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FOREWORD: This is a post that is dedicated to my grand uncle. The matter and content of this post is best understood by and most relevant to my family circles. Hence the intended audience to this post are my family members and relatives.

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6th July 2017. The Hasnabadi family lost another jewel – Raghavendra Hasnabadi.

Education, wisdom, knowledge, eloquence and intellect are the traits all sons of Bhima ji Rao Bhishto carried and exhibited. And to say the least, Raghu ajja was more.

With every death of our grand dads and grand uncles, the protective umbrella of experience and wisdom that has guarded us through life seems to diminish greatly and leave us, the younger generation, exposed to ugly shallowness of our times. Makes me constantly realize that without our elders and the wisdom that comes with them, the heritage that they have guarded on their shoulders and flourished during their lifetime, our lives are too ordinary, superficial and shallow. But you know what’s funny, this realization always dawn’s upon us only after it’s too late. For most part of our lives that we spend with them around, we are seldom aware of the lives they lived and paths they treaded, the hardships they overcame and the challenges they faced. Like the grass that’s always greener on the other side, we read in awe about the lives of the freedom fighters and others whose lives are glorified by our text books. But little do we realize what our grand dads lived were no ordinary lives.

Our grand parents were special. For their actions were driven by sincerity, respectfulness, kindness, and faith. The kind of determination and grit that fueled their energy is no match to anything we have seen or experienced today. They were special, for every one of my grand dads and grand uncles had a story to tell.
Sometimes I wonder if I would ever have a story like that to tell my grand children when I have completed a significant time of my life. Our lives are technology dominated. Sense of superiority comes with superficiality and self esteem grows with picture perfect selfies, better cars and foreign trips. We depend on our phones and power of money more than we depend on our memory and abilities. Discipline is something that we learn only after we step into our 60s or when border line diabetes mocks us. Values and morals diminish with every new generation that sprouts. Our grand parents were special for we can never be like them.

I have always felt the rush to immortalise the stories and golden days our grand dads lived coz rest assured, going further this world will never see grandparents like the way our generation did, with technology seeping into the lives of the old and the young alike, in unimaginable ways, there by diluting the essence of innocence, grandeur and authenticity our grand parents came with.
So I planned to talk to Raghu Ajja and Shankar Ajja( the only 2 jewels who are with us, out of the 8 siblings, along with the other one being Sheku Ajji who is not quiet in a position to recollect anything from her childhood ) in depth about their lives and the message they would like to pass on to the younger generations to come.
But fate had it this way. I barely had 1 or 2 sittings with Raghu Ajja and he is no more with us today.
Well, all said and done, the cycle birth and death is vicious and eternal.
“jaatasya hi dhruvo mrutyuh, dhruvam janma mrutasya cha”
This verse from the holy Gita translates to “An entity that is born, is sure to die. And when it dies, it is sure to be born”
Like puppets, we watch the world take its course and let go of our protective umbrellas, feeling more empty and void than ever before.

But then, there is hope. There is still something that can fuel our lives for the rest of the years that we are to live without our umbrellas overlooking us at all times. Like the touchstone that acquires the properties of the gold that it is rubbed into, in the quest for knowledge and understanding of how our grand dads could do and and be all that they have ever done and been, a lucky few of us, try to learn( and hopefully emulate) how to live it large by spending a few precious moments discussing their lives with our grand dads. According to me, there can be no better life lessons than to carry out conversations with your grand parents.
I can proudly yet with all humility say that I am one such lucky puppet who got to interact with Raghu Ajja, my grand uncle, my umbrella, discussing his life in a couple of sittings.

With Raghu Ajja no more with us, this project of mine remains incomplete. However, I am sharing the details of those precious moments we spent discussing about the journey of his life on this page for us all, the uncertain and confused souls to read. Most part of those sittings went with him educating me about different policies available in mutual funds to invest money in a right way, though 🙂
However, our last meeting was different. His ailment had taken away most of his charm. He had become a lot more quieter and restricted. He had stopped working ( he was self employed and into mutual mutual funds ) and had successfully handed over the same to his daughter Vidhya Atte. That day when I finally met him, like any other day of his ailment, he spent most of the time lying in bed, sleeping. But after he got up and realized I was waiting to talk to him, he sat up on his wooden chair and enquired about my well being. He later began to speak about his life at length for about an hour and a half with hardly a break in between. That was the moment I had waited for in a long time, ever since the seed of documenting the life stories of my grand dads had sown in my head. Ajja was in his elements that day, rejoicing every moment of what he recollected of his childhood days. I will never forget those moments I spent with him.raghu ajja.png

Raghavendra Hasnabadi was born into a Deshashta smartha brahmin family of 9 siblings ( inclusive of him), As the 6th son of Bhima ji Rao Bhishto.
He recalled that his father had a government job, that of a land surveyor working for the British government in India. His father spoke good english and could effectively communicate with his higher ups. As the sole breadwinner of the family, his father often travelled with his mother on duty. This led Raghu Ajja and his siblings to grow up geographically away from one another and in the care of their relatives, meeting mostly during holidays. Owing to their parents transferrable job, the older of the siblings like Rangaraj Hasnabadi ( my loving grand dad) and Hanumantha Rao Hasnabadi moved to Bangalore early on in life and studied college, working and earning along side. The younger ones travelled with their parents and studied at various government schools. Raghu Ajja completed plus-two( translates to 2nd puc in today’s times) and got into a government job in irrigation department much against his wishes. He wished to study further but prevailing poverty led him to fetch a job.
He recalled that despite his father being poor, he was famously known for his righteousness and honesty. Despite not being able to earn a lot of money, all the respect he earned during his lifetime protected his children during their growing-up days. They were all treated with a lot of respect and dignity and were quiet well-known in their village.
Raghu Ajja got into irrigation department in the year 1952. That is where he met one of his closest friends for life Sri. Venkatesh Katti who later became Raghu Ajja’s guru and introduced him to the world of Adhyatma. Thanks to his job, Raghu Ajja got to travel along with Sri Venkatesh Katti across the state/country every time he was assigned a work responsibility. This enabled him to associate closely with his Guru and deeply into the subject of Adhyatma. He studied and discussed in depth, Advaita Vedanta like Shankara Bhashya and Bramha Sutra to name a few. While on travel, after working hours, they would both go looking of a serene place to sit in and around the place they were posted, for spiritual discussion that would go on for hours on end.
It could be a bank of river or a stone slab under a peepal tree.
He recalled that those were indeed some of the most enlightened days of his life.
He slowly began to withdraw from his friends, since their discussions normally happened to be about family-lives, dramas, work and politics which ceased to interest him. There were years of his life where he spent without any friends, with a guru to look up to and a family to care for and he was absolutely in peace with what life had to offer. He learnt astrology and delved into bits of astronomy in the process for about 2 years and even devised a ‘yantra’ after slogging for months! He said astrology charts and calculations were not readily available those days and astrology was also not everybody’s cup of tea, like it’s service is found selling in literally every ‘gulli’ today, luring commoners with a display board with a ‘show of palm’. Neither did astrology earn a single paisa for those who offered consultation, back then. Astrology was only meant for the learned and those who considered it a passion. ” You actually devised a ‘yantra’! How cool is that Ajja?! In today’s times wouldn’t that translate to building an astrology software, or a mobile app, to say the least?!” I marvelled. Bitter experiences related to personal life led him to discontinue his astrological studies.

Sometime around then, Raghu Ajja was introduced to yoga, which along with pranayama, he went on to practice rigidly for decades, which he discontinued due to the knee pain that he developed, barely a few years before he passed away, at the age of 84. Yet, he took to other form of exercises to stay fit! Even if I attempt to talk about his self discipline in the next couple of sentences, it will still be an understatement. So I leave it at that.
He briefed me about how pranayama and Adhyatma go hand in hand, and how one can achieve his goals in meditation when one adheres to rigid pranayama and accompanies that with spiritual studies. Simply put, for a person of his regime, I imagine, ‘self realization’ couldn’t have been too far to achieve.
While on one hand, Raghu Ajja was on his path to spiritual life, on the other, his guru, Sri Venkatesh Katti was on his way to expand his knowledge by studying ‘Tantra shashtra’ and black magic. I am led to believe that his son’s failure to get on in life and indulgence in bad company made his Guru take a plunge into ‘ tantra shashtra’. And that is where Raghu Ajjas ideologies deviated from that of his Guru. Raghu Ajja didn’t want someone practicing tantra shashtra’ for a guru and tried his bit persuading his guru, but in vain. That is when both their paths split and Raghu Ajja stopped his Adhyatma learning from his Guru. Thus, 12 whole years of in-depth learning and spiritual interactions and discussion brought about an enormous change and significant enlightenment in Ajja’s life. Raghu Ajja, though willing to continue his spiritual learning, did not find a suitable guru who could replace Sri Venkatesh Katti. ” Finding the right guru is the most important step towards self realization”, he stresses at this point. ” At the same time, it is a duty of a guru to find a right ‘shishya’ and successfully pass on knowledge for him to attain salvation. And neither is easy” he quotes.

Raghu Ajja retired at 60 as an executive engineer in PWD irrigation department in Dharwad in the year 1993. Post retirement, Raghu Ajja was introduced to LIC and was encouraged to to become an agent by one of his friends, Mr. Yankanchi, the division manager at LIC. That marked another new beginning as he embarked as an LIC agent and later went on to become a certified advisor of mutual funds.
Now STOP and imagine what it is like to prepare for a certification exam and start a career afresh, at the age of 65?! #RESPECT. There after, he built a huge client base for himself in Dharwad and later in Bangalore, all of that, single handedly, which kept him busy and going, until only a few months before his death, when an ailment struck him and he passed on work related affairs successfully to his daughter to continue.
He believed in earning and saving till the end of his life. In one instance he quotes proudly that he has not only saved enough money for his grand daughter Chandrika but also invested in the name of his great grand child( yet to arrive into this world) in a way that Chandrika will get returns on the investment when the time is ripe, about 20 years from now! On the contrary, at 33, where I am half done with life, I am yet to begin a savings plan for myself!
Just as I was engrossed in worthy discussions with Raghu ajja, my 6 year old’s phone call brought me back to my world. I told ajja that I am still left with a number of questions and that I will come back soon. ( Ironically the next time I went to his house to offer my last prayers, I was unfortunate enough to not even get a glimpse of his body, I missed it by less than 10 minutes). As I walked out of his room, Ajja called me and said- ” Pratibha, come here. I have one important thing to tell you. Always remember, if there is ever a worthy investment, they that is only in your kids education. No other investment has ever proven to be of greater worth. Plan and save money for their post graduation and beyond. Education is most important.” I nodded my head in agreement and walked out to bid adieu to Shanta ajji and she remarked with glee ‘ in all these days, it’s only today that he has sat up for so long and had such lengthy conversation with such zest. His words are otherwise very limited and conversations rarely happen. He sleeps most of the time. ‘ Now can you agree more that I am one lucky puppet?! 🙂

On the 6th day of July, did he already know the time was ripe and he would have to depart to his heavenly abode? I don’t know. But all of that day, he lay in his bed, holding his daughter’s hand firmly in his, as he narrated to his wife and daughter, the story of a roman king who executed the lives of so many of his country men for various reasons. The people who had to be hanged on that particular day stood in the queue waiting for their turn. There was an old man in the queue, on to whom his little grand daughter clung on, at all times. When the old man was asked about his last wish, he said that his last wish is to be allowed to hold his grand daughter’s hand, tightly clasped, even when he is on the scaffold with the rope around his neck, untill his last breath.
The Roman king granted his last wish. Thus the old man held his grand daughter’s hand till his last.
Ajja did hold on to his daughter until his last breath.

Today, in my eyes, Raghu Ajja stands as an embodiment of grit and courage, of perseverance and poise, of self-belief and success.

While a puppet like me can only show gratitude with folded hands and thank God for placing me in such lineage, I would also like to say, with all the ‘ancestral wisdom and intellect’ that I have, I would like to live the remaining years of my life, less ordinary.

May your soul rest in peace, Raghu ajja. You continue to live in our hearts.

 

 

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A day in the life of kashmiris

Posted: December 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

“Toh Shabbir, aap kya chahatehain, Kashmir Bharath ke hi rahe ya Pakistan ke hojayein?” I asked Shabbir, my cab driver during our tour of ten days in Kashmir. We were on our way to the foothills of Gulmarg. He smiled, shrugged and said ‘ what I want or don’t want doesn’t matter me’m saab, no one asks us ‘. There! Yet another time he had dodged my question- I grinned.
Ladies and gentlemen, what came next turned out to be the most unforgettable 15 hours of my life.
Suraj and I trekked Gulmarg uphill for over 6 km, scaling all the way to its summit and got back to the foothills on horses back.
There had been a rumour all of that day that the riots could begin any time with no confirmed reports.
We had to drive 56km, all the way back to Srinagar and were glad our Gulmarg trek went well without any hitch. Shabbir started driving back, while we removed our jackets and gum boots, trying to get comfortable In the back seat.
Suddenly, Someone out of nowhere threw a fire lit tyre right into the middle of the road. Shabbir brought the taxi to a sudden halt, safely pulled up to a side and frowned as he announced- RIOTS HAVE INDEED BEGUN. The clock showed 3 pm. After 4 hours of trekking uphill and 2 hours downhill on horse back, we had not even had our lunch.
Shabbir took an inside route that would connect to the highway, assuming in all probability, that the route will be open. After driving for 50 whole minutes, we did see the highway ahead at about 200 meters away, but our path was blocked by huge tin cans dipped in kerosene and torched up. We saw a man making an attempt to move them, enough to let his taxi pass. I told Shabbir that we should help him too, so we can sneak out as well. But Shabbir gave a firm NO. He decided to drive all the way back, so we drove for another 50 min, now back to square one! My mind kept telling me that Shabbir didn’t really care and was just wasting time.
As we joined so many other taxies treading their way through, only a few meters at a time, we reached a junction where there were a bunch of hooligans, standing and waiting across the road, ready to throw boulders at anyone who dared to drive past. I saw Shabbir get down and speak to one of those guys for 5 min, occasionally chuckling. I was stunned! I was convinced that Shabbir is one among them- Just another con man making money out of India tourism but an outlaw supporting the miscreants. As we finally managed to steer past these hurdles and hit the Srinagar highway at around 6 30pm, it was evident that the protests on the highway were very severe, with mob spanning every half kilometre, waiting with gunny bags filled with stones,weapons and kerosene ready. The road of the highway  itself was donned with fire and soot, with flakes of carbon lingering in the air, smelling of kerosene everywhere. All the tourists vehicles including ours entered an abandoned petrol bunk and waited there, judging too well that driving through that highway was nothing short of digging our own grave. Just as we began to discuss restlessly amongst ourselves, we saw a huge military convoy pass by. A ray of hope?! Every single vehicle waiting at the petrol bunk now quickly sneaked into the convoy since it was known that no one would throw stones at the military convoy. But We were the only ones remaining. Shabbir had refused, despite me begging him to join the convoy till the moment had passed, and the convoy was out of sight. I was worried we would get stranded through the night. I was now out of my wits. “Shabbir, what the hell do you think you are doing? Exactly what is your intention? Do you even want to help us and get us back safe to Srinagar?” I yelled at him.
Just as Shabbir, not losing his composure, had begun to explain that our safety is foremost on his mind, something unbelievable happened. The buses and other tourist vehicles that had sneaked in through the convoy came rushing back at once to the petrol station. We were shocked to see that ALL the vehicles were severely damaged. They say riots are the language of the unheard, and that day, Suraj and I got a first hand view of a typical riot scene- All window panes broken, one of the drivers lip cut because of hurling of stones at the windows, the stepney wheel of a TataSumo splashed with kerosene and lit up, and a whole bunch of tourists with glass pieces stuck in their hair, bleeding here and there….
I began to carefully pluck glass out of people’s hair and forehead, while Suraj and Shabbir doused the fire on the stepney wheel of Tata sumo, and tended to the severely wounded drivers. Those miscreants had obviously spared the convoy but had clearly aimed for these tourist vehicles and busses.
Amidst what seemed like mayhem to me, I couldn’t make time to express a word of gratitude for that presence of mind and thoughtfulness Shabbir had exhibited at that moment when he decided to NOT join the passing convoy, for, I was busy giving first aid for the injured.
Finally, at 10 30pm, Shabbir drove us back safely to the hotel, arranged for food to be parcelled and delivered to us and left.
That was the last day of our tour and we never got to see Shabbir again.
My words of gratitude remained unsaid. the next day, we took the flight back to Bangalore.
On the occasion of new year’s eve, 2 months later, we wrote him a thank you letter along with new year wishes and shabbir in return had sent his family picture with new year greetings written at the back of it. I still have that picture with me. His children, as beautiful as their home land itself, happily
 pose for a photo with sparkle in their eyes oblivious to the world of uncertainty and chaos around them.
As I lead a life of comfort here, I can’t help but think of the lives of kashmiris dreaming year after year, for a life, that is NOTHING but normal.

The Jeans way…

Posted: October 23, 2008 in Uncategorized

Why do some guys spend ages in the same pair of dirty torn jeans when they can afford to buy any number of new clothes, Ever wondered?

I have always believed that choosing the right clothes is very important for a person.

We are not getting into a discussion of what to where and when, for i am not even close to being a fashion designer.

But, clothes you wear speak a lot about your attitude.

In the process of wearing fancy/sober/bright/gaudy clothes, what we are really wearing is our Attitude.

For example I choose to be very smartly dressed on certain important days of the week, smart for me means a pair of jeans and a t-shirt/medium fitting comfy top, a snug fitting jacket. A stylish and non flimsy, (and needless to say NON golden strapped )watch is mandatory. Preferably shoes so I don’t end up dragging my feet all over the place (yeah, I cant really walk very comfortably with slippers on).

I call this smart because it makes me feel smart, in place and confident.

When I wear jeans and get ready to go to work, I am also getting ready to face obstacles, difficulties that I might encounter on that day. I am ready to take things on my stride and stand by what I believe, and at times just shrug my shoulders and get going with a Don’t care attitude.

These little obstacles and difficulties may be misconduct on the part of an onlooker/scalawag, an accident I come across on the way to work, an assault/harassment that I witnessed, tough time with my manager, arguments and discussions with parents/friends…just any thing i care to react to in a certain ‘my way’.

I have been wearing jeans more or less everyday for more than 15 yrs now and it has so become a part of my skin.

Jeans is undoubtedly my comfort zone, for at times, it even helps me take right decisions. How?

Like i said, jeans have merged with my genes for a long time now, for it determines a particular characteristic in me.At times when its important to weigh the consequences before taking a call, and when decision making becomes crucial, It helps me to think “my way” and prepares me to face the consequences of the decision I stand by. I cant clearly explain how these things are really connected, except that I feel that I am there for me if I am in my regular outfit- jeans, or cool pajamas.

Its like my comfort zone where I can find solace if not solutions all the same, some sense of belonging.

Some ppl have a special thing for Jeans and go paranoid when they cant find a particular pair of jeans befitting the occasion. I belong to one such category too.

One of my best friends carries herself pretty well even at functions like marriages and naming ceremonies in a pair of baggy jeans and a T-shirt, totally oblivious to the fact that oldies around are giving her looks with raised eyebrows not knowing how to react to

her outlandish dress 🙂

I have felt the need to express gratitude to the concept of jeans for some time now, and this is my way of doing it.

This is a tribute to ‘Jeans’ and all the jeans lovers 🙂 Let’s go the Jeans way…!!!