Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Framing Farmers

The last week saw me in the middle of Maharashtra, the hinderland as its called. For the urban me it was an eye opener into the lives of farmers, who for the longest time had been labelled as the bechara farmer in my world view. Hardly true as one was to find out.

A distance of 45 km from Pune, we made our first stop. A huge bungalow loomed in front of us and we were asked to sit in the drawing room. Water was bought to us in huge lotas of steel as we made ourselves comfy for a long chat..

Astounding it was, farmers are no longer desperate or lost. Of the 10 odd farmers visited in the area, we saw each having a motor cycle, some had cars, computers hogged the drawing rooms and there was a sense of ambition a sense of achivement and a happiness towards the next few years.

Life was good.

This is only a reflection of one state, where from a mid sized farmer to a large farmer, prosperity had come knocking on the door steps. 4 years is all it had taken for the world view to change, and the causes... populism governance, which had in a double whammy lifted the entire population to another level all together

Firstly, people below the poverty line were ensured access to wheat at Rs 2 a kg, this along with other subsidies, minimum wages and access to accommodation had elevated the strata of labourers. Guaranteed basic food, they no longer needed to wilt hours away on local farms, at the mercy of the bigger farmers and were free to choose. Choose where to work, for how much.

the farmers, themselves were now getting huge loan sops. Interest free loans till rs. 50,000, wavier of electricity dues and banks that were stepping into the hinterland to make credit a non feared medium of investment. Change was here to stay.

This change has unleashed aspirations. Youth, are keen to go out, seek more do more. Interestingly, the youth can be loosely divided into two segments, one that sees the value of being in a city, the amenities that it gets and prefer the stableness of a job to the vagaries of a farmers life. The other however, sees the rat like existence that a city offers them and choose, very consciously to be content and a master of their own moods that a rat in the race. Of the former countless exist of the latter there are few. The commonality between both is the disdain towards agriculture. Its something someone else should be doing.

For a city dweller like me, it got me to appreciate the number of decisions that are to be made while sowing a crop of cane vs cotton. Should I choose to grow ginger or maybe stick to cabbage.. the sheer abundance of veggies on display when I step into the local food market ... is a disguise. The blood red tomatoes, the cheerful carrots and the granddad like potatoes never really tell us of the hidden lives concealed below the skin.

India is moving out of its villages. Question is where will it move to?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Woof Yoga

Its here, the brand new form of yoga has come to hit the town. Fresh off the mat, discovered by the Puppy Singh, our very own collie cum mongrel dog, in a flash of genius on March 9th 2011 at 7.38 am. Doggie Yoga has never had it better...

This morning at 7.38 am I decide to commence my 21 day commitment to do the kriya everyday. The only issue is what to do with Puppy Singh. The last time, that I decided to leave him hovering about the house, while I locked myself in the room was pretty much a bad idea. Said goodbye to divine bliss, to witness a newspaper snowstorm and pen remains with ink stains on part of the newspaper to give it a designer effect..

Hmm.. wanting the divine bliss to last a bit longer decided to experiment with letting him remain around me.... Woof Yoga.. thats how it all began.

The purple mat was rolled on the floor, the mobile put on silent and I sat in the lotus posture, ready for serenity. PS (puppy singh) sat on me, sliding down my legs and wagging his tail, with the tips of his bushy tail mercilessly tickling the soles of my feet..

Eyes closed and scowling, i shift backwards on the mat.
He does the same.
Ignoring him, I proceed with the asanas. (exercises).

First one is no problem. PS has decided to curl in for a short nap at the end of the mat. Thinking he has gone, I stretch out my legs only to kick him, he yowls and protests and then proceeds to wag n tickle legs again. AArrggghh, determined to let day 1 be a success I soldier on.

Asana 1 and 2, complete.
Sitting back in the lotus posture, I rest my fingers on my things, the thumb and ring finger lightly touching to complete the energy circle.
PS loves it. Thinks my fingers are gestures for play time and begins the game of pawing them apart. Pointy claws dig into my palms and fingers and unable to get them loose by that action, his wet tounge licks them, and the teeth begin to gently chew on the thumb

Flicking him away, eyes shut i focus.
Breathe in........left nostril
breathe out........right nostril
breathe in...  calm your mind....... left nostril
breathe out......... let the stress out.......right nostril
breathe in..........
breathe out

ppasssshhhh.. paaassssh.. ssssssshhrrrrkkkkkkkkk......
This wasnt good, I cock an eye open only to see PS, sitting on the edge of the mat with the corners safely enclosed between his paws, the end in his mouth and a huge tear to the YOGA THICK FREAKING PURPLE MAT!!

Before realizing what is happening. out comes the had, chin mudra be dammed and one SLAP is given to PS. Sufficiently chastened, he leaves the mat in a huff and stalks off into the corner.

breathe in.. and out
left nostril in............right out
relax........ breathe out........

shaking my head, I move on to the next round. 21 Om's need to be chanted. Loudly, with an open mouth. Peace and calmness the idea behind the exercise.

Mouth open.. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmm

PS looses it. He leaps up in the air, and released a volleys of yowls. Each Aaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmm; is matched by Woooooooooooooof, Woooooooooooof., Woof woof, wooooooooffffffff,, woof woof woooooooffffffffffffffffffff

Not content with woofing, he comes closer to me, and starts desperately trying to bite the very air that is coming out of my mouth
Aaaauuuuuuuum I go.. Woof woof. bite bite I get
21 aums takes a while. PS lasted a while.

Woof yoga was born in this fashion . I always thought that uttering om was something that calmed people down, dogs are clearly not people and their chakras work very differently.  The aums were not followed by any more louder utterances, the remainder saw only minor tickling, some desperate mat scratching and an occasional woof..

As i opened my eyes and surveyed my world. It was divine. PS was there, eyes gleaming a picture of innocence, with the purple piece of yoga mat dangling from his lips and the fluffy tail thumping .. love at first sight.

Yea well. The world was full of bliss.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Incredible Tamil Nadu

The belief is that unless one obtains all that they need in the material world, there shall not be enough sway towards the spiritual. Tiny rituals for causes have been created, from lighting ghee lamps wrapped in bamboo, to getting a red thread that has been blessed by the goddess..

I have never been a fan of travelling in Tamil Nadu, ever. There was a change of energy that would seem to hit you the moment one landed there, was something that impacted you. People were talking louder, were not calm most of the time, a sense of haste filled the air and impatience ruled.

This did not change. What did change was the ability to accept this and see the land for something subtler and deeper that it holds the key to. A key that is carefully concealed and zealously guarded. A friend in Delhi, always held that South was the land of scriptures and lessons, passed from generations, preserved in Tamil.

The northindian, in me somehow never took this claim very seriously, the deccan portion of the land was superstitious and ritualistic, Spiritual... nah not really.... (how things change). The past 2 weekends have been spent in interacting with this missing link of Southern mysticism, and changing perceptions.

Saturday morning saw me arriving in Coimbatore, headed to the Isha ashram. (http://www.ishafoundation.org/)

Isha is an organization that has been started by Sadhguru, a realized master who has lived and seen countless lives that he can recount. From being a snake charmer, to a devotee who was blessed by his guru he has stories that are tales never seen or heard before.. about Shiv, adi yogis and saints, said in a manner that makes them come to life like they were right there..

I packed my bags and went there to see the newly consecrated Bhairgavi Lingam. This is the female form of the Shakti, encompassing a compassionate, graceful and fierceful energy. The much smaller temple, devoted to the Bhairavi Lingam has a asthetic presence that makes you feel the need to surrender. Give in and be.

Mantras chants and the silence wraps you while there, this post the bath in the TeertathKund and the Lingam leaves you feeling very blessed and content. very serene somehow.

While looking for images I came across this detailed blog written about the many architectural marvels http://balaslearnings.blogspot.com/2010/04/visit-to-dhyanalinga.html, worth a read for knowing why there is more to this place than meets the eye

An image of the shivalingam that is immersed in water in the theerath kund that holds solidified mercury by a process of alchemy that is known to very few saints worldwide. Wading through the water is a different experience, the water is heavier, with a life of its own a whispering of somesort..

For me starting today is the decision to do the kriya every day for 21 days, its said anything that is done on a continuous process for that long becomes a habit, a part of you. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


The actual temple is an impressive stone edifice of unknown date. During the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, their own kith and kin gor killed. In order to absolve themselves of this sin, the Pandavas went for a pilgrimage. But Lord Vishweshwara was away in Kailasa in the Himalayas. On learning this, the Pandavas, left Kashi. They reached the Himalayas via Hardwar. They saw Lord Shankar from a distance. But Lord Shankara hid from them. Then Dharmaraj said: “Oh, Lord, You have hidden yourself from our sight because we have sinned. But, we will seek You out somehow. Only after we take your Darshan would our sins be washed away. This place, where You have hidden Yourself will be known as Guptkashi and become a famous shrine.”
From Guptakashi (Rudraprayag), the Pandavas went ahead they reached Gaurikund in the Himalayas valleys. They wandered there in search of Lord Shankara. While doing so Nakul and Sahadev found a he-buffalo. It was unique to look at.
Then! Bhemma went after the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo was clever and Bheema could not catch it. But Bheema managed to hit the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo had its face hidden in a crevice-in the earth. Bheema started to pull it by its tail. In this tug-of war, the face of the buffalo went straight to Nepal, leaving its hind part in Kedar. The face of the buffalo is known as Pashupatinath in Nepal.
On this hind part of Mahesha, a glorious JyotirLinga appeared. Lord Shankara appeared from this great light. He appeared before the pandavas. By getting a Darshan of Lord Shankar, the pandavas were absolved of their sins. The Lord told the Pandavas, “From now on, I will remain here as a triangular shaped JyotirLinga. By taking a Darshan of Kedarnath, devotees would attain piety”. Near Kedarnath, there are many symbols of the Pandavas Raja Pandu died here, when he tried to make love to Madri. This place is famous as Pandukeshwar. The tribals here perform a dance called “Pandav Nritya”. The mountain top where the Pandavas went to Swarga, is known as “Swargarohini”. When Darmaraja was leaving for Swarga, one of his fingers fell on the earth. At that place, Dharmaraj installed a Shiva Linga, which is the size of the thumb.
To gain Mashisharupa, Shankara and Bheema fought with maces. Bheema was struck with remorse. He started to massage Lord Shankara’s body with ghee. In memory of this event, even today, this triangular Shiva JyotirLinga is massaged with ghee. Shankara is worshipped here in this manner. Water and Bel leaves are used for worship.
When Nar-nrayan went to Badrika village and started the worship of Parthiva, Shiva appeared before them. A few days later, a pleased Shiva granted them some boons. Nar-narayan wished that for the welfare of the humanity, Shiva should remain there in his original form. Granting their wish, in the snow-clad Himalayas, in a place called Kedar, Mahesha himself stayed there as a Jyoti. Here, He is known as Kedareshwara.
By visiting Kedareshwar, sorrows do not come even in dreams. By worshipping Shambara (Kedareshwar) Pandavas were rid of all theor sorrows. Badri-Keshwar’s darshan rids one of the material ties. Whoever gives Dan (alms) at Kedareshwar, just gets assimilated into Shivaroopa.
Srimat Shankaracharya praised Lord Shiva thus:
mahAdripArshve cha taTe ramantaM sampUjyamAnaM satataM munIndraiH | surAsurairyaxa mahoragADhyaiH kedAramIshaM shivamekamIDe || Meaning: Oh Lord, who resides in the great heights of Himalayas, oh Lord, thou, who art worshipped forever by saints, Hermits, Demons, Gods, Yakshas and Maha Nag (giant snakes), I bow and offer millions of Pranams. As a matter of fact, as one enters the main temple, the first hall contains statues of the five Pandava brothers, Lord KrishnaNandi, the vehicle of Shiva and Virabhadra, one of the greatest guards of Shiva. An unusual feature of the temple is the head of a man carved in the triangular stone fascia of the temple. Such a head is seen carved in another temple nearby constructed on the site where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati was held. No specific family of pujaris supervise rituals at Kedarnath, where the focus is on veneration of the stone lingam that rests in the inner sanctum of the temple.