MOTHER’S WORDS ON A TEACHERS’ DAY

Reproducing an article written in 2014..

Mother Teresa – August 26, 1910 – September 5, 1997

“I never forget an opportunity I had in visiting a home where they had all these old parents of sons and daughters who had just put them in an institution and forgotten maybe. And I went there, and I saw in that home they had everything, beautiful things, but everybody was looking towards the door. And I did not see a single one with their smile on their face. And I turned to the Sister and I asked: How is that? How is it that the people they have everything here, why are they all looking towards the door, why are they not smiling? I am so used to see the smile on our people, even the dying one smile, and she said: This is nearly every day, they are expecting, they are hoping that a son or daughter will come to visit them. They are hurt because they are forgotten, and see – this is where love comes. That poverty comes right there in our own home, even neglect to love.”

From the Mother’s Nobel Lecture – December 11, 1979

There is this place that I visit regularly and the Mother’s these words echo on what I feel there during each of my trip.

This one is a paid home for the senior citizens, the old-age people who are forced to live there (and in every such home, paid or charitable).

Yes I can use the word ‘forced’ because no one wants to live away from his or her family when he or she needs it the most, in old-age, when they become dependent on others, financially, medically and emotionally and this dependence increases as the age advances.

Here in this particular old-age home, financial constraint is not an issue except one or two members because most are well-to-do traders or pensioners with good financial background, but overall, each of them are poor emotionally, as the Mother’s words say, as the practical needs of an old-age demand, the emotional attachment and attentions, they need people to spend time with them, to listen to them, to care for them, and that is universally true, at least in the context of the Indian tradition where the whole family still grows together, where the parents forget their own comforts, comfortably and happily, to give a comfortable life to their children.

And such old-age homes reiterate the concerns on the value-erosion that is breaking people away from the joint-family tradition where even fathers and mothers become unwanted entities.

Here in this old-age home, even if the situation is like other worldly when we compare it with similar government run institutions or many charitable ones, this poverty transcends. It begins with the families. The poverty there pushes them to throw their elderly parents away to such institutions, the eternally emotionally poor places.

And it can be read on their faces.
Yes, the grandpas and grandmas here are fully aware of their situation and the lifelong learning and bad experiences from their own children make them tolerant enough to pass the days in their solitude.

Still, they expect. Still, they pray for their sons and daughters. Still, their financial planning of whatever they have revolves around their sons who don’t even call them or the daughters who don’t even visit them even if they stay in the same city.

It is always an unacceptable point that a son (daughters are not privileged to take such decisions in Indian societies) cannot accommodate his parents or his father or his mother in ‘his family life’.

Peace always evades them and their sons and daughters live in a world of fallacy, of a caricaturized peace, earned on the sobs and tears of their parents.

Some of them had come here together. They saw here one departing. And they are now alone. Relatives including the immediate family members, including the sons and the daughters (if some of them turn up) come for the last rites and then it is even more solitary and haunting a life where the only person with whom he or she could share the emotional needs, is no more.

And the institution here, the old-age home, with good infrastructure and material facilities, is no help either. There is no emotional connect. The basic requirement of such an institution, catering to the emotional needs of the humiliated hearts, is totally absent. The staff there treats them as paid inhabitants who don’t give tips.

Most of the charitable institutions (and yes, this old-age home is one from the lot) don’t even know what charity should be, where should it begin and that there is no end to it, as the Mother’s life and words teach us to follow.

The value-erosion is deepening as evident by such institutions proliferating across the country. And there is no defined solution to address it.

The major reason behind such ‘extremely nuclear’ families is an increasingly selfish and self-centered work culture shaped by an education system that forces students to become too individualistic in competing and succeeding.

The value-based education system has been replaced by a system that focuses only on examinations. It tells students to compete and succeed at all costs. It tells them there is no life beyond it if they fail. The students are bullied by life and by the society.

They live under consistent pressure and after a point of time, they start treating genuine concerns and advices of their parents as bullying and selfish acts. They stop seeing the fine print of their parents’ intentions. They justify the family assistance as their right, something that their parents enjoyed as well when they were youngsters.

Not all sons and daughters become like that. But the increasing number of old-age homes tells us the problem is widening and the society needs to address it.

A logical way to address it is introducing value based content focusing on parents and caring for them in the teaching curriculum right from the elementary level and continue the flow year after year till the undergraduate level. It is not a wild thought to opinionate that a separate course should be developed on family values in Indian societies. If there is a need of value-indoctrination in the Indian tradition, it is here, on this and similar issues.

Due to certain reasons, my visits to this old-age homes has become more frequent these days and thoughts on these lines naturally came to me today, after watching prime minister Nadrendra Modi’s address and interaction with the students from across the country emphasizing on the ‘value of values’ on the Teachers’ Day, a day to observe the birth anniversary of the greatest academician India has ever had, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the former President of the nation and a former vice-chancellor of my alma mater, Banaras Hindu University.

‘Who we are is not decided by our lineage’ but by our deeds and when we fail to perform on our primary responsibilities, that is to our parents, to care for them, to be with them on their every call, we fail in life, even if we amass great material wealth.

Dr. Radhakrishnan had said: “We are Braahmin not on account of birth or the performance of rites, not by study or family, but on account of our behavior”.

Growing up is basically about the values that we imbibe and how the values reflect in our acts. The sons and daughters who don’t learn to appreciate and imbibe the values that make the connect with their parents a natural bond remain poor throughout their lives – as the Mother’s words say, as the life says, as echoed in Dr. Radhakrishnan’s words – “Their joy is in the fulfilment of family obligations of marriage and parenthood, and other personal relationships.”

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan – September 5, 1888 – April 17, 1975

Mother Teresa - Dr. Radhakrishnan

Mother Teresa – Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
(Images sourced from the Internet)

©SantoshChaubey

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HOW TWITTER REACTED TO MOTHER TERESA’S CANONIZATION

To humanity’s great joy, Mother Teresa is now officially declared as Saint by Pope Francis in the ongoing Canonization Mass today at the Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican City. Although Canonization is a religious process and most of the canonized saints, over 600 in the last 50 years, were priests, when the Vatican finds someone like Mother Teresa, one of the biggest crusaders of the humanity, the whole process, even if it is religious in nature and belongs to one particular community, becomes a moment the whole words watches; becomes a development that people of all faiths across different communities await. The twitter trends of different counties once again reaffirmed our faith it.

Mother Teresa Twitter Collage3

As expected, Mother Teresa trending on top on Twitter India page. It was only natural that Twitter trends of Kolkata were on the same line.

In the Christian nations, she was on top or in top 10 in many countries. Italy, USA, UK, Mexico and Brazil were the big Christian countries where Mother Teresa prominently figured in people’s opinions though some other major Christian countries like France or Germany that I checked were not showing her in the top 10 trends. Italy, the Vatican’s backyard was obviously painted with Mother Teresa at top. In the US, she was trending at number 2, in Mexico at number 5, in Britain at number 6 and in Brazil at number 8.

Mother Teresa Twitter Collage1

What was heartening to see that she was trending even on the Twitter Trends of some of the Muslim countries. She was at number 2 in Lebanon trends, at number 4 in United Arab Emirates, at number 6 in Malaysia and at number 10 in Nigeria. She was in top 10 in Indonesia trends though I could not take the screenshot.

Mother Teresa Twitter Collage2

©SantoshChaubey 

MOTHER TERESA AND THE ENDLESS CONTROVERSIES OF CANONISATION AT THE VATICAN

The article originally appeared on DailyO.

In the last 50 years, from the days of Pope Paul VI that began in 1963, the Vatican has given the world some 640 saints, more than dozen a year.

Pope John Paul II, who was pope for more than 26 years, from 1978 to 2005, in fact made more saints that all previous popes together, over 480, since the papal supremacy in declaring sainthood for someone was officially established in the 16th Century. Pope Benedict who was pope for some eight years and who renounced papacy, leaving the office in 2013, had presided over 45 canonizations while the current pope, Francis, has already added 28 names to the canon of the recognized saints.

One of the canonizations by him is of the Martyrs of Otranto, 813 inhabitants of the Italian city Otranto who were massacred in 1480 after they refused to convert to Islam. If we count by the individual names, then Pope Francis has surpassed even Pope John Paul II. While Mother Teresa’s canonization mass is scheduled for September 4, 7 more will be elevated to the status of sainthood on October 16.

Almost of them have been catholic priests or adherents of Catholicism like Mother Teresa was, a staunch Catholic with orthodox values especially on women rights, abortion, contraception, divorce with her rigid views on how to treat the poor in her homes for the dying. Much of Mother Teresa’s criticism is directed by these values along with the questions raised on the financial accountability of her order.

But what sets Mother Teresa apart from the other saints or those who have been conferred with the sainthood, that the whole canon of modern saints doesn’t give you a name as big a humanitarian soul as Mother Teresa was. In fact, we can say Mother Teresa has been the most popular catholic throughout the world since she took the centre-stage with the global spread of her humanitarian organization, the Missionaries of Charity. For her service to the poor and destitute, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, a recognition that no pope has received so far. So, at least we can say the Vatican is going to honour humanity this time by canonizing someone who not only worked for the church, but also for the people of all faiths from across the world.

The religious nature of canonization has seen many controversies.

Pope Francis had canonized Junioperra Serra, an 18th Century missionary from Spain who migrated to America, in 2015. Serra has left behind him a fractured legacy of conversion and torture and large scale protests were held by the Native Americans against his canonization. According to the claims of Native American organizations, Serra’s mission killed some 90 percent of Native Californians at that time.

Italian Padre Pio (1887-1968) who was canonized by John Paul II in 2002 was described as ignorant and psychopath by many and it was a widely held belief that his order of monks was busy in exploiting financial gains by displaying Pio’s stigmata and comparing it to the Crucifixion marks of Jesus Christ. Due to these controversies, the Vatican was initially against Padre Pio but, under the compulsions that only they can explain, the later popes dismissed all allegations against Padre Pio.

Probably the most famous canonization controversy is of Pope Pius IX (1792-1878), the last pope to rule over the Papal States before they fell to the Italian army. He was pope for over 31 years and is now reviled for his dogmatic views, his hatred for modernism and his fad on the supremacy of the papal teachings. He called Jews dogs and is notorious for abducting an six year old Jewish boy only because he was secretly baptized by a Roman Catholic maid. Attempts to beatify him, the first step towards the canonization process, failed many times due to widespread criticism and protests. But the formidable Pope John Paul II beatified him in 2000. Let’s see when and by whom he is canonized.

In fact, Pope Pius IX was a compromise replacement for Pope Pius XII (1876-1958), another controversial pope whose canonization has been vehemently opposed for not doing enough on the Holocaust, the massacre carried out by Germany and its allied nations in the Second World War. The conduct of his papacy has been widely criticized. Though the process to canonize him was started in 1965, he is yet to be beatified.

Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac of Croatia (1898-1960) was another controversial candidate who was beatified by John Paul II. He was beatified in 1998 but his canonization is still due. John Paul II described him as a martyr of faith as he had led Croatian church in the Second World War. His wartime records and affiliations have been questioned and Jews and Serbs say he did not criticize their massacre during the war the way he should have. He, in fact, supported the Independent Croatia that came into being with support from Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

These are some of the most talked about canonization controversies. The whole list is long. But the Vatican remains unaffected, unmoved. Because for the Vatian, “being the martyr/proponent of faith” has always been the primary criteria to declare someone a saint. Pope John Paul II, while beatifying Cardinal Stepinac, had said, “Beatifying a son of the church does not celebrate particular historic choices that he has made, but rather points him out for imitation and for veneration for his virtue (read adherence to church and faith here).” It is rare that the Vatican canonization process finds some who has also been a crusader of humanity that Mother Teresa was.

©SantoshChaubey

FUMING AT SENDING GOVERNEMENT DELEGATION TO VATICAN FOR MOTHER TERESA’S CANONIZATION! WHY?

Reports say, after Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), now Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS) has expressed its displeasure on the Government of India decision to send a high party delegation to the Vatican City to participate in Mother Teresa’s Canonization Mass on September 4 when she will be declared a saint formally.

Going by the past rhetoric of these organizations, it is not unexpected. What was pleasant was how Narendra Modi summed up the emotion of the masses on the issue during his monthly radio address to the nation, “Mann Ki Baat” on August 28.

He rightly described how a person of Albanian origin, with no knowledge of English, adopted India and made its destitute people mission of her life. When he said that a high level delegation led by the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would represent India in Vatican, it was an expression of the wishes of the majority of Indians, unlike those few who still see “good and bad” defined by the demarcation of the religious lines.

Like VHP’s Surendra Jain rushed to criticize Narendra Modi on his knowledge of history and how a “Mother Teresa sainthood” would hasten proselytization. Even RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has concluded that though Mother Teresa’s work was good, it was not selfless. While delivering a lectures last year, in February 2015, Bhagwat linked Mother Teresa’s work with conversion, saying it was her primary motive. Bhagwat’s remarks had come at a time when Narendra Modi was busy in initiatives to heal and win back Christians’ confidence after a series of church attacks that later proved non-religious in nature.

Here are two things that we should go by.

Mother Teresa’s work was termed selfish when she devoted her whole life in the service of the poorest of the poor. When she left the world, she left an institution to serve the people. She didn’t keep anything for her, living a simple and austere life. When her work is called selfish, it really pains us, who see a motherly figure in her. Shouldn’t we stop seeing the extent of the kindness of greats from a religious eye?

Conversion? Why its fear is still instilled in us? Why our opinion leaders and politicians still try such loaded words?

How can 13.8 crore Muslims and 2.4 crore Christians be a threat to convert 82.7 crore Hindus to their fold?

There is famous saying in Hinduism – and I believe it should be there in almost every religion, if religions evolve to organize and better human lives – that you cannot think of worshipping God when you are hungry and the survival crisis is the sole question haunting you. That is the story of majority of Indians. The first duty of our opinion leaders and politicians should be to feed them first, to lift their lives out of survival hell.

Where our systems failed, people like Mother Teresa filled the gap. And yet it was not enough. India has more than 3 million registered non-governmental organizations. “The government, with restrain on resources, alone cannot reach to all in a country like India with widespread poverty and illiteracy” was the basic idea that allowed such a large number of NGOs in the country – so that they can go to the spaces where the government cannot.

The second thing that again reinforces the feeling that whenever there is a crisis on religious/community lines in the society, it is fuelled by motivated interests, is that none of incidents of church attacks last year were found religiously motivated. There was a great hue and cry and the whole political lot as well as evangelical institutions, from India and abroad, were propagating something like Christianity was in some imminent danger in India, especially after a Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led government was the incharge of affairs in India whose ideological mentor RSS has always been suspicious of the motives of the Christian missionaries working in India, something that even reflected in the Mohan Bhagwat statement mentioned above.

But nothing happened. India as secure for Hindus, as for Muslims, Christians and other faiths.

To continue..

©SantoshChaubey

RELIGIOUS ADHERENCE OF MOTHER TERESA: INSPIRATION BEHIND HER WORK

It is in such a bad taste that the mind desperately urges to run away from the TV sets or think of that impossible situation where they all could be dumped somewhere deep so that their twisted voices cannot surface. These so called Seers, Gurus, Saints, the modern day Shankaracharyas, the Sadhus, the religious Satraps, and their ugly bickering in the name of sanctifying the religion and their silly and unpardonable crusades – who is asking them to represent us – who are they to interfere in our personal matters?

Practicing religion is personal and no one has any right to issue a diktat to follow this or that God or this or that Saint or a diktat on whom to believe in as a God. But ‘they doing so’ tells us they do not follow the religion they boast to represent. In fact no religion allows for gaudy display of God ownership and faith ownership. Unfortunately, such ‘representatives’ have had a long run.

Every religion, in its true essence, preaches and teaches love and peace. If we don’t talk of the distortions and the distorted leading opinions, no one religion imposes itself on the other. In essence, every religion is anti-crusade, in its purest, in its spiritual form. In fact, a devout religious soul respects other religions in the same way as his/her.

And who can symbolize it better than the Mother Teresa – who was born on August 26, 1910 in Albania, a European country under the Ottoman Empire then – and who spent her whole life in India since 1928. She was a devout catholic and followed the ways and the teachings of Jesus religiously. It is said Jesus came to her asking her to be His messenger, spreading the message of His love and peace by working for those who needed it the most, the poor, the needy, and in-turn, receiving the love and peace Himself, because He exists in every such soul. And she followed the message, with her beginning in 1948, when she established an order to work for the poor, and she was soon to become the Mother.

It hurt Jesus to love us, it hurt him. And to make sure we remember his great love he made himself the bread of life to satisfy our hunger for his love. Our hunger for God, because we have been created for that love. We have been created in his image. We have been created to love and be loved, and then he has become man to make it possible for us to love as he loved us. He makes himself the hungry one – the naked one – the homeless one – the sick one – the one in prison – the lonely one – the unwanted one – and he says: You did it to me. Hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of our poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find, it may be in our own home.
(From the Nobel Lecture delivered by the Mother on December 11, 1979 on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.)

She remained a devout Catholic throughout her life but devoted her life to the people of a largely Hindu country. She never asked for the religion. Her doors were open to everyone. She found Jesus in every needy soul. She became so Indian that she is known as the ‘Blessed Teresa of Calcutta’. In fact, her religious adherence was her inspiration, the force behind her motherly love. People loving her are in every walk of like, in India, around the world, something that the so called religious satraps of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or for that matter any other religion can never even dream of. What is happening to her Order is debatable and even Mother Teresa’s life and works have seen many controversies but when we remember her, the first image that comes before us is of a loving mother who gave her whole in the service of the poor. She remains among the people even after her passing away in 1997 because she remains in the soul of humanity.

Though she is going to be canonized on September 4 by the Vatican that will officially accord her the status of being a Saint, she has always been seen like the one. In fact, Saints should like her, a modern day Saint as the TIME magazine’s “Mother Teresa at 100: The Life and Works of a Modern Saint” rightly says, not like them who are ready to tear into each other yesterday and today, on TV sets, in public. Thanks for blessing humanity dear Mother. Thanks for blessing India. Thanks for being there for those who needed peace and who desperately needed help. Thanks for being there Mother.

©SantoshChaubey

MOTHER TERESA OR MAHATMA GANDHI: GIVE THEM THE LIBERTY TO REMAIN HUMANS

Mother Teresa is probably the biggest humanitarian icon the 20th Century India has given to the world. And though her saintliness doesn’t need any endorsement like Mahatma Gandhi’s greatness doesn’t need a Nobel Prize, her Canonization on September 4, a day before her 19th death anniversary on September 5 and almost after a week of her 106th birth anniversary on August 26, is an event that the whole humanity should be looking up to, for it will further motivate the sisters and fathers of her Order, the Missionaries of Charity, and it will further entrench her legacy with a global footprint after the Vatican recognition.

Because there are many who continuously spew venom against her – on her means to raise and manage funds, like accepting donations from dictators or her firm religious/Catholic values on abortion or contraception or her hospices which she defined as the ‘houses of the dying’ which the critics say should have been replaced by hospitals much earlier or her support for Indira Gandhi and the Emergency of 1975.

Mother..

Such informed misinformation campaigns are run with no concern of or respect for rechecking and reconfirming the facts. Most of such ‘informed campaigns’ go without the ethical requirements of going out in the field to cross-verify the information and its context because the intent is biased mostly.

In case of cross-cultural critics, the methodologies of such campaigns are designed in cultural isolation and the folks never bother to know and understand the context associated with the place or attached with the person’s identity. They flimsily analyse and process the information based on their own cultural contexts and ethos looking at the facts from the spectacle of their own societies (or their own prejudices, that goes for the inland folks).

They simply don’t care about the contextual interpretation of ‘how, what and why’ of the ‘what they intend to do’.

They don’t care to understand the historical and the prevailing cultural context to get into the localized, contemporary context of a tradition/custom/activity/method/process of a place.

Instead, they go on criticising the Greats and sometimes go unrestricted in their choice of words to express their displeasures (anger or prejudice, alternatively or arbitrarily). They criticise the Greats even if they are no more present among us.

But does it matter? The Greats never believe in defending something that is so utterly misplaced or something that will obstruct them in their duty and responsibility to reach out and heal the humanity. The Greats don’t respond to because their emotive responses are concentrated on helping others.

Mother Teresa or the Mahatma, they kept on working for the well-being of the poorest of the poor. Souls like them who leave the aspirations of their material lives, how can they be blamed of being selfish or prejudiced or indulging in misappropriations? Almost of the Indians would not be aware of Mahatma Gandhi’s family tree after the Mahatma, the Great who got us Independence, the soul who kept on working for the last person of the society first. How can we see the Mother in a negative light when she spent her whole life in a small room without any material possession? After leaving her family at 18, she never saw her mother again.

Yes, the Greats, they can and they go wrong, for they are humans like you and me, but who are we, the living-beings of the material world, soaked up in our individual lives, absorbed by our own petty problems, who never venture out to feed even a single needy person, let alone helping the dying ones, to question the motives of the Greats?

Yes, the Greats, being humans like us, they all have their own limitations. Yes, they do win over them and manage them much more efficiently than us. But that doesn’t mean they cannot err. They are as much entitled to err like all of us are. They cannot be expected to be all-knowing or versatile.

But, then who is perfect? And don’t we criticise even God?

All the Greats who have walked so far, none of them was perfect, and never even claimed. In fact, being the human beings like you and me, they were always fallible, till the very end. Yes, they rose to become Great, but, intrinsically, they were the human beings who worked on their Good Self to dominate their Weak Self so effectively that they became God-like for us. Yes, but they were not Gods. The Weak Self was very much alive within them and that let the Greats remain among us, something they always aspired for.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi began his journey to become the Mahatma as a fallible man, like all of us, and he remained fallible, like all of us, throughout his journey through life, from an early married boy to the Father of the nation, Bapu, to the Fatherly figure of the human conscience, he remained fallible.

But unlike almost of us, including the folks who run campaigns to discredit and dishonour the Humanity’s Greats, he always spoke of it, and he always atoned for it with his personal austerity and self-discipline, inflicting the severest pain on himself. All of the true Human Greats, the healers of the Humanity, were like him or he was like them, and all to come will be in the same league.

The world is not going to be moved, to be swept emotively or ideologically by a single soul and the true Greats never intended so. They all did and would be doing what the Humanity needs the most, caring for the billions of the needy, taking care of the emotional poverty and the chronic hunger.

We elect leader even after knowing their follies. And we blame them who work selflessly for the issues that we create from nowhere. A research study criticising Mother Teresa after 16 years of her death in 2013 based on interpretation of a 1981 incident blaming her supporting the Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, while comfortably forgetting what she did for Humanity tells us this only, and bewares of such a mindset.

Give the Greats the liberty to remain humans . They crave for it in their private moments. Give them their freedom to remain fallible. Give them their moments to introspect. They deserve it after committing their lives for others, to us. Stop criticising her for her hypocrisy as some of her letters speak about her disenchantment from her belief in God. Doesn’t it happen with all of us?

©SantoshChaubey

PRIMO LEVI: “I AM CONSTANTLY AMAZED BY MAN’S INHUMANITY TO MAN.”

BORN: JULY 31, 1919
DIED: APRIL 11, 1987

“I am constantly amazed by man’s inhumanity to man.”

PrimoLevi
(Image courtesy: Wikipedia)

Primo Levi was one of the foremost Holocaust voices who had lived the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps and had chosen to tell it to the world.

Yes, there have been a deep research and a wide range of the Holocaust literature and documentation available now – but the voices who saw it firsthand are leaving us.

Earlier this month, on July 2, the most profound voice of the Holocaust trauma, Elie Wiesel, left us.

But like all of them, their works will always remain there to tell us those stories, to remind us our basest instincts and that how low humanity can go.

“Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.”

PrimoLeviCollage2

©SantoshChaubey

MUNSHI PREMCHAND: OUR LITERARY GANDHI

Munshi Premchand is considered the Indian literature’s Mahatma Gandhi – and that is not without reasons.

Leaving a frugal life, he gave India (and the world) literary works (novels, short stories and essays) that were for everyone – speaking for the people on the margins – and speaking of the people forming the exploitative hub of societies.

If he portrayed social sensitivities in a language that the people spoke, he also tickled their funny bones with situational comedies much before their formal inauguration by the entertainment industry.

Without any doubt we can say that he was the biggest among his contemporaries that the modern Indian literature (Hindustani literature) produced. His grip was in the fact that he was the people’s writer who didn’t need decorative metaphors to prove his mettle.

And he remains the greatest of his field – with his unique skills and works. Yes, we are fortunate that we have had many luminaries of the Hindi literature since the 18th Century but Munshi Premchand stands tallest among them.

India realized that a long ago. And Premchand ji was a craze even outside India – in countries with socialist bent of mind like Russia. His anti-feudal writing was like an eye-opener. You can easily identify where his works belong if you are not among the few super-elite of India and the pseudo modernists.

And the thing is – his writing remains relevant even today – because the basics of Indian social weaving have not changed much. The social malaise that he focused on in his writings – feudalism, poverty, corruption, humiliating condition of women and girls, class divides and social layers – still form the distorted spinal cord of our society.

Like our Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, connected the dots and transformed us into a strong cohesive unit to fight the British colonialism – inspired by the Mahatma’s Non-cooperation Movement, Premchand ji went on to reflect on social issues of the time in his writings, connecting to the readers of his works – provoking them to think. He established himself as the parallel of Mahatma Gandhi in the Indian literary landscape of the time.

And he still he provokes us, stirs our souls.

While Premchand ji has been translated in almost every Indian language and many foreign languages, it is the Hindi speaking belt of north, east, central and west India that must feel indebted to him. And he has a special place in hearts of the people from Varanasi, the city he belonged to. His birthplace in Lamhi is a must visit for any proud Banarasi and I know I am a proud Banarasi.

MunshiPremchandGD

When I woke up this morning and saw the Google doodle paying tribute to our literary Gandhi on his birth anniversary on July 31, it was like summing up my all those feelings. We all know Google does some sincere things and it was one of them. I loved the image and the idea that went behind it – a doodle focusing on the central settings (the rural India) in most of the literary works written by Munshi Premchand – in this case his last novel Godaan published in 1936.

Google says about Munshi Premchand – “Today’s homepage celebrates a man who filled many pages (of a different kind) with words that would forever change India’s literary landscape.”

Thanks Google – from a proud Indian (and Banarasi).

©SantoshChaubey

Feature Image Courtesy: Google Doodle on Munshi Premchand 

ELIE WIESEL, BIGGEST CHRONICLER OF THE HOLOCAUST, IS NO MORE..

The article originally appeared on DailyO – as – Life and times of Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and chronicler. 

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), the 1986 Peace Nobel Laureate and a Holocaust survivor, is no more with us. He passed away last night. He was 87. He was a Jew born in Romania, was forced to the horrors of an Auschwitz life and became a US citizen and a Boston University professor.

Elie Wiesel will always be remembered as the most haunted voice of the Holocaust years – the years when he somehow survived the concentration camps run by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany during the Second World War from 1939 to 1945 – the concentration camps that exterminated millions in a systematic manner only because Hitler and his people considered them inferior human beings. They saw them as the problem and the only final solution was to wipe them out.

Elie Wiesel was the biggest chronicler of the Holocaust days – writing over 50 books – based on his haunting memories. His autobiographical book Night came to me as a soul-stirring experience.

Before it, I was largely focused on documentaries, visual media, news reports and studies on the Holocaust to know more about the largest pogrom of modern human history, to feel its pain, to realize its message. But the experience after Night transcended all and made the Holocaust memoirs the major part of my Holocaust reading, of the past, as well as the ongoing ones.

The sudden change, from the peaceful childhood days to a life of utter debasement, where there were no children, no adults, no males, or no females, just living human corpses, waiting to be gassed and burned, brings poignant thoughts that shake your very existence. His life and work remind how debased the humankind can become and how resilient the humanity can come out to be.

WHAT ELIE WIESEL’S TIMELESS CLASSIC ‘NIGHT’ TELLS US: DARK SIDE OF THE MAN THAT CAN KILL MILLIONS

Writing about the book Escape from Camp 14, biography of a North Korean concentration camps survivor Shin Dong-hyuk written by an American journalist Blaine Harden, reminded me about Elie Wiesel’s Night, the memoir that details THE DEGENERATION OF LIFE in the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War

While Escape from Camp 14 is about the journey of a man, born and forced to live an animal life, and how he finds the human in him; Night is about how a man, born to lead a human life, is forced to a life that is worse than of animals.

At over 120 odd pages (the Penguin India edition), the ‘slim’ Night numbs you by the simple words of confusion about life, faith, death and relations as told by a young Elie Wiesel reflecting on the tormenting days of his life in different concentration camps including Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Night begins normally with observations of a teenager about a quiet Jewish countryside in a remote town Sighet, under Hungary’s occupation then. It tells how a typical Jewish family lives there, how a boy dutifully tries to be religiously observant, how the community there feels insular to the outside world’s activities and concerns, under an ongoing world war then, believing that it cannot reach them.

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(Image courtesy: Night book cover; Elie Wiesel’s photograph from Nobelprize.org)

Night exposes the inherent human weakness – clinging to the very last of the failing hope that the God would come and exercise some miracle – we see it in Elie’s father when he believes that something can still be worked out when almost of the Jewish community is already sent to Auschwitz; we see it later on as the memoir progresses when the Jews in the concentration camps think every now and then about the world war coming to an end while praying to the God; we see it in the escapist thoughts when the Jews of Sighet initially take German soldiers as the good Samaritans even if their every freedom is curtailed the very day German soldiers arrive in the town; we see it on every such occasion when the characters of this memoir think that they are not going to be gassed whenever they get a comparatively lesser fiendish security guard.

Night is representative of the dark side of the man that can poison and kill millions. Millions of Jews were gassed, burned and exterminated in furnaces and ‘Night’ tells that sordid tale through the eyes of teenager Elie who struggles with his conscience first, about his trust in the God that he finds incoherent with the acts that begin the day they board the cattle train to Auschwitz, and grows on to degenerates into the cattle mentality of surviving anyhow even if it means sacrificing your father and shapes ultimately into a distrust in anything like the very existence of the God. What else can be expected when someone becomes a mute spectator to the Nazi killing machine of Hitler’s Germany – the ‘Selection’ of humans as animals – gassing and burning them in thousands daily. Elie survived months in the concentration camps while living near to those crematoriums.

Night is not just a memoir from the Holocaust literature; it is also a sensitive book on father-son relation. Night tells us about the internal struggle of the human conscience when Elie writes about that ‘night’ that changes all. The night they board the train makes their human comrades inhuman at the very go – the way his community people beat a old woman crying consistently after her family is taken away. No sympathy – just the savagery of the jungle to survive – that ‘night’ began it. Elie watches himself becoming a different person, a debased survivor. Though he remains very much a father’s son, with his father being the only symbolic emotive quotient and support throughout his captive life in the concentration camps, at times he thinks of him as burden, only to blame himself the next moment. There come moments when he watches his old, frail father being brutally beaten by the guards but he tries to avoid the eye contact.

And teenager Elie was just one out of the millions in the concentration camps, who were forced to think like this; who inherited this internal struggle for years to come; who got unending ‘night’ hours imprinted in their conscious to haunt them as these words of Elie Wiesel during his Acceptance Speech for the Nobel Peace Prize sum up:

“Can this be true?” This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?”

©SantoshChaubey

ELIE WIESEL’S NIGHT: DARK SIDE OF THE MAN THAT CAN KILL MILLIONS

Elie Wiesel is dead. They all were the #Holocaust survivors but he was it’s biggest chronicler. RIP.
#ElieWiesel
#RIPElieWiesel

SANTOSH CHAUBEY

Writing about ‘Escape from Camp 14’ reminded me about Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’, the memoir, that details out THE DEGENERATION OF LIFE in the Nazi concentration camps. A classic that I visit to, again and again.

While ‘Escape from Camp 14’ is about the journey of a man, born and forced to live an animal life, finding the human in him; ‘Night’ is about how a man, born to lead a human life, is forced to a life worse than of animals.

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Book cover of ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel, sourced from the Internet 

At over 120 odd pages (the Penguin India edition that I have), the ‘slim’ ‘Night’ numbs you by the simple words of confusion about life, faith, death and relations as told by a young Elie Wiesel reflecting the tormenting days of his life in different concentration camps including Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

‘Night’ begins normally with observations of a…

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