Friday, March 21, 2008
Please click the link below and read the story
(A fascinating book on my bookshelves – ORIENTAL STORIES AS TOOLS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY)
A Book Review
An Eastern merchant owned a parrot. One day the bird knocked over an oil flask. The merchant became very angry and hit the parrot on the back of the head.
From that time on, the parrot, who had previously appeared to be very intelligent, could not talk any more. He lost the feathers on his head and soon became bald.
One day, as the parrot was sitting on the bookshelf in his master’s place of business, a baldheaded customer entered the shop.
The sight of the man made the parrot very excited. Flapping his wings, he jumped around, squawked, and, to everyone’s surprise, suddenly regained his speech and asked the baldheaded man, “Did you, too, knock down an oil flask and get hit on the back of the head so that you don’t have any hair any more?”
This is a story called The Merchant and the Parrot from a delightfully interesting book in my bookcase called “Oriental Stories as Tools in Psychotherapy” by Nossrat Peseschkian. I bought this book on 12 October 1998 from the International Book Service at Deccan Gymkhana in Pune and love to delve into it from time to time.
The book features a fascinating compilation meaningful oriental Teaching Stories– the psychotherapeutic function of stories is the theme of this book. The author, a physician and psychotherapist, emphasizes the fact that long before the development of modern psychotherapy, stories served as instruments of folk psychotherapy and highlights how stories are effective transmitters of messages. He avers that stories have a lot in common with medication and, like medicines, used at the right time in the right form stories can lead to changes in attitude and behavior, but, given in the wrong dosage, told in an insincere and moralizing way, the application can be dangerous.
You can study, scrutinize and critically analyze this book if you are a serious reader and want to go deep into the subject; or like me, you can enjoy and be illuminated by the lovely teaching stories in the book. Teaching stories have a special quality – if read in a certain kind of way they enlighten you. There are three ways to read teaching stories:-
• Read the story once. Then move on to another. This manner of reading will give you entertainment – maybe produce a laugh; like jokes.
• Read the story twice. Reflect on it. Apply it to your life. You will feel enriched.
• Read the story again, after you have reflected on it. Carry the story around in your mind all day and allow its fragrance, its melody to haunt you. Create a silence within you and let the story reveal to you its inner depth and meaning. Let it speak to your heart, not to your brain. This will give you a feel for the mystical and you will develop the art of tasting and feeling the inner meaning of such stories to the point that they transform you.
A good teaching story has several levels of meaning and interpretation and offers us opportunities to think in new ways. At first you may just have a good laugh, but as you think and reflect, the significance becomes more and more profound. Each story veils its knowledge and as you ruminate, the walls of its outer meanings crumble away and the beauty of the previously invisible inner wisdom is revealed, and you begin to identify yourself in the story, and to acknowledge that you too could be as foolish or as lacking in discernment as the characters in these classic tales.
Here is a story called “Fifty Years of Politeness”:
An elderly couple celebrated their golden anniversary…while eating breakfast together, the woman thought, “for fifty years I’ve always been considerate of my husband and have always given him the crusty top of the bread roll. Today I want to finally enjoy this delicacy for myself.”
She spread the top part with butter and gave the other part to her husband.
Contrary to her expectations, he was very pleased, kissed her hand, and said, “My darling, you’ve just given me the greatest joy of the day. For over fifty years I haven’t eaten the bottom part of the bread roll, which is the part I like best. I always thought you should have it because you like it so much.”
I love and cherish this book which has enhanced me in all aspects of my life and browse through the stories quite often; and as I reflect and interpret I feel refreshed, enlightened and wiser. Whether it’s your work, marriage, relationships, children, or any situation or facet of your life, there’s sure to be an apt story in here for you which will put you on the path of self-discovery.
I’ll conclude with a quote from this exquisite and unique book: Occasionally we can’t avoid science, math and erudite discussions which aid development of human consciousness. But occasionally we also need poetry, chess, and stories, so our spirit can find joy and refreshment.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Swami Rama: Selected Poems
An Insight on Life Enlightened
Compiled & Translated by Shakuntala Bodas
Published New Delhi 2007
My indefatigable aunt Shakuntala Bodas, an ardent and committed devotee of Swami Rama, has authored a number of books in English, Hindi and Marathi on the life and his teachings of Swami Rama. My favorite is Swami Rama : Selected Poems - An Insight on Life Enlightened compiled & translated by Shakuntala Bodas.
Pessimism or disappointment is living death
So please do not allow it entrance into your mind
Keep your body, mind, and energy filled
With enthusiasm, coupled with peace and balanced mind.
This is an excerpt from the poem titled The Secret of a Happy Life.
Poetry, breathtaking in its simplicity, expressing clear thoughts and delivering precise message – that is the beauty of the poems in this compilation.
The book has a large number of simple evocative poems; each one will touch your soul in some way or the other. The sincere devotion, earnest zeal and erudition of the author are evident in the free-hand translations, and as one absorbs the delightful poems, one does experience a sense of sublime joy.
At the beginning of the book, Shakuntala Bodas explains the background, reasons for writing this book, and recounts the life story of Swami Rama. Her effortless, attractive writing style makes this book a delight to read.
Dear Reader, doesn’t matter whether you are spiritually inclined or not, get a copy of this book, carry it with you, open a page at random, read a poem, and you will feel inspired and spiritually elated.
[Reviewed by Vikram Waman Karve]
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
MAHARSHI DHONDO KESHAV KARVE
BOOKS ON HIS LIFE AND WORK
VIKRAM WAMAN KARVE
I have before me three books on Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve:
(i) His autobiography titled ‘Looking Back’ published in 1936.
(ii) Maharshi Karve by Ganesh L. Chandavarkar published in 1958 by Popular Prakashan Bombay (Mumbai)
(iii) Maharshi Karve – His 105 Years published on 18 April 1963 ( His 106th birth anniversary) by Hingne Stree Shiksan Samstha Poona (Pune)
Allow me to tell you, Dear Reader, a bit about these books which describe the life and times of Maharshi Karve and tell us about the monumental pioneering work of one of the foremost social and educational reformers of India.
It would be apt to start with his autobiography – Looking Back, and let Maharshi Karve describe his life and work from his own point of view in his simple yet fascinating style. I am placing below a Book Review of his autobiography (which I had reviewed a few months ago) for your perusal:
Book Review of The Autobiography of Maharshi Karve: “Looking Back” by Dhondo Keshav Karve (1936)
Dear Reader, you must be wondering why I am reviewing an autobiography written in 1936. Well, till recently I stayed on Maharshi Karve Road in Mumbai. I share the same surname as the author. Also, I happen to be the great grandson of Maharshi Karve. But, beyond that, compared to him I am a nobody – not even a pygmy.
Maharshi Karve clearly knew his goal, persisted ceaselessly throughout his life with missionary zeal and transformed the destiny of the Indian Woman. The first university for women in India - The SNDT University and educational institutions for women covering the entire spectrum ranging from pre-primary schools to post-graduate, engineering, vocational and professional colleges bear eloquent testimony to his indomitable spirit, untiring perseverance and determined efforts.
In his preface, Frederick J Gould, renowned rationalist and lecturer on Ethics, writes that “the narrative is a parable of his career” – a most apt description of the autobiography. The author tells his life-story in a simple straightforward manner, with remarkable candour and humility; resulting in a narrative which is friendly, interesting and readable.
Autobiographies are sometimes voluminous tomes, but this a small book, 200 pages, and a very easy comfortable enjoyable read that makes it almost unputdownable. Dr. Dhondo Keshav Karve writes a crisp, flowing narrative of his life, interspersed with his views and anecdotes, in simple, straightforward style which facilitates the reader to visualize through the author’s eyes the places, period, people and events pertaining to his life and times and the trials and tribulations he faced and struggled to conquer.
Dr. Dhondo Keshav Karve was born on 18th of April 1858. In the first few chapters he writes about Murud, his native place in Konkan, Maharashtra, his ancestry and his early life– the description is so vivid that you can clearly “see” through the author’s eye.
His struggle to appear in the public service examination (walking 110 miles in torrential rain and difficult terrain to Satara), and his shattering disappointment at not being allowed to appear because “he looked too young”, make poignant reading.
“Many undreamt of things have happened in my life and given a different turn to my career” he writes, and then goes on to describe his high school and, later, college education at The Wilson College Bombay (Mumbai) narrating various incidents that convinced him of the role of destiny and serendipity in shaping his life and career as a teacher and then Professor of Mathematics.
He married at the age of fourteen but began his marital life at the age of twenty! This was the custom of those days. Let’s read the author’s own words on his domestic life: “… I was married at the age of fourteen and my wife was then eight. Her family lived very near to ours and we knew each other very well and had often played together. However after marriage we had to forget our old relation as playmates and to behave as strangers, often looking toward each other but never standing together to exchange words…. We had to communicate with each other through my sister…… My marital life began under the parental roof at Murud when I was twenty…” Their domestic bliss was short lived as his wife died after a few years leaving behind a son… “Thus ended the first part of my domestic life”… he concludes in crisp witty style.
An incident highlighting the plight of a widow left an indelible impression on him and germinated in him the idea of widow remarriage. He married Godubai, who was widowed when she was only eight years old, was a sister of his friend Mr. Joshi, and now twenty three was studying at Pandita Ramabai’s Sharada Sadan as its first widow student.
Let’s read in the author’s own words how he asked for her hand in marriage to her father – “I told him…..I had made up my mind to marry a widow. He sat silent for a minute and then hinted that there was no need to go in search of such a bride”.
He describes in detail the ostracism he faced from some orthodox quarters and systematically enunciates his life work - his organization of the Widow Marriage Association, Hindu Widows Home, Mahila Vidyalaya, Nishkama Karma Math, and other institutions, culminating in the birth of the first Indian Women’s University (SNDT University).
The trials and tribulations he faced in his life-work of emancipation of education of women (widows in particular) and how he overcame them by his persistent steadfast endeavours and indomitable spirit makes illuminating reading and underlines the fact that Dr. DK Karve was no arm-chair social reformer but a person devoted to achieve his dreams on the ground in reality.
These chapters form the meat of the book and make compelling reading. His dedication and meticulousness is evident in the appendices where he has given datewise details of his engagements and subscriptions down to the paisa for his educational institutions from various places he visited around the world to propagate their cause.
He then describes his world tour, at the ripe age of 71, to meet eminent educationists to propagate the cause of the Women’s University, his later domestic life and ends with a few of his views and ideas for posterity. At the end of the book, concluding his autobiography, he writes: “Here ends the story of my life. I hope this simple story will serve some useful purpose”.
He wrote this in 1936. He lived on till the 9th of November 1962, achieving so much more on the way, was conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters ( D.Litt.) by the famous and prestigious Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1942 followed by Universities of Poona in 1951, SNDT in 1955, and Bombay(LL.D.) in 1957.
Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve received the Padma Vibhushan in 1955 and the India’s highest honour the “Bharat Ratna” in 1958, a fitting tribute on his centenary at the age of 100.
It is an engrossing and illuminating autobiography, written in simple witty readable storytelling style, and it clearly brings out the mammoth contribution of Maharshi Karve and the trials and tribulations he faced..
I (the reviewer) was born in 1956, and have fleeting memories of Maharshi Karve, during our visits to Hingne Stree Sikshan Samstha in 1961-62, as a small boy of 5 or 6 can. My mother tells me that I featured in a Films Division documentary on him during his centenary celebrations in 1958 (I must have been barely two, maybe one and a half years old) and there is a photograph of him and his great grand children in which I feature. It is from some old timers and other people and mainly from books that I learn of his pioneering work in transforming the destiny of the Indian Woman and I thought I should share this.
I have written this book review with the hope that some of us, particularly the students and alumni of SNDT University, Cummins College of Engineering for Women, SOFT, Karve Institute of Social Sciences and other educational institutions who owe their very genesis and existence to Maharshi Karve, read about his stellar pioneering work and draw inspiration from his autobiography.
Book Reviews of two books on Maharshi Karve
As I have mentioned earlier, two other good books pertaining to the life of Maharshi Karve which I have read are:
Maharshi Karve by Ganesh L. Chandavarkar, Popular Prakashan (1958)
Maharshi Karve – His 105 years, Hingne Stree Shikshan Samstha (1963).
The biography ‘Maharshi Karve by Ganesh L. Chandavarkar’ was commissioned and published by the Dr. DK Karve Centenary Celebrations Committee on 18th April 1958 the birth-centenary of Dr. DK Karve (Thousands attended the main function on 18th April 1958 at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai which was addressed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister).
The author, GL Chandavarkar, then Principal of Ram Mohan English school, has extensively researched the life of Dr. DK Karve, by personal interaction with the great man himself, reminiscences of his Professors, colleagues and students, and his two writings Looking back and Atma-Vritta.
The author acknowledges with humility: “This is the story of the life of a simple man who has risen to greatness without being aware of it in the least. It is being told by one who can make no claim to being a writer” and then lucidly narrates the story of Maharshi Karve’s life in four parts comprising twenty four chapters in simple narrative style.
Part I, comprising eight chapters, covers the early life of Dhondo Keshav Karve, from his birth to the defining moment in his life - his remarriage to Godubai who was widowed at the age of eight, within three months of her marriage, even before she knew what it was to be a wife. The first chapter vividly depicts the life and culture of Murud and Konkan in a brilliantly picturesque manner and is a fascinating read. The narrative then moves in a systematic manner encompassing the salient aspects of Maharshi Karve’s life till his birth centenary in 1958. The biographer comprehensively cover Maharshi Karve’s marital and work life, but does not throw much light on his relationships with his four illustrious sons, who were well-known in their own respective fields of work.
The author avoids pontification and writes in friendly storytelling style which makes the book very interesting and readable, making it suitable for the young and old alike. I feel an epilogue covering the remaining years of his life would make the biography more complete.
There is a reference index at the end and I found this book to be quite a definitive biography which could serve as a source for knowledge and inspiration to readers interested in the life and work of Maharshi Karve. The 233 page book was published by Popular Book Depot Mumbai in 1958 and I picked up a copy priced at rupees forty at the International Book Service at Deccan Gymkhana in Pune a few years ago.
Maharshi Karve – His 105 Years, published on his 106th birth anniversary, is a pictorial album depicting the life and activities of Maharshi Karve. In today’s parlance it may be called a ‘coffee table’ book, but it is a memorable reference book of lasting souvenir value which is a must for every library. The chronologically arranged sketches, photographs and captions tell Maharshi Karve’s life-story in a seamless manner. There are photographs of historical, heritage and sentimental value highlighting important milestones in his life and work. (If you want to see my picture, turn to page 98 and have a look at the small boy holding Maharshi Karve’s hands and looking at the camera. I may have been just one and a half years old then and barely able to stand!).
This book is indeed a ‘collector’s item’ and was priced at a princely sum of rupees ten at the time of publication.
If you wish to learn more about Maharshi Karve and draw inspiration from his life and work, do read these three books. And please do let me know if you come across literature on Maharshi Dhondo Keshav Karve.
VIKRAM WAMAN KARVE
Click the link below and read the fiction short story
Monday, March 17, 2008
VIKRAM WAMAN KARVE
[I wrote this travelogue soon after we visited Baramati in December 2007. I am reposting this travelogue as desired by Bipin Pole, one of our co-travellers on this memorable trip.]
Baramati. My birthplace. Baramati – half a decade ago, the then dusty mofussil town in the back of beyond, where I was born on the 12th of September in 1956, which has now metamorphosed into a vibrant oasis of agriculture, education and industry.
We visited Baramati on Saturday, the 1st of December 2007 – a visit so memorable, so delightful, so enlightening, and so nostalgic that I must tell you about it.
It all started on the spur of the moment, when my 75-year-old mother, who is suffering from an advanced stage of Age Related Macular Degeneration [ARMD] of both her retinas and is fast losing what little remains of her eyesight, suggested we visit Baramati, so that we could see the memories of her childhood. I too was keen to see my birthplace, where I was born and spent some of my earlier holidays, evoking in me nostalgic memories of the fun and frolic, the hurda parties at my grandfather’s farm, and was especially keen to see the much-praised state-of-the-art campus of Vidya Pratishthan and its modern College of Engineering at Vidyanagari about which I had heard so much.
We started off from Pune in the morning at eight thirty in our dependable Santro, picking up an ex-Baramatikar Bipin Pole, who had so readily agreed to accompany and guide us along, hit Shankershet road, crossed Hadapsar, and turned right and sped towards Baramati via the Saswad, Jejuri, Morgaon route. It’s a smooth drive, and soon we were negotiating our way up the Dive Ghat, glancing at the once brimming with water, now dry, Mastani Lake or Talav, down below to our left, crossed Saswad [where we would stop on our way back to meet my uncle], and soon could see the majestic Jejuri Temple atop the peak straight ahead. Crossing Jejuri, a pleasant drive, and soon we saw the famous Ashtavinayak Morgaon Ganesh Temple [where we would all pray and pay our obeisance].
At Morgaon we turned left on our final leg towards Baramati, leaving the Indian Seamless Metal Tubes factory to our right and as we crossed Medad Fort to our left we started to get a feel of the transformation seeing the excellent quality broad roads. As we approached the town I experienced a sense of déjà vu [I was visiting Baramati for the first time since the early nineteen sixties – after almost forty five years] as we approached Dr. Atul Pole’s dispensary opposite the then Shyam Talkies [now replaced by the modern and elegant Vidya Pratishtan Office Complex but the road is still known as Cinema Road]. It was almost noon; we’d covered the little over 100 kilometers distance in three hours.
Dr. Atul Pole [son of the illustrious “Pole Doctor”] and his charming wife were waiting for us with delicious upma and refreshing piping hot tea, and after refreshing ourselves we were off towards Vidyanagari, the campus of Vidya Pratishthan. Turning right on Bhigwan Road, past the canal, and the once narrow gauge [I remember traveling by the Daund – Baramati Toy Train] railway station adorned with its commemorative little steam engine as a remembrance of its heritage, we drove smoothly on the broad top quality road past the elegant court building and swanky well laid out colonies and soon reached Vidyanagari. It’s a pleasure to drive on the smooth spacious traffic-free roads – the roads here are certainly better that the roads in Pune.
The moment you reach Vidyanagari you feel as if you have entered another world. Vidyanagari’s truly impressive pristine, lush green, verdant campus, echoing with elevating silence, engenders within you that unique sense of tranquility and academic ambiance which is a sine qua non of a genuine learning environment. The museum is truly inspiring and exquisite – you’ve got to see it to visualize how dazzling and awe-inspiring it is. I was overwhelmed with a wonderful feeling as we strolled leisurely through the scenic soothing green campus.
Outside it had the old-world charm of the beautiful serene university milieu of yesteryear; inside the facilities and infrastructure were most modernistic high-tech state-of-the-art. A lovely symbiosis of nature and technology indeed!
In the good old days premier residential engineering colleges like Roorkee, BENCO and even the earlier IITs were located in self-contained campuses far away from the hustle-bustle and distractions of city life in order to facilitate holistic learning – the Vidya Pratishthan’s College of Engineering at Vidyanagari has similar favorable environs and academic atmosphere conducive to peaceful undisturbed learning and all round development.
We walk past students in their smart college T-shirts, admiring the rambling playgrounds, the superb well-stocked library, the neat hostels and faculty quarters and the impressive VIIT building and reach the magnificent College of Engineering building where we enjoy a fruitful interaction with a most pleasant, knowledgeable and enthusiastic senior faculty member Prakash Gogte who tells us all about his premier institution. As we leave, I wonder whether someday I’ll be back in Baramati to be a part of this wonderful institution.
We now drive around the new parts of Baramati and arrive at the Maalya Varchi Devi temple and offer prayers. Then we drive back into the old part of Baramati, past the erstwhile Siddhaye hospital where I was born, down Station Road to my grandfather’s ancient majestic house which still stands strong. [My grandfather came to Baramati in the early 1920’s and his address was simple – KN Gokhale, BA. LL.B., Pleader, Station Road, Baramati].
Tears of nostalgia well up in my mother’s eyes as she goes around the ancient house – her childhood home. A school classmate and some acquaintances come to meet her and they are all so happy reminiscing and exchanging notes about their friends and families. Seeing the joy on my mother’s face I am glad we came to Baramati.
We see the important places nearby –the Siddheshwar temple, Bhuikot Fort [the earlier location of the court where my grandfather worked] and drive on the banks of the Karha river. It’s late afternoon now, and my mother has to be back home before dark owing to her vision deterioration, so we head back for Pune.
I’m glad we visited Baramati. Truly admirable breathtaking development and a marvelous transformation from the fleeting memories of the once dusty little mofussil town I had in my mind. I’m going to visit Baramati and rediscover more of my roots again and again – maybe next time by train via Daund. I hope they start convenient fast trains from Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai so that Baramati is as easily accessible by rail as it is by road.
VIKRAM WAMAN KARVE
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2007
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.