They were busy celebrating Holi. What happened next will melt your heart… (Short story)

By: Keyur Seta

“Will it be Happy Holi for us this year?” The six-year-old girl with two ponytails asked her mom in a sad tone. The mother was dying to answer in the affirmative but she couldn’t lie. All she could do was caress the little one’s head. She tried hiding their helplessness through a fake smile, not sure whether it would work… It didn’t. Her husband didn’t know what to say.

Few hundred kilometers away in Mumbai, a group of college kids were having the time of their lives at a Holi party in a resort in the Juhu area. Water was flowing almost as freely as air. Although their bodies were drenched, they were asking for more, with the ear-splitting DJ music taking them further into a trance.

Each one of them had planned the day long ago. They were lucky enough to be there since one was required to book in advance, despite being ready to shell out a huge amount. This was inclusive of Bhaang or liquor. There were some in the crowd who were crazily high despite not having taken any of these substances.

Marathwada-drought
Picture: Saddahaq.com

Just then, something out of the blue, took all of them aback. The water stopped flowing. Loud sighs and abuses were being heard. After making some enquiries with the staff, they realized that it was due to some issue between the resort and the municipal corporation of the city.

But the youngsters were not ready to take any of this. The abuses continued. “Such a flop Holi this turned out to be,” said one. “It’s terrible,” said another. A loud voice was heard, “It’s not a Happy Holi anymore. It’s unhappy Holi.”

Few hundred kilometers away in Marathwada district, a woman was seated under a banyan tree. Its leaves had dried off due to the terrible drought. But it had enough to protect her from the scorching heat. It was yet another day her family would be forced to live without water; rather survive.

With wells drying off, they were solely dependent on water tankers provided by the government, which arrived once a week. It was scheduled to come that day. But unfortunately, the villagers were been given a shattering news that the state transporters had gone onto a strike. There would be no water.

The woman knew that the rest of the country would be busy wasting water in the name of Holi while wishing each other, “Happy Holi.” Before the bad news was broken, she had told her husband, “If we get a decent amount of water for our basic use, that itself would mean a Happy Holi to us.” But that was not to be.

When the three of them were sitting helpless, her six-year-old daughter with ponytails asked, “Will it be Happy Holi for us this year?” The mother was dying to answer in the affirmative but she couldn’t lie. All she could do was caress her little one’s head. She tried hiding their helplessness through a fake smile, not sure whether it would work… It didn’t.

She looked away from her child as she couldn’t bear the sight of her dejected face. Just as she turned away, her eyes fell on the faraway road. The scene instantly brought a smile of relief on her face. She turned to her daughter and said, “It is a Happy Holi for us.”

As she lifted her up and walked towards the road, the tanker came nearer. The strike was called off just few moments ago.

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When Ramakrishna monks recited Bible on Christmas eve…

By: Keyur Seta

Christmas Eve is an important occasion at all Ramakrishna Mission centers across the world. It was on December 24 in the year 1886 when Swami Vivekananda, then known as Narendra Nath Datta, and his brother disciples acquired monasticism (Brahmacharya).

Ramakrishna-Mission-ChristmasThey later established the the first Ramakrishna Mission center at Belur in Kolkata, named after their Guru Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. The place is known as the Belur Math. In other words, Swami Vivekananda’s mission towards inspiring and serving humanity began on Christmas Eve.

Therefore, every Christmas Eve is celebrated in a unique way at every Ramakrishna Mission centers. Catholic Priests are specially invited for the occasion.

The scenes were the same this year too at the Mumbai math. As per the scheduled rituals, the event started off with Jesus Aarti. This was followed by the recitation of The Holy Bible by Swami Mukteshanandaji. After a speech by Swami Sarvalokanandaji, Father Philip D’Souza gave a discourse on Christmas and the need for harmony.

Lastly, Swami Kamalakantandaji and party sang Christmas Carols and the closing song.

Merry Christmas to one and all 🙂

christmas-ramakrishna
Jesus Aarti during last year’s celebrations

 

Book Review: The Rozabal Line


Rating:
* * * ½

Review By: Keyur Seta

Even before the halfway stage in The Rozabal Line, you realize that Ashwin Sanghi’s knowledge about various religions, conspiracy theories related to some religions and other global issues is simply outstanding. This coupled with his amazing writing and storytelling skills make The Rozabal Line a roller-coaster theological saga, despite some glaring issues.

The story takes place across continents and time zones. In 2006, Father Vincent Sinclair, an American Priest, starts seeing weird visions after a tragic incident. His aunt Martha helps him decode them through her knowledge of Indian spiritualism and mysticism. Swakilki, a young and beautiful Japanese woman, has been serially killing people across the world. She is following the orders of Alberto Cardinal Valerio, head of Crux Decussata Permuta in Vatican City.

Picture: Flipkart
Picture: Flipkart

The Lashkar-e-Talatashar, an arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, has vowed to create havoc in the world. Ghalib, their leader, and his 12 subordinates have planned something dangerously sinister in the year 2012. Their fate has striking resemblance with Jesus Christ and his 12 Apostles. How these unrelated characters cross paths forms the rest of the story. The book also explores the theory of Jesus’ connection with India.

Like all good thrillers, The Rozabal Line keeps you hooked from the very first page. As the story moves back and forth, from the period of B.C to 2012, it not only increases your excitement but it also gets you in awe of Sanghi’s vision, imagination and knowledge. To narrate your tale in 100 different time zones and various places is a mammoth task for anyone. Plus, Sanghi’s smart mixture of rich and simple language further helps the cause.

Reincarnation is a major ingredient in the story. But it should be noted how the author has presented that aspect in a practical and mature manner. In fact, after going through the reincarnation process mentioned here, you might laugh at how Bollywood has presented this subject.

But The Rozabal Line is far from being truly superlative. Although the climax provides a spiritually enlightening feeling, you realize that various subplots, characters and incidents were unnecessary. Even the basic aim of the tale appears unclear. There is an overdose of information, which is confusing and difficult to keep track, especially since the focus keeps moving through these many time zones. It makes us feel as if the author wanted to flaunt his terrific knowledge.

Having said this, there are enough reasons to grab The Rozabal Line if you are a lover of thriller novels.

Author: Ashwin Sanghi

Publishers: Westland Ltd.

Pages: 346

Genre: Theological Thriller

Original Price: Rs. 295 (Reduced rates on Flipkart & Amazon.)

This beautiful video will force you to question everything around you!

It is said that a picture speaks a thousand words. Going by this logic, a moving picture should speak many more than thousand words. This holds true at least for the video below. It is a fusion footage from movies Samsara (2011) and Baraka (1992). It will force you to question everything that the world and we ourselves are doing in our lives.

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See it for yourself:-

Ecosystem calling, answer now or regret forever!

By: Keyur Seta

Picture: FB page 'Wake Up World'
Picture: FB page ‘Wake Up World’

Ever since our childhood we have been told that we should respect, protect and conserve nature. Many of us have started believing in it more ever since terms like Global Warming and Climate Change have come into being.

But after attending a five-hour session titled ‘Philosophy of Ecology’ at New Acropolis (Mumbai), I have now literally started worshiping nature. It was pretty much the same with others who participated in the session.

The seminar dug into the deeper aspect of ‘Ecology’ and what we humans have reduced it to due to various reasons, including greed. But unlike most seminars or lectures, this one was more practical and interactive. Hence, the participants took back with them a lot of things rather than just attending and forgetting about it after it’s over.

Highlights of the session:-

Baraka Movie:- The video below shook us. It is a footage from the non-verbal movie Baraka. It shows the true, raw beauty of nature in various forms and later focuses on how we have destroyed it through our greed, materialism and consumerism. The mesmerizing visuals transforming into something so brutal is heartbreaking even for those who aren’t nature lovers. Then what to say of the people gathered there? A lady vowed to give up non-vegetarian food after witnessing the process through which chicken is produced.

Here is the video:-

Composting:- An entire process of Composting was practically presented. For those who don’t know, Composting is a process through which fertile manure is produced from sheer garbage. The fertile compost can be used to grow your own food. To learn Composting, visit an organization called ‘Dirt’ by clicking HERE.

Process of Composting (Picture: Acrd.bc.ca)
Process of Composting (Picture: Acrd.bc.ca) Click to Enlarge

Solution to Global Warming:- We should plant as many plants as possible on our terrace. There are innumerable buildings in a city like Mumbai. Just imagine the positive effect on the environment of high number of plants on lakhs of terraces in Mumbai. This will help fight Global Warming, although at a minor level.

Native Americans:- One of the themes of the seminar was that to solve the problems of today by looking back to the past. To explain this, information and insight on Native Americans was presented.

Here is its summary:-

  • They worship nature diligently.
  • From their teachings, it is evident that they learnt about destruction way back 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution.
  • They believe that nature holds all the aces.
  • Pregnant women were sent to forests where she would give birth to her baby all by herself. It is believed that a baby born through such a process will be strong.
  • They give names to children after nature.
  • They firmly believe in giving away what they have. In case if a person becomes possessive about something, he is said to be weak.
  • As and when they need to hunt an animal for food, they plead in front of it to let them consume it. The remains of the animal are respectfully buried.
Native American (Picture: Imageblogs.org)
Native American (Picture: Imageblogs.org)

Chief Seattle’s Letter:- Chief Seattle, who was the Chief of Squamish Indians, wrote to the America in 1800 explaining why nature or land should never be bought and how they see God in everything. This letter will undoubtedly move anyone. Read it HERE.

Here is a gist of other important points presented:-

  • Animals eat only as much as they require. Hence, they don’t have problems like obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, etc.
  • Sun consistently arrives each morning, come what may. He is an ideal example of consistency.
  • “Know yourself, only then you will know the Cosmos and Gods.” – Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece.
  • Symptoms of any issue can be treated. But to heal, one needs to go to the root of the problem.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – M K Gandhi.

Book Review: Ramayana: The Game Of Life – Shattered Dreams

Author: Shubha Vilas

Rating: * * * *

Review By: Keyur Seta

Shattered Dreams is the second book in the six part series Ramayana: The Game Of Life by author Shubha Vilas. The first book, Rise Of The Sun Prince, succeeded in narrating the early childhood of Lord Rama in an enchanting manner (read its review HERE). The author has continued the good work in the second book. This time, Vilas has also overcome the challenge of presenting sad and serious turn of events with so much optimism and pleasantness.

The story commences when Rama is 25 years old. He is married to Sita while Laxmana is married to Urmila. Ayodhya is going through its happiest period until King Dasharata, Rama’s father, starts seeing disturbing dreams. Worried and anxious, Dasharata hurriedly organizes Rama’s coronation as the new king of Ayodhya.

Picture: Amazon.com
Picture: Amazon.com

However, Dasharata’s dream is shattered after Rama, Sita and Laxmana are forced to go into exile due to the trick played by the evil Kaikeyi, who dreams of seeing his son Bharata on the throne of Ayodhya. Will Dasharata be able to bear separation from his beloved Rama? Will Bharata accept the throne presented to him through treachery?

Rama’s exile is looked upon as a sad incident and rightly so. But the author has presented the episode and its consequences in a positive and hopeful light. Of course, the reader does feel sad by the turn of events but Vilas’ idea of looking at the positives even in a super tragic situation moves your heart.

The character traits and wisdom of Rama, Sita and Laxmana largely help in this. But in the end, you are most awestruck by the wisdom and humility of Bharata. Normally, Ramayana is more about the greatness of the divine couple and their servant. But after reading Shattered Dreams, the youth, its target audience, will consider Bharata equally great. His love, respect and devotion for Rama will overwhelm you long after finishing the book.

Talking about the language, Vilas has continued from where he left in the first book. It is a smart example of rich language that resorts to utter simplicity. This ensures that the book will be an easy read for English literature lovers as well as for those not much into English reading. Except for few dragged portions before the exile, the pace is fast throughout. The gripping drama peppered on every situation makes sure you are always glued.

Now, some minor issues. Going by the story and events focused, the book shouldn’t have been 387 pages long. The theory that a woman should worship her husband and should always be dependent on him shouldn’t have been glorified. The series is written for today’s youth, so such regressive, patriarchal ideas should at least have been limited. The words of wisdom at the end of the page are inspiring and enlightening. However, on few occasions, that portion is too long.

Overall: Shattered Dreams is a must read for mythological lovers, especially if you have read the first book in the series. It provokes anticipation for the remaining parts.

Details:

Publishers: Jaico Books

Genre: Mythology

Pages: 387

Price: Rs 350 (available at discount on Flipkart)

Book Review: Ramayana: The Game Of Life – Rise Of The Sun Prince

Author: Shubha Vilas

Rating: * * * *

Review By: Keyur Seta

Ramayana is one of the oldest Indian epics that is popular world over. So, obviously, the people of India have been hearing the greatness of the tale and its legendary characters from various books, elders and teachers, if not from a television series or a movie. Since we already have acquired so much of information about the epic, do we really need another book to retell us the same story?

As far as author Shubha Vilas’ latest book on Ramayana is concerned, the answer is in the affirmative since it throws light on numerous incidents that most of us, especially the youngsters, won’t be aware about. The book Rise Of The Sun Prince is the first in the series of six books under the title Ramayana: The Game Of Life.

Talking about the story of Rise Of The Sun Prince, it portrays the chapter Bala Kanda from Valmiki’s Ramayana. It begins before the birth of Lord Rama and covers the events until his marriage with Sita. It extensively throws light on the life of the great Sage Vishamitra.

Picture Source: http://www.shreshar.blogspot.in
Picture Source: http://www.shreshar.blogspot.in

The purpose of the book, as stated by the author, is to retell the glorious epic to the modern audience of today’s era. The writer succeeds in the task fairly well largely due to his language that is rich but at the same time simple and easy to grasp, even for people from vernacular mediums and across age groups. His smart use of the conflict element further helps in creating a number of intensely dramatic moments. The words of wisdom at the end of almost every page further enhance the content. This section along with the entire book is full of lessons and messages that are relevant today and will be forever.

But, as stated above, the novelty in content with regards to various events is a much bigger plus point. Along with incidents related to a number of characters, this is because of the importance given to the story of Sage Vishwamitra. In fact, he is the central character of the book instead of Lord Rama. This might come as a complete surprise but this aspect is fully justified due to the fascinating, inspirational and soul-stirring story of one of the greatest sages.

A number of incidents related to the life of Vishwamitra become the high point of the book. Some of these include:-

  • His conflict with King Dasaratha over taking Rama with him to defeat demons Maricha and Subahu.
  • Him being mesmerized by the expression on Rama’s face.
  • His grave enmity with Sage Vasistha and its dire consequences.
  • His painstaking efforts to achieve the title of Brahmarishi.
  • The final outcome of his enmity with Vasistha.

But along with numerous plus points, the book also has its share of few minuses. These are:-

  • Epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata are full of miraculous events, some of which are difficult to accept by the modern rational audience. Since the book is meant for them, few incidents should have been toned down. For instance, a group of armies being thrown out of the various parts of the cow’s body and even from her cow dung becomes a bit too much.
  • Rama and Sita are shown to be impressed only by each other’s looks. In fact, the writer has again and again emphasized only on the physical aspects of both the characters instead of the numerous great qualities they possess. This makes it appear as if they share mutual lust for each other rather than love.
  • I don’t quite agree with the idea of bringing out as many as six books to tell the story of Ramayana. Three or four would have been enough. However, I would be glad if the author manages to bring out the remaining five books with similar engaging content and proves me wrong.

Overall: Shubha Vilas’ Rise Of The Sun Prince is an enjoyable and intriguing read for the lovers of Indian epics.

Details:

Author: Shubha Vilas

Publisher: Jaico Publishers

Genre: Indian Mythology

Pages: 211

Price: Rs 250

Additional Feature: 32 page preview of the next book in the series titled Shattered Dreams and 5 page Appendix about ’24 Qualities That Make A True Hero’.