Gandhi and Thirukkural

August 25, 2011

In his autobiography, Gandhi wrote “A Gujarati didactic stanza likewise gripped my mind and heart. Its precept ‘return good for evil’ became my guiding principle. It became such a passion with me that I began numerous experiments in it.”

For a bowl of water give a goodly meal:
For a kindly greeting bow thou down with zeal:
For a simple penny pay thou back with gold:
If thy life be rescued, life do not withhold.
Thus the words and actions of the wise regard;
Every little service tenfold they reward.
But the truly noble know all men as one,
And return with gladness good for evil done.

The resemblance of this Gujarati poem to the chapters in Thirukkural on “செய்நன்றியறிதல்” (Gratitude) and “இன்னாசெய்யாமை” (refraining from harmful deeds) is striking.

Particularly these kurals :

The way to punish those who harmed us
is to shame them by doing them good.

Those who know the true value of a favour, will see
for the quantum of favour, a tree, where there was a grain.

No wonder, Gandhi later said : “I wanted to learn Tamil, only to enable me to study Valluvar’s Thirukkural through his mother tongue itself…. It is a treasure of wisdom…”

As I had written in this note, I have been doing my own version of Thirukkural translation on a public Facebook page. If you are interested in knowing more about Thirukkural, you can follow this page, or choose to read any of the numerous translations, already available.

I am clean – I don’t need Anna. Really?

August 25, 2011

One refrain that is constant in criticism of the Anna movement is : I am clean; I do not bribe; if everybody else vows to remain clean, there is no need for a draconian law and an idealistic movement. Simple as it sounds, this is more idealistic than the idealism they are attributing to Anna. How do they expect this miracle to happen? It is this wishful thinking that has brought us to where we are, after 64 years of freedom.

First, how does one stay clean? What does staying clean mean?

If I don’t pay any bribe directly, does it mean I am clean? A lot of us go to a driving school to learn driving and to take a driving licence. There may or may not be any wrong intentions here. We don’t need a Lokpal to tell us how the driving school helps us get the licence. Of course, we didn’t pay bribe money; so, are we clean?

If I vote for a corrupt politician, am I not aiding him? If I don’t vote, am I not aiding him, still?

I could be using a Tata or Reliance phone, helping them make good profits; a Tata or Reliance may have employed a Radia; a Radia could have bribed Raja. Well, who cares about all this muck. I am clean.

The free-market proponents who advocate this non-draconian status quo would know this :the buyers gain more influence in the negotiation process, when the buyers aggregate their demands. Why do they then expect each individual to fight their own battle, when a movement is gathering momentum?

The free-market proponents have also learnt this the hard way: Free markets thrive only when there is a strong regulatory framework. Same with democracy.

Diabetic patients would know this : once the rot sets in the foot, the uninfected hand cannot feel safe.

[Posted by me as a note on Facebook]

Stopping by the traffic lights

August 17, 2011

As usual, I am running late for my daughter’s school.

As usual, the signal at that minor junction turns red.

As usual, there is no sight of a policeman.

I stop my car.

The car behind me screeches to a halt.

As usual, the car to my right races ahead. And all the vehicles behind it.

The bus to my left hurtles past. And all the vehicles behind it.

As usual, the gentle honking, from the cars behind, gets frantic.

I remember the times when it used to irritate me.

Now, do I almost feel a sadistic pleasure within? Whatever.

There is a tinge of joy, when, hesitantly, a car stops beside me.

The signal turns green.

As usual, the vehicles that vroomed ahead are stuck at the next signal.

It is a major junction; and, it is manned by a traffic cop.