Unknown among the Known
John Daleiden, the editor of Sketchbook, has awakened me to my everyday unconscious brooding over the very subject which he has suggested for writing and thus helped me to sit before the computer as I am doing now:
A Correspondent Feature may take the form of a reflection piece about the sights, sounds, traditions, mores and distinguishing characteristics of a writer’s country. The correspondents may describe what they see, hear, and feel as they step outside their doors to go about their daily life.
I am surely in my country, India, but my country is very big, consisting of many countries. Though there is a cultural, geographical and historical link and now firm political link among all Indians, they are different by their regional cultural choice, by their different thought process and voice or voicelessness.
I emigrated from the capital of the eastern province, West Bengal, to the capital of this southern coastal Union Territory, a small political unit; from Kolkata to Pondicherry. The usual language difference between the two places is as apart as Bangla and Tamil though linked by Sanskrit, to some extent. The speakers of the two languages do not usually understand each other as they live some 2000 kilo metres away with different food and other habits.
Ever since Sri Aurobindo came and settled here, about 100 years ago, many of his followers came from different parts of the country and globe and settled here, taking it as a great spiritual centre with Sri Aurobindo the yogi and philosopher, poet and litterateur, at the centre of it, with the hoary religious and spiritual past of Pondicherry. People from various cultures have mixed to bring a new understanding among themselves creating a composite culture to make Pondicherry really cosmopolitan.
Pondicherry is the capital of the Union Territory called by the same name but recently it’s name has been changed to Pudhucherry, comprising of four parts scattered in other three southern provinces of India. Surrounded by provinces, these small costal villages/towns were the areas the French captured and made parts of French India. It had another town in Bengal, called Chandernagore but it did not remain with the French, merged with West Bengal Government with the freedom of the country from the British rule.
It is on the Bay of Bengal. The eastern part of the town overlooks the sea. French made nice parallel roads on the eastern part of the town for their habitation. There are still some big, high ceiling buildings, samples of French architecture available in the town. Together with some old typical Tamil houses, they make the heritage of Pondicherry. Now the Governments have become very enthusiastic to invite tourists and make places of tourist attraction catchy to earn money by all means. Pondicherry, with the sea, the French legacy and the world famous Sri Aurobindo ashram, has become an important tourist centre; more so because it is more peaceful than the northern towns, than even some southern towns. It enjoys a reputation of peaceful sleeping fishing village. But gone are the village days. It is a town with a population of about a million, nearing to be raised to a city status. The small town has French citizens and large number of retired settlers. The density of population of this small place is one of the highest in India. But the popular Governments do not go for any restrictions here. Wine flows with full flavour in this erstwhile French town drawing all drunkards close. With easy registration process and shop windows for all types of vehicles there is a constant vehicular overflow, vehicles overflowing its streets. The roads and lanes are jammed with different types of vehicles; from biggest vans to three, two wheelers and rickshaws. Road is the garage for many of them. It is difficult sometimes to walk on the roads. The condition of its roads has become very inconvenient for all users recently. There are shops aplenty everywhere in the town with matching buyers. Shopping has become a hobby for most of the populace.
So Pondicherry is a shopper’s paradise as well as a haven for the retired persons. Tourists find solace here mainly for the existence of large numbers of shops, restaurants and bars. Seaside is their temporary refuge. Apt it is to remind that due to port activities and nature’s whim the beach has been lost into the sea and the Government has constructed an artificial beach made of boulders and sands. The promenade is wide, beautifully done with granites and other means. All sorts of construction activities are ruining the nature everywhere in Pondicherry.
This time of the year is marked for festivals, one after the other. And it is time for Deepavali or Diwali, one of the greatest festivals of India which involves almost all Indians in different ways.
The earth is bathed in light during Deepavali, celebrated almost in all parts of the country with lamps (Deep) and crackers, feasts and merriment. Deepavali is a festival of lights. It is a movement from darkness toward light, from evil toward goodness. The sights and sounds of Deepavali are light, fire, smoke and crackers, creating fracas.
It is a complex affair, connoting values of different dimensions to different people. If we get down to the nitty-gritty of it, we shall find that it contains legends galore; it has links with festivals and rituals of the other peoples, other countries of the world. Lakshmi the Goddess of wealth is worshipped during this festival in many parts of India but Kali, the Shakti or the Goddess of Force and Power, is worshipped in Bengal.
Lighting lamps is like showing illumined path to the ancestors. Fire has been held as the symbol of rebirth and resurrection. On the Christian All-Souls-Day in Mexico, in the month of November, it is said that the beings already dead join their family. All flock once in a year. In Japan, during ancestor worshipping, all flock to the cemeteries and light lamps all around the place. China has a lantern festival on the full moon day and in Cambodia people offer their ancestors food, as in India, on some occasions. In Belgium, a day in early November is fixed to remember their ancestors. In Bengal they float lamps on the water bodies as they do in Thailand. All this festivals, observations occur around this time, October-November of the year, beginning with the great Durga Puja. And then comes the Christmas followed by New Year. They too have their past connected to Babylonian culture and myth.
Diwali is auspicious for beginning a new financial year, so it is for closing the financial transactions, nay, for declaring the business enterprise as closed, Deulia. It is time marked for financial changes in some parts of India.
But this much may be enough for the festival as the issue is different. The climate is autumn. After the summer and rains the earth gradually changes its routine, lead by the Sun. South India is comparatively hot throughout the year. But here too we discern a very slow yet sure movement in nature; the severity of summer gradually giving way to winter. The winter is never so severe in the whole of South India except in hilly stations but it is usually comfortable. It is time for transition.
In the mornings we find housewives making some designs with chalk powder before their houses after cleaning the area with water. The drawings- pictures of flowers or animals or simple designs- are quite attractive. This is called Kolam in Tamil. This is an essential ritual on festival days but for many houses it is a daily ritual. As we go out in the evenings we find boys and girls gathering on streets lighting some fireworks. Sound of crackers, loud sometimes, stuns us. We become careful lest some spark of fire may ignite some part of our dress or body. Loud songs through amplifiers are now the essential part of any festival. Commoners may enjoy but we feel it a tyrant.
A poet and writer usually has a different fate specially when he writes in a language which though international and of increasing popularity in India, not the language proper of any people of this country, when he has migrated from a distant place in India with another cultural ethos. Even in one’s own place how many people know a poet, unless huge publicity hype or a big boom makes him known to the people? A writer of an alien language is rarely known to the common people. This way, though I know the people around me, daily see each other’s faces, do marketing together and try to assimilate each other’s culture, as everywhere in India, our acquaintances are very shallow. Shallow is ordinary people’s curiosity to know the other. Ethnicity has spread a deep route in spite of the blow of the global village idea. And I must say that the modern way of living has separated people, even families, tending towards nucleus family units, as in the West. We are not much concerned about the other, living in apartment buildings, moving in our own vehicles.
Under these abiding conditions I am a bilingual poet and writer who rarely now-a-days writes in Bangla, my Mother Tongue, the Mother Tongue of such other great creators as Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore, Nirod C Chaudhury, Satyajit Ray, Jhumpa Lahiri, Amartya Sen and many others. Away from Bengal I write in English. I have enough connections with Indian literary magazines, international ezines and I have presence in many of the websites. I have so far written many hundreds of features, essays, good number of stories and poems in magazines all over India and some abroad, in some daily newspapers in India; with 12 books in Bangla and 20 in English published.
I am known to some extent to some local readers and some writers, poets and others who matter in the literary field, to some scholars and students of the Pondicherry University who study English Literature. There are some local poets and writers in the town who know me. Some enthusiastic people of my community know me but I have friends mostly in other towns of India and abroad, most of who I have not so far seen and maybe that such chances are rare. I am busy really doing different types of writing including critiquing, cooperating with fellow writers and editors in India and abroad. I cannot say that I have gained the publicity to make me at once known by name but it may be that I am on the way, to whatever extent, depending on many things. Active in the internet, writing in literary magazines that hardly reach the common readers, writing in English mostly, I am becoming more known to the literary world in general but not much known to the people around me who are the source of my knowledge about human character and culture.
Though I take my lessons of life from Nature, it is ever indifferent about the coming and going of people in the ever growing towns, always oblivious of its citizens unless some of them have made themselves immortal to Nature and surroundings. I am indebted to all my surroundings whether they accept me or not. I am a product of my country and age, world wide. I know my neighbours, they know me, we exchange smiles of goodwill, we talk, agree or disagree but they do not know my proper identity. I am unknown among the known.
© Aju Mukhopadhyay, 2014
This autobiographical piece was posted in LinkedIn and twitted, it was in Sketchbook the E-zine and elsewhere . . . .
Independence: A Look Back
How and What Freedom was Achieved
Subhas Chandra Bose and his Azad Hind Fauz, though defeated by the axis force as a matter of course in the Second World War, represented the true angst and anxiety of the Indian people against the colonial force. Revolt and non-cooperation in the Indian Navy and Army added strength to the other violent and non-violent forces. All these forces added strength to Gandhi’s Non-Violent movement though Quit India movement continued without Gandhi’s presence; he with all important Congress leader of the time was put in jail, urgently. The combined force helped India to finally achieve freedom, though of divided India. The situation was such that war ravished Britain had huge internal problems including the economic set back. They thought it dangerous to carry on further. It was never that the non-violent movement brought a soul-change in them to give up possession of the country. They had no way but to give independence to India due mainly to their economic breakdown for their total involvement in Second World War and due to the revolt in Indian Army and Navy for which they expected to get no cooperation from them unlike before. They effectively used their last weapon of dividing the country. And Indian leaders had the weakness to welcome it. So they gave freedom to two Indias; India and Pakistan. Now it is three with Bangladesh as the last entrant in the group.
The country did not want a vivisection of Bharat Mata. Congress Working Committee had to pass the resolution of partition with 29 votes in favour and 15 against in spite of M. K. Gandhi’s pleading for it though he once declared that if the country was to be partitioned it would be over his body. The partition was a national holocaust. Leaders in the forefront were in a hurry somehow to get the independence, even accepting the partition as it suited their purpose. West Bengal Assembly accepted it as a matter of routine but rejected the division on the basis of religion, as a matter of principle, as Sri Aurobindo had advised Surendra Mohan Ghose, the then Congress Chief in the province.
On the occasion of India’s independence on 15 August 1947 Sri Aurobindo in a message to All India Radio said, “India today is free but she has not achieved unity…. the old communal division into Hindus and Muslims seems now to have hardened into a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that this settled fact will not be accepted as settled for ever or as any thing more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled: civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest . . . . the partition must go …. by whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go; unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India’s future.” (Sri Aurobindo/405)
Sri Aurobindo gave a message on 5. 2. 1948, on the occasion of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Among other things he wrote, “A free and united India will be there and the Mother will gather around her sons and weld them into a single national strength in the life of a great and united people.”(Sri Aurobindo/407)
In July 1950 K. M. Munshi, a Minister, Government of India and once a student of
Aurobindo Ghose, felt an urge to see the Master after more than 40 years. During their conversation, he wrote in his article, “Then he sprang a surprise on me. ‘When do you expect India to be united?’ he asked.
“I was taken aback. I explained to him how our leaders had agreed to partition. ‘So long as the present generation of politicians is concerned, I cannot think of any time when the two countries- India and Pakistan- can be united.’
“The Master smiled, ‘India will be re-united. I see it clearly.’ Was it an opinion? Or a prophesy? Or was it a clear perception?” (Munshi/The Hindusthan Times)
It is evident from the above quotes that at no point Sri Aurobindo gave any time frame within which the two countries would be re-united for in no case those were an astrologer’s prophesy or a simple wishful thinking. It was a nationalist leader’s dream supported by his yogic vision as he loved his country as his mother. Sri Aurobindo always saw possibilities and he always elaborated it with ‘If’s and ‘Or’s. So the happenings depend on many things, mainly on the mind set and wish of the people that matter, of the capacity of the leaders.
Possibilities arose when the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram encouraged the Indian Prime Ministers to achieve unity. It could be done if properly acted but the chances were allowed to be lapsed. The Mother had a map of united India including the present Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, drawn by herself in 1951, with her symbol made of brass, fixed on it. The map, made of plaster, is fixed on the wall in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Playground. In a note on July 29 1964 she wrote- “It is the map of true India despite all fleeting appearances, and it shall always remain the map of true India, whatever people may think.” (Mother/108)
Still there are possibilities in the womb of time. But the evil possibility of a foreign attack and partial conquest happened when the then Prim Minister was busy in giving shape to his Panchsheel programme. China attacked India unprovoked in any way, as if a bold from the blue, and entered quite inside our country destroying lives and property on their way in 1962. However, the invaders left on their own; that was a different story. They always pose problems and threats to India which seems with futuristic designs. They have already occupied a large extent of area of Arunachal Pradesh disputing their claim over it and declared their existence by erecting ten in Ladakh, inside 19 km inside the border, an area of strategic military importance for India, at the border of Pakistan. The existence of Pakistan is a constant threat and disturbance to India.
Coming to the partition and independence days of India we find that India was almost lost to communal frenzy, all efforts by the secular minded people utterly failed. Even after partition the Kashmir issues plagues us. Let us see how efforts have been made by some scholars by fallacious arguments to establish that Kashmir is a land belonging to Muslims from olden times.
The first Sufi was Suhrawardi Saint Hazrat Sayyed Sharfuddin Abdur Rahman or Bulbul Shah, who came from Turkestan in 1324 C.E. Thereafter numerous Sufis from Central Asia and Iran made their way to Kashmir. Hazrat Nuruddin Nurani (1356-1440 C.E.) founded the Rishi order. Although the Rishis were Muslims and saw the spread of Islam as their primary task, wrote Yoginder Sikand in his The Muslim Rishis of Kashmir. He said that they championed the cause of the poor and the marginalized. It is said that conversion to Islam was made an essential condition for joining the Rishi order. Hazrat Nuruddin’s father, Shaikh Salaruddin, a Rajput, was converted to Islam by Yasman Rishi, we are informed.
Mustafa Muhammad Tahan, born in Lebanon in 1938, is a respected ideologue among the Muslims. In his book The Political Challenges Before the Islamic Movement he asserts that violence has no place in Islam, that no one can call the other a kafir, meaning disbeliever. He supports his view by quoting from Quran. But he says that Muslims are united by their common faith and spreading Islam is their legitimate right and that where the majority is Muslim, there should be an Islamic State, based on Shariat and Shura. He says that people of Islamic group have liberated Muslim lands from Western imperialists, like Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Nigeria, Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Indonesia. (as referred by Yoginder Sikand in his The Islamic Movement and the Political Challenge. Bangalore. 2000)
This is a way to establish a claim over Kashmir as the land of Suffi Rishis. But India is one of the oldest civilizations on earth. The antiquity of the Vedas and the existence of the drasta Rishis or seers of the Vedic hymns become evident when one understands that the Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries were the failing remnants of such traditions. Compared to such hoary past of India and Indian Rishis, the Sufi Rishis of Kashmir belonged to a much later period, beginning in 1324 C.E. Sufism originated thousands of years after the advent of Vedic world. The word Rishi must have been borrowed from Indian tradition. According to some writers even Jesus Christ spent the major portion of his life there and became what the world saw him at the age of 30 years.
Before many other countries India had established civilisation, much before the advent of Islam. India is replete with different ideas and faiths. It is a multi-religious, multilingual State. Yet it is not burning like places where a movement is going on to spread a religious faith or to occupy other’s territory and to convert others. India has withstood many such attacks but she has rarely attacked any country going over the alien land. This country has sheltered one of the largest numbers of Muslims in the world.
Physically Kashmir was and is an Indian province. The then Princely State of Kashmir had agreed to join the Indian Union at some time after partition of the country in 1947. But terrorists invaded the area. Instead of driving the terrorists out, as happens now, as happened specially on three subsequent occasions after independence; in 1965, 1971 and 1999, the then Prime Minister of India had allowed the creation of the LOC or Line Of Control. The sore continues to trouble the subcontinent.
With reference to this claim on Kashmir one remembers that there has been many such claims and conversions in countries the world over where Islam is the main religion.
Regarding Islam as faith and religion we may or may not agree exactly as the writer Naipaul defined it but we cannot deny it too- “Islam is in its origins an Arab religion. Everyone not an Arab who is a Muslim is a covert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief. It marks imperial demands. A convert’s world view alters. His holy places are in Arab lands; his sacred language is Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own; he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story. The convert has to turn away from everything that is his. The disturbance for societies is immense, and even after a thousand years can remain unresolved; the turning away has to be done again. People develop fantasies about who and what they are; and in the Islam of converted countries there is an element of neurosis and nihilism. These countries can be easily set on the boil. (Naipaul/1)
India has been receiving and accepting innumerable guests from foreign countries; people of different faith and belief, people of different cultures have assimilated into the body of Mother India. Indian subcontinent contains many other countries in her body. India is, as if, the country of countries. In whatever way Muslims came, they have become part of this country. The Kashmir issue has been plaguing us since the days of independence, internecine struggle and conflict has been raged. It seems that it is in the nature of things to get the problem solved permanently, specially when China is ever ready to foment and actually create troubles for India in an aggressive way. Pakistan itself is the victim of partition as it has become a land of ever increasing terrorism, torn between vociferous armed groups, hanging between military and civil governments.
Subhas Chandra Bose and Independent India
Subhas Chandra Bose was the only leader who could usher in the country’s New-birth. The search for Subhas Chandra Bose’s whereabouts after his disappearance in 1945 never received a fillip from the Government. The Government has always discouraged and opposed such searches trying to establish the occurrence of his death due to plane crash, the cause of his death. There have ever been all actions to declare his death at Taihoku (now Taipei) thereby confirming his cremation with the tangible proof of his ashes lodged at Renkoji temple in Japan. The discovery of truth of the real activities and whereabouts of the highest political personality of India has ever been suppressed under the pressure of top-secrecy up to this time for 68 years since his disappearance with the fond hope that public memory always helps the wrong doers by oblivion.
“Speaking in the Lok Sabha in 1978 Morarji Desai had to set aside the findings of GD Khosla and Shah Nawaz Panels in view of the glaring contradictions in evidence and ‘contemporary official documentary records.’” (Dhar/11)
But after the Mukherjee Commission was formed these documents were not found as per the affidavit of the PMO and it was maintained even when Justice Mukherjee pointed out that in some secret file there were some notings confirming the existence of such records. When ‘Netaji Mission’ people pointed out to the Chief Information Commissioner of the existence of 202 of such documents, the Government could not deny though they challenged the seekers of truth under the “Right to Information Act’. The Commission ordered the government to produce all such documents to the Mission.
“But despite this high-level decision, out of 202 only 91 exhibits were eventually released by the MHA to us. One paper- a note by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru-remained classified. There was no word about the rest 110-including Home, Foreign ministry records/files; letters from Home Minister, High Commissioner, Taiwan government and intelligence Bureau Director; a report on the INA treasure said to have been lost along with Bose and a memo from Director of Military Intelligence over Mahatma Gandhi’s view on the matter.
“The papers were simply ‘unavailable’. The difficulty in accepting this skewed explanation was that many of the ‘unavailable’records contained information against the air crash theory.” (Dhar/16)
“In a nutshell, there it was; the latest in the several government successes in riding out of the storm of Bose mystery. But unlike previous occasions when the controversy was contained with the charge that it was a mere conspiracy theory, the year 2006 marked a turnaround. For the first time, unimpeachable evidence of an official cover-up emerged. And because it related to a six-decade-old controversy spawning mind-boggling subplots, taking a bewildering array of high-profile personalities in its fold and leaving a stockpile of classified records in its wake-it had to be India’s biggest cover-up.” (Dhar/18)
During the birthday of the patriot in 2013 many of his family members except one brother’s family gathered and demanded that the 103 files lying in different Central Government offices as classified be declassified for public view for after so many years of his disappearance the files should not remain as secret of some other people. On a separate meeting Netaji’s daughter also claimed that the files be declassified though two of the family members, mother and son, objected to such demand to declassify telling the gathering that there are so many files already available. Let the people be satisfied with those. It means that they wanted to keep the secrecy in the documents remain undisclosed. (Hindusthan Times; 24.1.13 and 26.1.13)
The real lovers of the country, the truth seekers seem to be obdurate. They do not forget. Large numbers of books have been published, researches are done, organisations are running in spite of obstinate impediments from the authorities not to allow any leakage in top secrecies. Some incorrigible obstinate fellows and large number of people still love Subhas and they want to know what happened really behind the screen. Why this secrecy? It may very well be that the secrecies were conspiracies; the secrecies if opened to public view may reveal the real characters of those who are adored by the media and the establishment. Is it not the time that we should know the correct positions about Bose’s activities and end, if end happened to the mortal body of the true patriot of India who did so much including the self sacrifice for the country after doing such things that “No Indian leader of his stature could ever think of the things he did,” as Anuj Dhar has written (Dhar/3)?
Why his countrymen will not know the continuation of the story of what the great son of Mother India did risking his life and everything for the freedom of India, crossing seas, influencing the two million Indian Origin people of South Asia besides the Indians, forming its own army and declaring India as Free! He came to Andamans and marched up to Manipur thereby declaring it Free with a guerilla force with no aircraft, no artillery, no heavy mortars, no tanks or AFVs. He did not get these helps not even from Japan in their falling condition during the Second World War. Out of 15000 and odd INA soldiers who actually saw action, “It was never a cause of real trouble or annoyance to the Allies,” as per the Indian military assessment in1946, as noted by Dhar. (Dhar/5)
Is it not the time that we should know what would have happened had Subhas come back before that official, negotiated hand over of the key of the country to some nominated leaders? To know is to know the real history saved for posterity against the immense efforts by the inheritors of rulers who rule as their followers, who wish to continue in their thrones. We have been witnessing what has been happening in India since independence. Why history should be known to one learned person called historian? It is the historian’s duty to make the real history available to everyone to make them also learned. And why one? Weren’t there, aren’t there many historians?
Let us see what happened in India even in his absence for the work he did,
“In the winter of 1945 Netaji’s soldiers were brought to the Red Fort of Delhi. The trial of some of their officers and the saga of the INA reached every Indian home. ‘The whole country has been roused,’ Gandhi observed, ‘and even the regular forces have been stirred into a new political consciousness and have begun to think in terms of independence.’ Netaji had hailed the Mahatma as ‘the father of our nation’; Gandhi now returned the compliment by describing Subhas as ‘the prince among patriots,’” wrote Sugata Bose, the grand nephew of the patriot. (India Today/Bose)
Gandhi was honoured by Bose when he was alive and he enjoyed the title like many other things. But alas, Bose was not there to rejoice the leader’s confidence on him. It was because of Gandhi and his group’s total non-cooperation against Bose, the second time Congress President against the wishes of Gandhi, thereby proving his popularity among the party men of his time, that Subhas Chandra Bose had to take a dangerous route to flee from the police custody and join the most dangerous human group during the war time to set his country free in spite of all impediments by his political colleagues. Was not such an opposition a political violence? Bose could have done great things had he lived in India. Had he not been opposed (in non-violent way!) he might have done the work perhaps without the partition. He might have given a new-birth to India. Partition of the country was a great violent action.
Anuj Dhar wrote, “But the idea to make the Red Fort trials the Indian version of Nuremberg and Tokyo trials backfired. Bose’s war was justified.
“The humiliation of the INA soldiers- Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian- galvanised the Indians like they hadn’t been ever since India was brought under direct British government rule. The Governor of what is now called Uttar Pradesh wrote to the Viceroy in New Delhi in November 1945 that those hitting the streets were actually suggesting that “Bose is rapidly usurping the place held by Gandhi in Popular esteem.” (Dhar/5)
And what would have happened if he came back?
“In 1946, the British had already decided to leave India to ‘God and anarchy’. The primary casualty of Bose’s re-emergence would have been the Congress and, particularly, Gandhi’s anointed leader, Jawaharlal Nehru. Netaji’s jackboots would have become the alternative to both the Mahatma’s chakra and Nehru’s genteel socialism.” (Outlook/Dasgupta)
- K. Gandhi the Mahatma
- K. Gandhi by dint of his immense capacity to undergo bodily suffering, enough strength to fast unto anything, by virtue of his kindness towards the people in the low rung of the society and by his God gifted capacity to mismerise the impulsive, emotional people of India for the time being, became the poor and neglected people’s fond leader. For his leaning towards the Christian belief and the way of his harmless non violent movement against the colonizers they understood him well, comprehending no real danger from him. His constant dealing with the rulers who patronised him innumerably as the most acceptable congress leader compared to their violent opponents, the uncompromising freedom fighters, brought him to the limelight through the media. This and his different fad and fetish, idiosyncrasies not beyond the reach of common people, with his zeal for social reforms more than the freedom of the country made him very popular in his time. On this account it must be admitted that he galvanized the people of India for quite some time and in his social position he went on deciding the political fate of the country.
But please take note that at the time towards achieving the political freedom of India he allowed himself to recede, almost compulsorily, to the background and after the independence almost none of his pet ideas were translated into action in independent India. How many people follow him now? Is not violence; physical, economic, moral and ethical the leading force in the country? How many people fast for their inner reformation? Fasting is only an instrument of political action, a way of creating pressure on the opponent, then and now; consider if it is fully non-violent in the real sense. Satya or Truth! Real spirituality is one thing and rites are different as we always view around us in innumerable fashions, ways and styles. M. K. Gandhi as a dreamer and social practitioner was great, had great power over his people but as a political leader he created how many Himalayan blunders future generations have to decide; some he himself admitted. If Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s disappearance remains a mystery, though it is a shame for the country in a sense that it still remains so, M. K. Gandhi’s position remains misty.
History, Politics, Literature and some such things are very controversial. It is desirable that all the students and learners should be given the opportunity to learn from different sources so they can by their own judgment arrive at their own opinion on the subjects.
1 On Himself. Sri Aurobindo. Pondicherry; SABCL, Sri Aurobindo Ashram. 1972
2 Sri Aurobindo Ashram- A Pilgrimage by K.M. Munshi. The Hindusthan Times. 15 August 1952
3 India the Mother. Mother. Mysore; Mira Aditi Centre. 1998
4 The Islamic Movement and the Political Challenge. Yoginder Sikand. Bangalore; Yoginder Sikand.2000
5 Beyond Belief. V. S. Naipaul. New Delhi; Penguin Books India. 1998.
6 “Subhas Chandra Bose-Maximum Leader” by Sugata Bose in India Today. Millennium Series; V.1. 2000
7 India’s Biggest cover-up. Anuj Dhar. New Delhi; Vista Publishing Pvt. Ltd. 2012
8 “What if Netaji came back?” by Swapan Dasgupta in Outlook. 23.8.2004
© Aju Mukhopadhyay
(This is a chapter from my book, The Story of India’s Progress, published by New ManPublication, Purbhani, Maharashtra in 2014. www.newmanpublication.com)
Talking about flowers and gardens, we remember one of the oldest flowers mentioned in Indian scriptures, the Lotus or Padma or Kamal. Lotus originated in India even if it was there in Greek or elsewhere. It is Indian flower; it is here from the ancient time; referred in ancient scriptures and mythologies. It is regarded by all, specially by Hindus and Buddhists in India as the symbol of purity. Growing in mud it remains free from any impurity. No dirt can stick to it. Lotuses are like sacred and virtuous men who remain unaffected living in the filthiest surroundings. We remember Sri Ramakrishna the sage advising his disciples to live like pankal machh, a kind of long round fish, which lives in the mud at the bottom of the tank but remains free from any mud, even as it eats mud. Lotus is born in mud so its another name is pankaja, but remains free from mud. A man or woman in ordinary life is sure to live in some sort of muddy atmosphere and rarely he or she is free from it, it is attached to his or her being. How we long to become a lotus!
In one of the stories in Mahabharata it is said that Bhima brought a lotus for his consort, which had one thousand petals, glowing like a sun. Its sweet heavenly fragrance could help prolong youth and revive beauty. According to another legend, Lord Vishnu was bathing in a lake on earth when a lotus bloomed and from within came Lord Brahma, who claimed that lotus was the prettiest flower one has ever seen on earth, though he agreed later with Vishnu that a particular rose, pale as moonbeam with sweet fragrance blooming in Vaikhuntha or heaven, was prettier. Sri Rama the hero of Ramayana worshipped Goddess Durga with blue lotus. He became ready to pluck one of his eyes as there was a shortfall of one such flower which Durga prevented him to do.
Sahasrar is the thousand petalled lotus, a subtle centre at the top of our head, the highest centre according to Tantra Shastra. It is a favourite flower for all pujas. Sri Sankaracharya, in his Bhaja Govindam, considered life as a drop of water floating and dancing on a lotus leaf. But it is most unsafe as the human life is, tossed about by attachments, desires and grieves.
Nelumbo nucifera, sacred lotus- pointed bud on a long stem opening into large fragrant many-petalled pink flower with golden centre, was named as The Avatar- The Supreme Manifested on Earth in a Body- by the Mother. She also said that Pink lotus is Sri Aurobindo’s flower. And Nelumbo nucifera Alba- pointed bud on long stem, opening into large fragrant many-petalled white flower with golden centre, was called by her Aditi- the Divine Consciousness- pure, immaculate and gloriously powerful. It is said that Aditi is Mother’s flower.
The madhu or honey, prepared out of lotus flower, is one of the best foods and medicines. Besides other uses, it may be put into eyes for treatment. Lotus stem is also cooked and eaten by some. Lotus leaf is used as dish for eating at some places. Lotus eatng is a luxury leading to indolence so one doing it is called the lotus eater. Ulysses lived for a time in lotus land where lived the lotus eaters. It is referred to in Greek mythology too.
Every one likes Padma or kamal or tamarai, coming out of water and greeting the sun. The silky lotus leaf does not hold water. Drops of water look transparent in it. When rain falls profusely on lotus leaf it makes a scene to rejoice. Poets have sung many a time about the transient nature of things symbolized by water drops on lotus leaf. In a Bengali folk song a young woman is said that her youth is like water on lotus leaf.
But there is a caveat about the nature of the flower. Out of its habitat, in a flower vas or pot or anywhere, it does not last long, particularly in a hot climate. Dried lotus looks burnt, deformed, far from the likeness of what it was before. But these are the attributes of life and death. So what! Don’t we love lotus? Wherever tanks and waterways are there, which are not much disturbed, grows the lotus, symbol of the divine consciousness; dancing rhythmically in flowing air, amidst big deep green leaves, fragrant, beautiful and attractive. Our heart goes with them.
Entering ISRO or Indian Space Research Organization at Thumba, near Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala, for a visit as arranged by the organizers of a poetry festival we visited their museum and beheld the electronic display of space through the glass windows with the other wonderments displayed. We talked to the curator and others. We could see and realize the march of human progress through Science and Technology; Indian progress in space technology in particular.
as we visit an unknown place
but all fizzles out soon
At the wall of the old church converted to museum house, at the ground level, there is a small cemented enclosure with water and mud in it. Out of it came the stems of few pink lotuses. Two buds and one blossom were undulating in the air. Perhaps unnoticed by many, they adorn the entrance. Nothing impressed me like the one I saw just after entering the compound as it remained with me when we came out of the main gate at last.
Viewing and knowing all glories of science when I came out of the Space Research organization only mud, water and men remained with me and lotus at the centre of them with its fragrance
water splashing inside
swishing the edge of the boat-
dark green lotus leaves, close.
(c) Aju Mukhopadhyay, 2007