Thursday, November 15, 2007

Raja Bahadoor



His sideways profile has always adorned the pages of history and social studies books of my boyhood. I remember Raja Ram Mohun Roy from those days as a sketched figure with a traditional turban looking far away, as if to some distant utopia. Like so many other school boys I associated with him key words like Brahmo Samaj, Abolition of Sati and Social Reform that would help me weave a story together in the annual exams. At that age I was never to know what great admiration I would come to have one day for this giant of a man who had graced India more than two centuries ago. Strangely my fascination started after seeing a old Bangla movie on him on TV about fifteen years back in Bombay. Since than I have continued to read about him and my admiration has only grown over the years.

Ram Mohun Roy, as Muller says, was truly a great man. Not just because of his monumental achievements in the field of social reforms in an India that was just waking up, but, to me, also because of the strength of his moral conviction. If he had the courage to raise his voice against the plague of superstition in Hindu Society, he also had the discernment to resist conversion to Christianity for the wrong reasons. He instead sought a path of true spirituality that was untainted by the dogma of established religions. He always saw the Supreme as "... the Absolute Originator who is the first principle of all religions”.

For him English education was not a pretext or a catalyst to reject all things Indian and embrace all things western but correctly a means to broaden his horizons. Knowledgeable in Bangla, English, Arabic and Persian he was truly like one of the wise seers of ancient India who had given unto the world the treasures of Veda, Upanishad and Puranas. Indeed, he enriched our understanding vastly by writing deep commentaries on Vedanta, Upanishads and on the teaching of Jesus. He distinguished himself as a reformer who founded colleges, raised his voice against social ills and charted a path towards religious unity. He was one of the architects of the Indian Renaissance that with time would snowball into the freedom movement.

Only one so wise as him could have achieved so much in one lifetime that won him admiration of commoners as well as greats such as Rabindranath Tagore.

When he traveled to England and France he received great adulation and was received with honour. His death was a little tragic, ailing and alone in a distant land where a dispossessed Bahadur Saha was not able to send the monies promised to the Raja for his services. However his admirers there ensured his comfort when finally curtains fell on a great life at Bristol.

His life has left an indelible mark in Indian history and continues to inspire those who have attempted to learn from his life. For fifteen years I waited for the opportunity to go and pay my respects at his tomb in Bristol’s Arnos Cemetery. So when I saw my little Rudra stand folded hand in front of Ram Mohun Roy’s tomb a week or so back, imitating me, scant understanding what he was doing, I thought that it was every bit a fitting climax to a long cherished dream and that the wait had been truly worth that moment.

My son mayn’t remember this pilgrimage when he grows up, but I am convinced that Raja Bahadoor shall continue to inspire him and young people like him for a long long time to come.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Travels with Rudra

Rudra is presently on a trip to the United Kingdom. It was raining so heavily there and people were in such gloomy mood that he felt that they could do with a little bit of sunshine. Of course he knows that his ol’ Mom and Dad can’t do a thing without him, so he took them with him. Besides he does like being hugged by these guys (while no one is looking that is).

He has been taking his mom exploring Luton, while Dad’s been out during the day doing the stuff he usually does. Last Saturday he took Mom, Dad and his Pinku Kaku to see the sights and sounds of London. Dad was disappointed as Westminster Abbey was closed so to make up for that he took everyone on a cruise up the Thames river in the evening. The London eye looks magnificent as dusk wafts in, lit by green lights. He promised his mom that sometimes next week he shall bring her for a ride on the big wheel and he pacified Dad by saying that Westminster shall be open on other days.

Earlier in the week he took everyone to Bristol, where they stayed in the Ramada Grange Hotel. The hotel is on the countryside and has really vast lawns surrounding the property. The couple of days he was there was spent in pursuit of pure joy of running amok in the lawns, scaring geese and Halloween pumpkins, getting scared by horses, and generally making trouble. One of the mornings two wild bunnies paid him a visit by the hotel window.

While a Bristol, he helped fulfill one of Dad’s long cherished wishes. He took his old parents to pay homage at the tomb of Raja Rammohun Roy. His Dad has been a fan of Raja Bahadoor since childhood and considers him to be one of the greatest Indians to have graced our motherland. It was a touching moment for Dad as he and his son stood folded hand in front of his Samadhi.

Right now, Rudra wants to be pampered a little bit, before he goes off to sleep.

Good Night everybody.