Archive for June, 2011


Dear Raj,there are so much of praises of positivity and confidence in your article and in the comments that follow that I am a bit hesitant to chip in a discordant note into this harmony. But I must be myself, otherwise I am just useless. Has anyone met people like N.D.Tiwari, who at the age of 86 made the Raj Bhawan a den for gamboling with girls of one fourth of his age,and A.Raja who swindled public money to the tune of thirty thousand crores ? Have you met hardened criminals ? Have you read of misdeeds of Hitler and Nazis? Have you heard of the speeches of Osama Bin Laden ? Have you heard of the speeches of Obama after he got Osama assassinated ? They all have one thing in common, they are full of confidence in themselves that they can pull off anything. People lose everything they own in stock market being full of confidence that the companies they bet on will outperform all others. I have seen two of my confident friends losing everything in stock market and finally die of heart attack and a third one committing suicide along with his wife. So being confident is not everything; confidence is a double edged sword. It can cut the wielder too. That’s why it is said caution is the better part of valour. E.M. Foster said,” Death destroys life, but the fear of death saves many lives.” So fear of failure also saves many. But extreme fear of failure also can paralyse all entrepreneurship. Maintaining balance is the hardest thing but the most desirable one also. If positivity invented aeroplanes, negativity invented the parachutes. Positivity must be balanced with negativity too. Life can’t exist in either of the extremes.

Thanks Raj for the tag. As always you have not mentioned the author of the passage or piece. You are incorrigible. Lol! But I know from its style it can belong either to Dale Carnegie or Norman Vincent Peele. Some thirty or forty years back I used to read them both very devotedly. They were best sellers then, at least in India they still continue to sell well. I don’t think in America they are still the craze that once they used to be. At a certain point of mankind’s evolution the message of confidence and positivity they preached was very much needed. Not only their books sold in millions but also the authors were in great demand as public speakers too. The western countries in general and America in particular took maximum benefit out of those books. Whoever read the books became confident and confidence is a heady emotion too. It made the people feel better about themselves. Salesmen refused to take a no as an answer from their victims, sorry, customers, to their sales pitches. LoL! Not only common people became more confident, Hitler, Mussolini, Japanese, British, Americans all became confident of themselves. And then the Second World War inevitably began. It took six years to completely douse the raging fire of war. After the death of millions and thrice as many wounded, some thoughtful and sensitive people paused, pondered and found that being full of superficial positivity and confidence is not enough; rather it is a sign of mediocrity. W.B. Yeats voiced the truth correctly in his lines:
“The best lack all convictions, and the worst are full of certainties.” But good sense was again drowned by the heady confidence and cheerfulness brought on by the victories in the Second World War. After all, America for the first time proved its strength and mettle in the Great War on the global stage. It didn’t create a colony for itself but it defeated almost all colonial powers. Confidence was at its apex. Whenever confidence is at its apex, how can a war be far behind? Thus began its war on Vietnam. After a protracted war for long fifteen years, after dropping of Napalm bombs on innocent civilians and after causing deaths of millions and suffering lots of casualties of its own, finally its confidence level dropped to an all time low. Then sanity could find some space to prevail in the minds of some of its thinkers, leaders and general public. The younger generation was no longer as confident as their predecessors. They began to feel disillusioned. Rebel movements like hippies and beatles appealed to them. To differentiate themselves from the old school of thinking they called themselves as “the flower generation”. Albert Camus and Colin Wilson correctly captured the public imagination by naming them as “the outsiders”. They were anti-establishment. Not only they were against their political leaders but confidence boosting books by Dale Carnegie and Norman Vincent Peale couldn’t sustain their interest. They were in search of something deeper, they were, in short, after their spiritual quests.

Eckhert Tolle, while tackling a question why senseless events occur, for instance like the Vietnam War, made a very excellent observation. He said that though he did not justify the war, yet he could discern human consciousness taking a radical paradigm shift during such apparent senseless events. Probably those long peace marches, forming miles and miles of human chains by linking hands, overnight sitouts and demonstrations against the power that be and the establishment couldn’t have been possible without the senseless event that Vietnam war was. And also the gradual shift of peoples’ interest towards eastern religions and mysticism happened almost at the same time, may be as a result of their disillusionment.
Pride goes before fall. When your confidence in yourself dips to its lowest, then only surrender happens. You surrender to a greater power knowing your ego’s utter worthlessness. It is almost like experiencing an orgasm. You surrender and awake into a completely different, much happier and relaxing state.
So today’s American youth leaving its Dale Carnegie and Peale have opened themselves to eastern mysticism, Indian, Chinese,Japanese, Sufi,Zen all varieties. Ramana Maharsi and Nisargadatta Maharaj have taken the place Of Carnegie and Peale. In place of confidence in themselves they seek a state of complete surrender to the Self. To me while an average Indian youth is still at the confidence building or boosting stage, out for achieving material benefits or earning money for himself and his family, his western counterpart has become more truly Indian in his spiritual quest and outlook. It is a great shift in consciousness, indeed. It is as if everyone will awaken at his/her own time. There is no such thing as mass awakenings or mass homecomings. But ultimately all will. The Guru sitting in each of us will see to it.
I hope this review or comment on the article you tagged me, has just added something to the content which I felt was left out. Wish you well.
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I am now absolutulely comfortable in writing stories, but that was not so before. This I have gained after almost a half century of struggle. The struggle was not to be found anywhere out there but inside of me. The struggle to reach a conclusion as to why take those endless hours of time, energy and effort to fill blank spaces of paper or a monitor screen to populate it with characters who are only phantoms in your imagination, why take the pain to weave a story through their interactions and conversations and why not just surrender to your natural inertia and indolence and put down your pen or typewriter and just sleep or relax ? The invitation of the sleeping couch or switching on to the T.V. for a readymade entertaintainment served for you on a platter as it were is perennial to every writer, especially more so to those who like me write for a purely nonpecuniary medium where even the incentive of money is not there to hold interest. And above all, the greatest of all dampeners is why take the trouble to write stories with so many words to just demonstrate that we all are One, one life, one love, one heart, one truth and why not just write these few words like so many do in FB and be done with it? As one of my dearest friends Julia confesses, “How to write when everything dissolves (into one of those words I just mentioned), so every second or third sentence ends with the same words? The book disappears as quickly as it is written.” I love those Koan like short poems, those haikus full of wisdom, those short and pithy epigrammatic lines and quotations but my inner child also sometimes demands a regular kind of story,or a fable or a parable where good is pitted against bad, innocent and vulnerable pitted against powers of dark.

With this background, having to come forward and stake one’s neck out in the field of creative writing is a brave or foolish venture depending on the inclination, attitude and perspective of each individual writer. I have finally chosen to go full steam in that direction after a life time of struggle with the demons I mentioned above. What clinched the issue, in my case, in favor of expression and unfolding of story after story is what I am going to write in this essay. For a long time in my life, after may be I entered into my teens say at fiftten, I was a pessimist. The one question I couldn’t solve was why was I born ? What would have happenned if I had never been born ? From this question it was just a few steps ahead to encounter the ultimate question,” What would have happened if the world and the universe had never happened and if they happened what would happen if they die and disappear now ?” These questions repeatedly came to my mind and took away all peace and happiness from my life. I was on the brink but the final push into the chasm of despair came when at the age of seventeen a friend gave me a book named “Of Human Bondage” by W.S.Maugham. I lapped up the book as I had never done any book before. The book just held me in thrall and confirmed all my homespun passimistic ideas, all my desperate questionings in such powerful language, through the unfolding of a story, that I was literally drowned in despair and meaninglessness of my existence, in fact all existence. I was more or less in that lifeless, moribund state for the next two or three decades. From hindsight, from today’s vantage point I suspect that a forced but inevitable separation from a girl I so dearly loved when I was eight, the episode which I have described in some bare detail in my story “The first love of my life”, may have sown this seed of despair and meaninglessness of life in me in such a large measure.

For the next three decades I was to read many books, attend many satsangs and spiritual gatherings and also indulge and splurge in many kinds of distractions and orgies to get out from the vice like grip of this depression and sense of meaninglessness in life. I came to know the hell in life intimately because I have been there for a long long time. Those who once cast their glance into that abysmal chasm are sucked into it and rare is he who comes out of it . I am one such fortunate being and I lived to tell the tale how it felt when one was there at the bottomless pit. I take it as a mission of my life. My mission is not to speak of despair but to speak of love, the lack of which, I discovered, was the cause of all despair,despondency and meaninglessness in life. Not that I only lacked love in life but also I reflected no love back to the universe which was all the time sending that to me in the form of people,animals,birds,rains,sunshines,colors and sounds etc but I didn’t have the eyes to see, ears to listen and heart to feel. But I was not without eyes,ears or heart; only I was not using them, I was not giving them freedom to function the way they were meant to be. I was in a mode of extreme contraction and they were made to be expansive. I was afraid to love and they were raring to love. How could I get peace and happiness from such an unaligned and mismatched state ? Without the sunshine of love my inner being was withering and here I was finding fault with universe and its maker whereas the cause remained deeply lodged in me only.

Now I know Love is health,wealth, truth, beauty, meaning and everything. Now I am despondent no more. In fact, I am inoculated, as it were, against all despair and meaninglessness. I see a great purpose, a cause, a meaning operating everywhere. So much so that, contrary to all my decades of ravings and rantings at various podia and fora, now I am willing to believe and trust that the world or universe is perfect as it is, not withstanding so much of pain, sufferings, hunger, poverty, squalor in living conditions of so many millions, corruption, graft, war, death etc. It is as if we need a contrast to experience things properly, otherwise we may just look at things but may not be able to see things as they are or see into the heart of things. None would understand the value of good if no bad was there, the value of rest if motion or activity was not there, the value of health if sickness was not there and value of night if day was not there and vice versa. I am reminded of a speech of Osho where he spoke that if you found beggars and deformed lepers in front of all temples of India, showing their fingerless hands or toeless feet to all that came to the temple and supplicating alms from them, he cautioned against thinking them as eyesores,nuisances or out of place; they were there for a purpose. They supplied,according to him, mysteriously and unaccountably, the necessary contrast without which the templegoers’ faith and devotion perhaps won’t have been so earnest and expedient. It is the sight of the deformed and limbless that makes us grateful for as simple a boon as having a body with no limbs lost.

Previously coruptions and scams in public life in my country, India, used to upset me so much that I used to plunge into severe depression at the breaking of news of a new scam. As there were and still are galores of scams involving billions of Rupees of public money, my days of recovering back to normalcy were few and far between. Depression became my normal mode of living. But now I am a completely changed man. Corruptions have reached sky high and scams of such large magnitude are happening that earlier ones seem peanuts in comparision, but my mental peace is not broken. I have now seen God’s ways of doing things and how perfect and inexorable they are ! Who can deny how inexorably but surely the public opinion of Indian masses have turned livid against the scamsters and their patrons ? Would Anna hazare and Baba Ramdev have got the attention and adulation of the masses if there were no 2G scams, CWG scam or Adarsh scam ? I take Lalu Yadavs, A.Rajas and Suresh Kalmadis as forming necessary contrasts so that we realise the worth and value of probity,decency and integrity in public life. God’s ways appear slow to us but while He thinks in terms of billion of years we can think only in short term. For Him there is no hurry, eternity is His time. Understanding His ways and operations from our limited view point of a few decades is an exercise in futility. By loving Him and putting our trust in His ways we would also gain the required patience. After all what is depression but incapacity to be patient ? And what is impatience but incapacity to trust ? When you trust you are patient and free from depression. In Him I trust now.

Here I am reminded why I had set out to write this piece about why I write stories. Stories deal with people and their situations, ideas, beliefs, opinions, desires, expectations, hopes and thus lead inevitably to conflicts, clashes and in short contrasts.The One has become many. The Nondual has expressed Itself in dualities and multiplicities, in many colors and many forms. It is His pure play,His way of experiencing things throgh His creations. If He were just Unmanifested Pure Potentiality, then there would be no creation with myriad forms. But as He has chosen to manifest Himself through forms, colors and contrasts so that we can understand Him better, be aware of Him more vividly and intimately even through the shroud and illusion of separateness, so also He lets Himself captured by the esemplastic imagination of poets, writers, artists etc. As long as God’s show on earth continues His stories will be told and retold, afterall all stories are just variations of the same theme, His Love and His Glory. Story tellers only highlight Love by contrasting with hate or fear, make bold and prominent His glory by contrasting it with man’s vanity and self-obsession and too much fuss over me-mine-thoughts. I hope I am on the right path and in good company.

T.S.Eliot once wrote that the progress of an artist is a progress from self expression to self-extinction. More or less the same things happen with a lover too. The beloved soon takes precedence over his own choices and preferences, in short his own life. The first time I fell in love at eight with a girl, I couldn’t understand what was happening. I was beside myself in joy. One enormous desire that held me under its thrall whenever she was present before me was to hug her all the time. May be I was hugging her almost fifty times a day. Those hugs were not the least like the ones the adults do. Each time I hugged her I lifted her off her feet clasping her very tight to my chest. Each such hug lasted as long as I could bear her weight and lift her off the ground and I yielded only to the gravity and no other considerations like society or who else saw us ever entered my mind. At this age, while writing this, I take an indulgent view over the weird hugging behavior of that love-struck boy and a question comes to my mind to ask, did he ever ask permission of the girl like “May I lift you up on my chest or may I hug you?’ But I know the reply, those questions were never asked. Intuitively I knew that it was O.k. to hug. She never protested but surprised she certainly was initially. May be probably none had lavished so much attention, so much hugging and lifting her. As for me it appeared as if my heart would burst if I didn’t hug and lift her. I was under the sway of a powerful emotion the like of which I had never experienced before.

The wonder of wonder was that the two of us were never alone, nor did we seek to be alone ever, it was always a three some. Runu, it was her name, was a friend of a cousin named Minu. Minu, my cousin, used to come to our village to visit her grandma every year and whenever she came she used to make calls on us too. As I was of the same age as her she always sought me out to play with her. Though I liked to play with her and show her around our village as she was like a migratory bird who didn’t stay long, I didn’t have a very great love for her. On one of her annual visits she brought with her Runu, a friend of her from her village and she made such a dramatic entry into my life that I shall never be able to forget her. It was Runu who made me come to terms with an emotion I had never thought to be there in me in such abundance. It was love. Some may call it puppy love but to me it was as real as any love I was to experience later in my adult life, not even a jot different. It was a love at first sight. Today howsoever hard I try to recollect I cannot recall a word that passed between us and even I cannot recollect whether she was beautiful or not. Nor I can recollect the color of her skin, the tone of her voice or how she looked when she laughed. As if all these were completely irrelevant and extraneous to loving. As if what one loves in the other is utterly indefinable and only some foolish/clever adults try to locate it where it resides to no avail. All I can remember are her surprised eyes as I hugged her and lifted her off her feet at all hours of the day. Minu was a constant companion and I clearly recollect her amused look at my shenanigans with her friend. I never hugged Minu even once and so my effusive demonstration of love to her friend must have been a riddle to her. It was a riddle to me also and I think to Runu too. Only It was beyond doubt that Runu and I loved to be together.

We wandered far away from home picking berries and flowers. We walked down the river that flowed beside our village. We loved running errands for Minu’s grandma. Minu’s grandma and my grandma were two sisters. Mine I had never seen, she had died before I was even born. So practically Minu’s grandma was like my grandma too. Granny was a widow by then. Whenever she needed something to be bought from the village shop we volunteered to buy that for her. We loved doing anything that would keep us away from home and won’t separate one from the others. On such outings I would never let Runu walk, I would carry her sometimes by clasping her front to front and lift her and march on and when she became too heavy after some time I carried her on my back. She never protested even once. Minu never ceased to cast her amused glance at us, but she said nothing nor she took off her eyes away from us nor she acted unseeing and ignorant. From my present adult view point, I wish I had hugged at least a couple of times to Minu also but playing that kind of politics was beyond the thinking of that love-struck boy of eight. I don’t think I ever kissed Runu because that was not part of the gestures one showed while in love, at least it never came to my mind. May be I had never seen anyone kissing. I was simply engaged in a one-point task only, how not to suffocate under a powerful current of emotion from which the only relief and freedom was to clasp on to Runu and be one with her at any cost. As long as she stayed in our village, I think it was less than a week, from morning to evening we were inseparable.

Wordsworth said that the child is the father of man. How true! That child of eight in me has never died. Though Runu and myself were never to meet again in life thereafter, yet she will remain immortal in my heart till I live. She brought out the lover in me to full play but how and with what means I can never know or tell. In fact if I knew I would have loved to tell you, my friends, everything here. What words she employed, what smiles and gestures or what else she bestowed on me I would never know because all those are blank in my memory. At least I can certainly say she never clasped me to her heart nor tried to lift me off my feet even once on her own accord. She only yielded to my passionate hugging, may be as one surrenders to a symphony or as one surrenders to a passing tornado. Yet she conquered me so completely that I was willing to be her slave for the rest of my life hadn’t a wiser and brainier adult world in its wisdom and farsightedness (?) sent me to schools, colleges and boarding houses and hostels for the next two decades at the end of which I was deRunued so completely that she became just a memory to me. If it sometimes wrenches my heart so violently that it pains me and wakes me up from sleep in the middle of nights, at least no one else is disturbed in his/her sleep due to it. Then I sit on my bed and pray to God to give me strength and endurance to make my self- extinction complete, as I had so many times wanted both to be a lover and an artist.

Last night while I was viewing posts of some friends in FB, my chat window popped open and an Indian female friend invited me for a chat. So to her hi, I replied with a hi. She said she had noted the swiftness of my response, she being the same woman who had to wait twenty minutes some days ago to get me to join her in a chat. I replied as I was free and not in the middle of any of my writing, I saw no reason to make her wait even for a minute. After exchange of a few pleasantries and courtesies, she came to the point. She first asked me some questions. Her questions ran like this,”How many friends have you here in FB ?”
I replied,”More than 2400.”
She asked,”How many have you met personally?”
I replied,”None.”
“How do you manage so many friends?” She asked.
“Actually I do the least managing. They behave themselves almost always.” I replied.
Then she came straight to the point. She put forth her problem that was weighing on her mind. She said,”I don’t have even one sixth of the number of your friends. Out of that number I have met quite a few of them. So far everything went well. Of late, a male friend has started writing in a negative, highly critical and derogatory language about me, on the dresses I wear, the photos that I upload etc. Seeing him writing like this a few others also have started echoing him. I am in deep mental anguish. I am a decent, sensitive person. I can’t take so much of criticism. All this makes me very sad. What should I do ?”
I replied,” Block or defriend the one that started this trend first. None has the right to be malicious to you on your page.”
She asked,”He used to be a very good friend and write very good things about me earlier. Can you explain why people behave in this unexpected manner?”
I replied,”To quote Byron Katie, that is “his business” to understand why he is behaving the way he has been. After all, by defriending you are not passing the death sentence on him. Let him think and ponder. My principle is that whoever turns malicious, must have to go out of my friend list. I cannot afford to have a malicious software in my programmings. Sexual, sexy or double entendre comments are o.k for me; maliciousness is a big no no.”
“yes, you are a bit sexy sometimes but you never meant any harm to any one. Have you ever defriended anyone ?” She asked.
I replied, “yes, only once, that too an American woman. Imagine me defriending a western woman, the pool from which I got almost all my best friends, about whom I never stop praising, never cease expressing my gratitude and indebtedness. But I had to defriend someone among them. To this day I have never regretted my decision for a second. Only regret is that why didn’t I defriend her much earlier. Whatever I wrote, her stock comment was,” You need to be out more. Oh my, so many boring people on this page.” When I asked her to clarify what she had meant, she simply typed the first sentence again. As if that was enough of an explanation which only a moron like me couldn’t understand! When I checked a bit into her info page I found she had proudly stated that she was a drug addict and conducted many parties of smoking joints,canabis and hashish. She claimed she could outdo anyone in hurling abusive swear words of all the languages of the world. Now she belonged to her parties on the opposite side of the street and I am happy with my friends on this side of the street. May she find peace among those stimulating and intoxicating people!”
“In FB such road crossings are fortunately rare and few. And unlike in real life situation where you have to tolerate someone like this living in the same apartment or in the same immediate neighborhood as you lived, here you can get rid of him/her by just defriending.”
She thanked me for my firm and candid opinion, she said she felt much relieved and we said good night to each other.
After the chat I thought I would share some of my experiences here about this business of friending and defriending in FB. Let me first deal with the friending part because unless you befriend someone how can you defriend ?
Out of my 2400 and above friends, may be barring for 400 friends, I have invited all the rest. On two bases only. Some I have invited on the basis or strength of some comments they made on some posts that I liked. Their comments showed me their depth of knowledge or feelings. To me, by writing from the heart they have revealed themselves much more clearly and truly to me than they could have even by being physically present before me. To me this body of mine, is a barrier, an obfuscator, a deceiver, a hindrance to real communication than a helper or facilitator. People say language deceives and the devil can quote scriptures. But so is also the body. The record of the body as a true communicating vehicle is also equally dubious. Many have been undone by both. But of the two I chose words inspite of their limitations. Body has many needs and subject to many temptations and weaknesses. It also ages and rapidly loses energy and needs constant replenishments. It is matter in its drosser and grosser form, so ultimately infirm, unreliable and highly perishable. Words are much more aligned to the spirit. Once having been written, disembodied from the writer so to speak, they assume a life of their own independent of their authors. If they speak truly of something, then whether their author is a man or woman, black or white, king or common, criminal or saint, even dead or alive, all these become extraneous to it, its intrinsic value makes it long lasting or even immortal.
So while choosing friends I kept in view the words they chose to describe themselves or the reality as they saw it, again another way of describing themselves only. Because there is nothing else to experience or describe. There is nothing objective ‘out there,’ everything is ‘in here’. One may comment on any thing ‘out there’ but ultimately it will only describe the describer. Finally the describer is the described. So by selecting friends on the basis of their comments only I was so right that during this long period of almost two years I have had occasion to regret for only once in spite of having such a long list of friends. But she may have also belonged to that group of 400 friends who sought my friendship. I don’t remember. I have refused none that has sought my friendship. In fact, I don’t take more than a few seconds to admit someone into my friend circle. I know I am incorruptible. Anyone with any unfriendly intention, if admitted into my friend list, will very soon discover that enticements such as these
1) See how busty the girl is
2) See how you will look when you are eighty
3) Click on the video to see how Osama was actually killed
4) Click on the dislike button FB has recently launched
5)Hey Paresh I am pretty happy, FedEx just delievered me an ipad2 for no cost! Cant believe it actually worked haha, I received it from this promo site!
6)Hey Paresh, what are you doing in this video ? Are you dancing or….LOL
7) See what have they done to this school girl !

etc. cut no ice with me or don’t let them win any brownie points. They only leave me cold. The bustier the girl the more suspicious she is. They have to imagine something else for me. I give them a clue. The Atlantic or Pacific is a far more sexier thing to me. I refer them to my essay “The Beloved” to get some more clues. But I know they don’t read, they would be more at home in a joint smoking party going on at the other side of the street. Lol !
I have not told you so far about the other basis of my selecting friends. That is, FB suggests me friends daily. “Paresh, you have 120 common friends with such and such; and 425 common friends with such and such. Invite them to be your friends”. So a large part of my friends come from this category, not without some comic results too. FB sort of instructs me to invite many on the basis of so many common friends but also sometimes gives me stern warnings even to the extent of deactivate my account for having invited someone who didn’t want to be invited, even though we had a lot of mutual friends. Lol ! Of late I have discontinued this practice of inviting friends on the basis of so many common friends. But the practice of inviting friends on the strength of their comments continues and will continue.
Sometimes interesting things also happen even with persons whom I have invited for friendship on the strength of some of their comments. I shall here share one or two. It was an invitation to Carmen Vera, who subsequently became one of my most favorite friends. On receiving my invitation, she asked,”Do I know you?”
I replied,”Of course, not”.
“Then, tell me why should I accept your friendship ?” She asked.
I replied,” I read one of your comments which I found interesting and comic. I thought here is someone who is as fond of humor and as light hearted as I am. Added to this I found you are married to one of my country man. I also liked a particular photo of yours in which you posed as if you are a yogini. I thought, I would like to befriend you.”
She was not fully satisfied. She asked me another question.”Still I am not convinced. Just one comment, however good or comic that may be, can’t be the basis of friendship. Give me some other reasons why should I need to be your friend? ”
I was really at my wit’s end. None had ever cross examined me in this way. Everybody else just accepted my request or didn’t reply me. I was extending requests at the rate of twenty invitations per day. I won’t know who refused or who just kept me pending for a future decision. I was notified of the acceptances only. But here was a woman who was behaving as if I was on an interview for a job ! I had really no more argument to give in support of me. So, out of desperation, I turned that into an argument.
I replied,” Dear Carmen, I know you have not yet accepted my friendship, still you are a dear to me. May I ask you a question ? Do you think by using words, that too in a language that is not mine, I can convince you that I am not a cad, a philanderer nor a womanizer but a sincere man out for searching congenial human beings as friends in the quest for peace and meaning in life ? Don’t you think the more reasons I give the more questions can sprout in your mind, the more suspicions will be fuelled in your mind ? Can my words ever douse your suspicions? So knowing my limitations and the limitations of words, I raise my both hands up in surrender. Now you decide whether to accept or reject my invitation. It is wholly upto you. There is nothing else in my hand.”
Then she relented. She said,”It’s true what you have just said. I am prepared to believe you. I accept your friendship.”
I asked,” Dear Carmen, please put up this ‘dear’ for some time, because it carries the emotions of my heart which is grateful to you, first for arousing my interest in you and then accepting me as your friend. I don’t know anyone’s friendship gave me this much joy as yours because none put me through such thorough cross examinations. I wish I could put all friend invitations to me under one hundredth part of such tests and questions. Do you always ask such questions to all those who ask for your friendship ?
She replied,” Yes, I need to know the person whom I am going to befriend. I cannot afford to let my guards down. There are too many unscrupulous persons on the net.”
I thanked her and my luck and up to this day I have never ceased thinking what would have happened to me if I had not taken her questions seriously or had taken them in the manner, I am going to describe, that happened with someone else. I would have lost one of the most interesting, original and creative minds of our time as my dearly loved friend. I have paid her compliments before and I will go on complimenting her till my last because without her patience, tolerance and largeheartedness I won’t be writing here. No man is under so much debt to any woman anywhere in the world. I hope to repay some by being constantly grateful to her.
That was a very fortunate experience. But an unfortunate experience also happened with another woman of the west. That was for once only and I am not going to repeat that again ever. Unfortunate, because the outcome could have been pleasant but for my fault. I was entirely to be blamed. What I wrote was not normally in my style. So sometimes I think, probably that had to happen, some greater forces probably controlled these things. Who is to be whose friend, how long a friendship will last, to what depth a friendship will go etc, are probably not in our hands. Otherwise why would I write like that? I have never written in that style to anyone else. Let me tell it from the beginning.
It was a usual friend request from me, after reading a very good comment by her on some post, to an American woman named Bonnie Munnell. She replied,” I have received your friend request. I see you have 1700 friends. Are you in the business of selling enlightenment ? If so, I am not interested. If not, what is the use of having so many friends ? How much time can you give for each one ? Can there be any meaningful friendship even with one in that time? I am not interested in such friendship.”
Normally, I like this kind of messages very much because the writers have a genuine desire to know and they have abundantly one thing that I love most in any individual, energy. If she was lacking in energy and interest why would she reply at all? But that was a bad moment for me. I am still ashamed of what I wrote in reply. I not only lost someone who could have been a great friend of mine but also I wrote in a style that was not my own. I frankly admit, that this happened because she pushed a button in me, by writing “Are you in the business of selling enlightenment?” She gave me such a beautiful opportunity to be friendly with her by explaining patiently and calmly what friendship meant to me, how sharing thoughts and experiences and not selling enlightenment or anything else was my goal in forming friendship with all. How though I had 1700 friends at the time, there had never been any message from anyone that required a reply and I had not replied nor a single article tagged to me which I haven’t read, liked or commented. So in short, she gave me a golden opportunity but I wasted that. That is one of the regrets of my life.
O.k.. Let me quote, shamefacedly with tears in my eyes, what I wrote in reply. After all, each one that reads this article is a friend, I hope so, and sharing is what we all are here for, both our moments of glory and moments of defeat and shame. I was defeated for not knowing I had a button that could be pushed. And I repeat, for my benefit, if there are buttons in me,life will surely send someone or the other to push those buttons. I ought to be grateful to the ones that pushed my buttons, as they served me by making me aware that I have still some weak spots to watch and mend. Those were the moments to be even more present, more aware of my inner body,inner being, the Guru within. But I let it all go in anger. I thought how dare she accuse me of selling enlightenment ? What did she know of me to write like that ? What right had she to question about the number of friends I had ? Could she not politely refuse or even remain silent like many did ? All these thoughts flashed in the sky of my mind like flashes of lightening in that moment of rage. In that state of mind, I replied,” Dear Bonnie, I think the time for our friendship has not arrived. Otherwise, to a simple request of friendship you won’t be writing all this. There is a time for everything. For our friendship to happen, that time has not yet come. With deep regret, I finish this letter here. May you be in peace and happiness always.” No wonder, she was not impressed enough to change her decision.

I had thought I would cover some more instances of my good and not so good experiences in FB in this article. But seeing its length, I desist here. I must be thoughtful about my readers’ patience also. And what readers I have been blessed with ! In this age of powerful electronic audio-visual media, where plethora of channels vie with each other for viewers’ attention, there are still readers who patiently read my toddler like attempts at writing and this has been a constant source of wonder, amazement and joy to me. I am deeply grateful to all that read my humble offerings.

A very dear American female friend of mine wrote me a letter last week where she wrote, obviously in great anguish, “There comes a point my friend where Facebook becomes a kind of false community and if we don’t tend to our day to day lives it is for naught what rapport we develop here. I believe you understand all this.” I perfectly understood her. She was at the moment at a cross road in her life where she could just sense her calling in life from deep inside her but her road ahead led into an uncharted territoty, she had very few examples before her there. She is a pioneer. Personally to me what a great friend, supporter, inspirer and confidant she has been ! She had faith in me when I didn’t, she could see good qualities in me when I couldn’t! A few women of the west like her made me what I am today. All credits go to them. Just like what Jawaharlal Nehru wrote, “ We were men of clay, Gandhiji made us into what we are today. All credits go to him only.” So naturally I shared her anguish, felt her pain and wished sincerely that I could be with her to hold her in a very loving, accepting and allowing space. I don’t hold her to blame or criticism either for calling Facebook community a “false community” because who could understand FB better than her? In her hand FB has become an instrument of change to many, including this writer. And the qualifying clause of her sentence tells it all,”If we don’t tend to our day to day lives it is for nothing what rapport we develop here.” How true! Facebook has meaning if only we have kept our day today life unaffected and have got all our acts together and in shape. Any imbalance in any sphere of our activities, whether be it domestic or work or social, is bound to affect our dearly cherished social networking, viewing, sharing, exchanging and interacting experience, the one experience we have chosen out of our freedom only. In all others we have very little options. In a sense this is sacred to us, like our friendship. But, if only we are able to “ tend to our day to day lives” satisfactorily, specially for people whose lives involve us or who are dependent on us.

My friend, my muse, my philosopher, my supporter through thick and thin, Carmen Penteck writes in one of her observations, oh how full of brilliant, insightful observations she has been,” For a simple activity like viewing Facebook, I need a lot of things. 1) I need a house to live in and a computer to place somewhere safely in it. 2) I need to have food in my fridge to eat from time to time. 3) I need a supporting environment to concentrate into whatever I am viewing or sharing.4) I need a constant source of income to pay my bills etc.” How true! If only I could tend to all these needs then my viewing experience of FB would be possible and may even be rewarding. Then I won’t have to call FB community “a false community” because I won’t be needing anything from any of my friends other than simple sharing of each other’s thoughts and experiences. It is our expectations from others, especially in the physical shape, like expecting others to donate for me, or expecting people to buy my books or attend my talks or satsangs or even expecting people to read all that I tag them or send them; these create strain in our sacred relationship. I call it “sacred” because I take my friendship in the virtual space that way, uncontaminated by any physical considerations whatsoever. I would rather prefer to die than beg any of my friends here of anything material. Their sharing, and what incredible sharing experience the past year and a half has been to me, is enough for me. I have not a single friend from my real life here, for they don’t understand my joy at “whiling away” my time and energy in a completely unremunerative medium. Yet it has been a fact for me that none of them is so dear to me as some of my western friends in FB whom I have never met in person nor I find any possibility of meeting them ever, considering my hermit like living in a 20 feet by fifteen feet hall with my family and my extreme reluctance to travel outside just fifty miles radius of the place I have been living for the last forty years.

When I was eighteen, I came across a line in my History of English literature book about Jane Austen, my favorite novelist then. It read, ” Jane Austen, never travelled more than fifty miles from the place she was born and lived there till her last. Yet she knew every detail, every person in that small place. Her novels bear testimony to her acute observations and superb wit”. That became my motto too. To me this virtual community, where sharing is the rule and just keeping everything to oneself is the exception, is the real community. I doubt if, my female friend of USA who shared with me her anguish, had shared such inmost thoughts to any of her real life friend. I too share many thoughts here which I have never shared with any of my real life friends. So I wonder which is the real and which one is the false community. Of course, if I am unable “to tend to my day to day life” then both the communities will be false communities for me. In that case the communities have not failed me, I have failed in both of them.

I remember one famous quotation. It says,”Your true kins don’t always live under the same roof. You may find some even at the other end of the world.” That is what I have been doing here in FB. I have been searching my true kins. Carmen, Julia,Shad, Grace Mendoza, Grace Ana Kenneally, Susan, Robin, Steven Steensel, Gopalakrishnan, Bill, Adriana,Jill, Janine, Russie, Unity, Bonnie, Shira,Santosh,Irene, Barbara, Liz,Anthony, Fred, Mark, Alan, Hilary,Mary, Joy, Georgia, Donna, Bhawani and many many more whom I cannot name here for paucity of space are my true kins and I am grateful to FB for helping me find them. They have made me into what I am now, otherwise I too was “a man of clay”, timid and totally lacking in confidence. I was like an empty sack, unable to even support or stand for myself. When these friends held me in their loving embrace, in their hearts full of loving space and presence, I was transformed and found my original face, my own voice and stood erect. The result has been tremendous. Last week, this timid man, this former empty sack, took a lion, all alone by myself, in his own lair and grappled with him holding firmly his mane and beard and forced him to lie low as I wanted him to do. I cornered my boss. In a large Govt. organization where three thousand employees like me work, where even to meet my boss I have to take appointment at least three days prior to the event, and that too if I have sufficient reason to justify myself, I forced him to change his earlier decision which was going to hit an innocent man so hard financially that he won’t have recovered in his life time, his family would have been ruined. I wrote him a four page note the like of which he had never seen in his life nor anyone of his staff had ever dared to write before and he had to rescind his earlier decision, against his will. The writing of the note, which he termed as “Mr Mangaraj’s surprising outburst” was no doubt inspired by my writing in Facebook which taught me to write about things that moved me deeply inside. People say art imitates life, but this one is an example of life imitating art. My life has been deeply affected by this wonderfully supporting and sharing Facebook community.

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”
Richard Bach in Illusions

I am grateful to all those who have chosen to communicate or share anything with me, that includes all those who were once friends, even close friends, but subsequently chose to, for some reasons best known to them, defriend me. But even after severence of all communications, how can they take leave from my heart ? They may refuse to recognize me, but do I not know who they really are ? They are my true kins. Myself in so many forms and names. I have defriended none. But I respect them who have defriended me, as they have done their work on me and for me. As someone said,” People come to your life for a reason or for a season; some even stay for long with you. But You will always find the right people for you with you.” Or as Byron Katie says,”Everything happens for you but not to you.”