Onam Message – Celebrate Act not the Actor

Onam 2013 has turned out to be significantly different compared to the earlier ones that I have celebrated with friends and families in the past. A new insight as I was discussing with a lot of my friends who have contributed to my understanding of the festivities and rituals. A personal thanks.

Upfront a personal note

This may not be the traditional belief, but purely my take and hence pardon my ignorance in case of conflicts with my understanding – a word on what caused it would be highly appreciated.

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Our Chennai Days – With Sri Sukumaran and Family

While discussing with those who celebrate Thiruvonam (or simply Onam as it is popularly known) in a traditional way I could not help be awestruck realizing of the deeper significance of this Harvest Festival and the legend behind it.

Onam is celebrated over 10 days starting Attham (Hasta) Nakshatra in the month of Chingam (Solar Calendar followed in Kerala) and ends on Thiruvonam (Shravana) Nakshatra  (the 10th day) . It is also celebrated by some in the Coastal Karnataka with equal gaiety and pomp.

Mahabali was the King of Asuras, grandson of Prahlada, who despite being born as an asura was known as paragon of devotion to Lord Vishnu. Mahabali was brought up under the tutelage and guidance of Prahlada from whom he imbibed the qualities of devotion and governance.

Mahabali Visits Art of Living Ashram :-) Panchakarma Centre
Mahabali Visits Art of Living Ashram ūüôā Panchakarma Centre

During Mahabali’s reign, the kingdom never saw poverty, crime or any societal ills and hence revered by his subjects. But Asura that he was, was not considered trustworthy and his ambition made him expand his kingdom and becomes Ruler of all the 3 worlds – an Asura ruler was against the laws of nature. Devas approach Lord Vishnu for a solution and when Mahabali was performing Ashwameda Yaga, Lord Vishnu appears in the form of a small brahmin boy (Vamana Avatara) and seeks to fulfill his desire as promised by the King during the Yaga. Upon which the righteous Mahabali offers to fulfill any demand that was placed by the boy who demands land covered by 3 steps. ¬†Despite warnings from his Guru who foresaw disaster and had a vision that it indeed was Lord Vishnu who appeared in this form to deprive Mahabali of all his belongings. But Mahabali who valued Maana (Honor) even at the cost of his life told his Guru: “I should be the most fortunate one as the Lord, who gives everything to mankind, is seeking something from me.” So saying he offered to donate the Three steps that the brahmin boy sought. Vamana then grew in size so mammoth that one step covered the entire earth, the next the whole of Heaven and there was nothing left to claim for the 3rd step. ¬†Mahabali the man of honor did not hesitate to offer his own head in lieu of land. Vamana steps on his head and sends him to Sutala, the heaven of Patala (the netherworld)

Lord Vishnu also appoints him as the King of Netherworld and also position of Indra for one Manvantara. Mahabali who loved his subjects very dearly also seeks Lord Vishnu to allow him to visit them once every year. And it is this visit that is celebrated as Onam.

The festivities includes ceremonial welcome of Mahabali on the first day. Clay idols painted red (called Trikkakarappan) to which all the harvests are offered first thanking him for the Gift of abundance showered.

Trikkakarappan-Representing Vamana (Mahabali too)
Trikkakarappan-Representing Vamana (Mahabali too)

Maveli nadu vaneedum kalam,
manusharellarum onnupole
amodhathode vasikkum kalam
apathangarkkumottillathanum

(When Maveli ruled the land, All the people were equal. And people were joyful and merry; They were all free from harm.).  On the last day of Onam (Thiruvonam), the clay idols are immersed in sea/river with a prayer to Mahabali to return next year.

An essential part of the fesitiviy is laying out of the now famous & renowned flower rangoli called Pookalam. Some pictures below, the way we celebrated with friends

In Nasik - With Mr. Thomas (yes, it "was" secular)
In Nasik – With Mr. Thomas (yes, it “was” secular)
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In Chennai – With Sri Sukumaran & Family

Traditionally each day the Pookalam gets bigger and the 10th day was the grandest one.  And this in itself was an enjoyable ritual for children, thanks to friends who celebrated it traditionally.

And then business part (for me) of any festival the famous, Onam Sadhya (Onam Feast)

Enjoying the Feast - With Sri Sukumaran
Enjoying the Feast – With Sri Sukumaran
Feast Next Year - With Sri Sukumaran & family in Chennai
Feast Next Year – With Sri Sukumaran & family in Chennai
The Sadhya... More items to come.
The Sadhya… More items to come This are just the sidies ūüėČ

Other associated rituals and fesitivities include Pulikali (Tiger Dance), Thiruvathirakali (Women dancing in honor of Lord Shiva), Kummattikali

Now that the fun part is done, for some deeper significance (May not be politically or even religiously correct but this is what the festivaal held out as learnings for me)

This festival is the best example of Sanatana Dharma tradition – Even an Asura who is a true Bhakta (devotee) is venerated – Goes to show that it is not the “Who” that matters but the “What”. Being an Asura did not preclude him from being worshipped, his virtues were recognized and aspired for. Which by extension also means there is no concept of Sinners – only people who commit acts of sin. Love or hate the “Act” not the “Actor” It is a value that I alway cherished & forms part of my introduction in the “About” page

Secularism was an essential part of our Festivals. It was all about revering and honoring the nature. Even the Mahabali song (in red above) indicates the Secular character. Bharateeya Sanskriti never talks in terms of ¬†“Tolerance” but in terms of “Acceptance” (A bane these days? I tend to think so). I celebrated Onam with Mr. Thomas and family in 1993 while living in Nasik. Not sure if the radicalized society that the state has become, still allows him such niceties

Idols made of clay (I was told it is traditionally made from the soil for the fields that sustains their livelihood) is honoring the land that gives us everything and the immersion of the clay idol finally is to signify whatever we take has to be restored back to nature.

WISHING EVERYONE A VERY HAPPY ONAM

PS: In the Mahabali picture is Sri Praseed an ashramite and an ardent follower of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji of The Art of Living 

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Two over a Score – Still Going Strong

When it all Began...
When it all Began…

As someone said “Silver Jubilee” is a big chunk of time in anyone’s life and hitting a major milestone which is a part of it,¬†en route¬†is significant. You may forgive me for my own sense of astonishment that with all my quirks¬†my marriage with Aparna has raced past the “22 years Old’ sign. I have no hesitation to acknowledge with deepest gratitude that this memorable journey was garnished and sweetened with Founder of The Art of Living , Pujya Gurudev HH¬†Sri Sri Ravi Shankar‘s infinite and unconditional blessings.

Over the years
Over the years

Archies or Walmark couldn’t stock a card on their shelves to let you know how much I feel grateful for just being in our lives. So I ventured to make an attempt myself.¬†Can I really describe it in mere words how special she is to me.No! My mind went blank and otherwise rich vocabulary appeared inadequate . This is a result of ¬†countless backspaces/del buttons (my 17th Edit version is what has got published, says WordPress stats) as I was pretty sure there were better ways to appreciate & acknowledge what this amazing lady Aparna¬†meant to me.

She Drives the Cart of Our lives
She Drives the Cart of Our lives

Friends and well wishers definitely congratulate me on the momentous occasion  but they recognize and give all the credits Aparna for this (rightly so). On the Financial year end, 31st March of 1991 at 12:21 pm when she walked on to a Mantap of a Wedding Hall in Dharwar, she never dreamt what she was getting into, but by God,she did win every single battle for us (me and children) and help us leap over every single obstacle, softening the landing absorbing al the pains, if any.

Many hundreds of my friends, their families and their friends, Children’s classmates and their parents would gladly testify the unbeatable and irresistible warmth of her hospitality – all this made commendable simply being a wonderful mother to 2 demanding children and a fussy “Me”

Thanks to her, we as a family couldn’t help but simply fall in love with her over and gain, every moment as she brought out the best in us. She definitely cannot be classified as being expressive in her love and but never once has anyone who has come across her, escaped her dragnet of love. That is Aparna for you.

The Extensions....
The Extensions….

On each birthday of my daughter (incidentally she was due on March 31st, on our wedding anniversary but missed it by 2 days to arrive on 3rd April) РMy wish to her always, Grow up to be like your Amma, the one who is radiant and absorbent of light (not a stealer, I mean) and you will make me the most happiest father in the world. To my children I just always ask them to emulate the dignity of her ways and strength in her demeanour. And she is not the one to miss a single pulse, emotional upheavals or even a mood change and as always has a remedy that lightens and secures the environs.

She has been the core of ourexistence, and when I mentally step out, sit back and look at everything that she stands for, It is Pure Awe!!! At a stage in my life I couldn’t but help become passive recognizing the inspirational grandeur of this Woman and more my Friend than wife, Aparna I only thank the Divine for gifting me a soul mate who never once in this journey of 22 years made me feel alone.

All those moments above...
All those moments above…

No tribute is complete till I acknowledge her brilliant culinary skills – with almost any ingredient she has this ability today convert it to a Kingly meal – I have to say she has come a long way since 1991, when she did not even know that water is needed to cook rice in Cooker – on the days when I couldn’t cook it was always delicious Mosaranna (Curd rice) which was our staple diet.

Happy 22nd Anniversary Aparna, and Congratulations (and Kudos) for having made this possible. I (and Children and our friends) love you more than I have possibly written here. Thanks YOU for whatever you are.Love you loads and have a fantastic day! Wishing that we celebrate many many years of this day for ages to come¬†and cross the 25 and 50 milestone (Yeah Brace up for the challenge ūüėČ

If the Divine were to offer me a boon to change something in you, I would forgo that boon and continue to have you just as you are (except maybe requesting you to give that one extra serving of Ice-Cream or Panner Butter Masala)

We look up to you...
Where at you looking at? In fact, We look up to you…

With loads of love

Aparna

Here is the Song, a favourite of yours (for Old times sake)

Diye Jalte Hain Phool Khilte hain

Diye Jalte Hain, Phool Khilte hain,

Badi Mushkil se magar

Duniya main Dost Milte hain

When a group of close friends (See last pic ¬†below) asked me to write this piece (of course giving their own 2-bits to add to my half-bit), I could not but help hum the above number (a famous Kishore-da song from Namak Haram). Without too much of an ado…¬†Here we go, addressed directly to that Special Person….

Aparazzi-00

Do we call you a best friend? No way. You are beyond ranking in a scale of “Worst to Best” ¬†Though there could be many adjectives to describe you, it would be gross injustice to you since our vocab fails miserably. Looking beyond the Wren & Martin Grammar but borrowing from it – it is actually the “Verb” that defines this wonderful feeling that you bring into our lives. So many things that you “Just do” is simply defines you.

For a moment imagining the unimaginable – had we allowed things to run a natural course, do we have even noticed our existences? I guess not and today, we can emphatically state “it is a cinch that it would have been a great loss”. But destiny and of course, His Holiness Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Art of Living had His own Divine plans for all of us.

Aparazzi-06

Those moments of Trials and Tribulations, some very challenging and some not so much, those moments of Euphoria when we achieved our goals (call it surpassing the goals) – Parse them grammatically and we always had a common and only “Conjunction” which is “You”

Keeping the team mood upbeat ¬†during setbacks, ¬†to raise the performance pitch, to overcome them – Result : every one of us have a proud Bio-data which has no bullet point with ‘Setback’ against it. This is what you managed in “your” small ways.

Seen Not so Friendly Version of  this too
Seen Not so Friendly Version of this too

On the other side too, ensuring that we keep our fleeting, floating feet firmly on the ground during those Euphoric moments was another of your virtue. Reminding us quite often than not, that Job is not over yet, and Euphoria just as setbacks like everything has to pass. Salutes to this incredible sense of Equanimity, not often found around us today. Another of the plus with you, it was not your viewpoint or mine, it by and large has to be the larger world’s viewpoint (or alteast as much as one can)

Another Perspective - Not always what seem straight to us
Another Perspective – Not always what seem straight to us

Foodies, that the gang is, we cannot forget those literally “relishing” moments – the various restaurants that we all ate out- those loving and painstakingly picked items that you chose for the gang from the menu – done with amazing grace. While we struggled with those exotic names on a-la-carte, here you were – the Connoisseur who ensured our taste buds got a treat like never before.

A special mention for being available with your supportive shoulders through the think and thin, with a tissue of empathy to wipe tears of insult and disappointments. In the short span of our lives and even shorter span of being together, you have just been there “unconditionally”, a thanks would be gross injustice and out of place.

For many Appy, Aparna, Aparazzi, ¬†knowing you we are sure¬†you must have touched 1000s of people’s lives and each has their own way to identify you, but for a privileged few of us –¬†it was and is the joy of you being

Just You

Moments to Cherish - Well Deserved
Moments to Cherish – Well Deserved

Thanks a million dearest one for being part of our lives. Love you loads for just what you are.

Wishing you a very happy birthday –¬†For someone very very special, May your Birthday be blessed with everything God wants to give you! Not everyone is lucky enough to have someone as special as you in one’s life… We’re a lucky few! May beauty and happiness surround you today and beyond. We hope your Birthday is awesome, wonderful, full of love and laughter… just like you! Our prayers that there are so many more to come and each better than the best before.

 From
From rest of us to the 1st person on Left
From rest of us to the 1st person on Left
 ||Jai Gurudev||
 

PS: (Parting Shot) from Ashwin: Some would think I am crazy because you are just my Pug ūüėČ ¬†in simpler terms you are my pet who deserve a Hug ūüėČ ūüėČ