Buddha Was Right And Wrong

August 3, 2012

by Anil kala

Once we are born and acquire some sense of life, our focus remains fixed on survival. Once survival becomes trivial then focus shifts to preserving life but when this also becomes trivial we move to other objectives in life like deviations into succeeding in our chosen vocation or in commerce, art, philosophy and through them peer recognition. One spin-off of this endeavor is acquiring the fittest companion for mating in a competitive society. But at more mature age we look at death critically and plan to deal with it. Death appears to us as a frightening adversary since it undoes everything we have done all our life; it simply kills all our devices to keep the life going.  Death appears to us as a dark mystery we know nothing about with our first hand knowledge therefore the horror it evokes. Everything about it is speculative though some of the wisdom coming from sources we hold in very high esteem; it still is not firsthand knowledge. Most of us are lazy enough to accept the handed down wisdom coming from religion about meaning of life. But is the faith in this wisdom enough convincing? I think we do not have unshakeable conviction in our faith, if we do, the thought will penetrate our subconscious and kill the mystery of death. After all mystery of death is creation of our subconscious.

Buddha for instance was not satisfied with the accepted view of his time therefore embarked on a quest to unravel meaning of life so that he can understand death. Buddha found an explanation for life and his conviction about it was deep. So deep that it penetrated his subconscious therefore he no more feared death. Buddha was right in finding a meaning for his life but he was wrong in prescribing the same meaning to everyone. It doesn’t work; we are individuals and have our own subconscious that creates a spell around death. To penetrate that spell we have to find our meaning, a powerful meaning so convincing that it penetrates our subconscious and breaks the spell cast by it. Once we can do that we will be at peace

Child Abuse: Could this be an exceptional case?

May 16, 2012

by Anil Kala

[I saw Amir Khan’s show in Indian TV about child abuse with some interest. I suppose I qualify for victim of child abuse therefore the interest. My case appears curious in the sense I don’t feel I was abused at all. I am telling this story so that we do not lose sense of proportion in demanding punishment for offenders. Remember some fellows asked for death penalty for rapists.]

When I look back through the hazy tunnel of time, picture of this curious but very vulnerable kid crystallizes in clear focus. Even though that kid was me in distant past, I can’t quite identify with him anymore for we have moved so far apart in character and attributes that he could be just any vulnerable child. Yet, I know this child very intimately; a shy fellow, fidgety when meeting strangers but compensates that with extra effervescent with those he was familiar. When alone strange thought would occupy his mind making him abruptly look around to check if was queer! But, for now, I am drowned in an overwhelming urge to reach out and take him in my protective cover.

The child was looking intently at that mysterious door, a wide single panel light brown door at the corner of the big room. The building used to be a barrack but now converted into four dwelling units side by side. The door on the wall separated the two neighbours. It was latched firmly from both sides. A large wooden box painted black with address stenciled in sharp white lay snugly between the frame of the door as an additional measure lest the door suddenly open and invade our privacy. An identical box was set similarly on the other side of the door in our neighbour’s house. Neighbour had three children, eldest a boy in class eight or nine, the girl seven years old and my class mate and the youngest one, I have no memory. The family appeared to be in sexual over drive. Husband would chase wife around the house and the girl, big and full, would often grab me in tight grip. Even though it felt heavenly in girl’s ‘aagosh’ (I will use the word ‘aagosh’ instead of hug, for it connotes that transcendental joy, warmth, comfort and security of womb) and yet, like a total jerk, in reflex response I would try to wriggle out of her grip. The big girl would laugh hysterically at my feeble attempt. Sometimes we would run away through the trees at the back of our house to the boundary wall of campus. A fallen tree trunk on the wall made bridge for us to climb to the top of wall and sitting there we would watch single propeller small planes flying away from the runway of an obscure flying club across the road behind the boundary wall. Sometimes we would sneak below the tree trunk when this girl would whisper conspiratorially ‘let us talk dirty’ a euphemism for getting undressed and exploring each other.

Memory of brother is sketchy; an ocean of maturity separated us. I guess he was remote, business like. He had crooked lips, when smiled, seemed to leer. Once he cornered me in the room with that queer door on his side of the house. Talked casually then dangled a glistening fountain pen. We were not allowed to use pen, only bland pencils. ‘You can have it’, he said. Then we discussed the details of the deal which was wrapped up with me declaring incredulously, “is that all?’ I was supposed to undress and lie face down on the large box set against the door. When I shrieked in pain, he was rattled, quickly retreated. I have little memory of the rest but I did get that fountain pen. This thing happened one another time.

Once in the evening lights went out, the whole cantonment sank in darkness. We were playing near the temple, lots of trees and bushes around there. We began to play hide and seek when this boy cornered another kid and made that indecent proposal. The little guy freaked out and suddenly all the kids began to talk about him. A few had stories to tell. Here it occurred to me that the arrangement I had made with him was taboo, socially sinful. I don’t remember if this was the reason we never had such encounter again or our family just went away on transfer to another station.

The point is, this episode left no permanent psychological scar. In fact the memory remained dormant in some very remote recess of my mind but for this TV episode it would have remained buried there. Now I look back and remember this incident amusedly.

The Dome

August 4, 2007

by Anil Kala

(One Act Play)

[The stage is a blank rostrum set in coal black background and foreground. There is absolutely nothing visible to the spectators due to dull diffused lights facing then from the stage edge. Abruptly the lights causing illusion of darkness to the  spectators, begin to dim. Simultaneously soft white light slowly submerges a lone human form next to two long solid blocks in the center of the stage. Due to completely black furnishings only silhouette of the man and the two blocks are visible. The man stirs and appears completely baffled] 

Man    :  [Whispering in soft voice] Its pitch dark here. I can’t see a thing. Looks like it wouldn’t have mattered if I was completely blind. [Now a little laud] Blind! Am I blind? [He broods over this for while] No I don’t think so. Certainly not [says emphatically] I am not blind. There is a difference in seeing dark and not seeing at all. Where is this? Who am I? I don’t seem to remember anything. Am I dead? [Again broods over this, then feel his body with his hands] I have limbs; I have form like human being. I am not dead after all. [Softly, as if afraid] Hello! Anybody here? [Nothing happens, emboldened, he walks around in a small circle trying to feel for solid contact with his hands and feels the presence of blocks. His footsteps echo in with short trailing sounds.] This place appears familiar, at least the milieu is familiar. Yes I am inside a dome like structure. [Shaking his head, sits down on one of the blocks] Yes definitely inside a massive dome. The short trailing echo, indeed this a dome. [Now loudly] Hello! Anybody here? Can any one show me the way out?

Voice       [A tired but gruff irritating voice] Stop that racket, you fool! Be quiet.

Man    : [Perplexed, now speaks in a soft and friendly tone] Sorry! Old chap, if I bothered you, but you see I am lost here and need help. Who are you? What is this place?

Voice:      How dare you ask that. Who am I! Yes indeed, Who am I? Oh! It doesn’t matter any more, does it? Why should I help you, I don’t care what miserable wretch you are. By the way I am miserable for God knows whence. I am Khurram.

Man    :  Some luck I have. I run into a badmouthed guy with a queer name. Khurram is it. That’s a violently abrasive name.

Khurram        :  [Exasperated] You are an extremely insolent person aren’t you. Another time another place you would have paid dearly for this. What is the big deal about Khurrum? You have no familiarity with Persian names.

Man    :  [Trying to make up] I am sorry if I have upset you. You appear to have been around here for sometime while I am a confused stranger here. I don’t even know who I am, what I am doing here. I don’t think I am dead I have physical form. This place seems like a massive dome. Why isn’t there any light..

Khurram        : You are not the only one baffled[Sounding philosophical]. What makes you think you are not dead.

Man    :  I told you, I have physical form. If I was dead and assuming dying is just not the end, it is unlikely that existence will continue in the same form. By the way what is the place, Khurram.

Khurram        :    [Annoyed] Oh! What impudence! This is the Taj Mahal. Can’t you see?

Man    :  I can’t see, its pitch-dark here.[Then realizing slowly] Taj Mahal! Is it? And you, what are you doing here[ waits a few seconds and then excitedly] You mean , you mean you are Shah Jehan?

[ There is silence for a few seconds]

Khurram        :    It doesn’t impress me anymore. All the veneration, awe and fear matter no more. I spend time in complete oblivion siting over judgement on my own doings. I am nowhere near a satisfactory judgement, which angers me even more. What did I do wrong?

Man         :   You made the Taj Mahal. You are one shinning example of everlasting love and devotion. That should be a fair judgement.

Khurram    :   You think so. That’s what people think. I hate Mumtaj. I hated her most of the time. I didn’t make the Taj Mahal, I ordered its construction. An army of very skilled artisans made this magnificent monument. I merely ordered its construction in a fit profound loss, just the loss, a deep sense of insecurity and loss. Later I wished I hadn’t ordered its construction but then somehow I couldn’t stop its construction. I had become a zombie. My love for Mumtaj was infatuation. Later it was just a magnified public perception because of the massive construction lasting a life time. I was like zombie not interested in any thing. I watched its construction in a state of complete detachment. I saw laborers falling from the high scaffoldings to their death, their heads opening like crushed pumpkins. The rasping sound of whips peeling the skin of workmen for making mistakes did not make me wince in horror. I saw  despairing families breaking their back  to complete the construction. Supervisors whipping tired workmen to hurry up with raising marble blocks, bringing in heavy materials etc. Scores of them were dying like fleas due to my perceived urge to complete the monument at the earliest. The state was left to flounder and hurtle freely from a prosperous to a near bankrupt kingdom.

Man    :  That is a very harsh judgement. Remember you were the king, that was your destiny. We are partly creatures of our circumstances. Since everything came to you as a matter of right, your behavior was molded in that fashion. Death and misery were merely statistics to you as concerns of statecraft; therefore you did not realize true significance of a personal tragedy. You were surrounded by indifferent power-hungry people, some good advisors and may be perhaps some well-meaning well wishers too. But they all had their own personal world to attend; besides a king is something unique therefore he has no benchmarks or role models to look for parallels. The King is center of an unreal microcosm where ostentatious behavior over-shadows everything else. Much of his decisions are spontaneous, even though these decisions have far reaching consequences, the king is helpless in that.

Khurram        :    That’s very well articulated, unfortunately it does not pass the test of morality and responsible behavior. If we accept what you say then no one shall be responsible for his acts. Everyone will blame his circumstances for his failures or acts of omissions and commissions. As you said we are partly creatures of our circumstances but only partly. We have within each of us a sense of judging right and wrong, therefore only part of the blame for our acts can be attributed to circumstances, rest we have to own up.

Man    :  You speak well your Majesty, but wouldn’t you consider your incarceration in this dungeon for all these centuries enough atonement for your failings? Eventually what counts is sum total of our actions in a lifetime. Surely you were good to your queen and your children and also many other in the multitude constituting your realm.

Khurram        :    Your are not correct when you say I was good to my queen and children. Perhaps I was for a brief period but as you say it is the sum total that counts. After a while, a long while I hated them all, the cloying closeness made me even more remote and disdainful. Public perception though is quite the contrary. Yet, you are right about the sufficient atonement for my failings. I can say that now with all the earnestness. Goodbye! Young man. You will wake up soon. Good bye!

[Briefly the faded lights, fade even more until it is completely dark. When the lights again come up the stage has metamorphosed in to ruins of an ancient tomb. A man is slumped on the floor his head has slight injury and blood oozing in a light trickle. The man stirs and crawls up, rubs is head and notices the injury]

Man    :  What a fall through the stairs. This is a tricky ruin, hope ASI does something about it. Wonder how long I had been here unconscious.


The Conversation

February 3, 2007

Once, while walking the desert sands,

I came across this dark man.
Curious, I asked,“Good to see you around,
Pray, why you trail me,
In this god forsaken land?”
Amazed, he said,“I thought it the other way round,
You’re trailing my footsteps,
Seeking company in wilderness.”
“Yes I fear the loneliness,
But I do not seek togetherness,
Now I feel hunger,
Now I feel thirst,
You are lucky to have no flesh
“Strange to say this when hungry.
So what if I do not feel.
Nor the pleasure of flesh,
You enjoy a sumptuous meal!
Yet, I find your words so grave
Logic has a way with you,
Pregnant with deep sense.
Life being an accident.
Your words of wisdom
Weigh heavy on me,
My wit cannot defy you
No such qualms for me though,
Life I owe to the blinding glow
Sailing across the blue above
After all I am nothing,
But your shadow………… 

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February 3, 2007

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