Oct 01, 2023
Oct 01, 2023
Fortunate are those who have parents around to take care and nurture them; and extremely fortunate are those who have seen and spent time with their grandparents. In present times, knowledge is just a click away but where is the wisdom? I believe wisdom is innate but latent, ‘conscious awareness’ of the ways of the world just triggers its flow; and what starts as a trickle at first ends up to be a gushing, perennial river. Having a wise person around, especially at ones tender age, is like having solutions much before the problems manifest themselves.
Rajender’s Amma is an embodiment of such a source of wisdom. PCK Prem in the ‘Foreword’ (9) states: “For everyone, it is a journey to ‘the inside’ of man, whose finger the ever eternal ‘Amma’ holds and takes him to a life of love, compassion, harmony and divine bliss in times of catastrophe’ (27). The illustrative interpretations of the poems by Niloufer Wadia are a refreshing treat for the eyes and mind! Commendable! It reminds me of the art work in the book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackery. Both books are different, in a way, but the impact they leave is the same. One keeps looking, spell-bound, at the illustration on the page and recalling the poem one just read.
The forty-five poems in the collection are like fuel that triggers the innate and latent within. Solutions to the problems of life, big or small; and answers to some conscience-pricking conundrum, all are given in simple lyrical terms:
With a pleasing attitude
You merely do not greet
Every big and small
Essentially you bow
To the Witness
That pervades all. (‘Greetings’ 40)
Starting with the language of the universe in ‘Om’ (33)—“Om/The Only Verse”—and ending with the acceptance of the fact that renouncing “….messy rivalries/and greedy ambitions” (‘Renunciation’ 149) is the way to relax; the cyclic nature of the universe resonates throughout the book. Amma represents feminine wisdom. She is the bird who teaches her brood to fly high in the sky, all the time reminding them to return to their nest in the evening. Lines that are repeated like ‘an anthem of life’ throughout the book are worth memorizing:
by being true to yourself
Be not in haste to react
First anticipate then contemplate
Follow the right path
The lines are impregnated with the promise to take you out of any dharma-sankat (here the word dharma shuns its colonial translation, ‘religion’, and takes its original meaning ‘path of righteousness’; the word sankat means ‘crisis’) in life. Doing the right and the riches will follow, says Amma:
Do not hanker, despise greed
Let other riches seek you
And remember always
You get what you deserve
Only when it becomes due (‘Why Pray?’ 50)
The play between destiny and man which for a believer is “all pre-scripted” (54) is the ‘Leela’ that the wise often refer to: “No wonder/Amma called this/a mere play/the inexorable Leela” (‘Cyclical’ 55).
Amidst many wonderful observations in the book, my favorite lines are from the poem ‘Quest’ (56):
Life is in the Now
of cause and effect
Not in the past nor in the future (58)
The same idea is conveyed later in the poems: ‘Today’ (92), ‘The Present’ (94) and ‘Now’ (96). “How does one/truly come/face to face/with now/that seems to be/a fleeting moment/yet is an eternity/in itself?” (‘Now’ 98). Faith in divinity is a very important theme in poems like ‘Gurdwara’ (102), ‘Devotion’ (110), ‘Nature’ (112), and ‘Observation’ (128). And then there are poems like ‘Leaf’ (134) and ‘Life’ (118) that make one appreciate the nature and role of man in it.
Furthermore, poems like ‘Esteem’ (76), ‘Maturity’ (78), ‘Compassion’ (80), and ‘Destination’ (82) have some very remarkable reflections on womanhood and the wisdom it brings, familial relationships and parenting. For instance, consider the following lines from ‘Destination’:
Parenting is nothing
but a path
generation after generation
but never the destination.
always is emancipation
of the Self. (84)
Amma is the anchor, “the dependable refuge” (69). One who teaches not to fear death: “Always remember/but fear not Yama/for death is inevitable” (‘Healing’ 71).
The book is a basket of sorted muffins of all designs, shapes, flavors and colorful toppings prepared by poet under Amma’s expert supervision and guidance in life’s bakery. Immerse yourself in nature for ultimate spiritual bliss; understand yourself and do the right; have faith and take the inner journey, for the solutions to all problems lie within; by shunning deceit and arrogance be kind and humble — these are some of the gems of advice that Amma gives. The aim is to pass on the baton of positivity and peace to the future generations. For me, what the best-selling self-help books like How to Stop Worrying and Start Living: Time-tested Methods for Conquering Worry by Dale Carnegie and The Power of Your Subconscious Mind: Unlock Your Master Key to Success by Dr. Joseph Murphy do in prose, Amma’s Gospel does in verse.
Rajender Krishan, the founder and editor of literary website Boloji.com since 1999, is also the author of poetry collections: Solitude and Other Poems and Wanderer (2021). He has also a book entitled, Photo Essays (2021), to his credit. The latter book is a collection of colorful pictures complemented with interesting write ups. His poems in Amma’s Gospel are comprehensible yet cosmically mystic and spiritually pragmatic. He writes for all ages for he knows that different generations may adorn different garbs but the body of maladies and woes underneath are the same. It is a book that should adorn the shelves of schools, colleges and universities. One should keep this book close at hand, so that one can refer to it whenever one is going through a rough patch in life, “wondering how she [Amma] would have handled the uncertainty and tragedy …” (blurb); and Amma will certainly live up to the expectations of the seeker!
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