Borrowing Words from Other Languages #WritingWednesdays

The struggle of literature is in fact a struggle to escape from the confines of language; it stretches out from the utmost limits of what can be said; what stirs literature is the call and attraction of what is not in the dictionary.” – Italo Calvino

When you want to say it the best way it’s okay to borrow words from other languages.

Sometimes, words of other languages enhance the sensibility of our thought and expression.

Words of various languages

Telugu is my mother-tongue and for me this the most comfortable language of communication. But strangely, I sometimes find it easier to express a few ideas better in English. For instance, a simple phrase like ‘I’m sorry’ does not have a perfect and beautiful equivalent in Telugu. The closest counterparts are ‘tappayi poyindi’ which means ‘that was a mistake (on my part)’ or ‘kshaminchandi’ which means ‘please forgive’. I think Telugu speakers will agree with me if I say there is no equivalent for the word ‘sorry’ in Telugu.

Why, every time I plan to do  something in future, I say ‘Inshallah’ (God Willing) to myself. ‘Inshallah’ is an Urdu phrase and I don’t know of an equally simple and effective  expression of hope in Telugu.

What I want to say is that when I do not find words to express a thought or idea or even a prayer in Telugu easily and effectively, I don’t mind using words of other languages – words that do not exist in Telugu Dictionary.

Also, when I am using English language I use a lot of Telugu and Urdu words.

Having said this, I want to now share the meaning of a beautiful Sanskrit phrase ‘Karma Yogi’ – it’s one of my favourite phrases. The English dictionary explains briefly, both words ‘Karma’ and ‘Yogi’ separately but it does not define ‘Karma Yogi’ a term that has a deeper meaning to it.

Karma Yoga according to the ancient scriptures is “acting the right way, with selfless attitude” A person whose actions are totally unselfish is a Karma Yogi. A Karma Yogi does the right things the right way irrespective of results and personal consequences.

I know of two Karma Yogis – perfect examples of selfless service worth mentioning.

There is this teacher, Sita who resigned to her job at a high school but continued to come to the school after school hours to help some of her ex-students who needed her help in their lessons. She never got paid for these services but she did her best to help the slow learners get through the public examination.

Another one is a young salesman and technician called Ramanappa who used to work in a shop of home appliances. A lot of poor labourers and workers go to him at 10:30 p.m., after the shop closes, to have their broken appliances repaired. He sits on the pavement in front of the closed shop and repairs their appliances – pressure cookers, mixer grinders, electric fans, gas stoves etc. totally free of cost. He often uses the spare parts of appliances which were given away by people for recycling – this way he would save the cost of spare parts for his labourer-customers.

Karma Yogi is defined in the Bhagavad Gita, a discourse between Lord Krishna, a Hindu God and Arjuna, the hero of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. Arjuna was a true Karma Yogi.

We see a lot of Karma Yogis like Sita and Ramanappa around us who are as great a source of inspiration to us as the hero Arjuna.


Grief #WriteBravely #Write Tribe FoW March 2019

“…thou shalt not grieve for what is unavoidable.” – The Bhagavad Gita

Veeraiah’s six-year-old son was found dead near a lake in their village. It was obvious that he was poisoned. He ate a deadly poisonous fruit of an ivy that grows on the walls of a dilapidated well in Nagendra’s jowar fields. Nagendra’s men did the dastardly thing of poisoning the little child. Veeraiah broke down during the funeral rites. Everyone thought he too would die of grief.

Veeraiah and Nagendra belonged to the same community and there was competition between the two families regarding the abhishekam (a ritualistic offering) during lingodbhavam time(12 midnight – the time when Lord shiva, a Hindu God originates from the formless ovid form called the Shivling). This is performed in an ancient Mrutyunjaya  shrine of their village.  Mrutyunjaya is another name of Lord Shiva – meaning conqurer of mrutyu or death. This ritual falls on Mahashivaratri, the most auspicious day for all the Shaivites (Hindus who belong to the order of  Shaivism).

The two families of Veeraiah and Nagendra get to do the Abishekam every alternate year on Mahashivaratri.

This year it’s Veeraiah’s family’s turn. But it is said that  Nagendra’s eldest son was suffering from a strange disease which the doctors said was fatal. The priest of the Mrutyunjaya shrine said that if Nagendra’s son performed the abhishekam to Lord Mrutyunjaya on Mahashivaratri during  at the auspicious time he would  conquer death.

Nagendra asked Veeraiah to let Nagendra’s son perform the ritual on the festival that year but Veeraiah refused – he would not miss his turn – he wouldn’t miss the great opportunity to pray for his only son’s long life. Three days before the festival Veeraiah’s son was found dead near the village lake. No one in Veeraiah’s family was eligible to perform the Abhishekam as there was death in the family.

Everyone in the village believed it was Nagendra who killed Veeraiah’s son and no one had doubts about it. The poisonous fruit did kill Veeraiah’s son but who gave them to him, no one knew. Some say that Veeraiah’s son ate the fruits  in ignorance when Nagendra’s men offered them to him while some say that he was forced to eat them. However there was no evidence of who poisoned Veeraiah Son.

Veeraiah, overwhelmed with the grief of his son’s death went to Mruthyunjaya  Swami’s (Lord Mrutyunjaya) shrine one night and decided to end his life by  piercing the Trishool (a trident which is Lord Shiva’s weapon)into his throat.

Chanting  the  Mrutyunjaya mantra he went near the altar and took the the Trishool. He pierced it into his throat, Veeraiah then saw a bright light around the Shivling  (the ovoid form of Lord Shiva). Veeraiah for a moment,  forgot the pain of the trishool’s wound and his grief and wondered what the light was. He did not stop chanting  the Mrutyunjaya Mantra. He constantly looked at the bright light and wondered from where it came. Curiosity replaced his grief. He looked at the Shivling and saw a face smeared in vibhuti (sacred ash powder which Lord Shiva smears on his face and body). Even while chanting the mantra Veeraiah lost his consciousness.

The next morning the priest found Veeraiah unconscious near the entrance of the temple before the closed doors and got worried. He sprinkled some water on Veeraiah’s face and woke him up. Veeraiah saw the priest and some devotees around  him. He got up to see the locked doors of the shrine. He looked up and there was a picture of Goddess Parvati (Lord Shiva’s consort) above the threshold in a glass frame. He looked at his faint reflection and noticed that his own face and throat was smeared in ash.  Veeraiah had many questions.

“How did I go into the shrine, if the doors were locked?”

“I vividly remember piercing the trishool in my throat, then how come I didn’t die?

“What  was the bright light that  I saw around the Shivling last night?”

“Who was the man whose forehead was smeared in  vibhuti in the place of Shivling?

“How did the vibhuti come on to my face? Who applied it to my throat?

Veeraiah started contemplating.  The grief of his son’s death that was killing him, is not there anymore. First, he thought it was a dream but the vibhuti on his face is real. That he no longer grieved his son’s loss is real.

Veeraiah wondered if the Lord Mrutyunjaya helped him conquer death. Then he realised that it was not death that Veeraiah conquered, it was the grief he conquered – the grief of mrutyu, death.

The day after Mahashivaratri, in spite of doing the abhishekam during the time of lingodbhavam, Nagendra’s son passed away. Nagendra wondered why Lord Mrutyunjaya did not accept his prayers.

The people of the village knew – they said “It is Lord Mrutyunjaya after all! He knows whom to give mrutyu and when.” They were right, Lord Mrutyunjaya took away Veeraiah’s son but blessed him with  gnyana (wisdom), that will lead him to immortality.




…one insult and all confidence shatters #WriteBravely Day 6 Write Tribe FoW March 2019

I hear a thousand kind words about me
and it makes no difference
yet I hear one insult
and all confidence shatters. – Rupi Kaur

Rupa was the topper of Sri Ram Institute of Medical Sciences. Her humility and readiness to help her fellow students made her quite popular among the students. Many junior students, who find certain areas of medicine overwhelming, approach her for help  and they simply adore her for her knowledge and grace. She also enjoys the admiration of her professors.

During her final year practical exams, her professor looked at her hand and asked,

“Rupa,  what is it that you are wearing on your wrist?

Rupa replied, “It’s a sacred thread from Viswanatha Swamy of Banares sir.” Her fiancé, Jai tied it on her wrist, so her attachment to it was even more justified.

The professor said, “Look, I understand your sentiments, but you know, you can’t wear such unsterilized things on your wrist even though you  are working with simulated patients.”

Rupa protested, “Sir, it’s a sacred thread and I can’t afford to take it off, I’m sorry.”

Rupa was not allowed to take her practical exam as the professor marked her ‘ineligible’. Rupa was shocked and shattered at her professor’s  act. She failed the exam because she didn’t take the practical part of it; she lost her scholaship too.

Many of her fellow students felt sorry for her but there were some who made fun of her. She just couldn’t take it – neither the sympathy nor the humiliation. She went into depression and took ill.

Jai, knew about this and came to see her. He said “Rupa, I tied that piece of thread on your wrist because my grandmother insisted on it.… if the professor asked you to remove it, you should have done it at once, how could you be so reckless” he said rebukingly.”

Rupa started weeping bitterly. He took her hand into his and started to untie the knots of the sacred thread and said, “Look Rupa, you are a doctor and nothing is more sacred to you than your patient’s well-being and safety.”

Rupa continuing to weep said, “ok, what if I take it off now, how can I go to the college again; how can I ever face my professors? They hate me.”

“Rupa it’s your professor who called me up last week and said that I should persuade you to take the exam in November.”

Rupa asked “He CALLED YOU?”

“Yes, he got my phone number from your dad.”

“What did he say?”

“Your professor spoke very highly of you, do you want to know what exactly he said? Then listen – ‘Rupa is one of the finest dentists I ever came across. I know she’s extremely upset with my decision but whatever I did, I did it for a reason. I did not want her to miss a single detail and so I insisted that she take that thread off – you see, she needs to understand how important these little steps are in the practice of medicine – I feel sorry that she had to learn that the hard way’ Jai said.”

Rupa knew her professor’s intent and regretted her thoughtlessness.

Jai said “Rupa, trust me, your professor never meant to hurt you… he is as proud of you as we all are.”

Rupa felt embarrassed at her own childishness and got ready to prepare for her exam in November. Now she knows that breaking a norm, no matter how insignificant it sounds, could risk a patient’s safety, which a wise and dedicated doctor would never do.

Feminism Doesn’t Mean Bias For Women #WriteBravely Day 5

A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men. – Gloria Steinem

Renu’s cook, Sailamma has two daughters and a son. She sent her son to college but didn’t let her daughters go in for any kind of higher education after their 10th standard. They aspired to become laboratory assistants after pursuing a paramedical course. But Sailamma discouraged them. Renu told  Sailamma that she must let her daughters study. Sailamma was not convinced. Renu said that she doesn’t appreciate that kind if discrimination against girl children.

Renu herself had an eight year old son and a seven year old daughter. She was always proud that her husband and she always treated them equally.

One day Renu and her husband were in the study, busy looking into the paper work of a property they were planning to invest in. They could hear the children having a fight in the living room. Their daughter was yelling, screaming, throwing things at her elder brother. Their son was shouting too but he decided to walk out of the house to play with his friends. But his little sister wouldn’t let him go. She pulled him by his shirt and when he freed himself she took an expensive ceramic vase and threw at him. It broke into pieces.

Renu and her husband distracted by the breaking sound of the vase came from the study and yelled at their son. He started sobbing and his little sister became silent.

Sailamma who was watching the whole episode  protested, “ Sir, it is your daughter who created all this mess, when I tried to stop her she screamed at me too. She is the one who threw the vase, it wasn’t your son’s fault…poor child!”

Both Renu and her husband said to their son, “You are older than her, don’t you know how to behave with your little sister?”

Sailamma said boldly, “Sir and Amma older than his sister doesn’t make him an adult. He is still a little child and much more mature than many of his age.”

Both Renu and her husband calmed down.

“Amma, even if you feel offended, let me tell you, never pamper your daughter and punish your son for the mistakes of his sister… it is not only unfair but a grave mistake. We never discriminate between girls and boys like you do, we treat them equally” Sailamma said.

Renu pondered over what Sailamma said; actually Sailamma is right! Demonstrating equality doesn’t mean being biased against boys.

Nurture Good Feelings #WriteBravely Day 4 of #WriteTribe FoW March 2019

Hug the child

Aradhana and  Seema were very good friends. Seema runs a training company with two associates. Aradhana was a free-lancer and once Seema offered her a project on behalf of her company. Because both were such good friends they didn’t feel it important to enter into a contract formally (in writing).

After the completion of the project Seema paid only one-third of the remuneration she had promised Aradhana. Aradhana felt cheated and humiliated. This led to an altercation between them and Aradhana never spoke to Seema after that.

Seema’s blatant lies deeply hurt Aradhana. Two years later Seema dropped in at Aradhana’s place without notice and said she needed her help.  Seema got into some trouble with her business partners and she was planning to file a legal case against them. She needed to go to Nagpur, to meet her parents and seek their advice.

Seema asked Aradhana  if her daughter, Vidya could stay in their house until she came back because Vidya was taking her annual exams.

Aradhana was very fond of Vidya and she readily agreed.  Vidya, however, was feeling very awkward and embarrassed because she knew about the altercation between her mother and Aradhana. Noticing that Vidya was not feeling very comfortable, Aradhana made sure that Vidya did not have the slightest inconvenience.

Just to make Vidya feel at home, one evening, Aradhana shared all the happy moments she and Seema spent together.

Aradhana said, “Do you know Vidya, your mom is so much fun to be around. I enjoyed her company the most.” “While you guys were at school we went to movies and together tried all new recipes.”

“Once your mom, my sisters and me went to the old city for shopping. Your mom was the cleverest in bargaining with the shopkeepers. My sisters and I loved her shopping skills. You know, my sisters, every time they go shopping, they fondly remember your mom.”

“Seema and I once had a difference of opinion but unlike me she never nurtures bad feelings.”

Vidya with tearful eyes said, “Aunty, it’s you who nurtures good feelings and not mamma. I know mamma was mean to you. Dad told me that it was all mamma’s fault.” Even while she was saying it she broke down and started weeping.

Aradhana was touched. She hugged Vidya and said it wasn’t anyone’s fault.  Aradhana always knew Vidya was an angel of a girl. How could she nurture bad feelings for her mother?

Serenity #WriteBravely Day 3 of #WriteTribeFoW March 2019

Nandita was sick and tired of constant absenteeism of her team members and long erratic unplanned meetings at work. At home her mother-in-law had been complaining about Nandita not giving time to the family. Her ten-year old was complaining that they hadn’t been on a holiday for months.

She told her husband that she badly needed a break and he planned a weekend getaway at Matheran an automobile-free destination – they were going to stay at the Serenity Cottage.  Nandita loved the idea. She saw the pictures on the tourism websites and was carried away by the beauty of the place. It was not just serene but sublime.

Serenity Cottage


However, during the holiday, Nandita could not enjoy the serenity for long – her mother-in-law made a fuss about the bland food and she complained about her joint pains, indigestion and so on. Her son was utterly disappointed because there were no rides; forget the rides, there were absolutely no cars and not a single place for video games. He started behaving crankily.

Now amidst all this, Nandita got an informal message from her manager that she was made the project lead for the upcoming project. That was actually good news but it also meant traveling, more challenging timelines and extra hours at work.

While Nandita was taking a walk early in the morning along a serene path before the others woke up she was thinking of where they’d get proper breakfast for her family and whether there was a pharmacy nearby to buy the massage oil for her mother-in-law. She also wondered who her new team members would be and whom she’d be reporting to after she gets back to work.

Nandita was as preoccupied there in the serene surroundings as she was at work or home. Nothing changed much.

Conventionality is not Morality #writebravely Day 2 of #Write Tribe FoW – March 2019.

Labrador Retriever Dog Smiles on Bench Outdoors

Kanthi’s Athidhi  and My Athidhi (Athidhi in Sanskrit means guest)

Indian scriptures say “Athidhi Devobhava”:  “Treat a guest like he is an Angel or God” It is a convention that an athidhi  (guest) must be treated with utmost reverence. Does this apply to those guests too who take the hosts for granted?

I often wonder how practical and correct it is to follow the conventions as mentioned in the scriptures.

I know of a rich elderly man who often visited my neighbour and friend, Kanthi. This 70-year old gentleman is the cousin of Kanthi’s mother-in-law. He was a big landlord in a small town and he would come every alternate week to Hyderabad for a legal advice on his property in dispute or his late son-in-law’s insurance claim or to visit his grand-daughter studying in a boarding school. He spent lavishly on the branded cigars he smoked but felt it an unnecessary waste of money to stay in a hotel.

The Athidhi’s visits were unpredictable and his stay was indefinite. Kanthi who was a working mother got extremely stressed with this athidhi’s visits.

Now this athidhi won’t have anything else except idlies (a kind of rice cakes) for breakfast which Kanthi’s kids never relished. Kanthi would end up making two varieties of breakfast all through his stay. He needed his white Khadi clothes hand-washed, starched and ironed in time and Kanthi’s maid servant did not agree to do the athidhi’s work even if she was offered an extra payment. She told Kanthi quite assertively that they’ve stopped handwashing clothes even at their own home after her daugther-in-law bought a washing machine.

To top all these, the athidhi would watch the tabloid kind of news channels, smoking his cigars, with the loudest volume possible and not let anyone else watch their favourite shows. The smoke of the tobacco and the loud noise was extremely annoying to everyone but no one said a word to the guest because it would be rude.

Kanthi used to end up waking up at 4:00 in the morning instead of 5:30 and went to bed at 12 in the night or later.

I somehow wanted to make this Athidhi go away from their house for good and never return. I asked Kanthi’s kids what upset their athidhi the most. They said that he is dead scared of dogs.

And I knew what to do. When Kanthi’s athidhi visited the next time I brought home a friend’s pet, Terry, a huge Labrador Retriever (whom I’m very fond of) and made him MY athidhi.

Whenever Kanthi’s athidhi is home, I would unleash Terry and let him walk into Kanthi’s house. He would pull the Athidhi’s white starched khadi dhoti playfully and the athidhi would be terrified. He would scream frantically and shut himself in a room. I would apologise profusely to him and explain that Terry was just being playful.

I would pretend to take Terry away but Kanthi’s kids would not let me, they loved him and I couldn’t disappoint the kids so I would let Terry be there, not to mention that the Athidhi’s anger would have no bounds.  Terry would have lots of fun with Kanthi’s kids. Horrified athidhi would have nightmares.

After a couple of months, Kanthi’s athidhi stopped visiting them because every time he visited, Terry would be my athidhi.  Kanthi did not break the convention ‘athidhi devobhava’ and neither did I – You see, I never disappointed Terry – I always let him have fun with Kanthi’s  kids and their athidhi.