Archive for category Hindu

A Tribute to my Mother

Amma and me - baby picture


My mother took her last breath on this earth at 4:45 am on October 9, 2013, with me sitting by her side and holding her hand as she lay unconscious on her hospital bed.  In the background was softly playing the Hindu Mahamrityunjaya Mantra:


“OM. Tryambakam Yajamahe, Sugandhim Pushti-Vardhanam, Urvarukamiva Bandhanaan, Mrityor Mukshi Yamamritaat…” which roughly translates to “We Meditate on the Three-eyed reality Which permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance.
May we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality, Even as the cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper.”

The doctor came in and pronounced her dead and although I knew the end was near even when I stepped onto the plane in Dallas, there was a moment of disbelief.  I was told when I reached Bombay that my mother was clinging on to her life just waiting for me to arrive.  When I reached the hospital, she was unconscious and breathing hard.  As I sat next to her and talked to her hoping that she was sensing my presence at some subconscious level, I was also hoping against hope that she would suddenly open her eyes and give me the special smile that she had for me, her oldest child.  But it was not to be and some 30 hours after I arrived, she left this earth without regaining consciousness.  I never left her side once she passed, staying at her bedside, in the hearse which took her home, during the ceremonies which followed, back into the hearse to the crematorium for more ceremonies till I finally lit the funeral pyre, gently pushed her body into the incinerator, collected her hot ashes with my bare hands about an hour later and then immersed them in the sea at 1:45 pm on the same day.

Now it is more than 2 months since her passing and I look back on her life and the special bond that we had from the beginning of my life to the end of hers.

My mother was married when she was only 17.  She used to tell me that she was a very smart student in school and wanted to be a doctor.  But in those days, girls were not expected to be too smart – just get married as soon as they were out of school and have a family.

I was born to my mother when she was just 18.  She used to tell me that I almost died at birth since my umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and I choked to the point that I was blue when I was born.  So my survival was like a miracle to her.

And the strange part was that all my life whenever I looked at her, I could see the infinite love she had for the baby who almost never made it.  And from my side, as a child, my mother was this most beautiful person in the world, who could solve any problem that I brought to her, who was my biggest cheer-leader when I was succeeding at something and the person who would console me at times of loss and sorrow.

I realize now that almost everything I did was to try to impress her – and she used to be thrilled with whatever little thing I accomplished.  And she believed that I was smart enough to achieve anything I wanted in life – and she also knew all my weaknesses that held me back from reaching some of my goals.

Now that she is gone, even as a middle aged man, I feel orphaned.  But then I hear my mother’s voice talking to me, repeating what she has told me many times “You have always done your duty as my oldest son and unlike many other parents have about their children,  I have no disappointments at all with you.  So I will never be gone from your life.  Even if my body leaves this earth, my spirit will be always be around protecting and guiding you”.

And, come to think of it, from my side I have no regrets as well.  There was nothing left unsaid or any unfinished business between me and her.  She lived a good life and had a relatively painless passage out of this world (which is ultimately what is sought by reciting the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra).

So I will move forward full steam ahead with my life and ensure that all the efforts that my mother made in bringing me into this world and nurturing me during sickness and health shall not have been in vain.

Finally, when it is my time to kick the bucket, I will have no fear whatsoever, since I have no doubt she will be out there somewhere waiting to welcome me back in her arms once again!






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The Universal Appeal of Avatar …

Avatar - the movie

Avatar - the movie

Yesterday was not a good day for James Cameron.  His highest grossing, block buster movie, Avatar, was beaten to the Oscars by his ex-wife’s movie, The Hurt Locker.  As Jay Leno had predicted, he will get see these Oscars only on Wednesday evenings and every other weekend!

Last year’s big Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire brought a gritty piece of India to the world audience. Avatar (meaning “reincarnation” in Sanskrit), on the other hand, is based on a concept of having multiple births (which is familiar to most Indians), a word that has now been adopted into the English language.

The best known Avatars for Hindus are those of Vishnu (the God of Maintenance) whose 10 Avatars (known as Dasavatars, see below) include well known ones like Rama and Krishna.

10 Avatars of Vishnu (dasavataram)

10 Avatars of Vishnu (dasavataram)



Ever since I saw the movie Avatar (in 3D), I have been pondering about the rationale for the popularity of this movie (other than the obvious entertainment value) all over the world.

One could understand its universal appeal because of the fantastic special effects but more than that, I believe everyone read into the movie whatever they wanted to, based on their own cultural values and political beliefs.

For example, the environmentalists could see this as promoting their cause of conservation.

Devout Hindus could see this as affirmation of their beliefs.  For example, an uncle of mine related the following story after seeing the movie.

The transfer of soul from one body to the other (Parakaya Pravesam) is not new to the Hindu thoughts. Adi Sankara was involved in an intelectual argument (known as Tharkasastra) with Mandana Misra at Varanasi (Benaras). Mandana Misra was a married person and an erudite scholar in Meemamsa,a science of Vedanta. He was on self immolation bid in his last stage of life,covered in a heap of rice husk,just lighted at the bottom.The fire was gradually spreading from the bottom when the argument was proceeding. At one stage when he found that he could not win over Adi Sankara in argument, said that Adisankara was an unmarried Sanyasi and that he had no experience as a Grahastha (married person) to argue on grahasth’s life. At the sametime the king of Benaras had just passed away and his body was lying in state.Adi Sankara left his own body and entered the dead king’s body.When the queen was delighted to see the king alive,Adi Sankara told her the true story to her surprise. It was just to qualify himself as a Grahastha he had performed the act and discussed with her certain relevant topics and then re-entered his own body and continued his arguments with Mandana Mishra,who was immensely pleased with Adi Sankara’s efforts to emphasize on the truth and conceded his defeat.So goes the story.

And so why would be a movie such as this be popular among Muslims (or some other religious or ethnic group) for whom the concept of reincarnation is as alien as the residents of the planet Pandora in the movie?

Well, the movie depicts a situation where natives armed with rudimentary weapons, by relying on just their religious faith and ancient culture, could defeat a mighty invading, colonial army trying to occupy their land.

Would not the movie not then inspire the Taliban (and others of their ilk) to believe that they would one day get the better of the forces that had “invaded” their land?

And the following news item (available through various media outlets) from last month seems to confirm that this theory may have some legs:

So if I was Mullah Omar watching this movie from my hideout somewhere in Pakistan, James Cameron would certainly inspire me to continue my struggle against the “infidel” powers who have invaded and occupied my land! 

And I would definitely have been rooting for Avatar to win against The Hurt Locker!!