Tag Archives: Inspirational

Ani

“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test: Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self-melting away.”

I remember flipping through countless pages of text books through my schooling, but scarcely what I read in them. The Mahatma’s talisman printed of the first page of every text book though remained etched in my subconscious.  I have had great reverence for the Mahatma. Unifying a population of one billion odd countrymen divided by cast, creed, religion, dialect to fight for a common cause, I felt was an extraordinary feat. He did this in a day and age when the means of communication were at its infancy if not primitive by current standards. He didn’t have any of the social media at his disposal and neither was traditional media so prevalent in the pre independent India. However those words in the talisman I felt were a bit utopian.

Scarcely could I have imagined that they would come to my rescue when under the severest trials. My life had traversed an average curve. A mediocre academic record at school, I went on to finish my graduation and got into a job/career which I neither liked nor despised, but one which allowed me to lead a comfortable life. I moved out of my family nest a couple of months into my job so as to be able to spread my wings. My parents weren’t happy with the decision of their only child. Soon I was living the ‘life’. Just managing the bare minimum at work and partying hard afterwards. My visits back home became scarcer as days flew by. Rare occasions of my visit, evoked a sense of bewilderment.

Life took a sudden turn when the monsoon set it. A frantic call from my cousin broke the news of my father passing away. I was stunned not knowing what to make of it. My father had planned well for the family. We weren’t in any financial strain. I had to give up my bachelor pad and move back home. Up until this time I had lived a care free life. Suddenly I felt a dread of not being able to take care of my mother, in spite of nothing evidently suggesting that financial we wouldn’t be able to make it. Responsibility I realized was more of a physiological thing. My weekend life ebbed away and so did my fair weather friends. Sharing booze and drags evidently meant something only if one marked constant attendance at the weekend gatherings. Moving out of my parents’ house and the subsequent passing away of my father hit me hard. Though unrelated, the feeling of guilt lingered on. My mother was inconsolable and I seemed to be of little help in assuaging her heart.

A few months on the monsoons set in with full force. With clock work like precision the rains always seemed to time with my travel to and from office. My personal situation mattered little to the organization; they weren’t in the mood to put up with my sloth. I was given an ultimatum to buckle up or get out. Subsequently I started putting in long hours to meet my deadlines but the pile of work never reduced.

I still remember that day, etched as it will be in my conscious forever. I had missed my quarter closing deadline. My boss was furious, he yelled with all his might, just stopping short of choking me to death. He threw me out of his cabin asking me to be ready with my bags packed. As I headed back home the sky tore open, it poured the heaviest that I had ever seen. The roads got clogged and the traffic came to a standstill. Traversing every inch of my way back home increased my resentment with life. I had to trudge the last mile home with a flat back tyre. Life seemed meaningless and hollow. Instead of getting down on the 3rd floor and reaching my home, I took the lift to the top floor and climbed the final flight of stairs to the terrace. I pushed open the terrace door and walked towards the edge of the terrace wall. It was the first time I had ever come to the top. As I stood there contemplating on a jump that could possibly end my misery, I was transfixed by what I saw. The road which I had just trudged through was clogged with heavy traffic, it was still pouring hard. But it all seemed beautiful from the top. As the signal lights changed to green, the vehicles scrammed across the road, the headlights, indicators and the stop signal coupled together formed a dazzling array, dimming at the frag end of horizon as my eyes followed them. The honking no longer irritated my ears, the distance softened the decibels. Weaving itself into the pitter patter of the rain drops they now created a symphony. Tears rolled down my cheeks; mixing with the rain drops they dissolved all the anguish, resentment and hollowness from my heart. As I looked down I saw Ani draped in big polythene sheet cut out from a garbage disposal bag prancing around in the rain. It reminded me of Gandhiji’s talisman and I knew that jumping off would mean a waste of my life. I resolved at that moment that I would face life as it came and help Ani to the best of my abilities.

Anirudh Venkatachala Reddy was a feisty young boy. His parents were construction workers. Their dwelling place was the construction site. Their home consisted of make shift shelter built out of stacking bricks and tin sheet to be used for future construction. As the buildings they helped construct neared completion their bricks got used. As the buildings got done their house got torn down and it was time for them to move on. Our building was almost nearing completion and hence Ani’s house had shrink from the 8 by 8 feet to a 6 by 4 dwelling. Yet Ani remained happy, unperturbed by the changes in his circumstances. Ani came across as a confident boy. The resident community knew Ani very well since he always made an effort to interact with them while they went on their walks, or passed by on their way to or from work.  His parents didn’t send him to school yet he had on his own picked up words of the English language. With a big grin on his face, good heartedly he would shout to the residents “How are you doing?” When some of them replied back in English, Ani would enquire what the sentence and words meant. So on and so forth the boy worked tirelessly to gain a grasp of the language. He also was inquisitive about the world at large. He asked the residents where they worked, what they did at their work, what it meant etc. For a kid with no access to formal education Ani was quite knowledgeable.

That night I worked tirelessly from home and finished my closing reports and mailed it to my boss. I wasn’t sure if I would be left with a job the next day but I slept soundly. To my surprise I didn’t get kicked out of my job the next day. My boss was impressed with the report that I had sent out and decided to give me another chance with a stern “One more mistake and you will be on your back” threat. I made friends with Ani and persuaded his parents to send him to a nearby school run by an NGO and assured them of all financial support for his education. I spent my after office hours and early morning teaching Ani math, science and English. Ani waited every evening at my apartment gate for me to step in and start the class. I brought him some savory dishes like samosas and pakodas, dishes that most privileged children take as their birth right. But Ani wouldn’t take a bite out of it until I had finished his class. He never asked me to stop the classes, never got bogged down if he got a math problem wrong, never showed any resentment as I repeatedly reproofed his grammar and pronunciation. His eyes shone with the hunger for knowledge even though he had sparse food to satisfy the hunger of his belly.

Six months later one day when I stepped back home from work. My mother handed me a ragged looking necklace and piece of paper. “Ani’s parents moved out today. He pleaded with them to stay till he could meet you in the evening. But they had to catch the train in the afternoon. He left me this necklace and a letter” she said

“I thank you for all that you have done for me. I am sorry I couldn’t stay. I have noted down your house address. I will write you a letter soon” – Ani

It was a terse two liner but it left me with a mix of emotions. I was glad he was able to write it on his own but saddened that we couldn’t say our goodbyes personally.

I waited for his letter but it never came. I don’t know what happened to Ani. But whenever I was confronted with a challenge in life I recalled his shining eyes and I got the strength to move ahead.

 

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Life’s Lessons from the Bansuri

Bansuri or the Indian flute is one of the simplest music instrument, a piece of bamboo a few holes and lo we have a musical instrument. What could be more simpler ? It was a big surprise then this deceptively spartan instrument thought me many a valuable life’s lesson !

The Bansuri belongs to the Stealer of the hearts – Lord Krishna, ancient lore describes how the gopis of Vrindavan forgot all their task mezmerised by the sound of Krishna’s flute. My introduction with the bansuri was some what similar if not as dramatic, I heard the bansuri being played by a flutist on the day of Anantha Chaturdashi. The serene melodious voice flowing through made it a “love at first sight – sound rather” 😉 🙂

Next few days went about reading/listening/watching videos on the web and familiarizing myself about the bansuri. After which I felt the time was ripe to purchase a bansuri and start playing !

.. and so I went to the shopkeeper and asked for a ‘E’ scale bansuri which is a professional 30 inch flute. Then started the wrestling match try as hard as I did to blow through the bansuri, it refused to budge, except for the sound of hissing air there was none of the serenity I expected ! Determined I made a mightier effort, after 2 – 3 mins, my lungs begged for some respite and my head felt giddy. As I stood vanquished the shopkeeper played the bansuri with ease and sprang forth the melody I had tried to produce in vain !

and hence I learnt

#Lesson 1 – Never underestimate !

The shopkeeper gave me a smaller flute and asked me to start with it. I took it home and wrestled with it for 2 days, day and night until finally, I was able to produce the first note ‘Sa’ !

and with that I learnt

#Lesson 2 – The first attempt needn’t be the last, try try until you succeedInstances of life might be disappointing but never be discouraged, keep trying !


A couple of more weeks and I was able to get all the 7 notes (more or less) on the bansuri, my room mates will strictly vouch to have heard nothing except cacophony ! 😉 Soon I reaslised the need for a teacher and started a search. The search yielded nothing for a few weeks as bansuri teacher’s seemed to be a rare breed and none seemed to be around my home ! The cause seemed hopeless and just as I made up my mind to commute for hours if needed to learn, miraculously I found an excellent teacher residing just a few minutes away from my home.

and with that I learnt

# Lesson 3 – if there is a will there is a way 😉 don’t give up on a worthy cause !

My room mate too succumbed to the charm of bansuri and both of us enrolled for bansuri classes together and thus began our journey. The early days I had the urge of wanting to play film songs and other popular tunes like Airtel dhun, I got the notes of these songs/dhun online and felt happy if I got my roomies and others to recognise what I was playing ! However my music teacher wouldn’t at all bother what songs I could play, all he bothered about was the perfection of each note that I played. He just kept on making me practise the 7 basic notes ! As time passed and my ear started contrasting the difference between what I and my teacher played, I realised the fundamentals he was stressing was more important and that my eagerness was becoming my own death knell of music learning !

and I learnt
# Lesson 4 – ‘have the objective in mind, else one would waste time in action’ – as I did practising playing songs rather than the basics


# Lesson 5 – ‘get the fundamentals right and rest would follow’ – as I obeyed my teacher and curbed my eagerness to play film songs and dhun, I actually realised I got play the songs and dhun’s better !

In the inital days I compared my bansuri with that of my roomie, I felt his bansuri sounded better, looked better and there was this certain dissatifaction that my bansuri probably wasn’t as good as his ! However as time went by, with practise and guidance of my teacher I was able to get better sound from my bansuri.

and understood that

# Lesson 6 – pratise maketh a man perfect
# Lesson 7 – ‘Grass looks greener on the other side but it needn’t be !’ – Initially I did feel that my roomie’s bansuri sounded better and indeed the Indian flute made from natural bamboo varies, each piece of bamboo is unique and might sound a little different even if sourced from the same origin. However the better I got at playing the bansuri,the better it sounded. My bansuri had thinner walls and produced a more hollow ringing sound, my roomies had a slightly thicker wall and gave a more deeper voice, as time progressed I liked each for its own !

In life too circumstances vary, more often than not one wishes they ought to have been on the other side. However by making oneself better chances are we will be able to make our own seemingly barren fields lush green ! This was the most important thing I felt my bansuri conveyed to me! 😀

The instrument belonging to the Stealer of the Heart, stole my heart and with it thought me a few lessons of life ! My bansuri training is still a long long way to go

but I am enjoying the ride ! 😀 🙂

Interested in Knowing about Indian Flute/Bansuri – check the sites below

Bansuriflute

KnowurRaga

Site by a disciple of Hairprasad Chaurasia