My SCRAPBOOK (సేకరణలు): A COLLECTION of articles in English and Telugu(తెలుగు), from various sources, on varied subjects. I do not claim credit for any of the contents of these postings as my own.A student's declaration made at the end of his answer paper, holds good to the articles here too:"I hereby declare that the answers written above are true to the best of my friend's knowledge and I claim no responsibility whatsoever of the correctness of the answers."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Morphine for the mind

A five-year-old girl battling cancer clings toAR Rahman’s melodies for comfort and healing. 
Nikhila Natarajan

 There’s no particular reason that I write this today, just that two long and cursed years of chemotherapy are timing out for my five-year-old daughter Niharika. From the day her treatment began in Chennai’s Apollo Cancer Hospital, Rahman’s music has been morphine for her mind, where she has fought her lonely battle — lonely because cancer pain is unique in its ability to wreck you.
And, like degrees of pain, there are many genres of great music but in the worst of times — and it’s always bad with chemo — Rahman is the only fix for us. His music lifts Nika up where she belongs, she takes wing and escapes the present, the catheter in her chest, blood draws, chemo, anesthesia, syringes and the lingering yuckiness.
On the night before Deepavali 2010, Nika, barely three-and-a-half years old, was diagnosed with acute leukemia, the kind that can kill in six weeks. You can never have your backpack ready for this enemy. In a daze, I gathered some clothes, money and entered a world that smelt funny, the kind of smell that doesn’t let you eat. Leaning over the steel bed’s cold frame in Room 1335, I dug into the music bank in my head and sang to Nika my Rahman favourites. With white hospital walls closing in on us and only memories of a charmed life lived on the playgrounds of America for company, the stage was set for a certain kind of music. “ Oru deivam thantha poove ” and “ Arziyaan ” kept us going for 45 days, Nika pulled through. “Congratulations, she is in remission. This kid has a lot of fight in her,” said Nika’s oncologist, Dr.T. Raja.
I have heard Rahman’s songs in every city I lived: New Delhi, Noida, Bangalore, New York, London, marvelling at how a simple tune turns achingly beautiful, barely out of reach. But I was listening from a place of ordinariness, where guys from the blood bank wearing a starched white and white uniform, like a bad joke, are not struggling to find a vein that works at 4 a.m.; I lived the life of just about anyone in Banjara Hills and Adyar, heard “ Chinna Chinna aasai ” in 1992 and knew a genius had arrived but it takes a kid on life’s edge to tell me that great music is like being able to call God on his mobile phone.
Which God, by the way? Ha, ha, gotcha! The travelling Ganesha in my jeans pocket, I say; Jesus says Nika’s daddy; Nika’s blood is a cocktail of donations from Muslims, Christians and Hindus. Rahman’s devotionals silence all faltu religious noise. Nika’s every physical experience goes by the name of a Rahman melody. “ Chale Chalo ” makes her believe she can stand on a broken leg, like Jaden Smith in The Karate Kid , and hit back. Zubeidaa ’s “ Dheeeme Dheeme ”, Guru ’s “ Ae Hairathe ” promise Nika that her hair will grow back, life is good, “ Nila Kaigirathu ” reminds her that an oil lamp burns bright for her in her grandmother’s house, “ Roobaroo ”’s recklessness sets her free, “ Jashn-e-Bahaara ” gives her peace.
Some days, the nausea sucks so much, Nika is unable to even look at food. When dextrose and saline begin trickling through her veins at 30 ml per hour and “ O Paalanhaare ” or “ Khwaja mere Khwaja ” play in the half light of a hospital room, Nika wills herself off the couch and dances in slow circles, one palm facing upwards, like Hrithik Roshan in Jodha Akbar ; that is what Rahman means when he says that music is a spiritual exercise. For lack of a better word in English, it’s an ehsaas .
Nika is often on an empty stomach for hours before chemo and fed up with the grind. “Don’t talk, just put on ‘ Luka Chuppi ’,” she orders me from the back-seat, as I drive on auto mode through familiar back roads to Hopkins. Nika is 5, the Hindi she knows is from my random conversations, but she understands this song’s each cadence and octave, she practises it tirelessly and when she gets it right where the tune changes she is no longer a cancer patient, she is a rock star.
In the middle of all this came radiation to Nika’s head. For days, we drove out of home when it was still dark, Nika running on empty, the car on a full tank. “I want song number 27, ‘ Rang de Basanti ’,” she would say, getting into her car seat. Something about its beat and rhythm appealed to her immensely during the radiation phase. “ Thodi si dhool meri dharti ki mere watan ki, thodi si khushboo baurai se mast pavan ke… ” How did I land up here? I think. America, Johns Hopkins, leukemia, chemotherapy, radiation, driving, driving, driving… “ Yuhin chala chal rahi .”
Two-and-a-half years on, the promise of a healthy life is within reach. Jai ho, Rahman bhai. Nika’s healing, like your music, is the hand of God. Ella pughazhum iraivanukke .

(Magazine, The Hindu, 27:01:2013)

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Shed your blues, retirement is a new dawn!

T.A. Venkateswaran

  "If every beginning is a summit, then every summit is a beginning.”

I could not recognise him. Was he the same person who was walking with a regal gait? Wherefrom has this awkward ‘sickle bending’ come about? Where is his authoritative voice and why is he meowing meekly? He looks run down, as if struck by a fiend. How could a week or 10 days diffuse a man’s personality unrecognisably?
A common friend told me that he has been this way since his retirement. Pathetic. A glorious academic record and brilliance at work become meaningless the moment you hang up your boots? But then, this is the harsh and embarrassing reality of many who become a bundle of nerves; forlorn, and willingly get sucked into a vortex of self-pity as they become out of place in their own sweet home.
If you observe deeply, you will understand that they are so because they do not know what to do with themselves.
People who mistake responsibility for power are disillusioned immediately after retirement as official designations disappear and, all of a sudden, the crutches have left them.
No one is at your beck and call anymore. Yesterday, they were all singing your praise but today, they find it difficult to recognise you!
From today, you have to contend with several harsh realities like creating residence proof, being given a sit-up by the unlettered bunch in a cooking gas agency, the horror of unconfirmed tickets and being the first choice to fetch milk sachets in the morning to escorting grandchildren to the school and so on.
Welcome to the reality which you have refused to see so far; smart you thought you were, cloaked in an official position. This disillusionment and the ensuing shock and sadness are noticed even among the mild-mannered, well meaning, and enviably genuine people.
In this very world where millions of people do not have a morsel of food, you, with all your retirement benefits, look sad, which is bad indeed. Come! Let us get over this self-inflicted malady.
As one who embraced this so-called retirement a decade before it was due and is leading an active life of joy and peace, it would not be inappropriate for me to share a few personal learnings:
Do not die before it is due: 
“Weakness is death.” Anything that weakens us and weans us away from our original nature of ceaseless joy must be shunned. We are here not to be lost in unjustifiable gloom but to radiate cheer and happiness. Just get up and walk in the glorious sun that illuminates everything with its golden rays.
Understand health, stay healthy: 
Health is not just related to the body. Physical health is achieved by eating, exercising and resting responsibly. Emotional health is obtained by associating oneself with some fine art or the other. Listening to good music is the easiest way to sublimate the raging emotions. Music is a magic wand that converts raw emotion into revering devotion.
Intellectual health depends on the company you keep and the books you read. Keep company with children and the wise old. Artless grace, beaming in abundance in the face of a child, disarms us instantly. A child is fascinating because it reminds us of the innocence we have lost under a heap of information that we mistook for knowledge.
The secret behind the success of all great achievers is this: They never allowed the child in them to grow up. Even at the height of the Second World War, Sir Winston Churchill would have his “do not disturb” luxury of half an hour, to read his favourite comics! And, seek the wise old who have walked the path before us and are ready to share the lessons that they have learnt in their long and interesting journey.
Family, the fulcrum:
 A captain is only as good as his team. You are what you are, thanks to the unrecognised support of your family. Spend quality time with them at least from now on. Compensate for what you missed while rearing your children, through your grandchildren.
Spirituality, the great reality: 
Everything is material — the world, life, body and even dream — but we are essentially spirit that is free and pure. “All human beings are originally and ultimately divine.” You become divine when you discover you are divine. You arrive there by casting aside whatever is not you. Anything that binds, blinds and constricts is not you. Your body, mind and intellect are not you but are yours.
Realisation is nothing but constant remembrance of the truth. Spirituality begins where religion ends, though it does not have any quarrel with formal religion. Spirituality is above morals though it cannot have any conflict with morality. For anyone who is serious about it and earnest in its pursuit, not only are its doors ajar but it becomes an ever growing, everyday reality.
Soul is not an invention but the greatest discovery. It is not a thing to be located but a reality to be realised.
Begin simply. Pray every morning and evening, for the welfare of the nation, the well-being of your family and friends and for making your inner journey smooth. “Prayer lends purity. Purity gives strength to prayer. This is how great things are achieved.”
Really, life begins only after retirement. Take a walk! The winding road is waiting for you!
( The writer’s email: )
(Open Page, The Hindu, 27:01:2013)

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