Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Road to Sangam and a better world

Think you are in this situation. You are a part of a larger community and you have been entrusted a task, which only you can accomplish. It all sounds good so far. Imagine now that the task that you have been assigned is one that is unpopular within your community. And undertaking it might put you in the wrong book of all those who love you. What’s more? Your conscience says that you need to work on the job at hand. What would you do?

This is the same quandary Hashmathulla (Paresh Rawal), a Muslim mechanic in UP, is in, in the movie Road to Sangam. He is a well respected man, living in a predominantly Muslim locality in Allahabad. The story starts with the events that follow the uncovering of terror cells in UP. Many Muslim youngsters were taken captive by the police. The local leaders of Hashmathulla’s community call their people to protest against the injustice. Their leaders ask them to close all their businesses and bring the whole area to a standstill for a few days. Hashmathulla cannot do so. He has been given an old Ford engine to repair. The engine was from the lorry, which was used to carry Gandhi ji’s ash to the various rivers of the country, as per Gandhi ji’s wish. The last urn with the ash was to be dispersed in Orissa soon and there was no time to waste. The story revolves around how, through love, he brings back his people to support him in his cause.

I am not an expert in the technicalities of film making and cannot comment on such aspects. But I must say that I was shown an India which I had not seen till now. I was left wondering at how polarised the clusters of communities in some parts of India are. There are areas with Muslims in majority and the people of the other communities fear to go to this area. It works the other way too. The movie also portrays how certain events can be used by community leaders to emotionally charge people and bring them to a stage where they feel they have been victimised and that they need to take matters to their own hands. We have read and heard about the position Muslim moulanas have amongst Muslims. I was quite amazed at how the people were ready to accept anything he said. Those who think rationally are a minority when the atmosphere is so emotionally charged. This is a sad fact. And this movie shows just how one such person tries to bring about a change his peoples’ outlook. The message of the movie is something we all need to be reminded of especially in today’s times when so much is being done and said because of religion. One particular dialogue in the movie touched me more than the others. Hashmathulla says to his old time rival (Om Puri) about how much would have been saved had India not been partitioned. Just taking in to account how much the two countries have spent on defence (against the other) would prove this point. All this money could have been put to a much better use if we weren’t two separate nations today.

The cast, lead by Paresh Rawal, Om Puri and Pawan Malhotra, had drawn me to watch the movie in the first place. And they made sure that the time I spent watching it was completely worthwhile. It is only then I did a quick search for reviews of the film on the internet. Except for a review in the Hindustan Times (and a few blogs), I did not find any mention of the movie by the major media houses. This made me think about the media frenzy involved with another recent ‘big-budget’ movie, again with a Muslim protagonist - My Name is Khan. I had loved the message of that movie too – There are two kinds of people in the world. One of them was good. And the other bad. Good people do good things and bad people bad. This is the way a mother explains her religion to an autistic child. On the whole both the movies have a message that we need to carry, though they have done it differently. But I must say that Road to Sangam, largely ignored by the media, scores much above the commercial ‘entertainer’ My Name is Khan. It is a story of simple people and the simplicity of the movie carries it even further ahead.

I would like to sign off this post by this link to a beautifully sung song, with a wonderful message and with words that would make us take some time off and think.

Do we blame religion for all the trouble we attribute to it or do we blame ourselves?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Charity, in a different light

Something Swami Vivekananda wrote about charity in his book Karma Yoga. Will definitely inspire.

Now you see what Karma-Yoga means; even at the point of death to help any one, without asking questions. Be cheated millions of times and never ask a question, and never think of what you are doing. Never vaunt of your gifts to the poor or expect their gratitude, but ratherbe grateful to them for giving you the occasion of practising charity to them.

Our duty to others means helping others; doing good to the world. Why should we do good to the world? Apparently to help the world, but really to help ourselves. We should always try to help the world, that should be the highest motive in us; but if we consider well, we find that the world does not require our help at all. This world was not made that you or I should come and help it. I once read a sermon in which it was said, "All this beautiful world is very good, because it gives us time and opportunity to help others." Apparently, this is a very beautiful sentiment, but is it not a blasphemy to say that the world needs our help? We cannot deny that there is much misery in it; to go out and help others is, therefore, the best thing we can do, although in the long run, we shall find that helping others is only helping ourselves.

Yet we must do good; the desire to do good is the highest motive power we have, if we know all the time that it is a privilege to help others. Do not stand on a high pedestal and take five cents in your hand and say, "Here, my poor man," but be grateful that the poor man is there, so that by making a gift to him you are able to help yourself. It is not the receiver that is blessed, but it is the giver. Be thankful that you are allowed to exercise your power of benevolence and mercy in the world, and thus become pure and perfect. All good acts tend to make us pure and perfect.

No beggar whom we have helped has ever owed a single cent to us; we owe everything to him, because he has allowed us to exercise our charity on him. It is entirely wrong to think that we have done, or can do, good to the world, or to think that we have helped such and such people. It is a foolish thought, and all foolish thoughts bring misery. We think that we have helped some man and expect him to thank us, and because he does not, unhappiness comes to us. Why should we expect anything in return for what we do? Be grateful to the man you help, think of him as God.