First Visit of Renu to America on Donkeyback

In the year 1964 Renu went to visit her Mamaji (mother’s brother) in a small, very remote village in the Alwar district of Rajasthan state in India. That Mamaji was I, and here is the story.

I was doing an ethnographic study of the Meo people, also called Mewatis, and had settled in the village named Chavandi Kalan. This was in a semi desert area and the village was about 5 miles from the nearest big town Tapikada on the roadside. Camel was our usual transport. My younger sister and her family then lived in Delhi. She wrote and asked if she could visit us. I gave her detailed instructions how to reach the village and told her to be sure to inform me in good time so I could come to receive her in Tapukada. Her letter did not reach me in time.

When my sister with four small children, one of them being Renu, got off the bus I was not there to meet them. She waited for a while and as it was getting late in the afternoon her fear of getting stranded in a totally strange village began to turn into alarm. She went and talked with a shopkeeper. He knew me well and realizing the situation of my sister and the children quickly arranged help. There was a potter in the village that offered to help bring the visitors to Chavandi. It took him little time to get his three donkeys ready. He carefully loaded the luggage on the backs of the donkeys and also made room for the youngest two children to ride. The older children and my sister had to walk alongside the animals and the potter.

The road was unpaved and passed through many rough patches. There were streams to ford and dry beds full of sand to trudge. It was a daunting experience for my sister and especially for the children who had never been outside the city. Going was painfully slow. They had covered even half the distance when the sun went down. Going became tougher. Luckily the moon appeared and lit the path. By late evening the caravan arrived in Chavandi and were safely guided a villager to our mud house covered with thatch. Wow, my sister heaved a sigh and said, “What an experience!”

They stayed with us for a week. The children had the most thrilling time of their lives. My four and a half year old daughter Indu knew the village like the back of her hand. Everyone in the village knew her. She had many good friends. In her local Mewati style dress she blended in the local setting as a Meo. Acting as a guide to her cousins she took them everywhere and showed them whatever she thought was worth showing to outsiders. My wife Sudesh took her sister-in-law to meet her friends.

We went on several excursions—by walking, on camel back, and on bullock cart. We visited the nearby hills where we had a great picnic lunch.

My sister and the children had belly full of fun and it was the most unusual experience of their life.

To Renu this was America
Renu had always heard that Mamaji lived in America. So she concluded that Chavandi Kalan had to be America. There was no room for doubt in her mind.

All her friends in Delhi knew that Renu had gone to America to visit her Mamaji.
So they came to ask what America looked like. My sister was nearby but out of the children’s sight. She sensed what was to follow and sat down quietly to hear Renu’s description of America.

“Oh, America is not as big as Delhi but very different. There are very few brick houses. Most are built with mud, a few with stone. Women wear bright colored clothes and a lot of silver jewellery. Even little girls our age wear silver ornaments. My cousin Indu dresses just like the local children. Each house has an open yard where the elders sit and chat. Most men have beards.

There are many animals because all families own some. There are donkeys, horses, camels, cows, bullocks, goats and other animals. We rode on donkeys and camels. We also rode in bullock carts.”

One child asked, how do you go to America?

Renu answered. “We first ride a train, then bus, and towards the end we ride donkeys. Adults usually walk the last 5 miles. They packed our luggage on donkey-backs and put us children on top of it. It was very scary because the road was uneven. We came many times close to falling. I even fell once but luckily did not get hurt.

Someone asked: Did you like the visit?

Renu answered that she certainly would for it is much fun playing with American children and to visit those exciting places.

I am sure Renu remembers this, her first visit to ‘America.’

September 26, 2009



Sometimes by mere chance a forgotten event pops up in mind. It may have remained buried deep in memory for many decades, yet it surfaces in surprising clarity. This happened when in the first half of August 2009 my younger sister Santosh and I went to our elder sister in Hyderabad. We were visiting and sharing old memories. Santosh suddenly recalled meeting an interesting man when we lived briefly in Bareilly, U.P. in the year 1948. She then was 14 and I about 17.

I also quickly remembered the man, for I had noticed him in the warehouse next to our house and gone over to befriend him. His name was Britanti. This Hindi word means a narrator. Indeed, he was an excellent raconteur and to use his skill he had an inexhaustible stock of stories. But in the city nobody cared to sit down with a humble watchman and listen. Britanti naturally was happy when I went over to converse with him-- especially hear.

He was a short lean man, about 45. I found out that he was able to read but not to write. This was common in his village. People were so eager to read the epic Ramayana that they learned to do so without bothering to learn writing that was not so pressing. Working as a watchman in an isolated warehouse gave Britanti plenty of free time to read but there was none to hear his stories. Since I was a captive audience he welcomed me and told stories sometimes nonstop. Most of them were rural folklore of the area drawn mainly from the Ramayana and other classics.

As we became friends, I began to notice peculiar personality traits of Britanti. One that struck me was that he ate not twice or three times a day like most of us but only once in two or three days. I am sure he told me why, but I do not remember all the details.

Britanti cooked with great seriousness and care. It was almost like worshipping God. He first cleaned his whole house and put a coat of mud mixed with cow dung on the floors and lower three feet of the walls. This was done with special care in the kitchen where even the stove was coated all over. All the utensils were of course rubbed to shine with sand and washed with clean water. While the floors dried Britanti went for his bath. He did not use soap but rubbed his skin and hair with a mixture of gram flour, yogurt, oil, and mud. He wore only an undergarment and tied a dhoti around his waist. His torso remained bare until the whole ritual was over.

His staple was chapattis, lentils and vegetables, or khichdi of rice and lentils with cooked vegetables. To garnish his food he used salt, turmeric, green chilies, and green coriander leaves. He used no expensive spices like black pepper. After the food was cooked he put some ghee over it to add taste and nutrition. He always ate alone sitting on the floor of his kitchen. No visitors were allowed at mealtime for it was a strictly private activity. He allowed me to sit and watch only after we had become very close friends. He also began to invite me to share his food when he noticed that I wanted to taste it.

The food was delicious, indeed very tasty. His favorite lentil was Tur that I had never tasted before. I liked it very much and always relished it also in the homes of many other local friends. Another dish I tasted for the first time was khichdi made with rice and split urad (black gram). This too was delicious.

Since Britanti did not eat daily as most of us, the quantity he ate appeared excessive. Both my sister and I noticed the huge heap of food he gulped down. We shared with other members of our family these peculiar habits of our friend. They were also interested and wanted to taste it. Britanti gladly cooked extra quantity and gave some to me. Everyone liked the food. In fact they were amazed that it tasted so good without using any nuts, spices or ghee at the time of cooking.

We noticed, or perhaps imagined, that his stomach bulged out enormously after eating the big meals. But I am sure we exaggerated the size of the bulge to add spice to the story. My sister had blown up the whole thing and thought that Britanti ate once a week and his stomach stretched out by 6 inches!

9th August 2009

My Father

My Father

I was born in Jaranwala on May 21, 1931. My father was in jail at that time. Earlier in the year he was participating in a peaceful, very mild, and harmless procession that was marching through that small town. People were carrying the tricolor Congress party flag and shouting slogans asking the British to go home and to leave India free. This kind of activities had begun several years earlier in other parts of India and had just begun in this area. The police arrived at some point and asked the people to disperse. Those who didn’t were arrested, later produced in court, and sentenced to jail terms of various lengths. My father at that time got one year. I have heard that this was his second and last visit to jail.

About 7-8 years later, as a small boy, I remember witnessing a similar scene. Its image is so well etched in my memory that I can quite vividly recall it to this day. There were about 100 people in the procession walking through the town’s main street. Most of them were young men belonging to shopkeeper families of different religions. There were Hindu, Sikh and Muslims and all of them looked quite serious about what they were doing. The long 3-4 abreast column of people began to spread into a circle at the end of the street where several policemen, some on horseback, were standing in the middle of the road.

They were shouting orders; ‘disperse, go home, you are breaking the law.’ The officer in charge of the police contingent was British. He had come from the District station. People ignored the orders and stayed put. Orders were shouted again and yet again. No one moved. Then the British officer rode forward and facing the crowd said in his highly accented Hindi: “Since you are not obeying I am asking one of the policemen to draw a line across the road. Those who dare to defy the law by crossing the line will be arrested.”

The police gave several minutes to the people to make up their minds. Fifteen to twenty men defiantly crossed the line. One of them was uncle Dewan Chand, my grandfather’s brother’s son. They were handcuffed and marched to the nearest police station. There they were locked up. We were not allowed to visit them. We learned that they would be produced before a judge in a court in Lyallpur in a week’s time. Later the exact date of the trial was announced. I went there with my older cousins and some of their friends. After waiting for some time we saw several handcuffed men being taken out of a court room. Among them was uncle Dewan Chand. He signed to us with two raised fingers and shouted with gleeful enthusiasm saying, ‘I got just two years in jail.’

I was very impressed thinking how brave he was. This experience added a big chunk to my knowledge and understanding of the world around me. Since then what I read and learned in school about British rule and our struggle for Freedom was real and highly meaningful.

Uncle Dewan Chand’s father Harnam Das lived in Lyallpur with his oldest son’s family. He was a congress party leader and very active in local politics. I met him many times and remember him clad in his beautiful handspun and hand woven clothes including his large turban. It was our elder Harnam Das who inspired my father and others to get involved in the Freedom struggle.

July 18, 2009

My Mother (3)

My Mother (3)

Maa was married at age 15 into a joint family in Daska. My father was about 17. It was not a large family but big enough to provide most joys and glitches of a typical joint household. My father had six sisters and one brother. All were older except one sister. I am not sure, but from what I have heard, most of the older girls were married and had gone to their new families.

My father had already started the process of setting up a business at Jaranwala. It was in an area where after the First World War the British cleared the scrub and built a massive network of canals. Having remained fallow for several centuries the land was quite fertile. It was allotted as a reward to the Indian soldiers who had served in Europe. The majority was Sikh but there were also some Hindus and Muslims ex-military men.

Soon after marriage my parents moved to Jaranwala. My father’s youngest sister who was still unmarried went with them. She was exceptionally pretty and fun loving. As she came of age, boys were madly attracted to her. My mother tried to keep watch over her but the young lady was too clever. My father often heard complaints mainly through a close relative living nearby. My mother’s vigilance over her turned stricter than before but the inevitable happened. Cleaning and fixing everything up was messy. My father’s wrath found vent on my mother’s back. In fact my gentle mother suffered enormously on account of that beautiful, unruly teenager.

After several years of toil my father’s shop began to earn good profit. My grandfather and blind grandmother died in Daska. Father’s elder brother and his family locked up our ancestral home there and came over to Jaranwala. For a short period there was peace, but then my aunt died leaving 3 young children. Our weak, diabetic uncle married an attractive young sister-in-law. With her came a pack of troubles in the family. A variety of intrigues were hatched. Dubious relationships with friends in town began to surface. My aunt began to have children in quick succession. My mother too gave birth to a boy and a girl but both of them died. After that my three sisters and I came along and lived.

Clash between my mother and aunt intensified. My father often took it out on my meek innocent mother. Troubles in the family increased to an intolerable level for my father and he began to contemplate migrating to a new thriving port city called Karachi. In the late1920’s independence struggle intensified. My father got deeply involved and spent several periods in jail. When I was born in 1931 my father was in

My father’s absence from home made my mother’s life much harder. Although my father was harsh on my mother his presence put a check on all members of the family and as a result there was less fighting. There were several reasons; my uncle was weak, my father was family’s breadwinner, and he was a strict disciplinarian.

Slowly but steadily the conflict level in the family rose to fever pitch. My father went to Karachi to explore business opportunities and within a year (1936) returned to take us there. I was about 5 years old. We lived there till 1947 when the country was divided.

My mother lived in Karachi for about 10 years and this was the best part of her life. She ran the household with love and great skill. The whole family thrived in her care. All my sisters were healthy and we did very well in school and in other activities. She watched over us with an eagle eye but remained unobtrusive as a mouse. I do not remember her stopping me from going with friends to play even when I was quite young. At as early an age as 7 I started regularly to go to an exercise and wrestling place every morning. My mother gave me money to buy a small block of butter from a dairy so I could eat it to build up my strength. I went to far off places for picnics and on expedition. Once, when I was in my 8th year, I used to go to a steep waterfront in the harbor area with other boys to learn to swim. For a time nobody in the family knew of this clandestine activity of mine but later they suspected it. By then I had learned to swim and demonstrated my skill to all my family when we went there on a Sunday evening. I was a strong swimmer and could dive from a high bridge. My mother and sisters were thrilled. My father heard and said nothing.

By her quiet but keenly watchful attitude my mother communicated her deep love and full confidence in my ability and sense of judgment. I was her only son amid three daughters. Hence in our patrilineal tradition my value as the male and carrier of the family name was unquestioned. Everyone recognized this and even I fully understood it. Yet my mother boldly gave me the freedom that most others in those circumstances would not have given. This gave me tremendous self-confidence. I excelled in studies, sports, and in many outdoor activities. Every Sunday evening with my parents’ permission I used to go with three other friends to eat at a restaurant. We went to a new place every time and paid from our own pocket money. Some years later my parents allowed me to go alone on a 1200-kilometer train journey.

When WWII started in 1939 imported hardware items became expensive and scarce. My father use to send them by post parcels to his customers in U. P. Every evening he stitched them up and made them ready for mailing. After returning from school I used to take them to the post office on my bicycle. Sometimes I made several trips because the loads were heavy. My father paid me 25 paise for each parcel. Some days I earned 2 whole Rupees that in those days was big money especially for a child. It made me about the richest kid in my class! My mother trusted me with the money and never asked my father not to spoil me with that much money.

When I was about 13 she took me as male escort to visit her brothers and parents in the city of Sialkot in Punjab. They had fallen to rock low time and the older of mother’s two brothers had TB. She took an Ayurvedic doctor with her. He was a confident young doctor and an uncle. His mother had died soon after his birth and my mother raised him. So he regarded my mother as his own. When we went to seek his help he came with us instantly without hesitation. After thoroughly examined the TB patient, he prescribed medicines according to his light. In his opinion recovery would take about a month and he sounded quite sure of it.

We returned to Karachi and bad news followed us. Mother’s younger brother, terribly depressed by the family’s miserable condition, committed suicide. A couple of weeks later the older one also died. The family was ruined; no earning member, two old parents, two infant boys and their young mother. Luckily some close relatives organized adequate help for the family to carry on.

All this crushed my mother. She did not talk much but her suffering was obvious. She was not eating properly and her movements were much slower. My older sisters were married and had gone to their new families. My father, younger sister and I were at home.

Maa complained of something clutching and pulling her heart and giving her terrible pain. Much worse than pain it was a sinking sensation that smotherd her. This syndrome was recurrent. It came and went and in between my mother dreaded its return. She suffered it for months mainly to continue to live for our sake.

A couple of times I heard her mumble (who will look after my Partap?). Childishly unaware of the meaning of her utterance, I tried to reassure her. Why do you worry Maa? You will soon be well and live long to raise me to manhood.

But the spasms were not abating. They were coming with menacing regularity. My mother kept bearing them bravely within herself. They were so complex, so wrenching, so severe that she was not able to describe them. My mother knew suffering for she suffered a great deal, but this was something else altogether. Heart attack is nothing compared to what she was feeling. Sometimes she said, ‘it feels as if someone is physically pulling my heart out of my body.’

One early morning when all of us were sleeping a massive attack of heart wrenching came upon my mother. It must have been totally unbearable. She released her body from our third floor balcony and dropped to the ground below with a thud. Life instantly slid out of the mangled corpse. We, and the whole neighborhood were stunned. They assembled, quickly wrapped up what was left, and proceeded to the crematorium in a procession.

A ton of ice hit me and traumatized my mind but I soon recovered. Mother was all over me and filled my entire body. ‘How would mother want me to act at such a testing time?’ I thought. I stopped crying and lifting myself up thinking I must be brave, strong, and able to help. Mother will be watching from the far. It would disappoint her if I cower and bend down. Suffering of my father and sister will increase.

I did not cry a single tear after that, and never again, not for my mother. For she was with me all the time for many years, even closer than when she lived in that body from where I came. I am thankful for holding on to some of what she shared with me. Her memory I shall treasure till my last breath.

11 July 2009

My Mother (2)

My Mother (2)

My mother was raised in so small a village in Punjab that there was no school in it for girls. So she never learned even to read a write. But she was very learned in community skills such as making friends, maintaining good relationships with them, and home making. She could spin yarn, weave simple cloth, knit sweaters, and do a great deal more. When, later in life, she came to live in a large cosmopolitan city she learned Hindi and was able to communicate with most of her neighbors. We changed apartments 5 times in 12 years. In every new house she quickly found new friends.

She was a good person, but I do not remember her being religious in the sense of regular visitor of temples or a staunch believer in any ideology. Hence she never tried to teach us any kind of religious belief system. We would often go with her to the temple on some festival occasions and celebrate important festivals such as Diwali. But we were free to absorb religious ideas that appealed to us. Mother taught us many moral values and insisted that we learn to live by them.

My mother’s friends: the Iranian lady.

I vividly remember some of my mother’s friends. One was an Iranian lady roughly her own age. Our apartments were opposite each other on the third floor and we were neighbors for about 4 years. A wide cultural gap separated us. For instance, we were strict vegetarian but she ate meat or fish daily, we were Hindus and she of the B’hai faith, she spoke Persian and we Punjabi. But like my mother she had learned enough Hindi to communicate with the local people. The list of differences is long but the two became close like sisters. Both, however, had some strong ethnic constraints that were very hard to overcome. But they bridged the chasm so skillfully that nothing stood between them to dampen their love for each other.

My mother always gave food to her Iranian friend, especially to her children. But she could not bring herself to eat what came back from her friend’s kitchen. The wise Iranian lady took care to send only vegetarian food, which then our mother gave to us children. There were several other differences. But both of them understood the cultural divide and soon set up a comfortable working relationship.

The Iranian lady automatically picked up from my mother a kind of favoritism for me. She saw that I was very thin. Thinking that eating meat will probably put some extra flesh on my lean body she started to feed me fish, mutton and eggs. She would leave a plate full of food for me in one of her two bedrooms, find me and lock me in it. If other children wanted to come in she would send them away saying that she had washed the room and wanted everybody out till the floor dried. I suspect that my

Mother came to know this, but pretending ignorance she kept quiet. I am sure both friends knew what they were doing. They enjoyed keeping this loving secret for four long years until we had to leave Karachi at the time of partition in 1947.

My mother and her friend met every day, sometimes for several hours, and shared personal secrets, ate snacks, joked and laughed. Whenever we went to Punjab my mother remembered to bring some special gift for her friend. The Iranian lady too gave us gifts of food from her husband’s hotel and a variety of gifts she received from her relatives in Iran.

The Sweeper woman.

We had a Punjabi speaking sweeper woman coming daily to our house to clean the latrine and the bathroom. I remember her pretty cheerful face to this day. My mother was very fond of her and gave her some food to eat and sometimes grain or flour to take home.

Once on Maha Shivratri festival the sweeper lady asked my mother for some special food that is eaten to break the all day Shivratri fast. My mother was glad to give but she jokingly asked, “But, Jeeto, you people have become Christians. You cannot be observing fast on Shivratri?”

Jeeto replied, “Yes, Bibiji, you are right, we have become Christians. But that does not mean we have given up our Hindu dharma. We still celebrate all our old festivals, observe fasts, and do the pujas (worships). Some older Christians keep telling us to give up all Hindu customs and celebrations, but we are so far able to resist the pressure.”

Some Punjabi woman friends.

One floor below us lived two Punjabi families from Amritsar. They were of our own caste and in hardware trade like my father. Their establishment was large and they were wealthy. One of their boys was my age and we went to the same school.

My mother was friend of the ladies in both houses. They were of same age and often exchanged food, gifts, gossip and more.

During the years following Partition I met many old relatives. Whenever I met women who knew my mother I asked them what they remembered of her. Without exception they praised my mother very highly for her friendliness, kindness, and readiness to share.

No more specific memories come to mind at this time. I will write more when I recall anything.

Partap Aggarwal

June 27, 2009

MOTHER, My Mother

MOTHER, My Mother

My daughter Indu has been goading me to write about her dadi (paternal grandmother). I have been making promises. But I have not written a word till today, and as I sit down to write my emotions well up and turn into real tears. You see; my mother died in 1945 when I was only 14 years old and the gaping gash she left behind remained open for decades. Then it healed but the scar is still there. My memories of her are not long, but few and very intense. I have been keeping them in a strong box in my heart, never lifting the lid, nor letting a word slip out of my mouth.

She loved me more than I can say, and gave me more support and joy than anyone in the whole world can give. I was her only son. She often favored me over my three sisters. Did they mind? As I remember, my two elder sisters, copying our mother, loved me as mother surrogate and did so all their lives. My eldest sister is now dead, but the one next to her continues to treat me as son. Favors she has done to me all my life, I cannot possibly count. My sister’ support and true motherly love sustained me after my mother’s death. My younger sister loves me too, but we have been like equals. As children we sometimes fought bitterly. Most fault, however, is on me because being older and stronger I delivered the punches and she only the complaints. She too was not really weak and sometimes hit me back. She sometimes quibbled over favoritism shown to me. I still remember she complained every time my punches were extra hard. But mother always chided me mildly. As my younger sister grew older, she too began to treat me with deference and motherly love.

My mother was very gentle, very loving. She was a sweet and friendly person. But she also had great moral strength of the kind I have rarely seen. Thinking of all this brings back an incident to my mind. I must have been 6 or 7. I remember this vividly because we were new to Karachi and I was learning to play with children who spoke different languages and had a different culture. One day a boy threatened and abused me in a language I did not understand. Imagining the worst I angrily punched him in the chest. It must have hurt because he began to cry and howling loudly ran straight to his mother.

After some time the mother, towing her sobbing child, came to our house. She told my mother what I had done. My mother listened and pressed the crying baby to her heart. When he soothed down a little, she called me and asked if I had hit the boy. I truthfully admitted that I had. She asked what wrong the boy had done to me. I started thinking hard because the boy had not done anything awfully wrong. My mother understood quickly and did not ask for more detail. Then she said to me, “Son, I want you to look at this boy. He is younger and weaker than you. He spoke up to you in a language you did not understand. W know now that he did not say anything foul. You imagined the worst and hit him much too hard. You should not have done that. I will forgive you this time but do not repeat such a thing in future.” She said sorry to the boy’s mother and asked me to shake hands with the boy.

When my father returned from work in the evening my younger sisters blurted out to him that I was naughty and had hit a boy. He called and asked me. Being guilty I stood with my head bent low. My quiet admittance of guilt should have been enough but to dilute it I very foolishly lied that mother had already physically punished me. Later, when we came close my mother hugged me and said, “I did not hit you, did I? There is very rarely enough cause to lie. Today was not one of those times. Be brave and tell the truth. I love you.” As she talked, her hug became tighter. That incident has remained vividly etched in my memory to this day.

I am sure my mother forgave me instantly, but my guilt feeling has remained and I have prayed for her forgiveness a thousand times.

June 21, 2009

Wants and Needs

Wants and Needs

Early this morning I felt the invisible Spirit whispering in my ear.
She said, you have been watching the world with curiosity. You asked why this why that. You studied in world’s most prestigious schools and you even sat in the teacher’s chair and taught others posing as knower.

You started early in life and at 78 you are still looking. Why?
Answer is simple. Like the proverbial blind man you looked under a lamp in the street when the needle was inside the room.

So you ask, what to do now?

Well, go back and look inside the room.

Do you see much furniture and a locker full of gold and diamonds, while your brothers next door have nothing? Surely you were clever at the time of division. You also humbled your brothers whenever they mumbled the word injustice.

All other issues originate from your own house.

Did you eat a plate full of rice and sambar for lunch? Well that explains why the forest was cut then and is fast disappearing now. If you have eaten yogurt and drunk majjige you know why cows are enslaved and exploit.

If you drink milk and eat mutton, you know why there is overgrazing.

If you flush away your body’s daily gift for the soil and use water out of 15 taps in house, it should be easy for you to know why there is scarcity of water.

Your hunger for electricity will never be satisfied if you use it like the Americans or your rich neighbors. Your nuclear and conventional power plants can never satisfy your want. Regardless of number your solar and wind generators will be like a kilogram of grass to a hungry elephant.

It is needless to give more examples. The answer to all your questions lies in two simple words: wants and needs.

Know that your Wants are insatiable. If you keep chasing them you will soon destroy your entire support base.

Reduce your ‘Wants’ till they come close to your ‘Needs’. Keep them there. Do not wait for the neighbors to begin. You be the first to start. Know that this is the smart thing to do for your own health and happiness. Forgive and ignore those who call you foolish, for they know not what they do.

June 6, 2009

Three Major Benefits of Fasting

Three Major Benefits of Fasting

One, I get a chance to recognize and appreciate my immune system. It is the most wonderful gift I got at birth to protect my body from illnesses and injuries of all kind. Its value is immeasurable, power and wisdom supreme. It is impossible fully to comprehend it.

On May 21, 2009 as I turned 78 I felt deeply thankful for my first birthday gift. Because of it I am quite strong and healthy to this day. Without it I might have died years ago. I know for sure that medicines alone cannot cure. They can at best augment my inbuilt immune system.

Life gave me this gift for constant use. Doing that is the proper way to cherish the gift. Neglecting it by failing to use it is spurning it. It cannot make Life, the giver of the gift, happy. She can rightly think that the gift should be taken back because it is not needed. What that would do is not difficult to imagine for it happen everyday (as aids) right under our noses.

Two, the fast will exercise my immune system, cure my illnesses and tone up my body.

When I am sick I fast and rest. Body is freed from the task of digesting food and doing other work. It turns all its energies over to the immune system. I heel, cure, get cleansed of toxins in my body.

This is the natural way of healing and toning up the body. All animals practice it.

Three, I will abstain from thinking during fasting; remain silent and free to listen to the sounds of the body.

My mind does not control the inner workings of my body. It can influence what I put into my mouth. But once that is done the body takes over. Body has its own wisdom and it works in full freedom.

My mind eats memory turns it into thoughts and expresses them in words. It lives in stale past and loses touch with the fresh living present.

My body lives in the present and works with living Truth.

During fasting my mind slows down and my body speeds up its healing work using true wisdom of the universe.

May 23, 2009

True Sardarji Joke

True Sardarji Joke

A friend heard this true incident from a first-hand witness. She wrote it up and sent it to me. She knows that I strongly object to Sikh jokes but would like this one.

Here it goes:

A Delhi taxi driver picked up a load of four young men from Hyderabad. They were tourists and wanted to see different sights in the historic city for the whole day. The boys were in a holiday mood. They soon began telling jokes. One of them told a Sardarji joke and everyone laughed. Others began telling similar or worse ones. This went on intermittently throughout the day.

The taxi driver was a venerable middle-aged Sikh. This, the boys could not possibly have missed, for he had a flowing beard, long neatly bunned head hair, and a beautifully tied colored turban on his head.

The Sikh was so generous and kind that he did not say a word. It was surely partly because of his good business etiquette but also unmistakably because he was a thorough gentleman.

At the end of the day when the tour was over the boys were taken to their boarding house. Calculations were done, the boys paid up, and they turned to go.

The Sikh gentleman stopped them and said: “Young men I heard all your jokes. I know that many people do what you did, but many of your jokes were poor and, if I may say so, indecent. I do not usually make an issue of such foolishness. So I am not going to chastise you but I am going to do something that will enhance your education.”

The wise Sardar dug four one-rupee coins out of his packet and gave the boys one each. He then said, “I want you to keep these coins and give them to a Sikh beggar if you see one.”

The boys were stunned. They were also repentant. They took the coins and, after many months, still have them. For indeed, there are no Sikh beggars anywhere.

May 2, 2009

Supplement to “Five Day Fast”

On reading my March 28, 2009 story many friends wrote back expressing concern for my health. I appreciate it very much and wish to thank you all. Let me assure you that I am quite well. My body is as strong and energetic as before and it feels lighter and cleaner. My mind too is alert as usual. I also feel calmer and more at peace.

Let me share with you some basic facts about fasting:
1. Our body has strong inbuilt urge to live so it keeps a store of food and water for emergency. That is why we can live without eating for extended periods.
2. Fast for healing is voluntary. We are free to break it any time. In case of miner discomfort we may need only to drink coconut water or fruit juice and continue the fast.
3. Our body will warn us of any possible dangers sufficiently in advance. We would feel headache, fever, itch, twitch, pain, and a variety of other symptom. If we are alert, timely action is possible.
4. Fasting is known and practiced in all societies. In non-agricultural tribal societies people fasted for health and spiritual gain even for as long as 30 days. In the anthropological literature there are accounts of Eskimo spiritual seekers spending a full month alone in a small igloo built especially for them some distance from the village.
5. In the Indian society followers of the Jain religion practice fasting in various ways for long periods. I have never heard of anybody dying or suffering illness as a result. In fact almost everyone benefits. That is why the tradition has continued for more than 2000 years.
6. Millions of Muslims fast every year continuously for 28 days when they eat or drink nothing during the day beginning with sunrise and ending at sunset.
7. We know that all animals stop eating when sick. We too are their kin and have similar bodies. We learn many things from them. Fasting for healing is one of them.

However, if one suffers from some peculiar illness and is advised by their doctor to eat small amount of food frequently, such a person may avoid fasting until fit. Practitioners of modern allopathic medicine would normally not approve of fasting. But if one’s gut approves of fasting, I’d say it is okay to ignore the doctors. They do not know everything! Who does?

Hence, being time tested and widely practiced, fasting is safe. It is also free of cost and without side effects.

There is much more to say but there is no more space on this page.

April 11, 2009

Five Day Fast

Whenever I am sick with a major or minor illness I fast, sometimes for one or two days, but usually for three days. I do not run to a doctor nor take medicines of any kind, even those recommended by well meaning friends. I believe that my body has awesome wisdom and power to heal itself. To help the body to do the healing work I do a few little things such as; eat only fruit and vegetables for a day or two, change quantity of my diet, or find and eat proven herbs growing nearby. Sometimes I try just to obey my true palate and eat what it craves. But if the illness persists, I fast for 3 days. I eat no solid food; drink no coconut water or fruit juice. I drink only plain water and rest in bed. I avoid reading, talking, walking and physical work of any kind. Unless it is the middle of summer and I feel hot and uncomfortable I avoid taking a bath. Sometimes, when necessary, I just rub my body with a wet towel once or twice a day. For about 20 years I have done the above quite faithfully and have succeeded marvelously in enjoying good health.

My first healing fast was 8 days long. After that, for 20 years, my fasts have not been longer than 3 days. March 3rd 2009 I was going to start a 5-day fast. Despite my strong positive experience and conviction that fasting is good and fairly easy, I admit, I was apprehensive.

Monday evening March 2nd I ate a light supper of two slices of bread, some cooked veggies and a small helping of finely cut salad. The total amount was about 3/4th of what I normally eat. The thought of ‘no food for 5 days’ was big in my mind. One reason is that I like to eat. I have eaten foods of many cultures, and have liked them all, of course not equally. My wife never tests any of her preparations on me because she thinks I will say it is good even if there is no salt in it. She exaggerates, but it is true that out of respect for the cooks and appreciation of generosity I praise what is given to me. Growing up in a Punjabi family I learned to eat heartily. Till age 30 it did not show on my strong, trim body. But then a little paunch began to show. It was partly due to rich American food that contained lots of cheese and some meat. I had to reduce my intake of food slowly to about half.

Early morning the first day, March 3, about 5:30am I went out to my outdoor dry toilet. This is my normal routine. My stomach emptied with perfect ease and so completely that for the next 5 days I did not have to go to toilet. This, in my view, was a good beginning. I felt elated. The day began well with a cheerful mood. I rested in bed all morning getting up 2-3 times to drink water or/and to urinate. Changes in the timing of my toilet routine do not worry me for I trust my body to adjust in its own time the best possible way.

Early afternoon my mood changed for the worse. I began to have negative thoughts about fasting. ‘Why five days, why not just three or even one?’ ‘What is the need for it?’ ‘I am not sick.’ For all this I had only one good answer; I have not fasted for 7-8 months and it will cleanse and tone up my body. But the mind kept repeating its complaints till late in the night till I went to sleep. I slept well all night and woke up feeling rested, calm and so cheerful I took a short walk. I washed my hands and face, took some deep breaths and lay down.

Morning of the second day my mind was still bickering, but only half heartedly, for it knew I would not relent. But all kinds of unhappy past memories kept popping up. Most of them were of silly little mistakes I had made in the past. On top of it I was famished all morning. I was thinking of food and eating. My hunger pangs were real but towards the evening they began to weaken. I had several short and long naps during the day and by late night about 10:00pm I fell asleep and in the second night of fast slept like a log.

In the morning of third day I felt fine. My hunger was weak and my mind resolved. The day passed quite easily as I dosed most of the time. During waking times my mind kept hearing the goings-on inside the body. I have a small callus near my right eye. I felt it softening and melting. There were groans, heightened activity, slight pain, itch in different parts of the body. But there was no severe pain or discomfort. A couple of time I felt mild head ache and light fever but they did not last.

On the fourth day my mind was occupied with fear of two more long days of fasting and inactivity. I was not very hungry any more. Yet thoughts of food and its taste kept coming to mind. By this time members of our community were thinking of me with a sense of sympathy and anxiety. Ananthu ji’s mother, oldest in our community, came to visit me. She was happy to see me cheerful, but I could see that she worried over me. She told Sudesh and Gopalan that I should be persuaded to drink a tender coconut. Gopalan’s mother agreed and added her weight to the elder’s recommendation. Feeling the awesome strength of their concern and my heart’s secret desire, I succumbed and drank a coconut in the evening of the fourth day. This I had never done in my earlier fasts.

As expected, I was persuaded to drink another coconut in the morning of the fifth and last day of my fast. The coconut water tasted like nectar but I feared it might hinder the healing work of the body. It is difficult to tell, but it seems the body kept right on working as if no infringement had occurred.

At about 5:30pm I was given some steamed ridge-gourd, which I relished like divine food. At suppertime I ate a small helping of cooked vegetables. On 8th March I ate all three meals but in smaller quantity than usual. My stomach began to move like before the fast. My body strength returned to normal very quickly. I felt that my facial skin had become smoother, eyes brighter, and sight clearer. Also, I felt cleaner and a bit lighter inside.

The Gain This Time
Twenty years ago when I fasted for 8 days my intestines were thoroughly scrubbed. I felt that my digestive system began to work very smoothly. I was absorbing nutrients more efficiently and as a consequence needed less food. I felt lighter, cleaner and transformed. The good effect is with me to this day.

This time my gain is of a different sort. I came out feeling sedated. It was as if I had been given a dope. I was hearing less and often forgetting things. Several times in the last 20 days since I broke the fast I have sat at the computer and gone blank. For several minutes I could not know which keys to punch and how to move the cursor. I just walk away and come back partly recovered. I am then able to work. These blackouts still keep coming but they are fewer and with longer gaps.

I know for sure that my hearing power has weakened in the last 2-3 years, especially in the left ear. I often do not hear clearly enough to understand what message the faint words convey. But now dopiness is added to my hearing disability. It feels as if the sounds comes through a double filter.

This seems to be the effect of the fast. It does not alarm or frighten me for I think the change is most probably not permanent, but I hope recurrent. For the body is trying to rein the mind. It seems that I am being instructed to try to listen to the body, i.e. the gut, and not the mind all the time. This may sound like autosuggestion of the mind. But I look at it differently.

I know for sure that body has its own wisdom that it draws from the Divine Spirit. The two are directly linked. Mind works with memory, past, thought and its ego needs. It can decide to put wrong foods into the mouth, and indulge in myriad temptations of the world, but it cannot enter the body and directly interfere in its working. For inside the body the gut is the ruler. We seldom feel it because we can neither see nor converse with it. All of us get so used to hearing and learning through words that we become deaf to the ‘sounds’ of the gut.

My body doped and dulled my mind so I could turn my full attention to listening and learning from inside where the Great Wisdom resides. This language is subtle and without words. It works in quantum leaps and with composite bunches of related realities. Learning in this fashion is of a different, unfamiliar order.

I feel that fasting led my body to wield its mace to awaken me to itself. There were many clear messages and more keep coming every morning. I have no reason to think that this communication will not continue for every morning heralds a brand new day.

Here is a sample of my gifts from body’s wisdom. It teaches: 1.Learn to be quiet. For with words you can neither teach anything worthwhile nor change anybody. ‘Being an old parrot’ there is no chance that you will learn to say the right thing at the right time. But you can be quiet. 2.The world is okay as it is, other things being equal. As the Vedic Rishi said, ‘it is purna,’ (complete) given what came before to shape it. So, do not bang your head against stonewall. Just live by the gut and do the best you can. 3. Love all. It will smoothen your path. 4. Speak always the truth for it will simplify your choice making.
Gut’s teachings are simple and direct. They are just right for my weak mind.

Partap, 21st March 2009

Honey in the Comb

(My friend Nagrajan narrated to me two true first-hand experiences. I told you one last week. Here is the other. I am sure you will like it.)
A young man named Jugnu of the Solige tribe of south India was guiding a group of trekkers in the Nilgiri Forest. Nagrajan was one of the trekkers.

On a tall tree they saw a huge bee hive. It was very active with bees hovered all over it. Most of them were bringing nectar from flowers in the forest. This then is fanned to dry into honey. All the trekkers stopped and watched with fingers in their mouths. No one had seen such an active hive of this size. Some suggested that one of them should go up and bring some honey. The Solige guide told them that the bees would attack and can even kill. One needs appropriate skills to get honey from an active hive. He further told them that he knew how to do it. Hearing this everyone wanted him to climb the tree.

He hesitated but then agreed. With great skill he went right to the big active hive and stopped dead for several minutes. Then very carefully and with perfect calm he cut a small part of the hive with his knife and carefully wrapped it in his shawl. The bees sat over his face and arms but they did not bite him. Spirit of friendliness seemed to prevail between Jugnu and the bees. The bees who came to the tribal youth seemed to understand that he was a friend who would not harm the hive. So they did not hurt him.

So Jugnu brought down a big piece of hive brimming with honey. But it was only a small part, perhaps no more than a fifth of the whole hive. Many members of the group felt disappointed. A bold one among them asked, “Jugnu, why did you not take the whole hive, or at least half of it? Why let good honey go to waste?”

Jugnu seemed to be stunned to hear the question. He was quiet for a long moment. Then he answered: “For two main reasons, of course. One, I wanted to take only a small part of the honey for it belongs rightly to the bees. They worked very hard to collect it and will need it to survive in the lean season. And two, there are other claimants to the largesse of the bees-- the bears, monkeys and many others who have good fur that can provide protection from the bee stings.”

Jugnu also told the trekkers how beneficial the bees were to the forest and to all animals and plants. In fact the honey was only a minor part of what the bees gave us. They carry pollen on their wings and cross-pollinate all big and small plants. Without the bees the plants would be weaker and far less productive. Therefore, we adivasis are taught to be very gentle and leave enough for the bees. For only then they will survive to carry on their important service to the community of life. Also, we must take only the honey filled cells and not to destroy or harm any cells that have little babies in them. He then showed the trekkers what he had cut and brought down. The city youth were amazed and much impressed to see how careful and considerate Jugnu had been.

March 21, 2009

Birds and Animals Must Eat Their Share of Crop

My friend Nagraj told me this, his firsthand experience.

He was visiting a forest in the hills half a day’s journey from Bangalore. There he stayed with a friend. He noticed that one young adivasi worker slept in the field to watch the ripening crop from wild boars and other animals. Nagraj too, wanted to sleep in the open, under the forest sky. His friend discouraged him for he thought it might be too cold for a soft city man. Or, some big cat or a crawler may accidentally come and cause harm. But in the end he agreed to let him go out with the Jeyn Korubu boy.

The Korubu boy had skillfully made an 18” high bed with bamboo legs. It was wide enough for two, so Nagraj was easily accommodated. The bed was not even, nor smooth and soft, but Nagraj had no objection for it was out in the open. Lying on it one saw the lights of the night and heard sounds of the jungle. The whole vast sky with millions of stars was open to view all night. The experience was so thrilling that Nagraj went daily on all the days he was there.

One night both the ‘watchers’ fell asleep. First the wild boars and then other animals came to nibble on the juicy ears of the grain crop. The owner heard of the damage and scolded the boy. The lad did not say a word. Apparently he was not sorry, so there was no need to say a thing. The owner was unhappy, but he knew what was in the boy’s mind and he did not press the point.

Next night Nagraj asked the boy, “Clearly, you saw no reason to regret having slept. Why is that? Do you not think the owner has the right to demand safety of his crop?”

The boy was quiet for a while. He then said, “Whose land? Whose crop? Who’s right to eat? The birds will eat, then the animals, and what remains is our share. In my view birds and animals have the same right as my employer to eat what the forest has produced. All of us have the right to eat. No one has the sole right to food, for that would starve all the others to death. The forest then will be in danger of dieing.”

“But your employer owns the land,” said Nagraj.

“The Great Spirit of the forest owns the land. All animals including humans are children of the forest. We may live in it and eat its fruits, but no one can claim ownership. This is what we Korubus believe.”

Nagraj fully agreed and never forgot the words of the boy.

14 March 2009

Grazing Other Peoples’ Cows

In Indian villages and small towns people keep cows or buffaloes mainly to get milk for the family. During the day the animals are sent out to graze along the roads or in the open areas. Young boys serve as cowherds and they take ten to a hundred animals. . While the animals are grazing the boys often get together to play games or just chat. A popular topic of discussion is the animals. Knowledge of animal behavior is shared. They talk of the animals in their care as ‘my’ animals. Number is important, their looks and their milk yield are also features to talk and boast about. They compare ‘their’ cows with those under the care of others and brag. They often get into heated arguments defending their cows. Yet none of them own even one animal and probably never will. Sounds hilarious, rather silly, doesn’t it?

But on thinking about others and myself it occurs to me that we scholars and teachers act much like the cowherds. We interpret, defend and oppose ideas we have read in books as if they were ours. But they are never our ideas, as the cows do not belong to the cowherds. They cannot drink milk of their animals nor profit from their sale. Similarly we do not mould our lives by the good ideas. In fact many of us remain completely untouched.

For instance depression seems to be descending on us. Scholars cry hoarse about its nature and cause. They also talk of what needs to be done. But when we look at our lives we know that we are totally vulnerable. We will sink line, hook and float when the storm hits.

The ones who are likely to be least affected and to survive are the poor. They have never been to college. Nor have they read any books that theorize on these events. Their strength is the ability to adapt to the environment. When there is more, they enjoy it. In times of scarcity they reduce their consumption. Their suffering is minimal.

There is a moral to all this. We own only those good ideas that we live by, for only they benefit us. Others are like ephemeral bubbles thrown up by agitated water--here now and gone in the next moment.

December 6, 2008

Rati Ram talks of his life (III)

Rati Ram talks of his life

Rati Ram is alive and well. I meet him almost every morning. But he seems to have abandoned his earlier spot outside the temple. As I do my rounds walking the circular road around the park Rati emerges from one or another lane lead to the circle. I am sure he smells me and comes happily waving his tail. This makes me very glad and I meet him with both my hands going to his back feeling his condition. I get back more love from him than I give, every time.

I asked: Rati, why have you changed your place?

Rati: Oh, I still go to the temple in the morning and get my prasad (consecrated food) from the lady priest. She is kind but she does things as a set routine. She is gentle and devout to her divine symbols. I do not blame her for anything. Like most other humans she does things by the book. I do not feel attracted either to the temple or to her. So I change my spot without much thought. This is the right thing to do. It is nature’s own way: for when a leaf falls from the branch, air blows it away. After ions of time they reunite when both have disintegrated and returned to the elements.

I: Why do you keep hinting that we humans are a strange species? It sounds as if you think there is something wrong with us.

Rati: Not at all, I do not mean to judge any beings. But strangely you feel different. Most other animals and we dogs follow our instincts. Faced with new situations we use the intelligence of our minds. But you humans seem to live only by the mind and dead past. Even that would not have been so bad had you not closed the window to the living, refreshing, and moment-to-moment changing present.

Remember, the mind has limited reach. It labels chunks of experience. It sees them as separate. It divides and enumerates. Unchecked, it finally drowns us in numbers. On the other hand the Great Spirit sees everything as interrelated and one. It is okay to see divisions in our day-to-day world but we get into trouble when we shut the window to the truth of relatedness of things. As a consequence most of your inventions clash with environment. You seem already in deep trouble.

I: Philosopher, Rati! I am very impressed. How did you learn all this?

Rati: I appreciate your compliment, but all living beings are born with the wisdom of the Spirit. I have nothing special. It comes easily to my mind because I have been constantly pondering since I was thrown out of my human family.

I: I think you are being too modest, brother Rati. But thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Rati: My brother Partapji, I too thank you for talking with me.

Partap, February 28, 2009

Sadhu Ram and Most of Us

Some months ago I noticed a handsome young man of about thirty intently searching in the pile of garbage on the side of the main entrance to our Whitefield Park. I was curious. I watched him to see what he was looking for; in a moment it became clear it was food. He found small plastic bags in which people throw away breadcrumbs or cooked rice and vegetables. He picked them up, opened them and ate the food that appealed to him. His method of work was fast and efficient. His eye focused on food bags and his hand expertly picked them. It seemed he was aware of curious watchers but it was of no concern to him for he paid no attention. Very likely their glare made him uncomfortable but he did not show it and avoided eye contact. I later understood that his reason for working early in the morning was to avoid watchers.

I do not know his name, but I began calling him Sadhu Ram. I imagined him as a lovely baby and his parents lovingly giving him a nice Kannada name. The name I have given him is north Indian but it’s meaning is quite befitting and nice. Sadhu means a simple quiet social rebel and Ram is the Great Spirit in all of us as the animator. His real name probably ends with Appa as usual in Karnataka.

I began to be on the lookout for him and saw him every morning and some days more than once at different spots. He wears a shirt and pants, both at least two sizes too big. His shirt has about half its buttons gone and the pants have none. To hold the pants up he ties a string around his waist. His pants’ fly has neither zipper nor buttons, but since the pants are over sized one side overlaps the other and adequately covers his genitals. He seems concerned not to appear indecent even though he is unwashed and his long jet-black hair is beginning to become matted. His small beard is quite handsome but unkempt. It’s his habit to avoid eye contact with the strangers on the street.

I notice that he has settled down on the side of one of our main roads. The ground is loose mud and behind him is a row of small rarely opened warehouses. The winter here was quite chilly this year. Some kind person must have noticed that Sadhu had no bedding and must be cold. He would have given him a couple of blankets and a heavy sheet. He seems to be comfortable. To relieve himself he goes to a vacant plot near our house. It is overgrown with tall bushes to provide adequate privacy. I also notice that some people are bringing him food so that he does not have to scrounge garbage heaps.

I learned that one of his benefactors is a young lady who lives in our housing complex. She told me that she not only gives him food but also sometimes sits with him to give company. He seems to appreciate genuine friendly companionship but does not reveal anything about himself. One day this lady was coming back from her work about midnight on a motorcycle. Some street dogs started chasing her. They stopped her and started barking threateningly. She was scared out of her wits and did not know what to do.

Sadhu Ram was watching. He rushed to the scene and shooed the dogs away. The lady was relieved. She thanked Sadhu Ram and came home.

On three occasions I walked quietly behind Sadhu Ram. He was babbling. I did not understand because I do not know the Kannada language. But it was obvious he was talking out loud the thoughts that were coming to his mind. I do not have any idea how much of the time Sadhu babbles but the thought came to my mind ‘Oh, how like most of us!’ We do it quietly in our minds and some of us do it all the time. Sadhu Ram does it loudly and perhaps just a few hours daily.

February 21, 2009

Street Dog Rati Ram II

Last Sunday afternoon I went looking for Rati Ram. My eye sighted his back but I was not sure. I called. He turned around and came to me. I petted him on the back of his neck; he wagged his tail and was happy as usual. But I had questions for him so I led him to a bench and sat down.

I said: what happened Rati. I have not seen you for 4 days. Where were you? I was worried.

Rati: I missed you too but I imagined that you had followed a different path to come to the park. Once I went looking for you in the park. You had probably not come that day. I thought you had something more urgent and important to do. But what was there to worry? Friends sometimes have to walk their own diverse paths and fail to meet. This is quite normal.

I: But one can have an accident, get badly hurt, and even die.

Rati laughed: Indeed so, but it is foolish to worry over imagined accidents and hurts. When accidents happen we do the best we can. This is what our intelligence for, isn’t it?

I: Can you tell me the things you would do in case you had an accident? I, as you know, would call an ambulance and go to a hospital. Perhaps you can teach me an alternative.

Rati: If I got miner bruised and cuts I would find a cozy place, lie down and fast. I would heal enough in two or three days and go back to my normal routine. If I broke a bone I would also find a hiding place and try to set my bone if I could. After a few days of fasting and rest either my bone would be properly set or set in a wrong place. I would get up and hobble. I’d manage the best I could. But if my whole body were badly crushed I would lie down and welcome death. This in what I can imagine. You see, most animals and we dogs are not afraid of death. We prefer to die rather than to live as a cripple. Death offers deliverance from pain and suffering.

Accidents happen and Life teaches us to cope with them. I am sure I would not worry at any stage

I: So you do not fear pain and death.

Rati: No, I don’t. These are risks of life. Fear cannot prevent them. Worrying brings suffering even before the accident happens. I try to observe caution the best I can while I go about my business. That is all I can do I think.

I: Do you not make prior arrangements?

Rati: No, because every accident is unique and it is impossible to predict what it is going to bring. My immune system and the divine wisdom permeating my body are my protection. I will know what to do when the time comes. This is my experience all my life.

In fact Rati bhai (brother) our method has worked for us much better than what I have heard of your hospitals. Some people say that your hospitals give a lot of additional pain and suffering besides emptying your pockets. In our natural habitat we enjoyed robust health by depending only on our immune system and inborn wisdom. It is true even today. You might have noticed in some National Geographic programs how the skins of my wild brothers shine. They are full of vigor and confidence. I am a miserable wretch in comparison.

I: Thanks, brother Rati. Talking with you was very enlightening.

Partap Aggarwal
February 14, 2009

Street Dog Rati Ram

I meet him every morning outside a small temple as I go for my daily morning walk. The lady priest of the temple feeds and cares for him but apparently he is not allowed to enter the temple compound. During cold winter nights he sleeps huddled close to the temple wall on dry grass. But sometimes when it is not so cold he sits in the middle of the road. On seeing me, sometimes, he gets up and comes near. I pet him for a few minutes. He wags his tail to show happiness and goes back to his favorite warm spot. Sometimes he does not get up and enjoys my petting in sitting position.

Occasionally he comes walking beside me for some distance and then veers off. He is quite detached and does not try to cling or beg for more petting. Not even once has he asked me to adopt him. He has the wisdom to know not to attach to anyone too closely. A local person told me that Rati Ram belonged to a family for many years. For some reason they suddenly moved away leaving him behind. Rati Ram was mortally crushed by this betrayal. He learned a new fact of life that one must never assume that attachments of this world will last forever.

On rare days when I do not see him in his usual place I miss my friend and wonder where he might be. But I just follow my usual path. Suddenly I sense his presence, look back, and find Rati Ram trailing close behind me. We sit down to greet each other with more warmth than usual. It is quite clear that when I do not appear at my usual time Rati looks for me.

I have not seen my friend for several days and I miss him badly. I hope he is not injured or dead, and if he is dead I hope he left his body peacefully without pain. I must go to the lady priest and ask her. If she does not know I must look around for Rati.

I named my friend Rati Ram for I feel it suits his character. Rati is a tiny tree seed used by jewelers as their smallest weight for gold, and Ram is one of the names of the divine animator who enlivens our bodies. This of course is the same Great Spirit that permeates every atom and tiniest living cell. My street dog friend reflected the highest and the littlest in a beautiful blend. For he had the humility of a tiny Rati seed and was filled with love and patience like Ram, the Great Spirit.

February 07, 2009