Light our lamp
We are not born to live in darkness, as we are the source of light,
Many have come before us; many more will come as our progeny.
This universe is full of dark energy, an ever-expanding dark matter blight,
The forces of light and darkness are engaged, in this eternal cacophony.
Many eons ago we were entrusted to carry, this torch of light high,
The ancient king came back to our kingdom, having defeated the dark force.
Victory over demonic evil, with the people lighting lamps with a sigh,
As we meditate inwards, we realize that we seek only truth’s source.
Our mind roams free, let it seek again, the eternal truth,
Our joy is not outside, it springs from deep within our imagination.
We are not the realized beings, we are only seekers of the path,
Rise again in our life’s purpose and act, spark the light that will not die.
Gather around you kindred spirits and help us fan the flame,
Of an eternal love of life and liberty, in darkness do not lie.
Earth is our home, and the sun our giver of light and fame,
Always strive to light our internal lamp of light, and may it never die.
Happy Diwali 2020
We have just gone through a tumultuous American Election, in tough Covid times. I am not political and can only speak as a senior citizen, fast approaching retirement age. Just like other Baby Boomers, I am just one of many millions, giving up perfectly good paying jobs. We are growing old and planning to finally retire. Each year more of us are hanging up our helmets, or our boots; and dreaming of drinking, those tall drinks, with small umbrellas. We dream of the shadows of the dancing couples, on the warm ocean’s sands, as the music plays on. Such dreams are of course currently on hold, as the pandemic sweeps across all the continents of our Earth.
The new administration is coming up with a scientific task force, to focus on containing the virus, in the US. Decisive action should result in some mitigation; of its spread, as winter approaches, and we stay indoors. We hope that with a vaccine and the strict measures we will be able to survive this winter. It would be criminal for us, to allow our American Flag; to continue to fly at half-mast when we are capable, of tackling this disease. We must act sensibly and follow the ground rules or die. It is as simple as that.
When you become a hermit in your own interest, you will many hours to introspect. This is the best part of this Pandemic as I am amongst the lucky few. I have withdrawn from social contacts, but not from our earth. I take long walks and enjoy sights of my surroundings, which I would have missed otherwise. I have worried about my nest egg that I have managed to save over my lifetime. I do not like high volatility and wild swings in the markets. I am not in this market to make money anymore but just want to conserve my capital and make a healthy return to live. I love my walks and surroundings but this worry about financial markets continues to nibble, at my nest egg.
My faith in America is that we will rebuild our trust. We will invest in our infrastructure and the base of America again. Education will be highly valued once again and not just be highly priced anymore. Let the elite have their Ivy’s, but the multitude will have free Community College. Our High Schools will be great again and our Colleges will become, the envy of the world. There is a change coming in the air, as it will be equal opportunity for all. No longer will race, color, gender, orientation stand in the way of where you study, live, work or love. Opportunity and justice will be there for all and we the people will once again take up the task of building our nation. There is no Red or Blue State we are after all just The United States.
Everyone who wants to go to College, will be given an opportunity, to peruse their dreams for 2 years of Community College after finishing High School. This will be a huge inflection point in our history as education has always been a unifier and an enabler for our people. In the past few centuries America has continue to embrace immigrants and mold them into the American Spirit. People do not invade America to steal its valuables, they come to steal its spirit. We are stronger as a united human race, than when we are divided along narrow slices of race, gender, religion etc. Our Faith is still strong in humanity and we encourage increasing empathy. We are good human beings and love our neighbors, and want to work together, for all ours benefit. Exponential growth is only possible, when millions strive, for a greater purpose, of becoming better humans.
My nest egg has suddenly become safer with the new sunrise. I feel as if things have stepped off the hamster wheel. Look at this tree with its golden leaves, providing a canopy for my nest, and the blues skies above, on this small tree. This is the compact, we have made to ourselves in this Great Society. We will provide for our Seniors, and our elderly, through Social Security and Medicare. These are solemn promises and need not be casually broken. It is hard to provide for our society but not impossible, there are better ways, to growth and prosperity, than cutting back on programs, for our most needy. The markets will be just fine, and some of the largest corporations will still call America home. The economy will continue to grow, and I strongly believe that the best years of America are still ahead of us. I am delighted to see our bright colors emerge again brightly, in the Fall 2020 elections.
Fall of Covid season has arrived, as the flowers change; as we await the winter, and our fate in isolation. We live in uncertain times, and the pandemic is not showing any signs, of abating soon. Humans race for the vaccine, or preventable measures; to stop the spread, of this miniscule virus. Our Earth will go on with its seasons, and its flora and fauna will adapt, and the laws of nature will remain in force. Ignorance is not bliss, we have to awaken our inner beings, to the joy of this existence. Even in our isolated state we can reach inwards and try and find the peace and calm of our being. Each of us has our own destiny and hope and faith. Let us not cheapen our outlook but still strive to be the best.
Learn a new skill, do a few good deeds, learn to live with yourself and those around you. Life does not get any better than this, so enjoy whatever you have. This way when life gets back to a new normal, we will have learnt what we truly desire; and what we are truly capable, of achieving ourselves. With this hope we can then improve the lot of others around us and make an emphatic effort to better humanity. Learn so we can teach, Study so we can understand falsehood or Maya, Work so we can implement the change we need. We are capable of so much more when we unite our efforts, so prepare in this time, learn from nature. The season will change, and the new shoots will come out, we just have to be ready to ride the next wave, walk under the Cedars or Firs, swim in the lakes, hike in the mountain trails. Teach our children well, as they must learn to protect nature, just as it protects us.
Life is for living, and good action arises from good thoughts. Keep good company and do noble deeds with others. The more you give away, the more will be returned to you, as nature is a cornucopia and it gives and gives. We must be ready to open ourselves to receive our universal gifts, and not limit ourselves by sex, race, religion, or class. Free ourselves in this isolation, so we are only elemental and human, and then do our best. Our internal attitude change will change our life, and Our world, so we must work hard on our introspection and learning!
Every single living being has to face his\her\its time’s end, we will all; eventually have to face, our Life’s Sunset. To those who dwell on such philosophical wanderings, I say good luck to you; as mine is a simpler path. I look at the Sunset, and its reflection; and its wholeness, in fact I am often mesmerized, by what I see. Each moment in time is linked to this eternal flow of time which we partially experience. The rest of the experience is not what we gather from our senses alone as it is mystical bordering on exuberant. There exists a vast beauty, as nature paints our Universe; in mutations of color, in an otherwise Dark existence. I stare at the dark shimmering reflection, of the day that is passing, and the night; which is fast approaching, in each of our lives. Go boldly into this night, as life is not to be feared, but to be lived fully.
This Summer season has come and gone, yet the heat rises, in CA, as the forest fires burn the Giant Redwoods, we made into National Parks. I am sure that in a few centuries, a new Gigantic Redwood Forrest, will emerge, as it is Nature’s way, of reviving itself. We just have to get out of the way, as forces of climate change need to be tamed, not encouraged. Complete refusal of use of fossil fuels, is not possible for decades ahead. Eventually we must find an abundant source of energy through fusion, or other means unknown today. Renewal energy and its storage will be the next revolution as we head for an energy independence, and more freedom for humans. With abundant energy alone, does the power for us to enjoy, inter stellar travel is possible for us to find new homes, away from Earth..
Look again at this small lake, as it reflects our universe, in its sublime beauty. We should welcome a clear reflection as it shows another version of reality, a mirror into another existence. We live here and now, and this is our world. We are trapped in this time and place, of our own choosing. Even the shadows that we see, will disappear again, in the light of day, ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace, from day to day.’ Awake from this lethargy and find again, that center within oneself. Strive for its enlightenment, as that is the only purpose, we have in this life. To find the jewel, in the lotus of our heart; ‘Om padme namoh hum’, we meditate internally, so the outside, also becomes us or we become it. We have to become the ‘Ratnadhatamam,’ or the one who attains, the jewel of knowledge; and compassion, for all our fellow companions.
For those who still need a defined path then devote yourself to Health and Education, of our next generations. They are our future, and we must nourish our portion of Earth, on their behalf. We must leave everything, at the least, as we found it; if we can’t improve, on the general human condition. Steps taken towards making others healthier, as in the case of the current crisis, or towards up skilling our labor force, for meeting future challenges, is important. We have the capability to plan ahead, we can literally write our own future, through enabling actions, in our community. The only lesson that I can provide in my humble experience, is to face up to Life’s Sunset, we must act, as if there is no tomorrow. Our life should be a dedication to truth, compassion and love; a vision of light, leading us away from darkness. Oftentimes, we find that the reflections of our minds, look better, than the original experience. Expect less, and life fulfills us, in its own way. Look up and see how it paints our heavens, to fill us with hope, of an even better tomorrow…
There within the darkness, of the fading light,
Under the dark green shade, of the overhanging trees,
Lay the lake and its quiet waters, dark beyond the light,
Two sentinels stood, one on either side in white, in the breeze.
Yet the joy for this day is not yet complete from the skies,
In a burst of color, Blushing cloud will save us, from mediocrity,
In this drab life of limited choice, spring new wishes like fireflies,
In the reflection below the blush is mine, in my mendacity.
The sky has been painted by an impressionist in purple color,
The waves below have erased the memory of the sky’s imperfection,
In this moment who is this observed and who is this observer,
This is the now and here I stand, reflecting on my own reflection.
Rajiv Kapoor Jun 2020.
Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door. -Saul Bellow, writer, Nobel laureate (10 Jun 1915-2005)
There are two lights, that light my way,
The first from the heavens, on many holds sway,
The second from within, our life force arises,
This is the one, that will turn me to ashes,
Long have we wondered, at where we are going,
The learned have lovingly advised us, to start slowing,
The path before us, is not always clear,
Our loved ones, are not always near,
Where oh where in this uncertainty, do I row my boat,
There is only now where I exist, and my lonesome moat,
The whole universe is given to me, to explore,
It is up to me to light my lamp of inquiry, to restore,
That which was promised to me, when existence arose,
My covenant of wisdom with destiny, is mine alone,
So ask me not in innocence, on where I row my boat,
It is you who have confined me and reduced me, to this moat.
When all else is lost, and I cannot find the shore,
I remember again that hope, I kept, and row to love some more.
Rajiv Kapoor June 2020
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. -Anne Frank, Holocaust diarist (12 Jun 1929-1945)
I am surprised, to read that in the US, “ Research and development have been cut so much that the US is now in second place and high-quality higher education is becoming unaffordable for most middle-class students. Yet every time someone proposes new investments in our future, they are told that the nation is broke, massively in debt, and cannot afford new investments.”
The Jouirnal Blog continued, “The United States had plenty of money half a century ago. In the 1950s and 1960s, we paid down the huge World War II debt at a time when we maintained a much larger military than today and fought wars in Korea and Vietnam. We built the Interstate Highway System and much of the other physical infrastructure we use today. We funded vigorous research and development, including the fabulously expensive Apollo program. We supported higher education well enough that middle-class students could graduate from elite universities without crippling debt.”
I am surprised, as I always believed that the best years are ahead of us. Yet the article sounded as if our wild economy, and can-do attitude, is a setting Western sun. We have become a nation that refuses to invest in itself, it allows private business to thrive, at the cost of public expenditure. Who will build the future modes of transportation, or the new fuel cells and batteries? Future cities will house, millions in a new tech world. Future farms will be climate controlled. Flora and Fauna will be preserved in video, and reserves. Humans will use artificial companions, for living, and transportation. Entertainment will be through focused sensory stimulation experiences, including physical, chemical and mental stimulants.
Traditionally we have been a nation of Innovators and Free Thinkers as part of the American Way. Unfortunately, the cost of fostering human social conditions, for this innovation and education, has been going up. Over the past 5 decades, cost of social justice and security, has largely drawn from the pocketbook of employees, instead of the pockets of the corporations. Even before Reagan the cry to lower taxes, on the corporate and Wall Street big wigs, had a quaint resonance, in the elected house and Senate. Lobbyist swarmed and payroll taxes doubled many times, since initiation. Corporate taxes continued to slide, even hailed today by current President Trump, as one of his proudest moment, in this White House.
It is time now, to once again invest in the American Spirit and our people. Ever since the revolution, we have always risen from the ashes of past wars, and failures, with even more strength and determination. We are on the cusp of another revolution, where we tax more, and invest more, into American roots. The roots will grow green shoots which will create the forests of tomorrow. These schools and, universities are incubators, of our future world. What we teach them today, as basic human values, will take our place; in the universe, of tomorrow May they live long and prosper, on our blue planet!
Peace of the Yogi
His associate spoke in high accolades, about the power of the Yogi. Then he took a freshly filled Chillum, and with the help of another devotee, he lit it, in rhythmic, deep, breathing. He seemed to time the breaths, to the rhythms; of the devotional music, playing in the background. The Associate Ashok, passed to the Yogi, his newly lit Chillum. Then he bowed, towards the setting sun. The yogi sat erect, and was framed by the setting sun, of red, and a horizon of orange clouds, with a golden lining. He partook of the fire, and the smoke, and engulfed them all, into a different world. The chillum did its rounds, and the followers started to sway; to the heavenly music. It was a simple elemental beat, but seemed to have the variances, of the universe. Sometimes it sped up, and was the crashing of galaxies in our spatial universe. The music represented the change of the cosmic events around us. At other times it flowed slowly, like the river of time, then appeared to enter into a deep valley; rushing ever faster but reaching nowhere. It finally reached a crescendo leaving the audience afloat, on a vast ocean.
At last the Yogi pulled himself even more erect, in his posture. His magnificent chest had swelled in all its glory, when he had taken the Vayu breath, and stayed in his samadhi, still and composed. Having absorbed his fill, he did a deep discharge of breath, and the last of the smoke. He looked around him, as if focusing on the reality, of what was before him. He finally raised his head and eyes to the heavens, and the beautiful sight of the universe, passing into night. As all eyes seemed to turn to him, he raised his arms and spoke “Hear, me, here, here me now,”
The followers all turned, as the leaders hissed for silence, across the clearing. The Yogi and his companions, sat on a raised platform, with the group of musicians behind them, they followed the classical style, passed down for centuries on their drums, and musical instruments. They had learnt the accompanying music, from him, as the Yogi himself was trained, by the ancient Yogis, and their musicians, before him. They had played all day, with numerous breaks, to refresh, and meet others. Many far away devotes of the council, had gathered, for the Spring festival. Other leaders had brought their followers, and they now listened intently, as he spoke.
“The whole struggle is in our mind. My mind is not very different, from that of the Adi Yogi, whom we all want to emulate. He has passed beyond time, as we know it, and most of us will never rise to his wisdom… It is the way of the mind, that it stops all of us, from reaching the state of our Adi Yogi. This state is not a static state, and I will show you what is the way, to break this dependence, on a million years, of our mind’s conditioning. From the dawn of humanity, we have chased the question of eternity, and existence. Even our Vedas and Upanishads, have explored the relationship of our creator and us. We have come a long way, but still we have the critical question to ask of our Gods. How do we change our mind to experience, what the Adi Yogi, experiences?”
” So I will teach you all now, the path to this experience, but first you have to remove all the past, from your minds. Till we cleanse ourselves, through meditation and efforts, we cannot still our minds. Much less discipline our minds to become still, so we can move on, from this confusion of change, to our next level of awareness. Think on what I have said, and we will take up our minds, in the morning. We all must change, and remember with hard work, we can only do this together. This river of time and our memories are tied together, like an eternal rope, which makes up our mind. Freedom from this rope, demands a different passageway of our mind, to be first awakened, and then connected.”
He rose and then bent his arms and brought his hands together over his heart. He bowed in the direction that the sun had disappeared. He then walked down from the platform and headed off towards his cave in the mountain face. The tall evergreens were separated by a large path that led from this clearing towards the stream, that led to the cave. He walked erect and Ashok his devotee and companion followed closely behind as always. Ashok had also taken the role of scribe, and would spend a lot of time recording the discussions, and the debates, of the attendees. He and his companions would spend hours discussing various speakers, and their expressed views, were ascribed in the night. They lived in wooden log homes, with thatched roofs, and mud and stone walls of their small town.
They had ample water from the running stream, and had some enterprising young men had set up a water mill, and an irrigation system, long ago. They grew more than they needed and fed their visitors all year around, and gave the rest away, in charity to the needy. The neighboring gujjars raised their sheep, and their goats, in the valleys and fields, in the surrounding mountains. The local villagers fished in the autumn, for then the fish were plentiful. The Council always had the best variety of meals, for their varied visitors. Most of course were vegetarians, and largely satiated, by the whole grains and pulses, from the fields. The fruit orchards were ancient and well-kept, and so were the vegetable gardens. The famous nuts from the neighboring mountains, were traded in exchange for local largess, and served with compassion and love.
Ashok remembered his grandfather telling him about a 20-year ancient drought, but in his lifetime he had seen only a few small droughts. The gods had been kind and livestock and fields had continued to flourish. Most of all Ashok was thankful for the current Yogi who had arrived 10 years ago, out of the forest with wild hair and fiery eyes. The head priest had seen something in the crazy creature and taken him directly into the high cave for discussions. He had not emerged for 3 months and wild rumors of his antics floated about, his working with the priest. Laments of pain so loud and on other days loud laughter, was heard, and then there would be long periods of silence.
When he finally emerged, he was much changed. His wild hair was gone, and now was tamed into a tight bun above his head. He was now wearing the lion cloth of the yogi, and held a staff in one hand, and a wooden bowl in his other, measuring his total possessions. He had taken his vows of chastity and was ordained as a devote of the Head Priest. On that day our Head Priest spoke that he had visions of his arrival to our cave, many months ago. He whispered of his lineage from some ancient monastery, and his disappearance into the Home of Snow 10 years ago into the North. Fate and fortune led him on his travels to distance lands of Tibet, and the Far East, and Japan. He had sailed the seas and arrived back at the ports in Bengal. From there he made his way up the Gangetic Plain, strangely arriving back from his great journey, from our south.
Ashok finally bound up his work and decided to sleep. It was late in the night and as he lay down he saw a vision of the Yogi sitting in his samadhi as the man never seemed to sleep. He just sat there and meditated on this universe and it appeared to Ashok that the Universe existed in its order because of this Yogi. He seemed to exist beyond time and he looked forward to hearing him in the morning. As sleep took him he felt the Adi Yogi appear in his dream, suddenly his Yogi and the Adi Yogi seemed to merge into one. He was also swept into this flow of the great river, and gained the speed of flying stars, and worlds flashed by; yet in all of this change, he felt a strange peace, The peace of the yogi.
Liaquat Ali was in his cubicle, working on another production issue, where the Bank’s reports to the SEC, did not tally. The business had come back, on review of the results, that there was a discrepancy, in the numbers. The revenue numbers of the Banks divisions did not match, the Total for the bank. There had been a lot of transactions carried out in the quarter and this was a quarterly report. Now they were stuck with reconciling all the transactions in the quarter to see where the miss was. It was going to be a very long night he thought to himself. Williams his business VP, was not happy either, being asked to join the “War room,” that had been set up by the SVP, to fix the report. Their mission was to ensure that we worked till we got the file, for submission ASAP. Currently each of the divisions totals were being revisited, and checked. And everyone waited to hear back from the business, if any discrepancies were found.
The Application that Liaquat Ali was working on kept all the transactions for HQ, and it had evolved over the decades. The Consulting Company that he worked for, had helped the Bank Co-Develop this application. Ali had started off in a small village in the State of Uttar Pradesh (UP), India. With a lot of luck ad the right education, he had created a successful career, for himself in the US. With most of the developers of his team, in India. Even here in the war room, it was the offshore system analysts, who were working with the business analysts, at onshore. Working through the night. Ali was also monitoring, the other production jobs, that were running for lights on work. His utmost desire was to ensure, they did not need another war room, if something else got delayed.
The matter was finally resolved by a sleepy old accountant in HQs. When woken up, he looked at the registers and questioned, some intra division transactions, which were not properly accounted for. It was early morning, before the changes could be done, to fix the transaction ledgers. At 6 AM they installed the fix, ran the report, and Business had it out by 7 AM The Compliance Officer was happy that it was in time, for their SLA of 8 AM, to the SEC. William was very happy to bring the war room, to a close. He came over to thank Ali,
“You are The Coder, my man.” William said sounding relaxed, now that the crisis was over. He enjoyed working with Ali, as he was technically very competent, and did not panic or scream, and shout at things, he could not control. He was easy to work with, and William shook his hand, “Go take some rest, it has been a long night.”
Ali woke up and looked at his phone and it was 9:20 and wondered who was calling him, on his work phone? “He picked it up from his bedside table and answered it still half asleep. It was Vinay the Account Manager. Ali had spoken to Vinay on the day he joined this assignment, four months ago. Ali thought he was calling about the War Room, and reached for his water bottle as his throat was parched.
“Ali, your petition has been rejected for the transfer,” Vinay announced instead.
“What the one filed with the Dept for Immigration to move from TX to here?” Ali asked, thinking back to try and remember his filings as immigration rules in America were complex, and hard to track. Ali had heard that all his Muslim friend’s applications were being turned down, this year. He was not surprised to hear that his may have been denied also.
“H R says that you have to leave the country in 48 hours.” Vinay continued.
“But there must be some misunderstanding, my visa standing has always been good. I am even getting my Green Card.” Ali replied, slowly waking up to this new nightmare.
“Hey Ali, I am only the messenger here. I know you do great work, and I am sorry to have to let you go. I cant fight the US Immigration system you know.” Vinay replied. “Talk to HR, as they know the laws and can connect you with our Immigration Law Firm, in New York.”
The HR lady called him at 9:30. She told him to start packing and they were booking his ticket to India. He would be returning back to his old office, in Lucknow. The Company was making all the arrangements, and they will inform him his Ticket details, once the travel department made the arrangements.
Ali packed what he could and got rid of all his worldly possessions, which he could not take back, to India. A guy he hated in the office, for his meanness, bought his precious, secondhand Beamer. He stared wistfully out of his window watching, the red car disappear around the corner. He fondly remembered all the road trips, he had taken with his sweat heart, all over the US. He loved those countries highways and Parks, and had traveled thousand of miles, in search of, even he did not know, what? “One kept looking, but one could not find, America,” Ali thought to himself, as he silently said bye, to his companion of so many red sunsets, on the bridges, and roads of America.
The bedroom furniture was bought by a newly married couple, in Graduate School, obviously very much in love. His big HD TV he sold on EBay and this giant black dude, just picked it up like a toy, and walked right away with it. Everything else Ali stashed away into two suitcases, and his laptop bags. The last night he spent sleeping in his old sleeping bag, on the carpet in his den, with the glass fireplace on. Early morning, he called Uber on his iPhone, and loaded his stuff, and headed out to the Airport.
He was in the Company’s Lucknow Office for a week, when he was given the notice that his post would be eliminated, and he would be better off, looking for alternative employment. He was actually in Saharanpur, his home place in UP. He was visiting his uncle, in his ancestral land, when the news came. They had a large two storied home, near their land of over forty acres, and their Milk Cow sheds, and the new Poultry farms. The Ali’s had lived here for centuries from the 15th century. Like Liaquat occasionally one would venture out f the ancestral lands, and travel the world. Some Ali’s had settled in the UK, and some in Canada. It was his father’s younger brother, and his family, who were now running, the vast establishment for their clan, in UP.
Liaquat was happy to be with his uncle, and spent time with him and his family. He did not really bother with the emails or his laptop, as he was transported back to his childhood memories. His uncle Firoz was also happy to see his nephew. They had been a close knit family, his father and his younger brother and one sister, who was married. She lived away in Calcutta, in another old Muslim family and had 2 boys. The family had prospered, as their agriculture income was good, from their two crops of winter wheat, and the Monsoon rice plantings, had brought added incomes. The Artesian Wells peculiar to their sub Himalayan fields, brought all the water for their needs, from the foot hill of the Himalayas. With free water, their fruits and vegetables, also added a lot of labor, and value. Liaquat personally knew almost 500 families, which evolved around the Ali’s land and enterprises, in the area. When the family gathered for the Friday prayers at the local mosque, they had a special unspoken place for their prayers, at the head of the gathering. After all this mosque had been largely financed, by one of Liaquat’s ancestors, while working with the Sultan, in faraway Delhi, in the fifteenth century.
After the prayers they had been called to the home, of the local head master of the school, an old family friend whose education, had been paid by the family. His wife was a close friend to Ali’s Chachi and she came over to their home quite often. She had not been over for some time, so Ali was happy to see her. She ran a great kitchen and Ali was anticipating a nice feast, after the prayers, as he had only had water since the morning. She soon rushed off to give the instructions for the help, to serve chilled drinks to the men after the sunny day.
The Men sat together in the living room. Farooq the Headmaster, was in earnest conversation with my uncle already, when I got settled in. They often spoke of all the local issues, and I also sipped my cool sherbet, in a tall metal glass, with some ice, and half listened, to their words.
“The other day Chottu reported that in the Grains market, the Sangh people want to do a procession for Holi. We had all agreed, as we have always celebrated, all the Hindu and Muslim Festivals together. The market is made up of traders who are Muslim and Hindu; Sikh and other faith’s traders, also have their business, in the Grain Market.” Farooq was telling Firoz.
“This year they took over the whole market, and Lalan and his boys, were given free reign. Chottu and our young people were given no role, in the celebrations. They only used their Sangh brotherhood shakhas, and others to organize. Even in the music and plays, we were left out, as if it was only a Hindu celebration. Our singers have sung Kabir and Meera Bhajans, every year at Holi, from our old gharanas. Chottu is very worried, as to the way things are going, and we are being excluded, and marginalized. There have been fights over the stalls, and the dances, and even some of our streets, have been closed; for their use only, to make mandals and stalls. Their leaders have made it clear, that we are not part of their celebrations anymore.” Farooq continued.
“Lalan and his boys are just showing their youthful spirit. We have celebrated Holi together, for so many generations. One more Holi will come and Go, and so will our ID, later this year. Young hotheads, will be controlled, by our community, as usual. We have not had any communal riots here, and we should keep cool heads, and hearts.” Firoz replied, after thinking for some time, on what he had heard.
“I spoke to his father, but he said that Lalan is out of his control and has come under the influence of the Hindutva wing, of our town’s party. I pleaded with him to talk to Lalan, as he seems intent in making some mischief, this Holi.” Farooq said.
We were summoned for the Jumma Feast and the old friends kept talking, as I concentrated on the delicious delicacies coming out of the kitchen. I had forgotten the taste of our home made cooking, and relished everything, whether it was the tender kebabs from the Tandoor, or the fried, or curried meats, that exploded, with new tastes, in ones mouth. My palate was in a state of constant amazement, as smells and tastes I thought I had forgotten, were rekindled. The aroma of the creamier dishes, was over powering, and the Naan’s with herbs and spices, just filled the room, with their earth oven cooked, smell. I ate slowly, concentrating on each morsel, and enjoying a meal this thoroughly, after many years. I remembered coming to this home with my father, as a young boy. Apparently, nothing much had changed in the routine of life, and the traditions just carried on.
Firoz Chacha was of course proud to have his world traveled nephew, back home. He installed me in My Father’s wing, of our old Haveli. In fact, I felt strange staying in my parent’s suite. I would have loved to live in my old room by the stairs, in the back, but Firoz Chacha insisted.
“Lallu, this is your rightful place in our home, so just settle down here. I will hear none of this nonsense, of going back to Lucknow. It is good riddance, as who needs a job anyway. You are heir to our Ali Family Lands and Estates, I m getting tired of looking after all our family affairs, after your father passed away. I need you back here to help me,” Chacha hugged me to his heart. He looked up into my eyes and said. “Enough of this madness, you have seen your America now. Come back home son.”
Firoz was going to Lucknow, the following week, as there was a big cattle show held their annually. He had some prize bulls to sell, and he wanted to get some new cows, to replace some of his older herd, at the Milk Sheds. I had to go and do my paperwork at my old employer, in any case, to finish my termination and meet with HR, for my exit interview. I decided to join him and square up my old travel accounts, for which my presence was needed, in the office.
Firoz had rented a Truck to transport his prized Bulls to the Lucknow Cattle Fair. On the appointed day a young bearded strong man from the grain market, showed up with an old Lorry, and loaded up the bulls, with some difficulty. He finally had them safely aboard, on the back of his lorry, and headed out, through the market. There he found his way blocked by one of the bamboos and wooden pandals, being used for an impromptu lecture, from the local politician, waxing on about the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Ram Mandir. “We will now build our Ram Mandir, our time has come again. We will bring Ram Rajya, back to this great land. Mother India is blessed. Jai!”” He shouted to great cheers, and loud repeated chants , from his audience.
Lalan and his boys jumped off the back of the stage and swaggered towards the offending Lorry, with Lathis and hockey sticks, in their hands. The driver realizing his mistake, started to turn his Lorry around, to take another way. Their orange scarves, and white short sleeve shirts, and brown shorts were mlike a uniform, and they all stood around the Lorry. They could see the bearded driver and Lalan jumped up on to the Footboard of the Lorry, and yelled at the driver, “You want to disturb our Leaders speech, we will kill you, if you disgrace our leader.”
The driver replied “Lalan Bhai, it is nothing like that, I did not know you are having your rally here, as I go this way every day. You know that as you are a regular, in the market also.”
“Turn around and go quietly, I do not want to see you, or your kind here,” Lalan said jumping off, as the Driver maneuvered the Lorry around, and headed off.
One of the boys jumped up and hit the lorry’s canvas, with a hockey stick from the back. The closure gave way and the Canvas parted, and one of the bull’s heads came into view, it was slowly chewing its cud, and looked balefully, at the scene.
The Lorry sped away and the boy yelled to the others, that the Lorry is transporting, Mother Cows. There was a lot of murmuring, and discussions as the boys returned to the stage for the rest of the speeches.
My day at the Company Office went smoothly, as I went from office to office, and got my clearance. There were a few colleagues I had worked with, on numerous occasions in the past, over so many years. They decided to take me our for a Barbeque Lunch. By the time I got to the fair, I saw Chacha pacing up and down, besides the Lorry. Apparently, the day had gone well, and he had been able to get more than he had expected, for his two prize bulls. He had bought two new young Jersey Cows, and two Desi Cows, from other people at the fair, that he knew from years past. He had a satisfying day, and was now anxious to get back, to his home and family.
So, I picked up Firoz Chacha in his car, from the fair, and then he made sure that the Lorry driver, took off before us, with his fare. He had also picked up 2 other passengers from our community, who needed a ride back from the fair. So, we all set off as it was going to be a long drive, to back home. We eventually arrived very late in the night and I was tired from all the driving and went off to bed. The Lorry driver had been instructed to not drive through the night, but find a place to sleep, on the way and take his time. The cows were important, but not urgent, and it was better to be safe.
I woke up late and had a shower and breakfast. I headed off to our office in the Grain Market, as Chacha had left before me. The car was gone, and I took a rikshaw from the main road. Normally the Rikshaw peddlers would take the loop on the main road, to avoid the inner smaller streets traffic. Today however the Rikshaw puller, took the side streets way, instead. When I asked him why, he told me there was some accident on the main road, and the police had closed it off. It was slow going through the narrow streets and he often had to get off and pull the rikshaw by hand, to the side, to make room for oncoming traffic or carts. When I got to the office only the accountants and clerks were there, and Chacha was not in his office, so I went off to my larger room, and started reviewing the reports, of our business.
I was meeting with the accountants to understand some of the intricate accounts that needed settlement, with one of our two banks. We worked with The State Bank of India’s Saharanpur Branch, for most of our business. We did a large business with the Food Corporation of India, and other buyers, of our wheat and paddy. Most of the funding for government accounts went through the State Bank, as it was easy to use their systems and many branches. The second bank was a Co-Operative Bank used by our Muslim traders. Many smaller farmers and traders and iron workers, and leather workers, needed banking services also. They did not qualify, for some of the bigger bank’s requirements. Here our family’s money had been invested, to take care of the families, during their needs for weddings, children, funerals etc. It was not a very big bank, but it was very effective in taking care of our many extended families, in the area. They helped build homes, dig wells, buy equipment or animals for income. The Bank and Family’s money had grown over the years, and the client families, had also prospered.
Suddenly a young man rushed into our office. His shirt was torn and one of his sleeves, seemed to be wrapped around his head. There were blood stains on the side of his head, and some on his remaining shirt. He came into the room where I was, and seemed agitated and nervous. When one of our accountants asked him, what he wanted, he just stared at him, as if at a loss for words. Then he turned to me, and said, “Please come to the clinic, your uncle Firoz has sent me.”
As I looked closer, I recognized him as one of the companions of our Lorry Driver. Intrigued by his appearance, I decided to leave with him, at once. As we walked, to find a Rickshaw, I asked him to tell me, what had happened? The young boy, as now I noticed he was quire frail, started to sob and cry. “Sir, I do not know, what to say. It is all so strange, as everything was normal, on our drive, and we slept at a Dhabha after a hearty meal, thanks to you, and your uncle. We headed out again in the morning after tea, and a good breakfast. We were doing well and only when we were near our town on the main road, that the driver stopped, and got out to use the bathrooms, and get some more tea. Lalan and his companions, were already there; having tea and got excited, when they saw us.
“Where have you been, we have been looking for this lorry, all day?” asked the young man, who had exposed the bull in the back, with his hockey stick, and called it a cow.
“We are returning from the Cattle Fair in Lucknow and it has been a very long drive.” Responded the driver, who knew Lalan.
“We saw that you took our Mother Cows, in your Lorry. What do you have there now?” the boy asked getting even more excited, “Let me see what you are carrying now, you beef eaters?”
“I am only the driver of this lorry; the goods belong to Mian Firoz Ali of the Grain Market. If you have any questions regarding the merchandize you will have to ask him,” The driver replied. “We have all the papers from the Fair, for our purchases and way bills.”
The young man looked at Lalan and asked rudely, “How can you allow this kind of trade in cows, and their slaughter? I have come from Delhi, to prevent this kind of behavior. We cannot allow the slaughter of cows in our land, as they are holy. I have come here with the specific instructions, to teach these people, a lesson.”
Lalan listened to the anger in the man’s voice and said. “This is their business. We do not interfere in their business, long as they do not interfere, in ours. They trade animals every year, and it is not a crime, to do their business.”
We and the driver sat down to one side at a small wooden table and ordered our tea. As we drank our tea, we watched the ensuing battle of words, between the boys. There seemed to be two groups, the first were Lalan and the local boys, whom we knew. The second group were outsiders, who must have come from Delhi, with their leader. They seemed far more belligerent and were far louder, and becoming more agitated, as if itching for a fight. Lalan and his friends backed off and then the group from Delhi went off to examine the Lorry’s freight.
They climbed up on the back despite our driver’s entreaties, to leave the cargo alone. When the young leader saw the young cows, being transported, he seemed to lose all his own control. He knelt and caressed the cows and put his arms, around their neck. Then some thought struck him, and he jumped up, and started shouting, “Murderers, thieves, killers of innocents, bloody meat eaters, not in our land.”
He jumped down from the lorry, and went and grabbed his hockey stick. “How dare you kill, these beautiful cows? You are monsters all of you. We will not allow you to murder these creatures. Come my companions, let us teach them a good lesson.” He yelled out loud. He and his boys then attacked our table, the driver stood up to defend us, his wards. They ganged up and circled all around him, taunting him with words. The driver threw up his arms, and cried out loudly, “That was Firoz Bhai’s prize Bull you saw us taking to the fair, to sell. Now we have brought cows back for the milk sheds. We have all the papers.”
The young leader was red in the face and jumped up on the table, in his excitement and started swinging his hockey stick, like a weapon. “You will teach us about our sacred cows, no we will teach you, how to treat them well.” He turned to his companions and said, “We have found him, let us teach him a lesson, like our leaders have said.”
Then they began to beat him up mercilessly, in front of us. Others grabbed us and started to beat us, with sticks and other instruments, and then someone hit me on the head, and a blinding pain erupted above my ear, and I fainted.”
I tried to comfort the young boy, as we approached, the Government Medical Clinic, in the Rickshaw. He was obviously very frightened and had gone through a frightful experience. “The last thing I remember, before I fainted was seeing Firoz Bhai, pulling up in his car, and coming towards us. When I woke up, I found myself in the clinic and Firoz Bhai must have brought me in his car, along with the rest.” He said, as we approached the square whitewashed building, of the clinic.
Firoz Chacha was lying on the clinic bed, and Dr Khan from our neighboring town, was administrating to him, when I walked into the clinic. “What happened?” I asked, as I approached.
“Just a few stitches on his forearm, and some lacerations and bruises on his legs, and arms, where he defended himself. Luckily nothing broken or impaired.” The wise Dr Khan said, shaking his head slowly. The poor Driver is dead, and his companion has a left leg and a right arm fracture and is in pain and I have sedated him, for the time being. He may have some fractured ribs, and a broken nose. Ah, this is the other fellow, that I must attend to,” the doctor said looking at my companion’s injuries. “Firoz Bhai mentioned he had gone to fetch you Liaqat,” he said using my formal name, from school.
“What can I do to help?” I asked the doctor.
“None of the local clinic staff is ready to help. Firoz called me on the phone, to come and help, and I rushed over as quickly, as I could. My advice would be to take Firoz home, or to a safe place, as soon as possible, these situations can turn very bad.” Dr Khan spoke from his experience. He shouted out to one of the orderlies at the clinic, to help. Dr. Khan helped Firoz get up slowly, and handed him a crutch, as his right leg was also injured. The orderly was afraid to help, so I stepped up and put my uncles’ arm, across my shoulder and bearing his weight, walked him slowly out. We then turned to the car parked, on the roadside and he groaned with pain, as we slowly got him, into the vehicle. Dr. Khan took the injured companion with him, back to his own home, and clinic. I finally drove away carefully, avoiding any sudden turns and potholes As I turned a corner, I saw a Lorry approaching with a Saffron flag, headed towards the clinic.
For two days we stayed at the Headmaster’s home (on his advice), as Chacha was confined to bed. Dr. Khan came and prescribed anti biotics, as he was running a high fever. He also gave me a bottle of strong pain killers, to be administered every night, to help him sleep. I returned home on the third day, as work was piling on and the excitement in the Mandi had died down a bit, after Holi. We mourned the passing of the driver and his innocent companion, while the third survived, and worked for Dr Khan and his family. I was active In the Market again and our trust work, was also keeping me busy. Chacha called me “The Coder” as I tried to quantify and classify everything, and worked, with a priority system.
On some melancholy days, an anger would seize me, and I would pace endlessly; in the inner courtyard, of our ancient home. The expression of the young man from Delhi, the hatred and the poison are new for me and my anger, would rise. Those loud words of hate were seared in my brain, as most of the outsiders seemed to live in Delhi, and not Saharanpur. He would recover from the dark fits on his Chacha’s urgings, and they would throw themselves into enjoying the seasons of life. He was intent on regaining his family’s stature, in society lost in the sordid descriptions in the media which hounded them. Their work was to better their families, and to make their community safe. They actively worked in their market and their education systems, to ensure more brotherhood. Where before he had taken what this system gave him, now he wanted to give back. He put all his efforts in arranging opportunities, for the next generation of families, in his hometown. He felt he had found his life’s calling and he would remain within the heart and soul of India.
A cycle stopped and the dust in the street rose from its wheel, as it had been very dry weather. Postman Chacha tapped me on my shoulder. I looked up to see his gnarled and wrinkled, unshaven, face. “Lallu beta,“ He said, panting a little, as if he had been riding hard, to catch up with Ali. He got off his bicycle and we got on the side, of the road. He reached into his mail satchel and rummaged around, for something. He pulled out a rumpled old package and smiled that wide broken teeth smile, I remembered. He apologized that the package had undergone a lot of wear and tear, as some parts were stuck with scotch tape. He handed it to me and said. “I have been looking for you, to deliver this. “ he patted me on the head, to give me give me his blessings. In an age old custom. I automatically reached down to touch his dust baked feet, in the rubber and canvas shoes, he wore without socks. My childhood seemed to pull me back in time, as I saw him get back on the road, mount his bicycle and ride back, the way he was doing his rounds,
I opened the package from my US office, of my old company. From it came a letter from the U S Consulate and another package. From this emerged my old lost passport, from the brown envelope wrapped in red tape. I opened the passport, and there where the page opened, was the official stamp of the US Government. I was staring at my Green Card.