27 Oct 2006

Kabir: Timeless Tapestry


Alakh Elahi ek hai, nam darya do
Ram Rahim ek hai, naam darya do
Krishna Karim ek hai, naam darya do
Kashi Kaba ek hai, ek Ram Rahim

Alakh (the Invisible) and Elahi (the Lord) are one, with two names
Ram and Rahim are one, with two names
Krishna and Karim are one, with two names
Kashi and Kaaba are but one, with two names.

As a child, little did I know that the strains of this song, emanating from the voice of my mother, were actually an inconspicuous entry of Kabir in my life. In the years to follow, this 15th-century poet-seer has remained a constant, always in the background, but permeating the spirit even as unobtrusively as the air around me. The unconstrained Kabir weaved himself in quite easily into the open, boundary-less fabric of our house, forged by two progressive and people-loving grandparents.

At a time when the traditional Indian society was largely conservative when it came to mainstream Hindu and Muslim faiths, Kabir, an unlettered weaver, declared Kashi and Kaaba, the two holiest pilgrimages for the Hindus and Muslims respectively, were actually one, only called by different names. So were Ram and Rahim, Krishna and Karim—Hindu and Islamic deities.

The refrain continued through school, only the wordings changed, like in the case of Ram and Rahim.

Tum Ram kaho, woh Rahim kahen
Dono ki garaz Allah se hai

You say Ram, they say Rahim
Both are concerned with Allah

The reason Kabir, despite erasing the man-made lines between different religions and sects (he denounces most of them in his songs and couplets or dohas), continues to make his presence felt is precisely because of that. Deep within we all realize we are one, free, unbound. We realize there’s no sense to all the carnage that goes on in the name of religion. We understand organized religion has done more to divide than unify.


Is ghat antar baag bagiche
Isi mein sirjanhara

WITHIN this earthen vessel are bowers and groves, and within it is the Creator.
(Translation: Rabindranath Tagore)

This beautiful song about everything being encompassed inside this physical shell of our bodies came to me in my college years. I heard it in a cassette produced by Sahmet, an organization working against communal forces through creative expressions such as song, visual arts, theater, and dance. The rest of the song translates to:

Within this vessel are the seven oceans and the unnumbered stars.
The touchstone and the jewel-appraiser are within;
And within this vessel the Eternal soundeth, and the spring wells up.
Kabîr says: "Listen tome, my Friend! My beloved Lord is within."

Kabir is not just about breaking the shackles of religious fanaticism; Kabir is a whole way of life. When Kabir breaks free, he does so totally:

Haman hai ishq mastana
Haman ko hoshiyari kya
Rahen azad ya jag mein
Haman duniya se yaari kya

I am bursting with love,
Why do I need to be careful?
Being free in the world,
What of the world’s friendship do I need?

This song became an anthem for me the moment I listened to it. What terrific expression of being whole and free without needing any of the “stuff” we keep clinging on to! Liberation in its truest sense.

Ud Jayega Huns Akela,
Jug Darshan Ka Mela
Jaise Paat Gire Taruvar Se,
Milna Bahut Duhela
Naa Jane Kidhar Girega,
Lageya Pawan Ka Rela
Jub Howe Umur Puri,
Jab Chute Ga Hukum Huzuri
Jum Ke Doot Bade Mazboot,
Jum Se Pada Jhamela
Das Kabir Har Ke Gun Gawe,
Wah Har Ko Paran Pawe
Guru Ki Karni Guru Jayega,
Chele Ki Karni Chela

The Swan will fly away all alone,
Spectacle of the world will be a mere fair
As the leaf that falls from the tree
Is difficult to find
Who knows where it will fall
Once it is struck with a gust of wind
When life span is complete
Then listening to orders, following others will be over
The messengers of Yama are very strong
It's an entanglement with Yama
Servant Kabir Praises the attributes of the Lord
He finds the Lord soon
Guru will go according to his doings
The disciple according to his.

Yama = The God of death in Hindu mythology.

(Courtesy: http://groups.google.com/group/rec.music.indian.classical)


5 Oct 2006

At Home, Working

The pending post-it list never lets up.

Words get written, exploding on the screen in gazillions; not one of them is for my Work In Progress (WIP).

The cell phone rings intermittently--morning,
noon, night. Regular work briefings. Emergency calls to "please accommodate" new work within tight deadlines.

The calendar polar bear gives me quiet, understanding company.

Work doesn't suck. It brings in money, much needed for survival. But...

In trying to resuscitate my bank account, I seldom find time for the joys that filled my inside. I miss visiting my blog pals. The mind yearns for those daily doses of laconic, exquisite, epigrammatic cyber inscriptions. The heart longs to go and say a hello to the authors of those inscriptions, dear friends, all.

The WIP unassumingly positions itself at the bottom of the "work" heap, not pestering to be paid attention to. "I will wait," it says "for the moment you are ready to pick me up with love, not because you have to, but because it will bring joy to the spirit. I know you will, no worries. Do tend to the ailing coffers first."

Here is someone trying to find her feet in the land of freelancers. That's all that keeps me away from here lately. Trust me, I am still...

At Home, Writing.

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