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Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

On the first anniversary of the strict lockdown imposed in India on this day, a year back!

ashokbhatia

The 24th of March, 2020 dawned upon us as any other normal day. Denizens of India were going about their daily chores with as much zombiness as they could muster. Flowers were in bloom. Birds and bees were going about doing whatever they normally do. Trees were swaying in the gentle breeze coming in from the Bay of Bengal. In other words, God was in heaven and all was well with the world.

However, by 2030 hours in the evening, our world had turned upside down. The Indian government imposed a comprehensive lockdown across a country comprising 1.3 billion persons. The Prime Minister himself appeared on our TV screens and announced this decision. By the time he finished, a mere three and a half hours were remaining for the decision to take effect.

This sudden whammy left all of us twiddling our thumbs trying to figure out as to…

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Background

In this series, we consider some movies through the spiritual lens of 12 personality traits mentioned by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry in India.

Part 1 had covered the traits of Sincerity and Humility.  In this post, we consider movies which touch upon such traits as Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration and Receptivity.

 

Gratitude

In the pre-independence era prior to 1947, we had self-sacrificing doctors who rendered their services in alien lands, serving the people affected by war and plague. Old timers may remember Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946), which was based on the true life-story of Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis who was sent to China during World War II. Dr. Kotnis had helped the people of China during the Japanese invasion. His selfless service makes us remember people like him with profound gratitude. He had married and settled down there itself but had eventually died of plague.

Our hearts get filled with gratitude when we think of either the Corona Warriors or the soldiers who guard our borders.

 

Jaagte Raho (1956) takes us through a night in the life of a poor peasant (Raj Kapoor) who enters a multi-storied building in Mumbai looking for some water to drink. After witnessing the shady deals of the high and mighty of the society, he is shocked but is not able to find water. Eventually, he finds a young lady (Nargis) watering the plants in a temple nearby who helps him to quench his thirst. The look of gratitude on his face says it all.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) is based on the profound sense of gratitude an army feels towards its soldiers and their families. It is set against the backdrop of World War II and the Normandy Invasion. General George Marshall learns that three of the four sons of the Ryan family have got killed in action and that the only remaining son, James Francis Ryan, is with the 101st Airborne Division somewhere in Normandy. Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s Bixby letter, he orders Ryan to be brought home and to be reunited with his mother.

 

Perseverance

Many of us have a bulldog-like quality in us; of not giving up on the goals that we desire to achieve in our lives. Irrespective of the kind of difficulties we face and the obstacles we come across, we keep working on a particular project till the objective is met. If we have made a sincere promise to someone, we go out of our way to fulfill it.

 

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is one of the several movies which showcase the indomitable spirit of human beings. A prison life replete with all its obnoxiousness does not dim the flame of hope inside. If a tunnel takes 19 years to build, so be it. Life has to be lived, not thrown away just because odds happen to be stacked against us. A promise made needs to be fulfilled.

 

Almost all the sport-themed movies focus on this quality. Think of Lagan (2001), Iqbal (2005), Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), Mary Kom (2014), Dangal (2016) and M S Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016).

 

Then there are movies of individual resolve which uplift your spirits by highlighting the kind of travails the characters go through to achieve what they want; Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009), Nil Battey Sannata (2015) and Secret Superstar (2017), to name a few.

Erin Brockovich (2000) is another good example of this personality trait. We shall return to it soon enough.

 

Aspiration

Rolling stones gather no moss, as the wise men say. Life is but another name for the inner motivation we have when we aspire for higher things. The aim could be a basket of materialistic desires or a wide spectrum of spiritual progress. When we aspire for it, perseverance propels us towards our chosen goal.

 

Sujata (1959) was about an untouchable girl (Nutan) brought up by an upper caste couple. It is only when a young man (Sunil Dutt) walks into her life that she awakens to her aspiration to lead a normal life.

 

In Swades (2004) we get to meet Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan), a NASA scientist who wants to return to his roots in India, with an aspiration to solve the problems of local villagers using modern technology.

 

Aaja Nachle (2007) had a gutsy US-based choreographer Radha (Madhuri Dixit) desirous of saving Ajanta, an old open air theatre planned to be demolished to make way for a shopping mall in her home town in India. The difficulties faced by her in keeping an old cultural tradition alive in the face of strong forces of so-called modernization formed the crux of the script.

 

Despite outward signs of success, many of us feel lost, confused and searching for what we really want in our lives. Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) shows us a way out of this misery in Eat, Pray and Love (2010). She steps out of her comfort zone and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. She cherishes nourishment for the body in Italy and for the soul in India. Finally, and unexpectedly, she finds the inner peace and balance of true love in Indonesia.

 

In Udaan (2010), we meet a 17-year old youngster who wants to be free of the overriding discipline of his father at home. How he overcomes his low self-esteem and picks up the courage to aspire for a life free of humiliation and abuse is the central theme.

 

Hindi Medium (2017) showcases the aspirations of a young couple to ensure that their son willy-nilly gets admitted to a good English medium school. The movie ends on a positive note and captures the potential of refurbished public schools which could give a healthy competition to so called elite schools. It was based on a successful experiment conducted by the Delhi government in its public schools a few years back.

 

Sui Dhaaga (2018) introduces us to Mauji (Varun Dhawan) and his wife Mamta (Anushka Sharma) who, when humiliated and cheated by the company where they work as tailors, become entrepreneurs and make their venture a success despite severe odds.

In all these cases, the settings and the aspirations are quite different. But the central message is clear – that we need to work hard to realize our dreams.

 

Receptivity

This is a unique quality of those with an open mind, capable of receiving and taking in knowledge and new ideas and then acting upon the same, if necessary and prudent.

 

Take the character of Uma (Sharmila Tagore) in Anupama (1966). She is extremely shy, diffident and introverted. She has been brought up by a father who blames her for the death of his wife during childbirth. She falls in love with Ashok (Dharmendra) who is disliked by her father. A close friend of hers gives her a dressing down and awakens her to the possibility of a happier life in Ashok’s company. She picks up the courage to stand up to her father, obtains his hesitant consent and joins her beloved.

 

Taare Zameen Par (2007), based on the challenges faced by a young boy suffering from dyslexia, brings in the character of Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Amir Khan), a cheerful and optimistic art instructor. After meeting the boy’s parents, the perceptive teacher is able to diagnose the illness from which Ishaan (Darsheel Safary) suffers. He also finds the boy’s hidden talent for art and takes him under his wings, enabling him to start living a near-normal life.

 

Avatar (2009) happens to be a movie which pitches for sustainability and care for environment. Set in 2154 AD, it calls upon all of us to be receptive to the fragility of nature and limited resources of our planet. One of the unique concepts brought up by the script is that of the sacred Tree of Souls.

In a way, such movies exhort us to be receptive to changes happening all around us and revising our basic priorities in life. Perhaps the Covid virus is also nudging all of us in the same direction.

 

(This series of posts is dedicated to Ms Usha Bhatia, my late wife. Inputs from Mr Sanjay Mohan and Ms Gargi Banerjee are gratefully acknowledged)

 

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-1-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/20/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-3-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/24/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-4-of-4)

 

 

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The 24th of March, 2020 dawned upon us as any other normal day. Denizens of India were going about their daily chores with as much zombiness as they could muster. Flowers were in bloom. Birds and bees were going about doing whatever they normally do. Trees were swaying in the gentle breeze coming in from the Bay of Bengal. In other words, God was in heaven and all was well with the world.

However, by 2030 hours in the evening, our world had turned upside down. The Indian government imposed a comprehensive lockdown across a country comprising 1.3 billion persons. The Prime Minister himself appeared on our TV screens and announced this decision. By the time he finished, a mere three and a half hours were remaining for the decision to take effect.

This sudden whammy left all of us twiddling our thumbs trying to figure out as to how to survive the depressing phase staring us in the face. This was one of the harsher slings and arrows of fate which had hit us. Initially, a sense of shock and awe prevailed. Gradually, reason started reoccupying its throne. Travel plans had to be junked. Medical issues came to the forefront. For the digitally illiterate, banking transactions went for a toss. Gadgets at home needing urgent repairs were left in a limbo. Some missed their daily dose of morning newspapers. Our hearts might have bled realizing the plight of migrants, but we took a jaundiced view of the humble house maid coming in to earn a living. Many other challenges tested our grey matter no end.

Even today, the virus continues to offer a unique experience to most of us, whether by way of making us fearful of its ferocity or by snatching away many of the degrees of freedom we have always taken for granted.

 

The Guardian Angels

It is not that yours truly has been very brave or wise in handling the depressing effect of virus-induced extended lockdowns so far. Much like the V-shaped and W-shaped depressions which plague many of our economies – developed or otherwise – these days, the dark forces of depressing thoughts have been frequently snapping at my heels.

As a loner whose cooking abilities are limited to boiling milk and eggs, and whose procurement related negotiation skills are outdated, life only got tougher in the post-lockdown phase. The horizon of mundane challenges expanded to include sourcing of fruits, vegetables, groceries and medicines. For someone like me who is battered by multiple health risks and is rather shy and diffident, especially in the presence of the members of the fairer sex, the challenge is even mightier.

Luckily, my Guardian Angels who, I am told, go around these days with their fancy i-Pads keeping a track of their favoured ones, noticed my name flashing in a deep red colour on their screens and decided to pitch in. Gradually, a host of characters straight out of the many narratives of P G Wodehouse started popping up around me, making me smile – even laugh occasionally – assisting me in keeping my body and soul together, besides keeping me emotionally afloat and cheerful. Thanks to the virus, a transient family came into existence, with the tantalizing possibility of lingering bonds of friendship which may survive the vagaries of time.

 

Some Supporting Characters

Here are some of the honourable mentions in this context:

Aunt Dahlia and Uncle Tom, my next door neighbours, who keep offering delicious lunches in a routine manner. Their large house is surely not a patch on Brinkley Court. Nor do they have Anatole around. The lavish spreads are an outcome of the culinary skills of Aunt Dahlia, who only calls me a blot on the landscape if she finds me not tucking in enough of the lavish spreads she whips up.

Uncle Tom, besides worrying about taxation blues, could share a great deal of spiritual knowledge. One of his tips to invite a state of happiness is to sing one of his favourite songs at least three times a day without worrying about the reaction of either the humans or the asses around.

At their doorstep, one is apt to find Augustus catching up on its beauty sleep. If awake, his supercilious body language does not encourage one to endeavour to tickle it behind the ears.

Piggy and Maudie, who take care of my pangs of hunger at dinner time, ensure that their dinner spreads are full of nutrients and soluble vitamins, a sentiment that would meet a hearty approval of Laura Pyke.

Piggy happens to share my passion for poetry, books, movies and general affairs, and a personal meeting with him never fails to uplift my spirits. Likewise, a brief session with Maudie on spiritual matters is invariably enriching.

When it comes to being woolly headed, I could offer competition to Lord Emsworth. But I have neither a big castle nor a large estate to take care of. Nor do I have the need to hire a bevy of supporting staff to take care of my affairs. However, someone cast in the mould of Beach the butler, my Man Friday, takes care of mundane upkeep of my modest abode. On this angel falls the burden of ferrying my dinner from Piggy and Maudie’s home every night. How he dodges the ‘oh’s and ‘ho’s of cops enroute in these locked up days and manages to bring home the bacon, so to say, is praiseworthy.

Emerald Stoker, a long time friend and a tough cookie on some days, is otherwise one of those soothing and sympathetic ladies you can take your troubles to, confident of having your hand held and your head patted. She keeps calling me up frequently, not only to check if I am still alive and kicking but also if I happen to be under the grip of any depressive thoughts and need to see Sir Roderick Glossop. I have reason to believe that she keeps a distant track on my emotional peaks and troughs, often directing Guardian Angels in my immediate vicinity to ensure that I remain in a cheerful state of mind.

An architect by profession, she also happens to be a passionate cook. On several occasions, she has shared with me the exotic vegan stuff whipped up by her for the day. All this support from her comes even as she battles severe problems in her personal life.

Jeeves in my life during this phase happens to be a movie maker. He also wears many other hats. His driving and networking skills are exemplary. A globe trotter, he, like all others on this list, suffers from an abundance of the Milk of Human Kindness.

He has the knack of ferreting out sensible movies from the many online streaming options which are in vogue these days. When he shimmers in with a cup of his spiced tea or lays out a lavish breakfast spread, one would need to have a ready supply of tissue papers handy so as to keep one’s drooling under control. Whenever the Guardian Angels are in a celebratory mood, he ensures a ready supply of tissue restoratives.

Angela and Tuppy Glossop

At the start of the lockdown, Jeeves introduced me to Angela, a sprightly spinster who popped up in Pondicherry to soak in its unique ambience, but got stuck due to severe mobility restrictions imposed then. The same fate befell Tuppy Glossop, a friend of hers and a space scientist to boot. My house was blessed by their presence.

Besides a sense of decency and an ample supply of the Milk of Human Kindness coursing through their veins, their sincere efforts at dishing out something which I would find to be palatable endeared my heart. They took over the procurement as well as the household management functions rapidly, the result being that one never had to miss one’s vitamins.

As someone who relishes the pleasures of the table and also aspires to be a sous-chef, Tuppy, in one of his finer culinary experiments, even succeeded in making a ‘perfect circle’ puffed-up chapatti.  Angela was quick on the uptake and sharpened her skills at cooking delicious lentils and kheer (a kind of pudding popular in India).

Both have been going out for beach walks together but I am not aware if any dispute concerning Angela having spotted a shark in the waters ever arose between them. Perhaps the credit goes to the sharks which avoid being in shallow sea waters around Pondicherry.

Pauline Stoker, a fashion designer, a marketer and a fitness enthusiast, keeps popping up with her home-cooked stuff on several days, brightening up the evenings with her effervescence and charm. Often accompanied by her well-mannered Kid Clementina who is sorely missing opportunities to put sherbet in ink pots these days and is invariably struggling to complete her home work online.

Captain Biggar and Galahad happen to be neighbours who pitch in occasionally to spice up the proceedings. One ensures a ready supply of several works of P G Wodehouse borrowed by him from a library nearby. Another offers a fresh perspective on current affairs over a steaming hot cup of tea. He has even ensured home delivery of farm fresh milk, duly sourced from contented cows.

All this is not to say that my immediate family, stationed about 8,000 kms away, does not bring in emotional succour by ardent enquiries made almost every other day. Each interaction with them is akin to a tiny drop of the elixir of inner bliss. Then there are relatives, friends and cousins who are keeping in touch, sharing their experiences during the lockdowns.

 

Meditation and Spiritual Upliftment

Twice a week, the group gathers for a spot of meditation at my place, thereby retaining the members’ sanity and equipoise.

The positive spin-offs of the virus are many. Lesser noise pollution. Minimal traffic. Greener environment. Virtual meetings. A unique time to relook at ourselves and our priorities in life closely. Better sharing and caring between neighbours. A hastening of the onset of Industrial Revolution 4.0.

On the flip side, at least three friends have so far handed in their dinner pails during the 90-day period under reference. For yours truly, some fresh challenges have popped up on the health front. I shall be deceiving the public if I were to say that such incidents do not dampen my spirits. However, help is at hand to pull me out of a deep emotional pit whenever necessary.

The eventual result is a kind of spiritual upliftment, perhaps of the kind that vicars experience when someone like Thos happens to be around.

An Abundance of the Milk of Human Kindness

To sum up, the Guardian Angels are keeping loneliness, depression and negativity at bay. An openness in making new friends, a tendency to help others nearby in whatever way one can and a positive frame of mind facilitate a healthy dose of laughter, mirth and joy. All efforts are being made to keep the body and soul together, so there is no shortage of feel-good hormones in one’s system.

As we gear ourselves to getting used to a long term presence of the virus, or its subsequent off-shoots which it plans to unleash upon us in the days to come, we would do well not to forget that it is here to teach us a rich lesson: that true happiness lies not in material comforts but in sharing a part of what we have with others who, at that point in time, may be in dire need of. Of being able to put ourselves into others’ shoes, anticipating their needs and trying to address the same. Adjusting to what is and not repenting what is not; accepting that life is never perfect. Cultivating a sense of gratitude.

To put it simply, keeping human values on the top of our dealings with those who deserve the same; being humane. As one of my professors would put it, by adopting the Spandan (heartbeat) approach to life.

(Allusions to characters from the works of Wodehouse are purely imaginary; depending upon some personality traits of the real persons alluded to here. No offence is meant to either of the two categories.)

(Illustrations courtesy Mr Sanjay Mohan and the world wide web)

 

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