pattern, memory of the past, family traditions, ideas of prestige, fear of losing anything, either concrete or abstract; then mind and intellect both remain free to act, observe, think and find out for itself the working of the inner self. A completely free mind is in a position to hear, see, observe and get most important experience, the manifestations of the inner self which may be called God. The mind is then in tune and harmony with the nature as well as the power that pervades the entire creation. Being completely free, it always moves with the present, from moment to moment, and has no burden of the past, whether historical, social, religious, dogmatic, political, economical and so on. It is not concerned with the future as there is no ideal before it to attain or any pattern to follow. It is happy and peaceful as long as it is free and unburdened. ”

……..A state in which mind does no work, no thought arises, nothing is seen or heard, or interpreted, functions of the senses do not stir or create any activity in the mind. When the mind is so still, then the subject gets an experience, which is neither translated nor understood with reference to anything. That is an experience which gives immense joy and creates unparalleled state of pleasure which cannot be expressed in words. This state is not an attainment but an experience which is followed by understanding. This is not an outcome of any process…………….

Sunday, November 8, 2009

From ‘The Snow Leopard’ by Peter Matthiessen

…..In Zen thought, even attachment to the Buddha’s “golden words” may get in the way of ultimate perception; hence the Zen expression “Kill the Buddha!” The universe itself is the scripture of Zen, for which religion is no more and no less than the apprehension of the infinite in every moment

How wondrous, how mysterious!
I carry fuel, I draw water

“All the way to Heaven is Heaven”, Saint Catherine said, and that is the very breath of Zen, which does not elevate divinity above the common miracles of every day.

O, how incomprehensible everything was, and actually sad, although it was so beautiful. One knew nothing. One lived and ran about the earth and rode through forests, and certain things looked so challenging and promising and nostalgic: a star in the evening, a blue harebell, a reed-green pond, the eye of a person or a cow. And sometimes it seemed that something never seen yet long desired was about to happen, that a veil would drop from it all; but then it passed, nothing happened, the riddle remained unsolved, the secret spell unbroken, and in the end one grew old and looking cunning……or wise…..and still one knew nothing perhaps, was still waiting and listening

- Herman Hesse ‘Narcissus and Goldmund’

Monk: What happens when the leaves are falling, and the trees are bare?
Unmon: The golden wind, revealed!

- Hegikan Roku (The Blue Cliff Records)

With the first sun rays we come down into still forest of gnarled birch and dark stiff firs. Through light filtered by the straying lichens, a silver bird flies to a cedar, fanning crimsoned wings on the sunny bark. Then it is gone, leaving behind a vague longing, a sad emptiness.

…….Tibet’s great poet-saint the Lama Milarepa……..his teaching as he prepared for death………..

All wordly pursuits have but one unavoidable and inevitable end, which is sorrow: acquisitions end in dispersion; buildings in destruction; meetings, in separation; births, in death. Knowing this, one should from the very first renounce acquisition and heaping-up, and building and meeting, and …set about realizing the Truth……Life is short, and the time of death is uncertain; so apply yourselves to meditation.

Meditation has nothing to do with contemplation of eternal questions, or of one’s own folly, or even of one’s navel, although a clearer view on all of these enigmas may result. It has nothing to do with thought of any kind – with anything at all, in fact, but intuiting the true nature of existence, which is why it has appeared, in one form or another, in almost every culture known to man. The entranced Bushman staring into the fire, the Eskimo using a sharp rock to draw an ever-deepening circle into the flat surface of a stone achievevs the same obliteration of the ego (and the same power) as the dervish or the Pueblo sacred dancer. Among Hindus and Buddhists, realization is attained through inner stillness, usually achieved through the samadhi state of sitting yoga. In Tantric practice, the student may displace the ego by filling his whole being with the real or imagined objective of his concentration; in Zen, one seeks to empty out the mind, to return it to the clear, pure stillness of a seashell or a flower petal. When body and mind are one, then the whole thing, scoured clean of intellect, emotions, and the senses, may be laid open to the experience that individual existence, ego, the “reality” of matter and phenomena are no more than fleeting and illusory arrangements of molecules. The weary self of masks and screens, defences, preconceptions, and opinions that, propped up by ideas and words, imagines itself to be some sort of entity (in a society of like entities) may suddenly fall away, dissolve into formless flux where concepts such as “death” and “life”, “time” and “space”, “past” and “future” have no meaning. There is only a pearly radiance of Emptiness, the Uncreated, without beginning, therefore without end.

……..the great sins, so the Sherpas say, are to pick wild flowers and to threaten children……..

As the hand held before the eye conceals the greatest mountain, so the little earthly life hides from the glance the enormous lights and mysteries of which the world is full, and he who can draw it away from before his eyes, as one draws away a hand, beholds the great shining of the inner worlds

- Rabbi Nachmann of Bratzlav

……….Tantric teaching: Take care, O Pilgrim, lest you discriminate against the so-called lower functions, for these, too, contain the inherent miracle of being. Did not one of the great masters attain enlightenment upon hearing the splash of his own turd into the water?

……….I remembered D’s beloved Zen expression: “No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place.”

The flower fulfils its immanence, intelligence implicit in its unfolding
There is a discipline.
The flower grows without mistakes.
A man must grow himself, until he understands the intelligence of the flower.

………..”When you are ready,” Buddhists say, “the teacher will appear.”

Friday, November 6, 2009

Swar-Lata, Bharat Ratna Lata

Lata-didi, you did it again. When work threatened to drown me in its drudgery, out of nowhere that vocal miracle swooped upon me, took me by the scruff of my neck and injected a fresh dose of life and energy into me.

Of you, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Saheb said ‘Kambakht kabhi besura hee nahi hotee’ (Drat it, she never goes out of tune). And that from a giant of Hindustani classical music. Addressed to a mere ‘film playback singer’.

Hundreds, thousands have offered their silent and vocal tributes to you. I can offer you nothing more precious than my tears.

Here I sit up at midnight, offering a humble IT coolie’s tribute to the eternal Lata, for whatever it is worth. Two of your songs in recent times have derailed me from my rut. And given me fresh hope……….. I attempt to provide a very flawed and puerile translation of the original lyrics for both the songs…… the sincere hope that somebody provide me with better versions of it.

Non-desis have remarked on the fact that Indian female voices sing in a very high pitch (they screech). Doubtless they would have the same opinion of the below songs, but I don’t see any flaw in it, is it culture or cultural familiarity, I don’t know, but it touches my heart in a way very few other things, gross and subtle, do

1. Sawan Ke Jhoole Pade from ‘Jurmama’

a great blend of lyrics, tune and playback.

Hindi lyrics

Saawan Ke Jhoole Pade, Tum Chale Aao
tum Chale Aao, Tum Chale Aao

aanchal Naa Chhode Meraa, Paagal Huyee Hain Pawan
ab Kyaa Karu Main Jatan Dhadake Jiyaa Jaise Panchhee Ude

dil Ne Pukaaraa Tumhe, Yaadon Ke Parades Se
aatee Hain Jo Desh Sen, Hum Us Dagar Pe Hain Kab Se Khade

jab Hum Mile The Piyaa, Tum Kitane Naadaan The
hum Kitane Anajaan The, Baalee Umareeyaan Mein Nainaa Laden

My translation

The swinging breezes of Spring and the ardent wish that you come over
…the ardent wish that you come over.

This crazed wind doesn’t let go of my anchal (the end of a sari tossed over the shoulder?)
What do I hold onto? The heart’s astir like the fluttering birds taking to the sky

The heart called for you, from the foreign land of memories
And here on the road that comes from my land, I have been waiting for you since long

When we had met my beloved, you were so naïve
and we were so ignorant, t’was adolescence when our eyes crossed paths

2. Sunya Sunya maifilit majhya

from a Marathi ‘art’ film starring another treasure of India, the late Smita Patil, the song is made more memorable by the lyrics, by Smita, by the music and by Lata…..

Marathi lyrics

Sunya, Sunya, Maifilit majhya, tujhech mi geet gaat aahe
ajoonhi vatate mala, ajoonhi chand raat aahe

Kale na mi pahate kunala, kale na ha chehra kunacha
Punha punha bhaas hot aahe, tujhe hasoo aarshyat aahe

Sakhya tula bhet-til sare, tujhya ghari sur olakhiche
Ubha tujhya angani swarancha abol ha parijat aahe

My translation

In this solemn, lonely gathering of mine, I am singing your song
Again, Yet again the haunting feeling that its that moonlit night

(The state I am in) Puzzled by, whom I stare at, whose face it is
Again, yet again that ‘bhaas’ (hallucination) it’s your smile / laughter in the mirror
In This solemn, lonely gathering of mine,

Dear beloved, you will meet in your house, those familiar tunes of mine
Present in your garden, a mute jasmine of musical notes
I keep singing your song
Again, Yet again the haunting feeling that its that moonlit night