Ghar Wapsi

(The following is extracted from a long note Pawanji wrote on the SIDH WhatsApp group)

Since 2014, a sharp divide has emerged in the Bharatiya samaj. No, I am not talking of the Hindu-Muslim, or the caste, or the rich-poor or the North-South divides. In the context of power, the only divide of significance in our country has been between the minority of ruling elites—the tiny percentage of our population steeped in modern/ western values and completely alienated from their cultural and civilizational roots—and the vast majority of the dis-empowered ordinary Bharatiyas. All other divisions are dwarfed in front of this one and if this divide can be bridged then other divisions will get consumed and become redundant.

Different governments have come and gone, even the Britishers came and were sent back, but this alienated minority always managed to remain close to the centres of power. After independence Nehru and his Congress with the backing of powerful international forces made sure that all four pillars of (modern) democracy remained firmly in the grip of this alienated minority. This status quo got so deeply entrenched in the system that, over time, even the dis-empowered majority started believing that to be part of the power structure, one had to renounce one’s roots and adopt the value systems of the ruling elite.

It is the good fortune of this country that, for the first time after independence, in 2014 a crack finally appeared in one of the pillars of democracy—the legislature. We have had non-congress governments in the past, in 1977, 1989 (V.P. SIngh), 1990-91 (Chandrashekhar), 1998 (Atal Bihari Bajpai) but the changes they brought in were cosmetic. The order of the ruling elites was not shaken by any of them. But the change since 2014 is unlike any other, it is monumental. It has unleashed a dormant energy that was suffocating for centuries. It will be a mistake to see this change merely from a short term political lens.

This change has silently ignited something powerful in the majority still connected with their civilizational roots. It is something similar to the experience of Sri Hanuman when the wise Jamvant awakened him to realize his hidden powers. After a long time, our ordinary people are sensing freedom and the joy of breathing freely. This has suddenly given them confidence to value and appreciate themselves and their ways and not feel diffident and ashamed about themselves.

It is a major disruption. The alienated elite are extremely uneasy and unable to fathom the change. If they wish to make sense of the civilizational churning that is happening they will have to look, not outside (as they are used to), but deep within themselves. In this process of self-examination they will be required to see themselves dispassionately, almost like one is required to observe one’s thoughts and feelings during meditation. And this is not going to be easy. Most of them will back off and revert to their old ways of ignoring reality and putting all their energies in creating the same old world they have been so comfortable with.

But those few like us who are neither there nor here, those who have also been a part of that elite power structure from time to time and have enjoyed its fruits, but by some quirk of fortune have also remained connected with the roots of this great civilization, may go through this yagna and come out purified. We may realize that all the various masks we were wearing all these years, trying to belong to that false but rarefied atmosphere of the power elite were so unnecessary and so burdensome. This is the time of praayshchita (atonement) for us, paving the way for our ghar wapsi – coming home. Ghar wapsi to being able to relate to the majority, our long lost brothers and sisters, to appreciate their ways and their greatness, to appreciate the greatness of our civilization.

This is a period of great churning the likes of which is rarely seen, even in centuries, and this change is happening not just in Bharat but all over the world. 2014 has been a watershed year unleashing an amazing energy residing in our ordinary people who are able to, for the first time, find a voice, a space for themselves. Be it Kashi Vishwanath, Mahaakaal, installation of Netaji’s statue on Kartavya Path and now this great event of Ram Mandir, these events need to be seen as major milestones in a process of civilizational resurgence.

Sangoshthi on Bharatiyata at Kaneri Math

जीविका आश्रम, इन्द्राना, मध्यप्रदेश व सिद्ध, मसूरी, उत्तराखण्ड के संयुक्त तत्वाधान में दिनांक 2 से 5 नवम्बर, 2023 को कणेरी मठ्ठ, कोल्हापुर, महाराष्ट्र में एक संगोष्ठी आयोजित हुई। संगोष्ठी में देश के विभिन्न प्रान्तों से 7 संस्थानों से जुड़े लगभग 22 प्रतिभागि आये थे। मार्गदर्शन हेतु कणेरी मठ्ठ के मठाधीपति पुज्यश्री अदृश्य काडसिद्धेश्वर स्वामीजी उपस्थित रहे।

संगोष्ठी में मंथन हेतु निम्न उद्देश्यों को रखा गया था :-

  1. वर्तमान व्यवस्थाओं व विचार तंत्रों में स्वयं की असहजता को देखने का प्रयास करना।
  2. वर्तमान में प्रचलित विभिन्न आधुनिक अवधारणाओं की गम्भीरता से परीक्षा।
  3. भारतीयता पर आधारित विभिन्न प्रयासों के मूल सिद्धान्तों को पहचानने का प्रयास करना।

चर्चा को प्रारम्भ करते हुए प्रतिभागियों ने अपनी व्यक्तिगत यात्रा के बारे में बताया। इस दौरान उन्होंने अपने द्वन्द्वों और भारतीयता व आधुनिकता से जुड़ी व उन्हें स्पष्ट हुई कुछ धारणाओं को रखने का प्रयास किया। इस चर्चा में जो धारणायें प्रमुख रूप से निकल कर आयीं वे निम्न प्रकार हैं :-

  1. किसी भी यात्रा व संघर्ष में ‘आहार की सुरक्षा’ प्रारम्भिक बिन्दु है।
  2. कुटुम्भ का सुदृढ़ीकरण। अर्थात हम जिस भी समाज या समूह में वर्तमान समय में निवास करते हैं उनके साथ सृदृढ़ सम्बन्धों को विकसित करना।
  3. हमनें अपनी विचार यात्रा में जिस भी माध्यम को साधन के रूप में चयन किया है उसमें भी बहुत अधिक नहीं फंसना।
  4. स्थानीय स्तर पर उत्पादन के साथ-साथ स्थानीय स्तर पर खपत को प्राथमिकता प्रदान करना।
  5. एक ऐसी व्यवस्था का विकास जिसमें उत्पादित वस्तुओं को ना तो बेचा जाये और ना ही उन्हें मुफ्त में वितरित किया जाये।
  6. आधुनिकता के विभिन्न आयामों में स्वयं फंसावट का निरतंर परिक्षण करते रहना।
  7. ‘होने’ की अवधारणा पर विश्वास मजबूत करना, ‘करने’ की बाध्यता से मुक्त होने का प्रयास करना।

उक्त धारणाओं की पहचान के उपरान्त इस संगोष्ठी में निम्न कार्यबिन्दुओं पर विचार किया गया।

  1. अपने अनुभवों को ईमानदारी से रखना और उन्हें सुनने का प्रयास बहुत सार्थक रहा। अतः भविष्य में भी इस तरह की संगोष्ठियों का आयोजन होना चाहिए।
  2. संगोष्ठी में शामिल हुए मित्रों द्वारा अपने-अपने स्तर पर किये जा रहे प्रयासों को ओर गहनता से जानने व समझने का प्रयास होना चाहिए।
  3. वर्तमान के विभिन्न आधुनिक उपक्रमों में उन उपक्रमों की पहचान करनी चाहिए जिन्हें सहजता से त्यागा जा सके और साथ में ऐसे उपक्रमों की भी पहचान होनी चाहिए जिनके बिना फिलहाल चलना संभव नहीं है।
  4. संगोष्ठी में उपस्थित मित्रों के बीच पारिवारिक स्तर पर भी सम्बन्धों को विकसित करने का प्रयास होना चाहिए।
  5. संगोष्ठी में उपस्थित मित्रों को समय-समय पर ऑनलाइन मिलने का प्रयास करना चाहिए और इस दौरान ए.के. सरन, आनन्द कुमार स्वामी, धर्मपाल जी, गाँधी जी जैसे चितन्कों के माध्यम से आधुनिकता को समझने का प्रयास होना चाहिए।
  6. आधुनिकता को समझने के क्रम में अपने जीवन में आ रहे बदलावों को मित्रों के साथ साझा करना चाहिए और उस पर चर्चा होनी चाहिए।

Livelihood Vs Life

There is a story that when the British wanted the weavers of Bengal to produce more cloth, the first response of the weavers was to refuse. The British who had assumed that more money would be an incentive to produce more cloth were told by the weavers that they could work only a few hours on the loom because they had many samajik duties that took up the rest of their time. How the British brutally got around this cultural roadblock is a story that we will not get into here and is narrated in detail in ‘The White Sahibs In India’ that we have republished at SIDH (write to for copies). The point I want to make is that there was a clear difference between ‘livelihood’ and ‘rest of life’ for our ancestors. How these have got mixed up today and the confusion that ensues is what I want to explore in this post.

Today, livelihood has taken centre-stage and it grabs all our attention. Our education system efficiently trains children to fit as a cog into some part of the modern world economy. We function as interchangeable parts of a large, complex, impersonal machine and this is harmful to our common human capacity for physical and mental well-being. The insensitivity we are forced to cultivate to survive in the system ends up making us lead an adharmic life and our growth towards wisdom and clarity is effectively short-circuited.

I was recently thinking about all this and the following insights came up:

– People who find their work intolerable and have the luxury of leaving it, think that the solution lies in finding work that they like to do. They end up even more stuck in the ‘livelihood’ paradigm and in the bargain become repetitive, boring people on a passionate, personal mission (I am like this :-)).
– This knee-jerk reaction to a perceived problem is also visible when successful people (people with lot of money in the bank) want to do social service of some kind or the other and be ‘useful’ to society.
– If our livelihood was approached as a yagna in our traditional samaaj, as Ravindra Sharmaji used to tell us, then our work was part of our practice towards moksha and was a natural part of our life.
– To joyfully engage in life and to grow in wisdom requires some relaxed time and energy, some fursat, that seems impossible to come by in the rush to do our ‘jobs’. Today, it is not unusual to find conventionally successful people who are near retirement age behaving like spoilt children.
– The samajik engagements, that were an important part of our ancestor’s lives, have almost disappeared in the modern shift towards individualism and there appears to be no alternative to spending all our time earning our livelihood.
– It seems that one non-reactionary way to look at ‘livelihood vs life’ is to minimise the time and importance we give to ‘livelihood’ and to engage more deeply with ‘rest of life’. ‘Rest of life’ meaning our relationship with ourselves, with others around us, with the culture of our land, our relationship with nature etc.

This is a very tentative post to share these insights. I would be interested in finding out what you think about all this.

A Film Review

Recently I saw a wonderful Malayalam movie, ‘Nanpakal nerathu mayakkam’ (titled ‘Like an afternoon dream’ in English). The movie, directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery with Mammootty in the lead role, tells a simple but strange story. A Christian group from Kerala that has gone to Tamilnadu for a pilgrimage is on the way back home in their minibus. When everyone in the bus is asleep in the afternoon, James (Mammootty), the group leader, wakes up and asks the driver to stop the bus in the middle of a deserted stretch of road in rural Tamilnadu. He gets off and walks purposefully through the fields, through the lanes of a nearby village and directly into a house with an old man sleeping on the veranda and his old blind wife listening to a movie on TV. Sundaram, the son of the house had gone missing two years ago and, strangely, James has now started walking and talking like him. The city-dwelling, Malayalam-speaking James has suddenly become transformed into the village-dwelling, Tamil-speaking Sundaram. There is much confusion with Sundaram’s wife and daughter, the villagers, and with the Kerala group that includes James’ wife and son. Finally, the next afternoon, James as Sundaram goes to sleep and wakes up as his original self. The movie has many layers of imagery and sound that I will not get into but will let you watch and find out for yourself. I wanted to talk about the movie because of some unusual Bharatiya overtones it carries.

Firstly, the movie is shot almost entirely with static wide-angle shots. This highlights and brings out the beauty of the backgrounds in which the action is happening. This includes the fields around the village, the lanes and houses of the village, the insides of the village buildings etc. Everything that the camera captures is beautiful and vibrantly alive. The stereotype of the ‘backward’ village that we get educated into is completely absent.

Secondly, there doesn’t seem to be any difference in the way that the city folk from Kerala and the village folk from Tamilnadu behave once they both realize that they have a problem they have to solve together-to get James back to Kerala. There are wise and foolish people in both groups and they communicate in Malayalam and Tamil and, in spite of their bewilderment, are all finally willing to wait and give time for whatever strange process is going on with James. One of the older men from the village says that the group is after all coming back from a pilgrimage and sometimes strange things happen.

Lastly, the movie does not talk down to its audience and gives no explanations or justifications for what is being shown and leaves the interpretations to the viewer.

I recommend that you take the time to watch this movie and hope that it warms your heart as it did mine. Do add a comment here if you see the movie.

The Empress of India

“Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death in 1901. Her reign of 63 years and 216 days is known as the Victorian era and was longer than any of her predecessors. In 1876, the British Parliament voted to grant her the additional title of Empress of India.”
– From the Wikipedia article on Queen Victoria

We had gone walking to Cubbon park in Bangalore and my wife noticed the statue of the fat queen with an inscription saying that she was the empress of India. The statue standing half-hidden and unnoticed just outside Cubbon park in the middle of a crowd of vehicles and people was looking neglected and not very empress-like. And I thought about how the mighty British empire (or what the current history textbooks call the mighty empire) had fallen so low. I also got thinking about the hubris of the fat queen from a small part of Europe who called herself the empress of a landmass some twenty times the size of her Kingdom.

Well, maybe she was reincarnated here and got sorted out. 🙂

My wife and I have also been doing a lot of train journeys across the length and breadth of India. Bangalore to Delhi, Delhi to Visakhapatnam, Visakhapatnam to Calicut, Calicut to Bangalore, Bangalore to Mumbai etc. And all our recent trips have been in sleeper class where the heat and rain and cold gets into your compartment. The great privilege you get, of course, is that you can look out of the window and experience the changing colour and texture and character of the landscape.

What I have been noticing for some time now is the hugeness of India. When the train passes through unending forests or through softly undulating green countryside or kilometers of fields or over rivers like the Godavari, I know that no human being has ever been an emperor or empress of India. Perhaps no human being has been an empress of England either but that is not my concern. To me it looks like kings and emperors with their power and pomp and marble statues have been stories we have told ourselves to forget that the land holds us and we do not hold the land.

I am also beginning to extend this logic to politicians and bureaucrats. They may continue on whatever delusional paths of imagined power they are on, but I am more certain now that I want no part of their story. I know where I have to bow my head and I know what I have to pray to!

The Experience of Bharatiyata

Recently I was at a function where there was a lot of talk about Bharatiyata. It struck me suddenly that everyone had a different understanding of what the word meant. Like the story of the blind men and the elephant. I thought of doing a survey, asking many people what they meant when they used the word. I asked a question on WhatsApp and on our Telegram channel.

‘I am doing a survey with people I know. What does ‘Bharatiyata’ mean for you? What defines it, what all meaning does the word capture for you? Can you write a short paragraph of 3-4 sentences about it? Please keep it informal and write what immediately comes up in your mind.’

The responses I got were like:
‘Connection with what we may call as ‘Source’ I think is a characteristic of Bharatiyata.’

It looked like almost everyone was answering either in the ‘doing’ realm or the realm of ideas and ideologies. Very few people talked about what Bharatiyata meant in their lived experience. This I thought was because of my inability to communicate my query properly. I rephrased the question as:

‘I am doing a survey with people I know. How do you experience ‘Bharatiyata’? Can you write a short paragraph of 3-4 sentences about it? Please do not write about the experience of others or of what you have read or heard. In other words, the question is not about what you think but what you experience. Not your vichar but your anubhav. Thanks in advance for your response.’

The responses I got were like:
‘भारतीयता धार्मिकता है| यह “होने” में है…’

Much better, but this looked like something that needed going into a little bit more, and I thought that doing a ‘Dayaron se pare’ video recording with Pawanji would help. I think some important insights came up when we recorded the video. I will upload it on the SIDH channel next Saturday.

I also got a response that this is a serious question that is impossible to answer in a casual survey and that educated people like us have no experience of Bharat. The injunction was that we need to ask some expert like Samdhong Rinpocheji. This seemed a little extreme to me. My logic was that I have lived here my entire life, I have been steeped in the sights and sounds of this country, my physical body is made of this soil, I (more-or-less) speak four Indian languages, my thoughts and emotions are moulded by this land, I am deeply moved by the people, places, flora and fauna of this land. How is it that I am unqualified to talk about my experience of Bharat and Bharatiyata? 

In other words, Bharatiyata is part of my daily lived experience. Even if it is a distorted version of some ideal of what Bharatiyata should mean. What do you think?