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A Conversation Across Generations

by Dr. Sushil Fotedar

Yes, there he was! After so many years of fervent sms-ing and skyping he had decided to pay his prodigal great-grandson a visit. Yes, there he was, my great-grandfather, the muni of munis, the rishi of rishis, the great Kashyap Muni, knocking at the door of my modest two-room apartment. There was no mistaking his demeanour—the same glowing face, the flowing beard, the Chandan Tilak, the spotless white dastaar and the long Phiran with its trademark laadh. I looked sheepishly at my own dress. I was wearing bermudas and a T-shirt with an intellectual-sounding—“Hell is Other People”—printed across the chest. Cursing myself between the teeth, I thought
, ”Today at least I could have worn a Kurta-Pyjama .Why for God’s sake did I not remember?”But then it was one of those hot, sultry summer evenings of Delhi and I felt he would forgive this minor transgression of mine.”O, Hi Dadaji! Please come in,” I tried to sound informal, ”do make yourself comfortable.”Without uttering a single word, he looked across my drawing room and straightaway went ahead and sat on the Tsangij, that prized possession of mine which I had retrieved somehow from my since abandoned house in Srinagar and had brought out for this very special occasion.

“So, how is Bhagvan Shankar? And how is my dear Sharika Ma doing, ”trying to strike a conversation, I cleared my throat, ”She must be missing me a lot. And yes, how is the weather there in Kailash?” And then, I suddenly saw it all. He was sweating from head to toe. Having come in this attire, that too from the cold climes of Kailash Parbat, he obviously had not acclimatized to the hot conditions of Delhi as yet. Turning on the A/C I said, “I am really sorry Pitaji! But it will soon get better. This time in Delhi it is real hell, to say the least,” I tried to make him feel good.”Yes,” and he began to speak weakly,” It must surely be some corner of Raurav Narak, no doubt about that. In fact
before reaching this place I saw other Narakas too, which, if my memory serve me right, are not mentioned in our Puranas anywhere. There, I saw men raping women in automatic Rathas. I saw grisly scenes of bombs being blasted for no reason whatsoever and human limbs and flesh being strewn across these metalled paths,” he mumbled in obvious discomfort, ”But then what heinous sins have you committed to deserve all this? Surely, you must have forgotten what pains I undertook to settle you in my beloved Kashmir and whiled away your time in sinful orgies. This deserves an explanation dear son. What do you have to say?”

This was the occasion I was waiting for. This is why I had called him in my efforts to seek answers for my predicament.” Well dad,” I began in right earnest, keeping myself as clear-headed as possible,” it all began in the late nineteen-eighties and early nineteen-nineties. I was thrown out of Kashmir for no fault of mine or rather, for the fault of being a Hindu in a Muslim-majority area and thereby being a suspect in their eyes. I am despondent, nobody and nothing to look forward to, in an alien place and climate waiting for death to supervene.”Continuing in the same vein and trying to look as pitiable as possible, I added, ”My culture has been raped, my language has been destroyed and to add insult to injury, my history is being distorted to suit vested interests. Even my own countrymen, at least a good number of them
have sided with these anti-nationals for their own partisan interests. Under these circumstances, what am I supposed to do? What is my future? Pray, guide me in this dark hour of mine.”Having put forth my case as rationally as possible, I sat back looking at his face while waiting for an answer.

Grand dad kept quiet for a long time, gazing deep into empty space. He was sitting motionless with his spine absolutely erect, a result of thousands of years of Tapasya. And then, he began slowly,” Well, it is not that simple dear son. Let me start by saying that all great people, all great communities, are basically cursed. That may sound paradoxical, but that is the way it is. Don’t forget the Jews, the most cursed of them all and arguably one of the most gifted ones. Son, it needs the dialectical push of suffering to propel you to great heights. You are not one of those innocent, ignorant tribes of some forlorn island who wallow in the shallowness of their stagnation. Have you forgotten what one of the greatest sons of India, Swami Vivekananda said—‘Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached’. Draw inspiration from such people instead of pleading for crumbs before powers that be. Do also remember what he said in the same context—‘Faith, faith in yourself. Faith, faith in God. That and that alone is the secret of greatness.’ O, come on, don’t be a weepy-sleepy little boy lost in the woods.”

But, I was not particularly convinced. Moreover, I was conversant with this subterfuge of the so-called ‘positive thinking’, the panacea for all evils according to its proponents. “That is all fine on paper grand-dad,” I protested, “but what did I do that this tragedy should have befallen me ? I led and continue to lead a peaceful life without hurting anyone. Why am I being persecuted?” Trying to add fire to my arguments, I thundered,” Are my Gods dead? Like Nietzsche, should I be searching for their graves in broad daylight with a lantern in my hands? Nobody came forward when I prayed and prayed, shedding profuse tears of’ virah’ while my brothers were being murdered and my sisters raped.” Now I felt I had delivered the right, powerful punch in my strongly argued case and with a smug satisfaction waited for Pitaji to answer.

Pitaji now looked distinctly uncomfortable with my line of argument. But keeping his cool, he replied,” Do you call this fearful paralysis peace? Is laziness synonymous with Shanti? No dearest
, no! Look back and you will find people who wanted ‘peace’ but were basically cowards. Have you forgotten king Sahadeva, that lazy,despicable lump who simply ran away at the first sign of trouble, shaking in his underpants, leaving his beautiful intelligent wife Kota Rani and his poor subjects to the mercy of Rakshasas like Rinchin and Shah Mir ? Do not forget his hopeless brother Udyanadeva too. It is one of those sad chapters of your history how that courageous lady fought back before she was ultimately murdered. On the cultural front, read Kshemendra, who in his own unique style of satire describes the decadence that had set in our community centuries back. In a grotesque distortion of the esoteric Kaula practices, people had started to pass off their drunken sexual orgies as some sort of Sadhana. Ah, what a shame! Remember also that in not so distant past, you held the most learned people of your community, the Gurujis, in utter contempt and called them ‘gores’ with derision. I believe, the practice still continues in a covert form. Well, I am not here to point out your flaws, but I think some introspection is definitely needed. Even now, you deride your language, your own mother tongue, the Matrika of Koshur,a divine manifestation of Ma Sharika Herself, and are unfortunately ashamed of conversing in the same within the confines of your home even. Language is the hallmark of all cultural revivals and you have abandoned that almost altogether. Where are the great writers and linguists? Where are the original thinkers? Where are your leaders who can inspire? And, last but not the least, where are your saints? Sunny, they are the ones who are dead, not your Gods.”

The evening was slowly tapering into night and I was now feeling genuinely despondent . Pleading one last time with my great-grandfather, I asked him with great humility,” Yes sir, I am to blame a lot for whatever is happening to me at the moment, but being my loved ancestor, I beseech you to guide me in this rather darkest hour of mine. My Ma Sharika is mad at me, my dear Shankar is in some angry, introverted Samadhi, feigning ignorance about my misery, and my last beloved saint passed away with Laxman Joo . I feel like a motherless child. Please help me.” I was at the verge of tears now and dropping silent with folded hands, I looked up to him.

A long time, an eternity, passed off. And then rising gradually from his asana, he said cryptically,” Udhyamo Bhairavah,” and vanished suddenly into the elements. For a moment, I was dazed. Distant but clear voices were singing—‘Shaktisandhane Sharirotapattih’-- and filled with a new zest, I got up and looked around .The night was getting deeper and a new morning was not far off.

 

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