Saturday, 10 December 2016

Is adversity really bad?

Who actually wants pain and suffering in life? Everybody prays for their happiness, wealth and prosperity. Is that always possible? Do we ever experience pleasures or happiness in the absence of pain or suffering? Impossible. Our life flows between two banks of favourable and adverse situations. Even if we try our best to avoid unfavourable situations, they are inevitable. But the good news is that all life crises throw us precious learning opportunities if we are keen to learn from every mistake we make and every misfortune we confront. In contrast, such opportunities are rarely provided by pleasant events. Usually, we are so busy enjoying being in the moment that the happiness goes by before we fully take notice of it.

Whether they like it or not, people encounter different ‘losses’ throughout their lives. These include losing a loved one, name and fame, job, business, success, relationship, and many more. The uninvited adversities give us a golden chance to stop and reflect upon ourselves and our life situations, re-evaluate our lives and re-prioritise. The first step to cope with any sort of loss is to realise and accept that it has occurred. After this, our mind becomes clear, making it easier to implement other necessary coping measures to move on.

Obviously, by going through painful experiences we understand how much positive energy we have inside us. We grow emotionally. We start perceiving the world more deeply and openly. We develop better coping mechanisms for the future. Adversity helps people to uncover capabilities that may not have been apparent before. Sometimes it can bring out the best in us.

We would never have gotten a masterpiece epic like ‘Gauri’ in Nepali literature if the national poet, Madhav Prasad Ghimire, had not experienced the intense pain of his wife’s untimely death. This pain took his creativity to its highest point, so ‘Gauri’ was born. Similarly, if Anuradha Koirala, an ordinary middle class woman, had not gone through several adverse life situations -- her husband’s abusiveness, three miscarriages and divorce -- she would not have emerged as a real humanitarian ‘hero’. These are two popular examples of how adversity can positively influence people, but if we look around, we can find such success stories even in our own families, neighbourhoods and communities.

For instance, one of my husband’s cousins lost her husband at quite a young age. On top of that sudden blow, she had four small children to raise all by herself. She faced the unexpected cruelty with courage. She stood up against adversity like a tigress mustering every bit of strength she had inside her to protect her children. The lady raised them successfully. Now, all four of them are well-educated, well-mannered and well-settled.

Bad things happen. They look ugly on the surface. They have immediate and negative consequences such as denial, depression, and sleeplessness. However, once we are able to accept our losses, we can begin to try and use such experiences to improve ourselves. Nietzsche was absolutely correct when he stated, “What does not kill us makes us stronger.”

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, December 9, 2016) 

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Spiritual Materialism

These days the term ‘spiritualism’ has become a buzzword around the world. However, its meaning is taken lightly in most cases. For example, the term is tagged as a ‘brand’ according to an Indian spiritual master, Sadhguru. He said that once when he was in the United States, he encountered a “spiritual expo” where people were selling “spiritual bath-soap”, “spiritual toothpaste” and things like that. Similarly, spiritualism is attached to a feeling of ‘ecstasy’ according to an American Guru, Sri Acharyaji.

Likewise, the so-called gurus of mushrooming ‘Satsanghas’ claim to “enlighten” people in one sitting; and enlightenment is the ultimate destination of spiritual progress. Once one is enlightened, nothing more is needed. Another remarkable thing is the growing fashion of ‘yoga’ and ‘meditation’. These are simply formal practices where people are unable to integrate their principles into their development as a spiritual being. In fact Satsangha, yoga and meditation are important aspects of spirituality, but their essential purpose is seemed to be completely submerged under the material gains people chase these days.

A general mass understanding of yoga and meditation is that they help in keeping yourself physically and mentally fit. One cannot deny this fact, however, their real purpose is to help unite our ‘Self’ with the ‘Super Self’ or ‘God’. It is clear that when your primary focus is on ‘self realisation’ or ‘god realisation’, you automatically get the secondary benefits of yoga and meditation, i.e. physical and mental fitness. Unfortunately, a particular group of people is madly after slim and sexy bodies to impress the external world, so they rigorously practise yoga to fulfil this desire.

In his book ‘Enlightenment: The path through the jungle’, Dennis Waite clearly divides the world we live in into the material world and the spiritual world. The material world is the day-to-day reality or “Vyavahara”, whereas the spiritual world is the absolute reality or “Paramartha.” But the neo-advaita gurus, who claim ‘immediate enlightenment’ are keen to address the problems related to“Vyavahara” such as people’s depression, worldly happiness, dysfunctional relationships, cluttered mind and so on in their ‘Satsanghas; “Paramartha” is beyond all these issues.

‘Self’ does not need anything to be illuminated, and all of us have this ‘Self’ within us. Dwelling in the materialistic world, however, we are not aware of this fact. As a result, in order to complete a journey from self-ignorance to self-knowledge, interventions in the form of scriptures are needed.

There is no short-cut to spiritualism. There are numerous time-tested scriptures available, e.g., Vedas, Upanishads or Bhagavat Gita (in the case of Hinduism). If we are to explore ‘self-knowledge’ we must go through the systematic scriptural route, using our reason, referring to our personal experience and asking gurus for clarification when necessary, since the scriptures do not ask us to follow everything blindly. Satsangha, yoga and meditation are all used to reach the ‘Paramarthik’ goal of ‘self realisation.’ One should not be fooled by the idea that only attending the ‘Satsangha’ classes run for publicity will lead them to enlightenment. If this was the case, the world would be full of enlightened people, but there are very few real ‘spiritual people’. What is happening is that the majority of people are using ‘spiritualism’ as a ‘business’ like they do with everything else in this materialistic world. 

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, December 2, 2016) 

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Friday, 25 November 2016

Art of observation

Our love for observation is an inherent part of human nature. We observe our surroundings, objects and people, and make extensive comments about them. For instance: “Wow! What a beautiful place...I love this iPhone so I want to buy it at any cost…Look at that girl! She is so skinny! Looks like she doesn’t eat anything...” We are busy observing the outside world and judging it incessantly. Unfortunately, we do not have the same enthusiasm when it comes to observing ourselves. As a result, when somebody makes a comment about us, we completely trust the person without self verification.

When it comes to self observation, the Ashtavakra Gita (a dialogue between Janak, king of Mithila and the sage Ashtavakra) is an excellent scripture to refer to. It is comprised of 20 chapters, where Janak wants to know about the “ultimate truth” and Ashtavakra answers all his queries.

The essence of the Ashtavakra Gita is that one must always be watchful of the inner world because the outer world or sansara will not help them grow spiritually. Manuel Schoch, a commentator of the Ashtavakra Gita, indicates that we cannot learn anything by observing what other people say or how they behave. So, it is wise not to react towards their comments or actions. Instead we have to observe what happens (because of those people) inside ourselves. This is the real art of observation.

It is not to say that we should close our eyes completely to the outside world. We have to be aware of everything that is happening externally, and at the same time observe our inner thoughts and feelings that are spawned by external circumstances. For example, you may be put in a situation where you are accused of being arrogant. Instead of reacting immediately, you should take a moment to consider what you are thinking. How are you feeling? Do you think they are lying? Are they telling the truth? Are you angry or hurt? Now, think, are the people’s statement or your inner thoughts and feelings really important to you? Since they keep changing in the context of thousands thoughts rushing in a mind in a single moment. The same person who criticises you for your ‘arrogance’ one day praises you by saying, “You are so generous.” Are you happy? When you have a constant surveillance inside you, you will soon find out that this happiness will also go away.

As soon as you are aware of the fact that you are not defined by fleeting thoughts, feelings or words, you go a level deeper in search of yourself. You are beyond and above all worldly things. At the deepest core of you resides your ‘Self’ or ‘Soul’ or ‘Consciousness’, whatever you wish to call it. That ‘Consciousness’ is you that always remains calm, uncontaminated and unchanging; a neutral witness of the sansara. Nobody can help you to find your ‘Self’ but you. You can find yourself through constant self-observation; this is the message conveyed by the Ashtavakra Gita. As Manuel Schoch says, you have nothing to win and nothing to lose; you are one and the same, you cannot change or die. 

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, November 25, 2016) 

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Sunday, 20 November 2016

आमोई: एक तितो यथार्थ, एक आशा

"कान्छी! तेरो फुटेको खप्पर। यो चन्द्रागिरिभन्दा अग्लो जोवन कसरी काट्छेस् नि पुतली? अहिले तेरा पंख उम्रेकै छैनन्। राता भुवा फालेर अब सेता पंखले उड्नु पर्छ पुतली तैंले। अहिले तैंले लोक देखेकै छैनस्।तँलाई कहाली लागेकै छैन फुच्ची! तँलाई कहालीको बोधसम्म भएको छैन। धिक्कार हे! निर्दयी समाज, तँलाई नारीका विवशतालाई धीत फुकाएर हेर्ने रहर अझै छ। तिनका रहर पुर्याइदे राँड!"
माथिको भनाई भुवनहरि सिग्देलको यथार्थपरक उपन्यास "आमोई" (पहिलो प्रकाशन २०७२ साल) बाट लिइएको हो र यसले उपन्यासको चुरोलाई प्रस्ट पार्छ। यो उपन्यासकि प्रमुख पात्र अर्थात् आमोईको नौ वर्षको उमेरमा विवाह हुन्छ र ऊ बाह्र वर्षको उमेरमा विधवा हुन्छे! आफ्नु दुल्हासँग कुनै पनि किसिमको बोलचाल नभएको र ऊसँग आमोईको केही लगाव नभएकाले दुल्हाको मृत्युमा न त ऊ दु:खी हुन सक्छे, न कुनै पीडाको नै अनुभूति गर्छे! त्यसैले त छिमेककी कुनै आइमाई उसका छेउ आई माथिका कुरा बर्बराउदै अलापविलाप गर्दा ऊ त्यसको कुनै अर्थ लगाउन सक्तिन।    

"आमोई" ले हाम्रो समाजमा प्रचलित बाल विवाह र बाल विधवाको समस्यालाई उपन्यासको विषयबस्तु बनाएको छ! समय बित्तै जाँदा एक्ली विधवा महिलाले भोग्नु परेका विविध कठिनाईलाई यो उपन्यासले मिहिन रुपमा केलाएको छ! आमोईको जीवनको सबभन्दा कहालीलाग्दो पक्ष भनेको उसले कुनै पनि किसिमको पुरुष-स्पर्श अथवा पति-सुखको अनुभूति गर्न नपाई आफ्नु ७० वर्षे लामु र पट्यारलाग्दो जिन्दगी जिएर मृत्यु वरण गर्नु हो। यो कुरालाई ऊ बारम्बार दोहोर्याउँछे पनि।  

यति हुँदाहुँदै पनि आमोईका जीवनका केहि यस्ता पाटा छन् जसले जीवनप्रति आश जगाउँछन् र जीवन मूल्यको बोध गराउँछन्। आफ्नु १४ - १५ वर्षको कलिलो छोराले आत्महत्या गरी मृत्यु रोजेको भए पनि यसको दोष आमोईकि सासूले कहिलेई बुहारीलाई दिइनन्। आमोईले आफु बेहुली भएर भित्रिएको घरमा बेहुलो नभए पनि आफ्नी सासू, तीनजना जेठाजु, तीनजना जेठानी, आमाजू र आमाजूका श्रीमान् बाट सधैं प्रेम र सद्भाव पाई। त्यसैले त उसले त्यो घरका लागि हुनसम्मको गुन लगाई, आफ्ना सम्पूर्ण उत्तरदायित्व कुशलतापूर्वक निभाई।    

 समयसंगै आमोईका जेठा जेठाजु छुट्टिएर बस्न थाले। आमोई आफ्नु माईतीमा काम सघाउन आउने आइमाई न्याउरी जीवन अनुभव र आत्मज्ञानबाट अत्यधिक प्रभावित भई, उसमा गजबको चेतना पलायो र उसले अध्ययन गर्ने निर्णय गरी। आफ्ना बाबु, दाजु र माइला जेठाजुका सहयोगमा उसले लेख्न पढ्न पनि सिकी।

दैनिक झन्झट त छँदै थिए, त्यसमाथि आमॊइका जीवनमा थप कष्ट थपिए। गाउँमा फैलिएको हैजाले उसकी सासूलाई लग्यो, बिफरले माहिली र साइँली जेठानीलाई लग्यो। साइँला जेठाजु पहिलेई विरक्तिएर घर छोडी इन्डिया पसेका! हेर्दा हेर्दै उनीहरुको घर संसार उजाडिएर गयो - त्यहाँ आमोई, माइला जेठाजु र उनकी दश वर्षकी छोरी मात्र बाँकी रहे। आमोई भन्छे, "एउटी राँडी बुहारी, एउटा राँडो जेठाजु र नाबालक छोरी बाँचेको घर अनि त्यो घरको सन्नाटा कस्तो हुन्थ्यो ? अहिले स्मरण गर्न मलाई गाह्रो हुन्छ" (पेज नम्बर २०५)।

यस्तो अप्ठ्यारो परिस्थितिको सामना गरिसकेपछि सिग्देलको सखाप हुन लागेको घर संसारको वंश अगाडि बढाउन आमोईले जुन कदम उठाई, त्यो जो कोहि मानिसले साहस नगर्ने खालको देखिन्छ। उसले आफ्ना बा आमासँग आफुभन्दा १३ वर्ष कान्छी बहिनी मागेर आफ्ना माहिला जेठाजुसँग उसको विवाह गराइदिई। आमोईकि बहिनीले त्यो सुनसान घरलाई  तीन छोरा र तीन छोरी गरी छ जना छोराछोरीले भरिदिई। केटाकेटी ठूला हुँदै गए। यहि बिचमा आमोईका जेठाजुले पनि संसार छाडे। अब घर व्यबहारको सम्पूर्ण जिम्मा आमोईमाथि नै आयो। तर उसले आफ्नु धैर्य छोडिन।    

आमोईले सबै केटाकेटिलाई बढाई, पढाई, सबैलाई आ-आफ्ना टुंगामा पुर्याइदिई र उनीहरुको विवाहसमेत गराइदिई। यसका साथै उसले आफ्नै सन्तानसरह माया दिएर हुर्काएकि साइँला जेठाजुकी छोरीको पनि राम्रो घर परिवारमा विवाह गराईदिई। उतिबेलाको समाजमा पनि आमोई एउटी सचेत, ज्ञानी, कर्मठ र जोदाहा पात्रका रुपमा उभिएकी छ।

ऊ सिग्देलका घरमा नौ वर्षको उमेर मा कान्छी बुहारी बनेर भित्रिएकी थिई। पछि ऊ त्यहि घरकी अभिवाहक अर्थात "आमोई" बन्न पुगी। उसले आफुले गर्नुपर्ने सम्पूर्ण व्यबहार कुशलतापूर्वक निभाई, आफ्ना सबै उत्तरदायित्व सफलतापूर्वक पूरा गरी र यो संसारबाट बिदा भई। यसरी "आमोई" एउटी बालविधवा नारीको कष्टपूर्ण जीवन र उसको अथाह शक्तिमा आधारित प्रेरणादायी उपन्यास हो।    

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]


Friday, 18 November 2016

Who Comes First?

Every time I am on an airplane one particular segment of the pre-flight safety briefing grabs my attention. It is about the use of the oxygen masks in an emergency. Flight attendants stand up in the aisles and demonstrate the process of the use of oxygen masks to passengers, while another flight attendant narrates over the public address system. The narrator says that the passengers should always put on their own mask before helping children, the disabled or persons requiring assistance.
I find this statement very true and applicable to all aspects of life. First, one should be capable of doing what they want to do. For instance, in the situation described above a passenger has to wear their oxygen mask appropriately before they are capable of helping others. If they try to turn to other people before ensuring their own safety, there is a danger of them failing to help anyone, not even themselves, due to the onset of physical duress as the cabin pressure drops.
In a similar vein, when someone says, “I love you more than I love myself,” I find it hard to believe them. To love anyone, first you must be able to love yourself. I often wonder how it is possible for someone to believe that they can love someone else before learning how to love themselves. Loving yourself does not make you selfish. When you start loving yourself, your heart gradually fills with love for others as well.
In another instance, before we ask other people to cultivate positive thoughts, we have to make sure we practice what we preach. If we are successful in replacing our negative thoughts with positive ones, we are eligible to give lessons on positivism. If we are the holders of this knowledge, our message can get across to other people effectively. On the other hand, if we are talking about the importance of positive thoughts on the basis of information that we have collected from the Internet, books or articles, people may not listen to us because they themselves can access the same information from the same sources that we have consulted. So, when we use ourselves as an example, people will trust us. In this case it is very probable that they can also change their negative perspectives into positive ones like we have managed to do.
Likewise, sometimes I hear people saying, “I know you. You are this and that…” I wonder if they know themselves before making such big claims since it is very essential to know themselves before trying to understand others! Socrates once warned people by saying “Know thyself”. It is still relevant to grapple with the same idea today. Before investing our energy in getting to know other people we must first investigate ourselves at the deepest level; and getting to know “thyself” is a lifelong project. On the basis of the understanding of ‘own selves’ we can understand others in a better way.
Who doesn’t want to help others? Who doesn’t want to love others? Who doesn’t want to change others’ perspectives? Who doesn’t want to understand others? But one should be careful enough to equip themselves with the needed capabilities and qualities before turning to someone else. After all, how can we do anything for others if we cannot identify, acknowledge and value our own abilities, talents and potentials which allow us to make a difference in others’ lives?

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Friday, November 18, 2016) 

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Swallow Your Pride

Rajesh Hamal
Rajesh Hamal, a veteran actor of the Nepali film industry, once shared his painful feelings of regret regarding his damaged relationship with his father who was against Rajesh’s career choice, via a popular television programme. An ego had come between their father-son relationship and they stopped communicating with each other. In such an estranged situation the father went to Pakistan as an ambassador and he suddenly passed away after a month over there. Even though Hamal still loved his father dearly, he could not express his feelings for him.
In another instance, Joel Osteen recounts a story of a sad man in his book ‘Become a Better You.’ The character of Joel’s is at odds with his father over a business decision, which leads to them cutting ties with each other. The heart-broken man says, “Joel, I knew deep down inside that I needed to make it right, but I kept putting it off. Then earlier this week, I received a call informing me that my father had suffered a heart attack and died.”
We can see the line between these men’s stories. Although they are from different contexts, they share the same pain of not having a healthy line of communication with their fathers and losing them unexpectedly. Their emotional guilt must be greater than anything we have ever felt. Yet, they cannot change their situation now; it is too late for them to make amendments. After all, what held them back from making the first move? Certainly, their egos. The same ego may have stopped their fathers from reaching out to their sons. And the consequences are painful.  The fathers might have died with regrets for not speaking with their sons for such a long time and the sons may suffer from similar feelings of regret throughout their lives.
Jade Goody(left) & Shilpa Shetty (right) 

On the other hand, the winner of Celebrity Big Brother UK 2007 and the Bollywood actress, Shilpa Shetty, swallowed her pride and immediately extended forgiveness towards her co-contestant Jade Goody despite the fact that Jade terribly and racially bullied Shilpa in the Big Brother house constantly. Unfortunately, Jade died of cervical cancer in 2009. Unlike Rajesh Hamal and the man mentioned above in Joel’s recount, Shilpa did not have to live with guilt.

All these three cases indicate that life is uncertain and we always have choices – whether we should or should not do something. Here the choice in question is whether to forgive someone. Forgiveness is a big asset that all human beings have at their disposal. Commonly, however, they prefer to hold on to their ego because it is a lot easier. It is found that sticking to one’s ego is useless; spiritualists term it “false ego”. We are usually in our default mindset of “I am right and everyone else is wrong”, but the truth is that no one is really wrong. The differences between people occur because of different perspectives on similar situations. A thing to remember is that a false ego never elevates us to be a better person but forgiveness does; Shilpa Shetty exemplified this in a manner that very few are capable of, and went on grabbing the world’s attention for being nice to her greatest critic.

The question is not who is right or who is wrong or who takes the first move towards apology, but who has the courage to forgive others and move on. It should be noted that by forgiving others we are not doing them a favour. Forgiveness helps us maintain our peace of mind. Outwardly, we pretend not to care about the person we feel is “wrong”, but the person dwells in our mind until and unless we settle the issue we associate with the wrong-doer. Forgiveness is God’s invaluable gift to humanity, and we should acknowledge and utilise this to the best of our ability. Therefore, swallow your pride today and apologise even if in your opinion it was not your fault. Doing this you make peace with yourself.

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Saturday, November 12, 2016) 

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Eye Opener

When I saw the title "Ankur Arora Murder Case" I thought it could be some kind of crime movie and full of violence so I decided not to watch at the first sight. Then my inner voice suggested, 'Just have a look and find out why Ankur Arora was murdered.' Wow! The movie was not what I thought it would be.

"Ankur Arora Murder Case" is a bollywood movie written by Vikram Bhatt and released in 2013. Mr. Bhatt has raised a genuine issue of medical negligence via this movie. Every now and then we come across the news stories, the patient died because of carelessness of the such and such doctor, or such and such hospital. As general public we just get puzzled by such stories and ponder, 'Was it really the doctor's/hospital's fault? Could the patient be saved if the medical people were careful? Why was this happened? What was the real reason of the patient's death?" This movie tries to address such questions.

Ankur is a little boy of eight years old who got admitted in a hospital for his appendicitis problem. The hospital is renowned, particularly with a very famous doctor, Dr. Asthana who is the chief surgeon over there. Ankur needed to go through an operation. He was supposed to be with empty stomach but unfortunately he consumed a couple of biscuits right before the operation. Even though Dr. Asthana was informed about this situation he was reluctant to postpone the operation due to his busy schedule. More importantly, he forgot to clean Ankur'r stomach before performing the operation.  As a result - Ankur died.

Despite the doctor realizing that it was entirely his fault he was ready to do anything to hide the truth so that he could save his as well as the hospital's reputation. Therefore he spread the twisted story:  Ankur died during the operation as some complications arose.

While watching the movie I could not blame Dr. Asthana 100% as he simply committed a human mistake. We all commit mistakes in our professions although we do not want to. Yet, it is natural that all fingers should be pointed towards him because he was the ultimate authority in the operation theater. His only blunder was not to tell the truth to the public. He should have accepted his mistake, told the reality and made a sincere apology. This could damage public-doctor relationship less.

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Ordinary circumstances: Extraordinary consequences

When Malala Yousafzai was announced as the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize (another winner was Kailash Satyarthi, a children's rights activist from India), the whole world focused its attention towards her. She is the youngest Nobel Laureate as she was only 17 at that time; she was recognized for her cause to protect the right of all children to education.

There were mixed views upon her winning the Prize. However people wanted to know more about her. Whether somebody likes her or not she has become an international figure. But who is Malala? She writes her story in "I am Malala."

Malala is just a Pakistani girl like millions of other girls of her time and space born in a Sunni Muslim family, but a huge difference between her and others is that she got a very understanding father while others did not. Malala's father was very passionate about improving the quality of education; to serve this purpose he used to run his own school. While growing up Malala's playground was the school's classrooms. She started her schooling in her father's school itself. Her father was pretty aware that life was harder for women in their society so he was determined to educate Malala in a good way. He used to say, "I will protect your freedom, Malala. Carry on with your dreams."

On the other hand, there were people who used to see girls' schools as haram (against the religion). A man even tried to persuade Malala's father, " Girls should not be going to school. A girl is so sacred she should be in purdah (veil), and so private that there is no lady's name in the Quran as God doesn't want her to be named." Thank god, he would never listen to such people as he knew the truth.

When Malala was ten years old the Taliban came to their valley, Swat. With this, a lot of unnecessary problems were created. For instance, people were ordered to throw their TVs, DVDs and CDs and the Taliban would set fire on them. Only the Radio Mullah was allowed, and all music except for Taliban songs was declared haram. As the Talibs were against girls' education, many parents started to take their daughters out of schools; some teachers even refused to teach girls. But nothing scared Malala's father and his determination encouraged Malala to continue her schooling.

During that time a lot of killing, bomb blasting and suicide bombing were happening, so people were frightened and they felt unsafe. The same would apply to Malala's family as well. Malala would ask her father, "Are you scared now?" and he would reply, "At night our fear is strong, Jani (love), but in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again. We must rid our valley of the Taliban, and then no one has to feel this fear".

A turning point came into Malala's life when no female teachers and girl students at her school agreed to write a diary about life under the Taliban because their families considered the act too dangerous. In fact this offer had come from a BBC radio correspondent based in Peshawar. Apparently no one was ready to share their experience, so Malala stood up with her determination, "Education is our right just as it is our right to sing." Obviously, her father allowed her to raise her voice via the diary. As soon as her diary entries started to appear on the BBC Urdu blog the world people began to learn about the Swat predicament under the Taliban.

On the one hand the Taliban were banning and burning down the schools; the father-daughter team of Malala was busy campaigning for children's right to education in different parts of the country. Malala would frequently be seen, heard or read in the media with her strong voice. Soon she was recognized as an activist for the right to education. As a result she was in the hit list of the Taliban. At that time she was just 11-12 years old. Perhaps it was for sure Malala was shot by a Taliban gunman on 9 October, 2012 while she was coming home on a bus after school. From this point on people have been following Malala's life .

Malala gives a hope to every girl that she can be another Malala if she gets unconditional parental support at right time and in a right way.    

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Gift of Gita

When I left for Australia in 2008, my mother gave me the Gita as a parting gift. She wanted me to recite at least a chapter every morning, even though I was moving to distant lands. Being a Pandit’s daughter, I have grown up surrounded by the Hindu scriptures, such as the Bhagavat Gita, the Ramayan, the Mahabharat and different Puranas. Although I have great respect for these precious books, I never found the motivation or time to read or recite verses on a regular basis; I could satisfy my religious queries by listening to my parents.

I kept my mother’s priceless gift as a symbol of God in a sacred place in my bedroom, never thinking much of it until my mother unexpectedly passed away in April 2013. I came to Nepal in July of the same year to share my intense pain of loss with my father and other relatives. This time, when I was about to leave, my father gifted me the Gita that my mother used to recite every morning, with a beautiful written message: “Timri muwale sadhai path garne yo Komal Gitako pustak timilai smritiswarup - Buwa.” (I gift you this book of Komal Gita, which your mother used to recite every day, as a keepsake – Father). When I took the small book in my hands I suddenly felt the warmth of my mother’s tremendous love for me; it was truly an amazing feeling. Then and there I deeply realised why Jamie Sullivan, a main female character in Nicholas Sparks’s novel “A Walk to Remember” used to carry her deceased mother’s Bible everywhere she went.

This time I was determined not to leave the Komal Gita (Nepali version) unopened. I wanted to be near my mother and I felt the Gita would be the best link to her. In addition, I had to make sense of her abrupt departure. So I decided to recite a chapter from the Gita every morning as an offering to my mother, which she always wanted me to do. For the first time in my life I completed reading all 18 chapters, and I then went on to complete them twice, thrice... I have lost count.

I had only just started to put into perspective my mother’s passing when suddenly my father also passed away. At that time, I longed to be near my father spiritually. Eventually, I opened the Gita that my mother had gifted me which was written in Sanskrit with its interpretation in Hindi. I deliberately wanted to recite the Sanskrit verses as I had always heard my father doing so. I had assumed this language would help me get connected with him in a better way. As I had expected, I found great solace by reciting the verses.

I admit that I am not yet qualified to argue about the vast content of the Gita. Many scholars, who have devoted a great amount of their time, literally their lifetimes, to studying the Gita suggest that every time you read it, you will find interpret it in a slightly different manner. There are many layers of interpretation of this scripture and it is said that the Gita is the only book which has been most widely studied and appreciated all around the world.

Having acknowledged that, what I understand from the Gita is invaluable enough. Although it was
written thousands of years ago, its content is just as relevant to the contemporary world as it was at the time of its writing. This text teaches us how to live our lives being true human beings. Arjun, the questioner, represents people in general like us – full of worldly desires and confusion, and Krishna, the lord himself, answers every question raised by Arjun patiently and convincingly, so that eventually Arjun will be ready to do his immediate duty, i.e., to fight a war. It feels like ‘the war’ is an essential part of the universe. Can we not see such wars time and again in the world of today? Not only external wars, people fight their internal wars within themselves all the time; as swami Radhanath says, we have a bad dog as well as a good dog inside us and they always fight each other. Here, the bad dog indicates the physical qualities like ego, hate, anger, jealousy; and the good dog is related to the spiritual qualities such as compassion, forgiveness, peace, and self respect. The conversation between Arjun and the lord Krishna depicts the whole philosophy of life. The beauty of the Gita is that we can still follow the instructions given by Krishna and apply them in our lives to live meaningfully. It is full of spiritual gems. In a nutshell, the Bhagavat Gita is a “message spoken by the absolute truth telling us the absolute truth,” according to swami Radhanath, and I wholeheartedly concur.

I am grateful to my parents who gifted me the Gita. They made me read it and be aware of the precious knowledge available within its sacred cover. I wish every parent could make their children read the Gita to understand the true purpose of human life, and act accordingly whenever possible; this would be the greatest gift any parent could give to their child.

(Published in an English Daily The Kathmandu Post on Sunday, March 13, 2016) 

[The pictures on this blog are posted here with permission from their owners or have been gathered from various sources on the Internet. If you are the copyright-holder to any of the photographs herein do not hesitate to contact me. They will be swiftly removed if desired so.]