To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

Sunday, September 22, 2002
Alcohol is nicissary f’r a man so that now an’ thin he can have a good opinion iv himself, ondisturbed be th’ facts.
--Finely Peter Dunne

A certain music teacher once told us of an incident. It impressed on me that even the most educated of us hold very dearly to our biases, no matter how ill grounded these biases may be.

This music teacher had a Guru, to whom he owed the credit of initiating him into the music world. It was a long time (some 15-20 yrs) since this teacher had had the opportunity to meet his Guru. He began by telling us how he esteemed the Guru, how all these years he had been hoping to meet him, and how, without his blessings, he might never have been where he was this day. He realized how much he was grateful to him and could not but carry this debt to the grave.

But that was till a few days ago. Now, he was shocked and shaken and couldn’t believe his idol was broken. I wondered how it could be so, for whatever may have happened, I couldn’t imagine how it could have changed what the Guru meant for him. I could not imagine that it could have erased what was owed to him. I decided to be patient and still my thoughts till I had heard more.

The music teacher went on to say that he had been attending a function, when in a corner of the hall, he noticed a drunken and disheveled man making a general spectacle of himself. He went close and was aghast to see that it was his Guru.

At this revelation, we anxiously enquired if the Guru recognized him. I wasn’t ready for the answer. Our teacher said that he did not know and did not care. He removed himself from the scene as fast as he could; he could not bear the sight.

He wished he had never seen the Guru in such a state. He had an image of God of him and now, it was fallen. He wished he could have gone with life with this image. He wished he could forget the truth, and keep believing in the reality of his illusion.

To say that I was amazed is to put it very mildly. I realized that my teacher held drinking in the utmost abhorrence and as a sin as great as any, and not to be associated with one he so esteemed. I realized that it would have been painful to him to find that his God was after all, a human. I realized that it would have shamed him that the one he so worshipped, was not one whose life made him fit to be worshipped. I realized he had placed him so high, that he could not bear to see him so low.

All this I realized and yet I wondered. If I truly owed so much to him, if it was he who had made me ‘me’ today, would I just shun him to his fate? Would I just leave him where I thought his greatness did not belong? Would I simply wish I had never laid eyes on him? Would I try to make as if the one who was the reason for my well being today, was not he, this man, but some imaginary God? Would I not wish to know the cause of his downfall and would I not wish to remedy it and repay the debt I bore him, no matter in how small a part? Would I not be filled with sadness for my Guru, who had lost himself, and not just for myself, who had lost him?

Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Am Back !!

Had been to Mangalore to join in the celebrations marking my grandparents’ sixtieth wedding anniversary. Supposed to be a rare event these days, one way or the other, and so all the more worthy of a toast.

This is the first time I was there at this time of the year. Usually I would go during april-may, when schools/colleges offered some reprieve.

Things weren’t much different though, except that -- the rice fields were in near bloom, cousins were out at school most of the day, had the chance to witness the festivities on Gokul Ashtami, Teacher’s Day, and our Mother Mary’s feast.

I was surprised to see people painted from top to bottom in tiger skin colour and other exotic costumes, roaming the streets on Gokul Ashtami. It seems that there is a story behind this custom, though I don’t know what it is. These people in fancy dresses danced in front of houses and shops; crowds would collect around them to watch their performances, and throw them money.

Teacher’s day has always been like any other day for me, but the way it was celebrated in Mangalore, I can’t help mentioning it. My cousins bought cards and flowers for their teachers, there were grand functions in the schools to honour the teachers and children had half the day off. It somehow brought back my school years, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember any of the teacher’s days. :(

I had taken an extended leave specifically so as to be present for Mother Mary’s feast. It would have been deemed a slight if I had left within days of this occasion.

On this particular day, we left for mass early morning. Preparations for the elaborate meal had begun the previous day, so there wasn’t plenty to do.

In the afternoon, mats were spread on the floor and we all sat in a row, except the elders who took on the task of serving. First came the banana leaves, which were to serve as plates. Then came the water, which we sprinkled and rubbed on the leaves to clean them. Then, one by one, nine types of dishes were served, along with rice, pickle and the like. Once we were through with the meal, it was time for the dessert, which was a delicacy called “warrn” in Konkani (akin to ‘payasam’)

It wasn’t the first time I went through this ritual, as we’ve always followed it at home, ie Bombay, too. But, being a part of it in its natural setting was something else.

I couldn’t help wondering if these quaint customs and traditions would die with our generation. I won’t comment on the good and bad of it, but the thought of an old tradition dying, of something that had always been, being no more, arouses a painful and wistful feeling in me.

All in all, I had a very good time…but all the same, am glad to be back too !!! :)