Short story: Happy Diwali to Sulekha and her pet dog

This time of the year was most awaited by the people of Bharat Nagar. Diwali brought in a new vigor and energy all irrespective of age and ethnic differences. As the festival was just a couple of weeks away, the shops and roadside stalls started displaying Diwali related items like diyas, rangolis, kandils, firecrackers decorations, etc. The shops selling clothes are also ready with latest materials.

It was just a matter of 1 or 2 days when people would throng these shops and stalls. It would appear as if they have received parole from the drudgery of everyday life. It’s that time of the year when students would forget the burden of their studies while working individuals would stop cribbing about their bosses, although temporarily.

However, life wasn’t so hunky dory for the 65-year-old Sulekha and her pet dog, Marco, who are put up in the busiest locality in Bharat Nagar. She has been staying alone with Marco after her husband passed away eight years ago. Her two daughters, who are married abroad, hardly check on her. But that is not the reason why she is gloomy these days.

Diwali-KandilSulekha has been an asthama patient since last few years. Her situation aggravates due to air pollution. So, needless to say, her asthama reaches higher level each Diwali through the rampant use of firecrackers. In other words, her need for the asthama pump increases during the festival.

Worse, there is no escape from the situation. The few relatives with whom she is in touch are based outside city. Her house is just above the chowk that sees the maximum crackers being burst. As most of them are burst at night, she can’t go anywhere thanks to her old age and knee problem.

Her life situation doesn’t hamper her jolly mood though. In fact, she is the most calm, peaceful and humorous person in the locality. This is all the more reason why very few people realize what she goes through during Diwali. There are times when taking the pump isn’t enough and she feels she might not make it to the next morning.

With so much suffering, it was never a Happy Diwali for her, although she sends and receives numerous Diwali wishes on What’s App. The celebrations at her place are next to none. She hardly ever bought anything for Diwali in recent years despite the shops being so close to her building.

But she doesn’t suffer alone. She has Marco for company. His only mistake is that he is an animal (not for Sulekha though). Most of us are aware how nightmarish life can be for animals when crackers are being burst around. But then, we turn a blind eye to this fact.

Hence, every Diwali, when people around them are in a celebratory mood, Sulekha and Marco tolerate the worst period of the year. They just hope to get rid of this ‘festival’ ASAP.

The feeling was the same this year. Just 10 days for the the festival, people of Bharat Nagar had thronged the shops and stalls while Sulekha and Marco sat at the window thinking about the challenging times ahead. It was difficult to say whether the dog was low because of his master feeling gloomy or whether he actually knew that Diwali was round the corner.

Sulekha switched on the TV to divert her mind. The loud mouthed news anchor was screaming out at the top of his lungs that the court has banned firecrackers during Diwali.

After years, she was seen excitedly buying decorations and kandils for Diwali the next day. Marco was wagging his tail besides her as he was happy to see his master happy.

Suddenly, it was a Happy Diwali for Sulekha and Marco this year.

By: Keyur Seta

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Janmashtami special: When the world saw Krishna v/s Krishna battle

We have read and heard a number of stories and incidents from Lord Krishna’s life over the years. But there is one instance that surprisingly hasn’t become well-known like other legends of Krishna. In fact, I too came to know about it just recently.

There once came a moment when the world saw a battle of Krishna v/s Krishna. Let’s know about this story as the festival of Janmashtami (birth of Lord Krishna) is almost here.

Paundraka was the king of Pundra. He was the son of Krishna’s father Vasudev’s sister Shrutadeva. So, he was Krishna’s cousin. Paundraka started thinking very high of himself after continuously receiving humongous praises from his ministers. They even stated that his greatness was comparable to Lord Vishnu.

Shri-Krishna-with-Sudarshan-ChakraHowever, at that time the glory of Lord Krishna was in full flow. Paundraka had heard stories about how beautifully Krishna had built the city of Dwarka and was hailed by his followers as the incarnation or avatar of Lord Vishnu.

This, obviously, made Paundraka jealous. Hence, he declared that he is the actual avatar of Vishnu and has arrived in the world to destroy evil. In other words, he is the real Krishna and the one ruling over Dwarka is fake. Paundraka decided to wage a war against Krishna, finish him and prove to the world as to who is the actual avatar of Vishnu.

Through some powers, he grew two more arms and carried a mace, conch (shankh), sudarshan chakra and flower in them, just like Vishnu. He sent a message to Krishna asking him to either surrender and accept him as the real Krishna or fight a war. Krishna laughed at the message and decided to go on the battlefield against Paundraka.

Krishna entered the battlefield with his brother Balram (one version also says that Krishna went alone). After a fierce battle, Krishna finally defeated Paundraka with his Sudarshan Chakra.

I wonder why a story with components like identity crisis, conflict and action hasn’t acquired fame. The tale, however, was portrayed in Director Chandrakant’s Hindi film Krishna-Krishna, which released in 1986.

Book Review: Don’t Believe In God Till You Experience Him

The title of Mukul Kumar’s Don’t Believe In God Till You Experience Him gives an idea that the book is a non-fictitious account of someone’s realization of God or almighty. However, that is far from the case. It’s a fiction novel which may be based on the author’s personal experiences to some extent. It portrays an extraordinary journey of an ordinary and poor village boy.

The story starts in the yesteryears in the small town of Rajgir in Bihar, India. Mukul is born in a joint family that is poor and constantly quarrelling. His mother is his father’s second wife. In those days, one was allowed to have more than one wife. She goes to Patna to continue her studies after marriage. Mukul also goes to stay with her to complete his education. Despite coming from a poor family, he scores very well in exams. He is hailed as a bright student.

Dont-Believe-in-God-bookBut once he enters college, he gets spoilt in the hostel life despite the strict atmosphere. He somehow manages to pass class 12 but doesn’t clear a single competitive exam to enter a premier engineering college. Mukul starts working for it and appears next year. He finally makes it to an engineering college. But at this moment, his life takes a sudden and unexpected turn. His perception and meaning towards life goes through a complete change.

Don’t Believe In God Till You Experience Him keeps you guessing about its main story for quite long, which isn’t a bad thing. The preface at the start appears more interesting later because almost 50% of the content, which follows, is poles apart from it. So, you keep wondering when the preface will find a place in the main plot. Although there are moments in the latter half of the book where the story drags, the final conclusion is impressive.

The book throws light on the menace of fake Godmen. But I personally could also relate to it from the point of view of politicians and their blind supporters.

The narrative is the major drawback here though. The book isn’t a fast read because the writing isn’t engaging enough. On most occasions, it appears bland during important turns. The balance between simple and rich language isn’t maintained. It tilts more towards the former thereby making it too simplistic. Also, few details about the protagonist’s everyday life could have been avoided.

Overall: Don’t Believe In God Till You Experience Him is worth reading due to its storyline.

Rating: 3/5

Author: Mukul Kumar

Review by: Keyur Seta

Price: Rs 275

Cover: Beautiful image of a sanyasin walking into enlightenment, although it’s quite similar to Hidden Road To Lifemanship by the same publishers

Pages: 265

Publishers: Leadstart Publishing

Book Review: When Life Turns Turtle

By: Keyur Seta

When Life Turns Turtle is a spiritual fiction novel by author Raj Supe. It tells the story of a 38-year-old Bollywood filmmaker Indraneel. He has had a successful journey from theatre to movies. His latest film, Strugglers, made with newcomers, has become a box-office hit. However, Indraneel’s personal life is going nowhere.

After going through a bitter divorce with Chitra, he gets involved with a struggling actress Avni. Unfortunately, life continues to betray Indraneel. It is at this point that his best friend Arunodaya advises him to visit Rishikesh and try treading on the spiritual path. Indraneel hesitantly agrees. But will this have any long-term positive effect on Indraneel’s life? Will he ever find peace?

when-life-turns-turtleWhen Life Turns Turtle basically falls in the self-discovery zone. But it actually goes much further and deeper than most of the stories on this theme. It provides a wake-up call that fills you with delight. Its impact is hard but at the same time gentle. Normally, books of this genre are only meant for those who are into spirituality. But this one goes beyond the target audience simply because any grown-up adult, especially from urban cities, would relate to it.

The initial portion is interesting. But the book gets fully into the mode once the story shifts to Rishikesh. From here on, it just keeps enlightening in a delightful way without being preachy. As Indraneel goes about his life in Rishikesh meeting and interacting with different people, you feel as if you too are present in the Himalayan town witnessing the discussions. But what gives you a terrific high is the climax and the events leading up to it.

Supe achieves such favorable results by keeping simplicity quotient in mind, even while explaining concepts that are mostly considered complicated. Be it in the overall plot, narration and the definition of characters and their distinctive psyche. The author provides a lot of information to the readers through interesting conversations, without making it sound non-fictitious.

The only weak point here is the length of the book. The story could have been told in much less than 468 pages.

Overall: When Life Turns Turtle is a delightful spiritual journey that forces you to introspect the life you are living. The book also has the capacity to appeal those who are not much into spirituality, provided they are okay with the length.

Cover: Peaceful scenario with light, pleasant colors. Perfectly goes with the theme.

Rating: 4.5/5

Author: Raj Supe

Publishers: Leadstart Corp

Pages: 468

Price: Rs 399/-

Book Review: Bhakti Sans Religion

Author: Mallikarjun B. Mulimani

Publisher: Leadstart Publishing

Price: Rs 150

Pages: 138

Rating: * * * ½

Review By: Keyur Seta

 
Is money enough to guarantee contentment? Can you achieve peace without faith and love? Is it necessary to have a religious tag to attain spiritual enlightenment? How important it is to forgive ourselves?

Author Mallikarjun B. Mulimani has explored these questions in his spiritual novel, Bhakti Sans Religion. The book is more like a pleasing ride that enlightens and overwhelms you and at the same time, keeps you engaged.

It tells the fictional tale of two individuals from diverse parts of the world. Hailing from the US, Christine is a lawyer who is deeply in love with her profession. Her super successful stint in the legal world is dream-like. But deep inside there’s a void that needs to be filled.

Bhakti-Sans-Religion
Picture: Leadstart official website

Rudra’s rise from extreme poverty to the high ranks of corporate world is almost miraculous. But his life is far from perfect. Destiny brings Christine and Rudra together. Will they find answers to the serious questions lurking in their minds?

The title of the book, Bhakti Sans Religion, sounds too philosophical. That is not quite the case with the content though. Of course, there is enlightenment and the exploration of a lot of deep questions. The manner in which faith and love is created in two individuals is convincing. People from urban areas who are only involved in work would surely be able to relate with the tale.

But the book can also be enjoyed by those interested in fiction and are not much into spirituality. The fast pace and the very short length makes it appealing to a larger audience. Although the character of guruji is that of a spiritual preacher, he is entertaining. What’s also pleasantly surprising is the romantic angle, which is truly heartwarming.

However, the following points fall in the negative zone:-

– The story of Christine in the first 38 pages is narrated too hurriedly. The author should have been more elaborate during the important life events of the character. Also, in these portions the writing is too simplistic at times.

– It’s good to have shorter books in today’s era. But this one should have been at least a bit lengthier. Elaborating Christine’s story would have helped in this aspect too.

– There is slight lack of conviction on a couple of occasions (can’t reveal much to avoid spoiler).

Overall: Bhakti Sans Religion has its heart at the right place. It’s an honest, well-intentioned saga that is enlightening and heartwarming.

Short Story: What is the true meaning of worshiping God?

By: Keyur Seta

People worship various Gods in various ways. There are innumerable theories and beliefs as to how to worship God and what pleases him/her the most. Some go through various austerities while others believe in saying a silent prayer for few seconds. But what exactly is the meaning of true worship? What pleases God the most?

Have a look at the following two scenarios and decide for yourself:-

1)

Mr X is a super-rich industrialist, living in the plush Cuffe Parade locality of south Mumbai. His family, which consists of his wife, two kids and mother, has access to all the luxuries one could imagine. His kids go to the most expensive school in the city. Buying new clothes, gadgets, accessories and what not is a continuous process for them. His family just needs a reason to throw parties that cost lakhs of rupees.

Mr X’s family is also very religious. They have a chamber in their apartment where they perform religious activities twice daily, without fail. His family religiously follows and celebrates all holy days and festivals as per the religious calendar. They are also seen embarking to holy places at least 4-5 times each year. Needless to say, they spend a bomb in religious activities too.

2)

Swami-VivekanandaLiving in the Girgaum area of south Mumbai, Mr Y hails from a simple middle-class family. He is a bank executive in a bank while his wife works with an insurance company. Naturally, their income falls in the average category. Their only child goes to a normal private school. Although Mr and Mrs Y believe in God, they aren’t ritualistic. They hardly visit places of worship and never go for holy trips.

Despite the fact that they don’t earn handsomely, the couple has been saving money since a year to contribute to the needy farmers of the Marathwada district, who are committing suicide due to drought and debt. They also involve themselves in various social issues selflessly whenever they get a chance.

So, the question arises as to who exactly is worshiping God here? Family X or family Y?

You decide.

Actors Nana Patekar and Makarand Anaspure have been selflessly working towards the cause of farmers of Maharashtra. They have been contributing from their own pocketss despite not being rich. They have started an NGO called NAM Foundation.

You can contribute any amount that suits you by following the following method:-

Send in your amount to “NAM Foundation”

SBI Current account no. 35226127148

IFSC Code no. SBIN0006319

SWIFT Code no. SBININBB238

 

“If a stray dog of my country remains without food, my religion will be to feed and take care of him. All else is either non-religion of false religion.”

“He who sees Shiva in the poor, in the weak, and in the diseased, really worships Shiva. And if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary.”

– Swami Vivekananda

Shani Shingnapur Row: Why April 7 was a landmark day for Gender Equality in India?

By: Keyur Seta

The scene of Trupti Desai and other women activists entering the inner sanctum of Shani Shingnapur temple was pure delight for those who care about gender equality in India.

Weeks of relentless protests despite police and administration brutality have finally paid off. After 400 long years, women were finally allowed inside the inner sanctum of Shani Shingnapur temple. The so-called trustees had to finally bow down to the dedication of protestors.

Shani-ShingnapurDespite the law being equal for both and the recent Bombay High Court order assuring the same, women weren’t allowed in the inner sanctum due to some atrocious and chauvinistic beliefs (not tradition). But the theories of sexist bigots are finally kicked out! Seriously, throwing away a practice as old as 400 years is a terrific achievement.

April 7, 2016 was a landmark day for gender equality in India. A big salute to all those women who kept on fighting. For the uninitiated, Desai and many others like her have been protesting near the temple against such discrimination. Despite brutalities from police, administration and chauvinistic villagers, they didn’t give up. Seriously, many of us would have.

But the road ahead is still very long. There are countless self-proclaimed dharam ke thekedaars aka sexist bigots and their so-called theories that still are against women visiting certain religious places, despite no law or religious text stopping them. The Trambakeshwar Temple in Nashik and Mumbai’s Haji Ali dargah are few such examples.

However, there has at least been a start. May this be a stepping stone towards complete gender equality in India.
Watch women devotees entering the inner sanctum after 400 years:-