PORTRAIT OF A BUDGIE

I have kept Budgies since i was a kid and still do at 80. These cage birds, originally from Australia where they are to be found in the wild, have always fascinated me for their intelligence, beauty, variety , poise, response to humans and their extraordinary behavior. Their relationships, love affairs, rearing of young by both parents and teaching them  how to enter the world of adult birds, their jealousies conflicts, flirtations, animosities, faithfulness to spouse  and even appearance strangely remind me of human traits and behavior. This post is a saga of a few protagonist birds in my aviary and their amazing story illustrated by photographs.

                                         MY AVIARY

My birds were some 30 in a fairly spacious aviary in the backyard of our house and visible at all times from within. While we were all confined because of the Covid  pandemic and lock-downs, a parallel infection of Bird Flu suddenly hit my aviary. Birds started dyeing  on a daily basis and i was quite alarmed. I had two pairs of Skyblue budgies that had mated and were now rearing their young in two earthen nest boxes on either end of the cage with five fledglings each, which both parents diligently spent all their time laboriously feeding and grooming in the nests.

                       A SKYBLUE BUDGIE

Apart from these two pairs the other two dozen were green , the colour found in nature in the wild in Australia. Over a century or more breeders have developed them as cage bird pets very responsive to humans with a wide range of colours through mutations.

Within days most of the the green were wiped out to my horror. The bird version of the Covid Pandemic had entered my cage. I wanted at least my rarer Skyblues who were with young fledglings to survive. After consulting a vet. I bought the recommended antibiotics and other medicines and as directed began mixing them in the seed and water. But it was too late and before long all the green perished and then the Skyblue got infected as well.

One pair of Skyblues had a fledgling that had begun to emerge into freedom from the nest into the aviary. and had learnt to feed and drink water on its own. She must have imbibed the antibiotics just in time and looked as if she was unaffected. But her parents were dead in two days and all her siblings in the nest as well. In the other nest the mother Skyblue and 5 fledglings also perished. Only the father survived. Apart from these two survivals a third also did, a canary yellow recessive pied beauty, a male. Thus the bird flu holocaust took all my birds except these three survivors,  two males and a fledgling female, not dissimilar to a handful of survivors on a ship wreck.

This aviary had become my Titanic. Fortunately the medicines continued to work with the three and they showed no signs of bird flu. The crisis had passed for these lucky birds.

Its then that the Avian  saga  began in my aviary. I named the three as Skyblue (the surviving Skyblue Dad), I called the pied yellow beauty male Casanova Blondie and the young female Opal, as she was an Opaline grey wing mutant. These became the protagonists of my saga.

    BRAVE OPAL THE HEROINE OF THE SAGA

 BLONDIE THE VILLAIN OF THE SAGA

      SKYBLUE & OPAL HERO AND HEROINE OF the SAGA

The three birds left alone in a large cage had to interact with each other. Budgies are very social birds and are perpetually in a state of interaction. Skyblue became fond of Opal and began chatting with her often -this is usually done by knocking beak to beak. He also sought to kiss her and in the process offer her regurgitated food which in Budgie language is the friendliest of acts. A male begins his courtship with this act. If it is accepted by the female it signals acceptance of the proposal but only for friendship. In other circumstances it is merely an act of friendship and two males or any two budgies will make this food offering to indicate friendship and attachment. Opal’s acceptance was at first only a signal that she was not offended by his overtures but would more than tolerate his proximity and friendship. While Skyblue began to secretly pursue his prime goal of making Opal agree to go as far as mating not just budgie friendship, and kept persisting with his wooing to gain that end.

Blondie left to himself became curious about what the other two survivors were up to. Opal being a just emerged fledgling, say a teenager in our terms and therefore had no conception of sex, mating and what follows. Skyblue some 30 years in our terms, aware of her innocence began the strategy of arousing the appropriate feelings in her by making her curious of the earthen nests. He would poke his head in the opening, then encourage her to do the same, as if this were a kind of game they were playing. Most birds show reluctance to enter a nest out of fear, but once having entered they like it there, reminded of their own infancy in a similar nest. Then from familiarity arises maternal feelings and both eggs and desire begin to get generated. Skyblue aware of this, being a mature male stud, finally succeeded in making her enter the nest. This went on for several days to a week. Now whenever she felt any insecurity on approaching humans etc she would promptly enter the nest and remain there till the ‘danger’ had passed. Skyblue now felt secure in his intended purpose and would possessively sit on top of the nest, nursing his secret ambition, while she was inside. Birds get very excited when they see a nest – a basic instinct gets aroused in both males and females.

                        Skyblue on nest when she is in

Blondie grew more and more curious and excited when he saw Opal enter the nest and like Skyblue was aroused by the entry. When she emerged from the nest and flew to a perch he promptly followed her and began to propose regurgitated food as an offering of love while knocking his beak against her for greater familiarity and to open her mouth and accept his offering of food with an intimate suggestive ‘budgie kiss’  Opal angrily resisted and rejected this offer, not knowing him at all, by pushing him away and flying to the perch where Skyblue was located mainly to get away from his unwanted soliciting.. Blondie  followed her in flight and persisted with his overtures. Skyblue then attacked him and made him fly elsewhere.

Soon, a couple of days later Skyblue’s attempts at mating grew more aggressive while it became plane from her repeated acceptance of beak to beak regurgitation that her system had begun to feel a certain arousal. They flew together to the nest and she boldly entered it. When she returned to the perch at his entreaties shown by strong beak pulling towards himself she finally adopted a posture of submission allowing him to climb on to her back and commence mating.

This was interrupted several times by curious and excited Blondie, but Skyblue responded by frontal attacks and chasing him from point to point in the cage to establish his physical superiority. There were no more interruptions and the mating continued to a completely successful end. These two lovers now spent most of there time mating about four times a day and immediately thereafter she would retreat to the nest and remain there not coming out even to feed, a sign that she was about to lay. Skyblue, a mature male who knew all the signs of a female’s cycle, then fed for two and entered the nest to feed her regurgitated food. About a week later she laid an egg and then became inseparable from the nest as a consequence. As the days passed the number of eggs grew to five. She diligently incubated her eggs till they began to hatch one by one.

                    Hatch-lings and eggs the first clutch of five

 Under the tender care of both parents the chicks developed fast growing by the day with a full plumage of feathers.They began peeping out of the nest and in another week emerged and found perches, took flights tentatively and learnt from demonstrations by parents how to forage for seeds and find the source of water in the cage. Blondie continued to interfere at every stage but once the chicks were all out he lost interest.

                      FIRST CLUTCH OF FIVE FULLY GROWN

Barely had the first clutch emerged from the nest and been taught to feed and drink that Opal started getting curious about an empty nest. Seeing this Skyblue  joined her with growing enthusiasm and began to seduce her again. Blondie noticing these developments joined in as well, trying to ‘beak to beak’ with her and Skyblue resenting the flirtation tried to drive him off.  Whenever she entered the nest he would fly and sit over it and try to peep in. The conflict with Skyblue had resumed in full force.  Once again the loving pair began to mate several times a day, with Blondie interrupting their act. Now she was more often confined in the nest than outside. Ceasing to feed by herself. Skyblue took up the duty of feeding her in the nest. Blondie was always nearby excited with curiosity and jealousy. This time within weeks Opal had broken all records by laying eight eggs!! With the hatching of her first egg the tension in the cage exploded into fights between Blondie and Skyblue. It must have been like love on a deserted island after a ship wreck. He tried several times to enter the nest to the protesting screeches of Opal who was now a fearsome mother as well.

Opal with first born and eggs of second clutch

Blondie’s jealous interventions now assumed alarming proportions. I noticed that Skyblue looked depressed and did not feed Opal as often as he should have. If Opal was not provided food in the nest by her spouse she would not be able to feed the new born and it would die. It required to be fed every few hours or the nest would be a disaster.

        OPAL WITH TWO CHICKS HATCHED, SECOND CLUTCH

 If Skyblue did not recover after fights with Blondie who was getting the upper hand and with daily more mouths to feed as the eight eggs hatched one after the other the result would be mother and brood all perishing. As a first step i introduced another yellow, a  beautiful female acquired from the pet shop, a rare Lutino with red eyes to distract the lonesome Blondie and help the pair with growing number of chicks to succeed in rearing their young. I named her LUTINO. Blondie immediately took to her but she as any self respecting female fully resisted his advances. He then thus rejected, renewed his intrusions into the affairs of Skyblue and Opal with greater vigour and there were daily fights between the two males. If Skyblue got fatally wounded or even disabled it would mean the death of Opals family – a great tragedy after the earlier Bird Flu tragedy.

The pics below shows vividly how the quartet were faring. we see Opal with an assertive Blondie flirting beside her while she is helpless to get rid of him. Skyblue is on the nest desperate to get rid of Blondie and Lutino now showing interest in Blondie is kind of curious to know why he is soliciting Opal if he wants her.

    The quartet rather than a triangle

       Skyblue holding vigil while Opal and brood are fearful within

 Skyblue defends the nest as Blondie wants to claim it as his own

After Skyblue fails, Opal with maternal fury confronts Blondie and drives him away.

The helpless  terror stricken chicks and remaining eggs while Opal was forced to go out and defend the nest. There was a perceived danger that Blondie in fury would enter and harm the chicks as they were not his own.

The sad result of all this was that opal was not being fed and was hard pressed to feed the growing chicks, Skyblue was fighting what appeared to be a losing battle and poor Opal with immense responsibilities and fear had virtually lost her mind and balance. In the days to come this resulted in some terrible consequences. Opal had already four demanding chicks to feed while not being fed herself and unable to go feed herself leaving the nest unprotected. There was also not much help from Skyblue and danger was ever present from Blondie’s aggressive behavior.   As if this was not enough she hatched another egg and now had to start all over again devoting all her time to this youngest fledgling.

The very next day to my horror I found that fledgling on the floor of the cage dead!  I needed expert advice.

On the net i found that such advice was available with  expert Forums on budgies . I placed the facts before one of the forums and sought help in the shape of advice as to what should i do next. Their opinion was firm. A rogue Budgie like Blondie should be separated from the Dad and Mum with responsibilities of rearing their young, else this kind of tragedy would be repeated. I sought their opinion on who could possibly have perpetrated this act. After debate they came to the conclusion that the distraught mum had done this because she was just unable to cope with the tension of feeding yet another chick and threatening the lives of the other four who were developing quite well as she just did not have the resources.  In addition the presence of Blondie and his antics had virtually blown her mind with little help from Dad who himself was facing a crisis when he should have been busy feeding Mum and kids.

I protested that this went against all norms of maternal instinct which i had been given to understand was the primary instinct in nature!! The eminent members of the Forum clarified that in nature it was NOT the maternal instinct that was supreme though it was high up on the scale of instincts. What superseded that was ‘THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST’ instinct. And mum had to concede her maternal instinct in favour of the superior choice, leading to her eviction of the last helpless chick . I was told that this was not uncommon among birds in the wild. They chose to help the fittest if resources were lacking. Further  that Raptors could even go to the extent of feeding the helpless chick to the largest surviving chick!!!  Shocked though I was I came to the new realization that Nature, God’s handmaiden was ruthless when it came to helping God preserve his creation as He had conceived it, and apart from procreation and maternal instinct what alone could do that was to ensure the ‘Survival only of the Fittest’ even if it meant some  unfortunate choices.

I then hastened to separate BLONDIE to save the breeding pair and surviving four and confined him in a smaller cage at least till the loving pair had achieved their goal of feeding and rearing the four almost grown ‘fittest’ and teaching them how to forage and find water without the need of being fed beak to beak by their parents till they learnt the art of survival. The only concession i made was to give him the company of Lutino while in confinement. Here they are shown below confined.

                             BLONDIE IN CONFINEMENT

But the tragedy did not end there. Shaken and confused, but with nature helping her to choose the supreme instinct of ‘survival of the fittest’ and not quite aware that the danger had passed with Blondies separation, considering the stress she had undergone, the two remaining eggs were dutifully hatched according to Maternal instinct, but the new born chicks were ruthlessly evicted  and in the days to follow i found them dead at the bottom of the cage. I discarded my earlier notion that Mum had done the inconceivable only because they may have been still born and dead, for the sake of not endangering the lives of the others through , say infection. No one wants the company of dead beings even ones own progeny. But this was not the case here. She had indeed followed the rule that when resources are limited the fittest alone have the right to survival. Of course i am sure that among humans with intelligence and its corollary morality, and our human maternal instinct, this natural ethics does not apply, at least most of the time i hope.

After the separation of Blondie and his now equally interfering hen and further the cruel but ‘NECESSARY’ eviction and death of the three newborn, peace returned to the cage.

    growing plumage

                      peeping at the sun no fear anymore

               First out a real beauty – cobalt opaline greywing

Skyblue resumed his role as devoted father feeding Opal and the kids both within and on emergence from the nest, outside in the cage till the remaining four learnt the art of survival, able to locate the food and water and able to fly to perches and roost

The first out had only to call and Dad dad promptly arrived to feed it

The sacond called out and Dad responded by arriving to feed it while two remained inside awaiting their turn to emerge

eventually the remaining two also emerged and the nest was empty..Outside in the cage Opal, Skyblue, their first clutch of five and second clutch of four all merrily were fine and together with continued guidance from the successful parents.

I was also advised by the Wise Forum that I should not allow the pair to breed again a third time as Opal would be too exhausted. But within a week she began to search for a nesting place with the encouragement of Skyblue now that their preoccupations with the second clutch had come to an end. I noticed Skyblue  making affectionate advances and Opal readily responding. Before long this translated to mating!! I recalled the Forums warnings and had all nests removed. The matings nevertheless continued. This time the forum advised that I isolate her for her own good till she had fully recovered her strength.  The next day i discovered an egg on the floor of the cage. I then decided to isolate Opal.  with her first born beauty the cobalt Opaline for company,to prevent further mating and laying of eggs, for her own sake.

The happy couple wanting to mate again but abortive on account of the curiosity and intervention  of a son from the first clutch!!. Looks as if opal is singing a love balled.

Opal was isolated with her opaline daughter for company and Blondie and Lutino restored to the Aviary.

         Opal in isolation

Blondie and Lutino wasting no time on return to the aviary to find a suitable nest.

OPAL WOULD BE RETURNED TO THE AVIARY AFTER RECOVERING HER STRENGTH AND ONCE HER BREEDING CYCLE WAS BROKEN.

One other thought occurs to me since the blog essentially springs from spirituality and is called Search for the Soul. While we have moral responsibility for what we do as humans with intelligence and conscience, it is not as if animals are without responsibility or that their acts go unnoticed by the Universe. indeed in my view they too have responsibility and are judged for what instinct they find preferable. No punishment for choosing Survival of the Fittest as that is natural ethics but when they defy that  to favour maternal instinct which need not lead to survival of the fittest, then they have graduated from animal status and are probably allowed rebirth as a human. for their advanced sense of morality and ethics.  However in this Saga our heroine OPAL does not fall into that category since her instincts did not go beyond natural ethics. No problem, she displayed enough maternal instinct to qualify as a great Budgie.

            END  OF SAGA IN MY BACKYARD

The Ball cactus that transformed into a Hindu tremple

Of all plants the cactus fascinates me the most because it is quiet pensive like a Muni undemanding as required by the Gita, able to face challenges like drought and heat without complaint, able to defend itself from predators with its Armour of spikes and finally because it is capable of surprising you with sudden spectacular blooms that leave you breathless.
This time it was not gorgeous flowers. Some time back I had bought a Ball cactus, thus called because it is round and in the shape of a ball. During the monsoons it suddenly produced six bumps on its side which grew into smaller balls attached to the ‘mother’. then the dome of the cactus began to grow till the shape of the ball began to change and become more oval. This continued till the dome grew higher and more pronounced and the six ‘buds’ also increased in size. One fine morning it was time to water the cactus. I just stood back aghast and realized that the ball cactus had transformed into the shape of a Hindu temple!!! This was the ultimate gift and surprise from my cactus friends.

The Great Lord Perpetually Deep in Meditation to Perfect His Creation Shiva Adideva The original Being Almighty God.

Sometimes strange thoughts assail you and force you to think deeper. Some whats and some whys. We begin to observe with insight. Quite ordinary phenomena suddenly require examination. One is the phenomenon of love and procreation. the other related to it – the Maternal Instinct.

Looks like the Creator introduced the two phenomena with deep purpose and implanted them into His amazing creation. He is after all the master strategist and is always preoccupied in sustaining and developing His creation, much like a great artist would his canvass or an inventor his invention. The need to perfect a work of genius whether a work of art or science and technology.

Beings are basically hedonistic and self centered keen to survive and do whatever it takes to do that. Also for that to gain the upper hand and dominance over all others. Such a world would have  an in built tendency to pit each one against the other and eventually to have within it the seeds of its own destruction. In such a set up rather than procreate, entities would destroy and consume one another. Thus the Immaculate Genius who conceived and then created the world sought to introduce the great concept of LOVE and PROCREATION to sustain and perpetuate  what in his deep contemplation He had conceived, a splendid diversity of form and shape in a LIVING world of diverse beings and life. It would not have done any justice to it if it self destructed soon after creation – like a momentary dream that impressed but vanished before you could even hold on to it in wonder at what you had conceived in a moment of creativity and brilliance. 

To make creation remain eternally, He introduced the concept of PROCREATION. Beings would procreate themselves time and again in their own image enabling His creation to continue and be sustained as in the beginning. Procreation began with the concept of division which He conceived for starters – that is a being produced another like itself by splitting in two before the first could deteriorate and perish. Cellular division as in the Amoeba. But this  while sustaining His creations longevity did not take care of the hedonistic weakness at its heart – the need for dominance and its sequel, mutual destruction in perpetual conflict  which would then end creation and it would again become only a beautiful but momentary dream. The procreative act needed to have an element of cooperation and selflessness. Therefore He moved forward from self procreation to one requiring two opposites, similar yet different, a Male factor and a Female factor. Now they could only procreate by joining as one to produce a third. But in the inherent hedonism of creation such cooperation was inconceivable and again the issue of sustaining creation eternally  received a setback. Why should two self willed beings  bent on domination engage in such cooperation at all  – tedious, time consuming and endangering their supremacy. It would be easier to just split in two and create ones likeness to survive and dominate as it did? Creation once again in danger of being a momentary thought quite unsustainable. The Master Creator then having already produced two opposites with his incomparable genius, proceeded to implant  intense attraction  in one opposite for another and gave it the name of LOVE. Love which would finally limit hedonism and bring two beings together to procreate to produce a third. Love which created a hankering in the one for the other because of His creative genius in making them alike and yet different, the difference being the source of attraction as together they would once again be complete as originally – ONE. He also in his deep strategic wisdom added the insurance of  unique PLEASURE in Love not merely attraction. Now with greatly diminished hedonism under the rule of Love and pleasure heightened by differences which did not exist originally, the brilliant evolution of concepts from oneness as in Amoeba  to sexuality as in Male and Female differences finally ensured that His creation would neither self destruct nor be without procreation in creation.

Yet something was missing to make His creation eternal and sustainable. To sustain it, it was necessary to ensure that the procreated being which would supplant the ones before, when they deteriorated, enabling His creation to continue just as when conceived, remained viable. So the Great  Master conceived of Maternal Instinct not merely love for opposites and implanted it in the Female of all species He had created. this fountain of another aspect of love (His original Genius) put the stamp of eternal on His creation. The maternal instinct would ensure above all else that the procreated entity would be ensured survival and thus His creation would survive as a perpetual dream rather than a momentary inspiration.

The innate Hedonism of his creation, quite necessary also for sustaining it, because if entities did not have the supreme instinct of survival all else would be irrelevant, now had been suitably tempered by both Love for procreation and Maternal instinct for survival, together they would create a world as He conceived in his primal dream and like an inventor He had brought to perfection with amendments to perpetuate for all times. applause from all of us His beloved creatures.

 

 

The thought of creation

It is not uncommon in ones sorrow and frustration to turn ones anger towards God blaming him for ones plight.  Others accept it as ones deserving fate for ones wrong doings and those who believe in Karma, on past and present life doings with their positive and negative effects in the present life. In many faiths ones challenges in life  are explianed as tests by the divine to help in the evolution of your soul and therefore to be borne with courage and fortitude rather than believing that it is simply the punishment for ones sins.

There is yet another explanation for ones circumstances,fortunes and misfortunes  particularly with New Age theologists and thinkers and those who have sought to explore the phenomenon of Near Death Experiences (NDE) thereby claiming to have briefly visited the spirit world and learnt some of its secrets.

In this version God does not figure. It is claimed that the eternal soul is forever seeking to evolve to a higher spiritual level in its craving to gain proximity to the creater and eventually to merge with that Supersoul.

 

In the process it seeks to impose challenges and corrections from one lifetime to another. While guidance is available from great spirit souls and beings in the spirit world, the task of self analysis is left to the individual soul to devise obstacles in a future life, to acquire positive and negative circumstances and attributes, to choose its parents its progeny its circumstances of birth even handicaps and extraordinary skills and abilities – the combination of positive and negative at birth and in the life to unfold, in order that together they shall enable it to prove itself and evolve spiritually. Here there would be situations where the father is a tyrant or a mother dies prematurely or there is abundant love from sibling or else abuse from members of ones own family. All manner of combinations to produce the right type of challenges to test the soul’s mettle and help it move forward in evolution. In this version there is no God to blame, no fate to explain ones circumstances. There is also abundant provision for positive support to enable the soul to face the difficult challenges like being in love compassion of near and dear,riches and luxuries, great achievements and honour, brilliance and success in certain fields the happiness provided by good progeny etc. But lingering behind these happy situations are the never ceasing challenges in one form or the other chosen by the soul itself, much like a dilligent student who wishes to choose a difficult subject despite failure being quite common. In all this at moments of extreme misery and difficulty, spirits and guides aware of the souls plight will assist and support it so that it is able to endure the difficult plan it has adopted for evolution.

Providence and the spirit world never impose a difficult trial of life in the material world but leave it entirely to the responsible soul to choose the path for its correction and evolution. Therefore there is no question of blaming God, fate or previous sins for ones present plight.  This view may be difficult for some to accept as it does not hold ones sins or omissions responsible for ones situation and plight, nor does it allow you to pass the blame on  to earlier omissions in past lives or again Gods fury to teach you a lesson through punishment. The soul becomes the supreme arbiter of the choice of a life whether of a Helen Keller, a mother Teresa, a beggar , a king, a male or female, the nature of ones family, friends, career and time and manner of death. Nothing fateful, everything chosen and imposed by your great soul.

But that is the New Age view based on its vision of the spiritual world and the souls freedom of choice. The Hindu view still relies on evolution of the human individual where the eternal soul is trapped. All the entrapped soul yearns for is freedom from its human entrapment and rejoining the Supersoul – Paramatma – i.e. God, of which it is an integral part – ansha – and from which it has got seperated at creation of the material world.

final liberation of the soul from rebirth in a human shell.

The soul being a part of Godhead is already perfect and needs no evolution. furthermore according to the Gita it is not the agent of action or the actor on the human plane accumulating Karmik debt. As it does not act it is beyond the law of karma. But the cage in which it is trapped is indeed subject to karma. The human being acts  driven by its insatiable ego and Karmik forces then determine the consequences of those actions in this life and the next. It also determines the circumstances of rebirth and the trials the human shell will have to undergo for the shells evolution. The soul plays no part in the karmik consequences of the gross and subtle body of the material entity. All it hopes is that the shell will evolve to the point of perfection when its rebirth will cease and with that evolution the soul will finally get released from bondage in a human body. Meanwhile though not responsible for any acts of the body it plays the role of councellor guiding the ego driven body on a path which will not attract karmik consequence of a negative sort, retarding its evolution and thereby enforcing rebirth for yet another trial in another lifetime.

The islamic view requires great reverence for god – Allah- who is the all merciful and compassionate. No question of any blame or aspersion being tolerated. All that he deals out to humans is trials and tests -Ajmaish- for their evolution which have to be borne with humility and dedicated effort to overcome weakness and faults or punishments for wrong doing to have the subject reap what he has sown. There are no Karmik laws and no rebirth. the soul or Rooh which in this case has been the actor and agent of action takes responsibility for all acts of commission and omission and faces the consequences in afterlife after judgement has been pronounced at the throne of the Almighty.

raaz e ulfat – secret of love

When i retired I had no idea what i would do with my leisure time. Ofcourse sports, watching TV plays, shows and films, walks in the park, writing books, poetry, writing on my blog about spirituality Hinduism, the after life, mysticism, music ,study of different religions, meditation, looking deeper on the meaning of life , establishing contact with lost friends and relatives having spent my life overseas in the Foreign Service and pursuing my interests like keeping pet fish and birds, studying nature and animal life ad infinitum.

I pursued all these interests now that retirement had given me the time to do so but kept on searching to find what could engage my free time more fully. And then i stumbled on a treasure trove to keep me fully engaged. Earlier in life we had come across some good Pakistani serials which we had enjoyed greatly rather than indian or American serials. I found that the Pak serials had gained great maturity in more ways than one. I couldnt believe how well they were produced, directed, story line,acting and actors and actresses, screen play, dialogue (in urdu) and issues explored from daily life in all classes from village, feudal, middle class, urban life and upper class life styles. The themes were also amazing in their diversity and authenticity. Yes I was totally hooked and it became my old age addiction and passion to spend several hours each day watching the Pak serials with total concentration and enjoyment. Life without these well produced, directed and acted serials would have become a source of depression in old age. And they are available on the internet free with hardly any ads on u tube and other sites. What a bonzana of good entertainment, drama, ethical and social issues and Islamic values of life and consequences of your actions. Neither in India or the west have these issues and relationships been tackled with so much finesse and admirable insight as the Pak serials which are often also subtitled to reach beyond the Urdu- Hindi lanuages to the west and elsewhere. All the themes have an amazing appreciation of spiritual values where the consequences of your actions provide in the end the right results in spiritual terms with tragedy or reward for commendable behaviour compassion and concern for others as against self centered pursuit of pleasure and hedonism depriving others of their rights imposing ones will on others and denying them their rights.

 

Indeed i have seen in these plays so much of what actually happens in life between people, families friends and siblings and the power of love, hate ,envy and selfishness equally of evil intentions and purposes, the life of poverty, riches and class, truely portrayed, that I am left entralled by the ability of these story writers, producers, directors and actors for the works of art they have created which leaves us totally engaged and driven off our feet for their insights and abilities. How have these Pak serials managed to achieve with absolute distinction what others have not been able to do!? And my happiness knows no bounds in finding that there are over 500 such priceless dramas never failing to impress, available on the internet at no cost and with minimal advertisements to feed ones addiction.

yes my friends these serials are jewels to treaure just right length with about 30 episodes or less succinct rarely trailing and never lasting longer than you want. The drama story line and emotions in relationships are superb and portrayed without any exaggeration. In particular i love the presence of parental figures showing the intimate affections and guidance provided by Mother for daughter , son the Fathers discipiline and guidance both loving and dictatorial in turns, the beautifully portrayed relationships of siblings, and of course the nature of love affairs involving sacrifice committment defiance of custom and tradition, leading to a lifetime of regret and tragedy or managing to overcome outdated norms and constraints which are only meant to shackle freedom happiness and free will. Ihe power of evil intentions is also wonderfully shoown where friends betray one another out of petty jealosies or seek to ruin the lives of gullible innocent souls by subterfuge deceit and cunning to win over trust and exploit it for ones selfish desires.Every type of relationship has the attributes to show all these characteristics good or bad superbly portrayed. and that is no wonder because many of the stories are written on by hired script writers whose only purpose is to win the box office with flimsy shallow themes but by eminent pak writers not aping the west but producing and showing the best in Pak and Islamic character. Finally every drama serial has attached to it a priceless message of what Allah or god is like in his guidance compassion and measuring out fate and anguish and trials of life to test the mettle of those He loves. Tests are the basic themes of these stories where every trial is there for a purpose, that being to improve the quality of humaness, test the mettle of mankind to raise it to ethereal levels. The concept which really won my admiration was that of ‘AJMAISH; which in urdu means supreme test through adversity. Like all religious messages Islam’s message of AJMAISH is beautiful because it seeks to show you that all adversity is not a punishmebt rather a test of the strength of your soul;s ability to endure and evolve which alone makes you what in the Gita is mentioned as the person who is dearest to Him.Whether in Islam hinduism or christianity the message is basically the same – christ on a cross, we bearing our own crosses all finally leading to evolution and enlightenment here and later elsewhere. These pakistani serials have managed to capture and beautifully portray that concept in their themes of love betrayal family relationships, human intereactions and life in totality. I congratulate them for not merely entertaining but leaving behind a message which goes way beyond that.Bravo and congratulations to these special people for what they have done and continue to do with unbelievable ability and skill.

let me introduce you to some of the serials i enjoyed most:

DASTAAN

A moving story of partition faithfully rendered without bias and stereotypes. Outstanding cast and individual portrayals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bob my Giant Gorami

 

We all have amazing encounters with animals when we learn about their latent intelligence and that we have all along been underestimating them as no equal to our species. These experiences apart from researchers and scientisis are more common with keepers of pets as they spend their lifetimes observing them and interacting with them. This is usually the case more common with the canine and feline species – Dogs and Cats. We love them interact with them establish communication and rapport and more important get responses from a mere animal which sometimes can equal that of our own kind.

My amazing experience is with a fish not the usual dog or cat or horse etc. For that reason it was something more than amazing and for the reason that I not merely gave to it but actually began to get recognition and response.

Well Ive kept aquarium fish all my life since the age of 12. its been a hobby to observe fish nature and habits and at school, college and during my career in the foreign service and later in retirement the hobby stayed with me and delighted me and added years to my life i suppose. Now nearing 80 i suddenly found a new angle to the hobby. I found by chance that fish have intelligence and can be real good responsive pets like dogs.
I never felt this before till i went to a shop and acquired a Juvenile Giant Gorami about 4 inches long and albino with red eyes. This species in 4 years grows to about 18 inches and more. Well in 3 months it doubled in size and became 6 inches long and kept growing. Unlike other aquarium fish it ate not just fish food but tomatoes cucumber carrots apples bananas cauliflower squash spinich parsley and of course dried prawns. As a fish hobbyist i was amazed at this. All the fruit and veg ofcourse had to be cut small. later I introduced chiken which he loved the most and would not touch veg or fruit after chicken. 
Then with its voracious appetite it began feeding from my fingers holding the food. Unafraid it snapped at my fingers with some encouragement and even thought that my fingers were food!! then i trained it to take the food only after ‘kissing’ my finger so to speak. No kiss and no food. It was intelligent enough like dogs to realise that it had to do my bidding if it wanted to satisfy its voracious appetite which it had because it would grow from 4 inches eventually to more than a foot (thus the name Giant Gorami). It began to love my finger as it portended food of all kinds. It then got trained to kiss my finger before it got food LOL I was delighted at the response from a mere fish. None of the fish i had kept all these years ever exhibited any such fearlessness or response.

Bob kissing my finger – reminded of Michaelangelo’s masterpiece at the Cistine Abbey showing God extending his finger from the clouds to Adam.

Then i started looking down from the top of the aquarium to establish eye contact with him or her and christened him BOB after my departed dear cousin who i loved a lot. I imagined that he had reincarnated briefly to be with me as a fish lol. Bob now was not too shy and would meet my look from the aquarium with his pretty red eyes and it was no more just the love for my feeding fingers. Also when ever i placed my finger on the tank glass he would come and kiss it and begin a crazy merry dance – head below tail up vigourous movement from right to left and flapping of pectoral fins much like a dog wagging its tail when happily excited. I think like me seeing him, he too could vaguely see me from in the tank. The internet says that Giant Goramis are like that very responsive and friendly pets not unlike the canines. Amazing for a fish!! What a wonder in my old age for a fish keeper and lover to discover this.
I then took the next step forward wanting to pet him or pat his forehead. When he came up to kiss my finger expecting a meal later I extended the finger and stroked his forehead. He shied away but I inserted my finger in the tank again and again and each time petted his forehead. He didnt mind but became aressive and next time even before my finger touched the water he poked his mouth right out of the water to kiss my finger. i was delighted at the response.
Then when changing the water in his tank i transferred him to a tank with smaller fish briefly. when i returned him to his tank he had god infected with a deadly fungus called red spot. It put spots all over his body he refused to eat and before long sadly his dorsal fin got eaten up. later his pectoral fins became paralized. i was distraught and sad because i knew he would soon be dead. I searched the internet and found some solutions, went to the pet shop and brought medicines from Singapore and filled the tank with prescribed antifungus and anti tick and bacteria. The tank turned blue green with the strong mixture. In 7 days it had its effect killing the bacteria and fungus and he slowly recovered his appetite. In 10 days luckily he was cured. i also put the required dose of rock salt in the tank to heal his wounds. And the spots finally dissapeared.

Bob recovering in hospital tank

Then to my great delight he came up and kissed my finger one day and fed. In a few days he had his voracious appetite back. My fish friends from the internet site prayed for him and me and yes their prayers were answered.
Today he is fine and fit and now 8 inches long feeding only after kissing my finger on all his favourite foods. Im so relieved to have my pet fish back. My friends on the internet ask what am i going to do when he outgrows the tank. Ill need a 300 gallon tank or the equivalent 1500 litres. Neither can i afford such a massive tank nor is there space to keep it in my home. My wife would think ive gone crazy. So i told my friends , the fish fanciers (there are a lot of crazy people out there like me) that I would have to release very sadly, dear BOB into a lake or pond and it would be ok because Giant Goramis are native to to India. but till then i must enjoy this relationship with my dear fish friend.

 

 

The Killer Corona Virus

I was fascinated to read in a science journal of the manner of reproduction by the Corona Virus which has caused such havoc around the world bringing it to a virtual standstill. I was rather imaginatively reminded of the manner in which human and animal sex cells help in reproduction. It struck me as a curious but close analogy. The virus does not simply divide as in many pathogens and bacteria. On its own it is incapable of multiplication. It uses our cells to help it reproduce. After it links up with appropriate cells of its liking using its corona spike, by piercing the cell wall, it then merges with the cell and inserts its RNA joining with that of the cell thus commanding it to reproduce more  Corona viruses rather than simply reproduce  another cell. It kind of possesses the cell and uses the cells capabilities to make more Corona virus ‘babies”. Furthermore it deactivates the proteins in the cell which when invaded usually help in sending alarm signals to our autoimmune system to send antibodies to kill the invader. Soon the ‘mother’ cell produces Corona viruses which then emerge from the invaded cell.

 

 

An undated scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects), also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab and isolated from a patient in the U.S. NIAID-RML/Handout via REUTERS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT – RC25NF9OOP8F

 

yet another cell with emerging viruses(the pink ones)

In this respect one is reminded of our sperm cells entering the Ova and merging its DNA with that of the Ova to complete the process of creating a new being. The Corona virus thus  appears to act as male spermatozoa do  and treats the invaded cell as its female Ova to reproduce its kind. The infection is therefore some kind of love affair between the virus and the  reluctant cell whose defences have been disabled, which then becomes ‘pregnant’ with the numerous viruses within itself and as their structure gets complete within the cell it gives ‘birth’ to the viruses which then begin to look for likely mates in other cells. More appropriately one should think of rape rather than love affair as the virus forces itself on the cell to reproduce its kind. A tricky romantic lover if ever there was one!! Of course the host body cannot withstand this killer ‘love’ in some cases much like it cannot withstand the rebellion of Cancer cells.

The corona halo round the virus thus Corona virus

His majesty Sultan Qaboos of Oman

On Friday the tenth January my wife and I, now in our late seventies and retired,  learnt of the sad demise of Sultan Qaboos of Oman at 79, virtually my age, after a long sickness with cancer, and subsequently of the succession of his cousin Hytham as the new Sultan. The news affected me personally as I had served as India’s Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman for about five years  from 1994 to 1998 enabling me to interact and get to know both individuals fairly intimately. That indeed became my  ”Close Encounters Of The Diplomatic Kind”. It was a special privilege to serve in Oman where there were many Indian settlers and expatriates some of whom had been there for centuries. There existed numerous cultural links and intimacies even before the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Omanis held India and Indians in high regard. Yet the diplomatic links were limited and no major visit had taken place either way over the decades. I made up my mind to strive in every way to correct this omission.

At my credential ceremony I was ushered into his presence with due pomp and fanfare. I saw a kindly monarch waiting with a serious expression. I stood before him and presented my letters of credence which he graciously accepted with words of welcome.

Presenting Credentials to Sultan Qaboos

There were two gilded chairs in his throne room. I was made to sit on one and presently His Majesty arrived sat on the other with a smile of welcome.

Dialogue after presentation ceremony – Sultan Qaboos and i

He began by underlining the importance he attached to developing relations with India with whom there had been traditional contacts of a special nature. We discussed the present state of relations and I was emboldened by his encouraging demeanour to say that it was my dream that he  would make a state visit  to india during my tenure as Ambassador. He smiled charmingly and added Inshaallah and that it was his wish as well. In the years that followed not only was that important goal achieved but additionally there were state visits by the Indian President and Prime minister to Sultan Qaboos’ utter satisfaction as in the decades before there had been no such state visits either way. There were therefore many more rare encounters with him on a one to one basis and frank exchange of views on the opportunities that were coming up. Normally most envoys get to meet ruling Heads of state once or twice on arrival and departure. but my frequent interactions gave me a sense of the kind of personality he was.

Sutan Qaboos’ father and uncle were both educated in India at the Mayo College School at Ajmer, my Alma Mater also coincidentally. His father therefore decided to send him to Pune in India for schooling.

Young Qaboos

Later the British decided to send him to England and he completed his education there staying with a British family and  finally joined the prestigious  Sandhurst  Military Academy.

On returning to Oman he was placed under house arrest by his father.  He realised that nothing much was being done to take Oman out of its backward undeveloped state despite the emerging oil wealth and decided with British support to overthrow his father in a bloodless coup. In 1970 he became the Sultan and assumed full powers. He then began the process of modernising the state and development activity moved ahead with full force. Today after fifty years of his reign Oman can proudly claim to be reasonably well developed with the facilities of a modern state, people no longer suffering abject poverty that existed earlier and the state emerging with a neutral non interfering foreign policy with good relations with all and on several occasions as a mediator between gulf states and Iran. His shrewd and astute Foreign Policy earned the Sultan the respect of neighbours and big powers.

Qaboos was universally loved by his people who called him Baba Qaboos. equally the expatriate Indian community held him in high regard for his generosity towards them, love of India and unique tolerance for their spiritual values not only allowing the existence of a 200 year old Shiv temple in the heart of Muscat near the royal palace but overcoming objections to its existence and so called nuisance value by some orthodox elements by finding an amazing solution, allowing the building of a second modern temple with a great audience hall where Hindu Swamis could come and give discourses.All festivities on religious occasions were allowed with police support in the heart of Muscat and sweets on such occasions were gladly accepted at the palace and relished by the Sultan. Even in earlier times the Hindu settlers would send sweets on festivals to the ruler. this was not all. His personal staff had many Indians from butlers to barbers and one Hindu family of settlers became the source of supply of all provisions for the royal household from pins to Boeing aircraft. His Royal yacht was manned almost exclusively by Indians.

Unlike other gulf states many settlers who had been in Oman for centuries were granted Omani citizenship and allowed to wear Omani attire and turbans. All this impressed the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee after assuming office to choose to visit Oman as the first state on an official visit. Earlier when Vajpayee had come to Oman on a visit as the leader of the opposition during my tenure, he expressed a wish to visit the ancient Shiv temple on a personal basis. I accompanied him and we sat in the sanctum sanctorum pouring holy water on the Shiv Linga in what is called an Abhishek ,with the help of a priest. Thus convinced of the extraordinary tolerance of the Sultan he made his next visit as Prime minister to Oman.

My interactions with Sultan Qaboos left me with the impression of an extraordinary man devoid of arrogance, warm and affectionate, tolerant of all faiths and visionary, an admirer of Omani culture, one who loved his people and wished earnestly to take them out of poverty and backwardness into the modern world. He set up numerous educational institutions and sought hard to introduce technological development and infrastructure. Today Oman has California style highways, the cities and streets are spotless clean and expatriate Indians have at least 20 schools, the one in muscat has 5000 students. There is no interference from the ministry of education and they are free to carry on their academic and cultural programmes. We have already spoken of his wise Foreign Policy. Such a leader, like Sheikh Zaid of the UAE must be reckoned as a gift of god for his people. He tried to inculcate the same values in the leadership and his ministers and the royal family and chose in his letter to be opened only after his death a personality much like him in thought and deed: his cousin Haithum Bin Tariq, a young royal who had been assigned to the foreign office as Secretary general and later as minister of Culture despite the fact that he was not the senior most of the royals. Qaboos’ universal respect and authority even after his death facilitated a peaceful transition given his secret choice of a successor who would ably follow in his footsteps. Being unmarried and issue less he did not make known a choice of heir apparent during his life time to avoid any power struggle when he was ailing.

When President Shanker Dayal Sharma decided to pay a state visit to Oman in October 1996 the Sultan was overjoyed. The connection with India had begun. He left no stone upturned to welcome the Indian leader. from the airport to the palace every pole carried Sharma’s portrait and horses and camels resplendent with decorations followed the state visitor with bands. At the palace he was allowed to greet all eminent members of the Indian community. The talks were most cordial. no wonder. Some Indian reports stated the little known fact that when Qaboos had been sent to Pune in India for education before the British decided to take him to the UK , Qaboos’ tutor was none other than Shanker Dayal Sharma. If true then this was not only a meeting between two Heads of State but between a former tutor and his student!!  President Sharma was shown every conceivable courtesy and taken in  royal boats on the high seas for entertainment. The visit was a great success with signature of several agreements – India’s relations with Oman had taken a strategic turn finally.

President Sharma and Sultan Qaboos tete a tete on arrival in Muscat

The Presidential visit decided the Sultan in favour of making a state visit to his beloved India which he barely knew despite the proximity of Omanis to the well liked Indian community. I met the Sultan’s uncle Syed Fahd who had been educated at Mayo College in India, formerly the school for Indian princes before independence. He had many Indian friends from the school who had taken excellent care of him during his stay there including an uncle of mine. They would be his guests to Oman every winter. The uncle never forgot that during his stay in India he had been so feted especially as at that time Oman’s resources were meagre. Later he returned to his Alma Mater and generously decided to set up a residential boarding house for students called Oman House much like the erstwhile Indian princes had donated houses for residence of students called Jodhpur House, jaipur House, Bhartpur House, Tonk house etc. He further in genuine gratitude donated a Guest House at that public school in Rajasthan, India  for eminent visitors to the school. We from mayo college were ever so grateful for this generosity as it made our visits to our school so convenient.

Meeting with Syed Fahd uncle of the Sultan who studied at Mayo College Ajmer

Oman house for residential student

Oman Guest house for visitors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mentioned this to Syed Haitham the Secretary General of the Foreign Office to underline the warmth in traditional relations that existed. I asked him to one day visit these monuments to our bilateral ties. he graciously agreed, little knowing that one day that opportunity could well arise when he as Sultan, no less, would visit India on a state visit.

Sultan Qaboos’ visit was finally scheduled in April 1997 but alas the jinx came into play. at the last moment because of weather conditions the flight had to be cancelled. There was great disappointment in India. I flew to New Delhi and urged all concerned that this was not some political glitch but a genuine weather concern. Visits that fail cannot be quickly resumed but i fought for it saying that we couldn’t let this opportunity pass heaven knew when it would arise again. Wisdom prevailed and the authorities found a slot from another cancelled visit and gave it to Oman just a week later. The preparations had all been made already and the Sultan finally flew without weather constraints to Delhi in his Boeing and we waited holding our breaths for his arrival.

Sultan Qaboos greeted on arrival in India by P, M, Deve Gouda

The new Indian Prime Minister H. D. Deve Goeda was there to receive him. He stayed with President Sharma at Rashtrapati Bhavan the presidential palace in Delhi and was given a grand welcome such as only Indian courtesies provide. He witnessed a polo match and had dialogues with all concerned and after being banqueted and honoured, returned home a thoroughly satisfied man,  Syed Haitham  the future Sultan also accompanied him on the visit.

Ceremonial welcom at Presidential Palace

pomp and pageantry for the sultan and a polo match in his honour Haithum is sitting with him.

Official State banquet by his former ‘ tutor’ President Sharma at the presidential Palace

 

I bidding farewell to the Sultan – Our dream had come true.

A year later Vajpayee became the Prime Minister with the BJP winning the general elections. He had not forgotten his visit to Oman as leader of the opposition and the unique tolerant ambience of this Islamic state. He decided to make his first bilateral State visit to Oman!!

The Sultan welcomes PM Vajpayee to Muscat

Vajpayee  the great orator at  his best

”Both of us believe in moderate politics and decry all forms of extremism, particularly religious fundamentalism. Our vision is for India and Oman to set up a strong, mutually beneficial partnership in diverse fields. We are united by common perception of bilateral, regional and international issues and indeed, enjoy a strategic partnership.”

The visit was a grand success at the close of my term in Oman as Ambassador. We had succeeded in breaking the jinx of stalemate in relations and elevated relations to a strategic height. Many more agreements were signed. In parting Vajpayee the great orator declared:

”For more than 250 years, businessmen from Kutch ( in Gujerat)  have settled in Oman and today enjoy the rights of citizenship and the privileges of your patronage and support. In recent years, over 300,000 Indians have found employment in Oman. We are proud that these Indian have contributed their mite to the development of this great country as skilled workers, doctors, engineers, bankers, businessmen.”

Alas Sulltan Qaboos is no more. But he has ensured that his cousin groomed in his frame will continue to honour his legacy and take Oman forward into the future with or without oil revenues. His chosen successor is yet another close encounter of mine in the diplomatic sphere.

 

New Sultan Hatham Bin Tariq

Sultan Haitham bin Tariq is in the same mould as was Qaboos. Warm, affectionate, caring, compassionate, tolerant, balanced, charismatic, friendly and not the least arrogant. He has the same love for his people and equally welcoming of foreigners who settle in Oman and seek to develop it,  Particularly, ancient Indian settlers and present expatriates. Some of the events that took place during my tenure as Ambassador vouchsafe for that belief. He has also committed himself to neutrality of Oman and to friendship with all neighbours and other countries. Looks like Oman will continue to be the Switzerland of the Gulf. He will also follow the policy of mediation in regional disputes and keep ties with Iran to enable such mediation. His religious toleration will no doubt follow the example of his mentor Qaboos. He happens to be an Oxford graduate speaks English fluently and has good relations with both East and West. He is also a keen sportsman which speaks of his character and orientation.

I was fortunate as Ambassador to have Syed Haitham as the Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry. I therefore had the privilege to call on him often in the context of our bilateral relations. He was kind enough to give me even an hour at times for discussion particularly as apart from routine issues there were important visits taking place bilaterally. But that was not all. We sometimes discussed the Indian community, even philosophy, spirituality, poetry and literature. I was indeed most touched that he should find the time to digress from diplomacy into these realms. Indeed it was a friendly gesture and showed his broad vision and curiosity borne of a deep intellect. I didn’t know then 20 years earlier that one day he would be chosen as the next Sultan!!! In all the time i spent with him there was only consideration, interest and curiosity to know, never any arrogance or impatience  on his part. Therefore one day i felt bold enough to ask him a special favour. I had just published a book of poems in English and asked him if he would kindly launch it at a public function. He readily agreed with what appeared to be pleasure as we often also discussed poetry and the arts and music. I couldn’t believe my luck – my book of poems published in Oman being launched by the Secretary General of the Foreign Office and cousin of the Sultan:

My wife Amrita and I receiving Syed Haitham for the launch of my book of poems in Muscat

 

Haitham launches my book

 

Report on launching at Muscat

 

My poem on Oman news report.

The invitation to the launch

My wife facilitates me as Syed Haitham smiles

That episode of interaction with the future Sultan was indeed most gratifying and what I reaffirm ”A Close Encounter Of the Diplomatic Kind!!

There were other occasions when he showed special favour for India and Indians. He came from time to time being a sportsman to join us at Cricket matches organised by the Indian Community.

Syed Haitham at our Cricket match Muscat, welcomed by me

 

At the end of 1998 almost 20 years ago I left wonderful Oman and its loving people and amazing leaders for my next posting as Ambassador to Morocco where i had similar close encounters which probably i will report another day.

When I was being hosted farewell by some expatriate friends I got a summons from the Royal Palace. I hastened to the palace and found the Chief of Protocol ushering me in. When i entered I was amazed to find that Sultan Qaboos was already present. I sat on a sofa next to him and we had a warm conversation in which he thanked me for my efforts to elevate our bilateral relations. After the pleasantries he rose as did I in deference and to my surprise he approached me and handed me an ornate box which later I learned contained the highest civilian award of Oman. I will never forget the gracious smile and handshake of Sultan Qaboos as he bid me farewell and bid me God send as I left the palace with his blessings and good wishes. What an amazing tenure in Oman from start to finish, indeed with ”Close encounters Of The diplomatic Kind”. AMEN.

Farewell from Sultan Qaboos

For all the above reasons Oman retains a special place in our career of 37 years in the Foreign Service and these close encounters with rare souls, Sultan Qaboos and Sultan Haitham have left an indelible mark in our hearts and thoughts which we will never forget. Thus in our retirement and advancing age all these memories rushed back when we heard of this rare monarch passing away and the legacy of the ablest successor being chosen by him as he departed, one with whom we had a close relationship. may he succeed in achieving great heights of development for his people and maintain the same warm ties with India and Indians as his predecessor. i do hope one day on his state visit to india he visits Mayo college our Alma Mater to see the generous gifts his Uncle Syed Fahd had given to the school.

 

Medicine Buddha and Apsaras -Antiques from Bangkok

Pleasures come in strange ways. Some can be arranged others come unexpected. They give meaning to life and doubtless help in lengthening your life span if they happen often enough. They are quite subtle and differ from merely feeling happiness. They are more specific than happiness. More focused. My pleasures come from relating to nature, viewing works of art at a museum, growth, devotional music which elevates you to sublime heights, seeing and loving antiques and owning them, keeping pets and seeing them multiply, learning about mysticism through philosophy, religion, spiritualism, yoga, meditation, discovering spread of Hinduism in alien cultures, New Age views of afterlife, different views of the meaning of soul, secrets of astrology,  scientific riddles, the universe and planetary systems, space and time dimensions. and a lot more that i cannot think about.

That is a lot said about pleasure. but for the immediate context lets narrow it down to recent experiences. I went to a park and a cat came up to me. Normally cats run away when you approach them. but this cat came and caressed my legs as a stood surprised. so i bent and petted her. then i went and sat on a bench. she followed me and jumped up and came into my lap. I fondled her and she remained there while i cuddled her chin. she purred. I fell in love with her and wanted to take her home. Then i saw the collar on her neck and knew she belonged to someone else. sad but true. So much love from nature overwhelmed me. I responded in kind. we remained like this together for half an hour. O what pleasure. why did she come to me. did we have a relationship in the past.

The friendly cat

 

I bought a cactus, the type that is round like a ball. sitting pretty in a small bowl. never wanting too much water or care, only the sunlight and an occasional spraying. i left it alone for a month. It just sat still doing nothing to know that it existed. Then i went on a vacation. when i returned it had grown. more pines coming out of its centre. Greener and more voluptuous. what a pleasure to see it slowly grow larger, if you know what i mean.

Cactus

I acquired four rare snails for my aquarium, called Apple or mystery snails. Very beautiful with golden shells and about two inches in width. They cleaned my tank then started mating. see my post on them. their sexuality was quite unique and very sensuous. the result in a month to my surprise were egg pods planted on the surface of my aquarium. then i went on my vacation. On return i was amazed to see 200 small snails all over the aquarium to my utter pleasure. I cannot explain the extent of my pleasure. They were very small and black not golden but crawling all over. One day They will all turn into giant Mystery snails . that is the wonder that caused my pleasure, though you may think such pleasure as silly.

Mystery snails mating

My Budgies, i have some 30 in a cage of all colours,  which gives me pleasure to see, I have a book which explains the colours, which in nature in Australia are only green, also bred. I saw some eggs in some of the bowls i put in the cage. then they produced little buddies which the mother and father took turns to feed into adulthood. each process gave me pleasure beyond measure. Again you may say that this is a stupid source of pleasure but for me it is not.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

I have a post on the pleasure of loving an object. One in the museum or one acquired by you to keep. On a visit to Bangkok I acquired some more. and they too give me no end of pleasure.

Emerald buddha, bejewelled

On my recent visit to Bangkok i was amazed by the influence of Hinduism and India on this alien land. whenever i saw a Hindu influence on the roadside or at a shrine I was again amazed by the cultural spread of Hinduism with no effort of proselytising, rather a unique embracing of culture from another land. I have two recent posts emphasising this phenomenon in Thailand as doubtless it is also true in Indonesia. Cambodia, China and Japan. Well this also gave me great pleasure to see my culture so well regarded in the Far East.

Brahma shrine Bangkok

Well, these are some of the sources of pleasure that I experience. sure many people have different sources. Bit these are mine and i wanted to share them. though they may feel strange to many.

 

 

 

Shiva at the temple

 

Though there is ample evidence of Hindu influences in Thailand which I covered in my previous post, there were still some surprises in this regard. I heard that there was a grand Shiva temple on the outskirts of Bangkok and made my way there. i was amazed at what i saw – nothing like this compared to any Shiva temple in India. The scale was magnificent with every care taken to produce the best in artistry of tableaus, sculptures in plated gold, bronze and clay. The aesthetic ambience was superb and only possible because of the faith and love of the Thai people for Indian gods and myths. i was unable to find out who had created this monument to Shiva though judging from the numerous alters to the royal family I had the feeling that it was sponsored by the Thai king and his government. When i left I was in a state of ecstasy and overwhelmed by the cultural, religious and artistic  efforts that must have gone into creating such a shrine in a land not very familiar with Shiva.  Even the Birla temples in india though quite grand, could not compare with the artistry and dedication that must have produced this monument to Shiva.

As i entered the temple complex i saw two great elephants with the god Indra astride them with domes housing a Shiva Linga (phallus) and a statue of goddess laxmi on either side of a a great Linga in the middle with dragons inscribed along the shaft.

Entrance to Shiva’s shrine

As i proceeded further i witnessed the great myth of the churning of the mythical cosmic ocean with gods on one side pulling a serpent and demons on the other in the hope of gaining the treasures which the ocean could bring up. What came out was the nectar of immortality which both gods and demons coveted, the vicious poison which could end creation, and the goddess of wealth and well being prosperity and happiness, Laxmi. Vishnu the god of sustaining creation immediately claimed Laxmi as his consort, the nectar of immortality went to the gods as Vishnu disguised as a beautiful damsel held the cup for the gods to savour,  and the poison threatening to extinguish creation, but the great lord Shiva took up the challenge and drank it to save the world, his throat turning blue in the process, but leading to the preservation of the universe. This act made Lord Shiva a saviour of mankind.

The churning of the cosmic ocean

I then proceeded to one of two temple structures where Lord Shiva was enshrined to make my offerings.

Lord Shiva in the first temple

Behind the black stone statue of lord Shiv in contemplation on the creation of the universe were further images of Shiva and his family of Ganesha and the goddess  Parvarti his consort in her furious aspect of Kali decimating the demons, the root of worldly evil.

Mahakali the furious aspect of his consort Paarvati

Exploring further i came across the divine embodiment of Rama, Laxman, Sita and Lord Hanuman. Their blessed presence added a new nuance to the temple considering that all royal kings of Thailand are styled as Rama.

Rama Sita Laxman and Hanuman

Apart from the Hindu gods with Shiva as the centre piece there were  Chinese gods and goddesses and the great Buddha all in one enclosure, inviting devotees of  Hinduism,Buddhism and Taoism all in one place which was quite remarkable.

The Buddha at the shrine

Chinese gods and goddesses

There was a stall neatly installed as is the Thai way, for offerings by devotees which was quite impressive.

our personal offering

offerings for devotees

 

 

 

 

 

I thI then then went to the second temple at the complex. on the ground floor there was a marriage hall with many seats and tables and altars to the royal family along with numerous pictures of lord Hanuman and Krishna. Ascending the steps i proceeded to the first floor which was equally magnificent. As one entered there was a beautiful statue of Shiva riding his bull, Nandi.

Shiva on Nandi

As i entered the sanctum sectorum i was amazed to find the entire galaxy of Shiva and family. On a throne were seated Shiva and Parvati and on two other thrones beside them Lord Ganesha and Kartike his sons. On the steps leading up to the altar were numerous Ganeshas in different ‘mudras’ and on the other side Parvatis in dancing poses. What exquisite artistry must have gone in creating these bronzes I cannot imagine.

IMG_0919

The alter to Shiva and Parvati

As if this were not enough of spiritual grandeur next to pillars were installed gold plated statues of Sarasvati goddess of learning and culture and consort of Brahma and Brahma who is greatly revered for having helped the Buddha in gaining enlightenment.

Sarasvati

Brahma

On the side of the altar were once again Chinese gods and goddesses and behind the alter a row of Chinese sages and gods.

Chinese gods and sages

On the other side was a shrine to the Buddha in black marble

Budhhist shrine

The goddesses Durga and Amba were also not ignored and figured at the temple.

Durga and Amba

At the gate as we left we saw the two guardians of Shiva holding tridents in their hands.

guardians of Shiva

Then there was also Shiva at the gate doing his cosmic dance of creation and destruction, the Nataraja.

Naataraja

And finally to our  eternal delight on an adjoining hillock a giant gold plated statue of Shiva in supreme meditation.

Shiva on a hillock at the temple

Hats off to the Thais for their artistry, faith, spirituality and dedication.

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