The Canticle of Effort

Certain books call out to you. They have your destiny entwined in their pages. Back in 2017, when I read ‘Purappadinte Pustakam’, something in its sparkling originality touched my heart. I reached out to the author and offered to translate it to English. I felt that the world deserved to meet the wonderful characters; laugh and cry along with them. The author, V.J.James, always affable and humble, erudite and kind, responded encouragingly. The journey began there. As the famous quote from Dao De Jing goes, ‘ A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’

Today, we have translated six books together. Three novels : Anti-Clock, Nireeswaran and Dattapaharam have been released by Penguin Random House India. Next year, we hope to see ‘Purappadinte Pustakam’ or ‘ The Book of Exodus’ published. James had to struggle for more than a decade to see his debut novel in print. It evolved over the years, stained with sweat and tears.

Ironically, though it was the first book we completed together in the year 2018, the book took its own time to come to fruition. It has made me believe again in the subtle magic of words. We control nothing; only the effort is our portion. And when the results arrive, we have to humbly bow before the occurrence.

In an interview, long back, James was asked:

‘When do you think your books will get to a global audience?’

‘I believe in Akshara Shakti : the power of words.’

That makes me pause. And I reflect on the somber truth behind it all.

For words to grace us, we have to deserve their benedictions. To read and write more, to make the receiving vessel sparkle and shine, that choice alone is left to us. When and how the blessings pour, that is still under veils.

Every day gives us an opportunity to ready ourselves for the unseen grace. Though the mood is dark and apprehensive, or cheerful and sunny, or stoic and serene, we have to focus on the work at hand. The toil itself is the canticle. When raised to the heavens, by singing with a pure heart, the answer surely comes.

May the Lord guide us all into more and more fruitful endeavors; while staying detached and committed.


Gateway to Grace

This is my ‘Thank You Note’ to the magical universe. For manifesting a dream.


The Indomitable Will Power of Angad

‘Angad ka pair’ : This is a popular saying in Hindi heartland. Prince of Kishkindha- young Angad, planting his foot firmly on the durbar ground and challenging Ravan to move it even the tiniest bit; well, that has been the stuff of legends. It has been described with great awe in the Lanka Kanda by Goswami Tulsidasji. I find it very inspiring.

Yesterday, I met a wonderful woman who epitomised Angad’s willpower and has given me new life goals.

She suffered from some sort of stroke and had pain in feet and hands in her late fifties. Then she took up walking and running in that order. Today, she has run many marathons and half-marathons and stood before me as the shining example of what a focussed mind can achieve.

This is a toast to Angad’s foot and so many who live that power everyday of their lives!

Yuddhakanda aka Lanka Kanda is getting designed. Bless the artist and the publisher…They are simply wonderful.

May my Hanumanji lead us on….as always.


Yad Bhavam, Tad Bhavanti

The cover-page of Aranya Kanda… a dream come true!

Everything begins as a thought. Then it turns into reality. May the Lord inspire us to the most elevated thoughts which would manifest as the most beautiful realities.

A big thank you to the publishers and my friends.

‘Yad Bhavam, Tad Bhavanti’

As you think, so it manifests…

**


Ashita’s Ramayana for Children

Ashita’s Ramayana for Children has always been a favourite in my home.

In 84 simple chapters, the brilliant writer has captured the essence of Ramayana for our children. Indeed, this book is meant for all.

Since to narrate the Lord’s story in any form is also a form of worship, I am attempting to do my part.

Kindly forgive my mistakes.

Link:

https://hubhopper.com/episode/episode-1-ashitas-ramayana-for-children-introduction-1665236476


Of Two Forest Journeys

The whole universe is a magical place. What happens to us is decided by our thoughts/words/actions melding with the Universal Mind. How the sequence plays out is the beautiful magic.

Aranya Kanda : The canto of the forest , from Tulsidasji’s Shri Ramcharitmanas has gone into publication. The Lord explores the forests and blesses many a sage in this lovely portion. Mata Sita gets abducted by Ravan and Jatayu is granted salvation by Lord Ram. The poet describes the forests, the trees, animals and birds with much affection in the original Awadhi; and my adventure in understanding and interpreting was truly blessed by His Grace.

Simultaneously, I was translating Dattapaharam- a stunning novel about the forests and its great role in human lives; by V.J.James. The author is one of the most erudite and humble people I have known in my life. Truly has the Ramayana spoken of ‘fruit laden trees bending low’: great souls are utterly simple, so unassuming and kind. They also laugh a lot.

The fact that both the books are going into print together brings me much hope and cheer. They say when coincidences happen in a miraculous manner, when serendipity graces us, the divine plan is meeting our life plan.

May the Lord help us to follow the divine path always. And empower us to do our work with humility.

**

Few hymns to the magic:

While I was poring over the edits of Aranyakanda and reached the portion of Mareech getting killed by the Lord, I casually clicked on songs in my mobile with nothing particular in my mind.

The song enveloped my senses, enchanting me.

I gazed at the mobile screen.

There He was: My Lord Ram, so beautiful and glorious, with Sita, and she was staring at the golden deer!

Tumhi mere Ram, tumhi Ghanshyam!

How could that happen?

I called my friend in utter delight and she asked me to bow my head lower.

I did.

He watches over every speck of dust, does he not?

**

I was struggling with translating a sentence which spoke of ‘sighting that which lay beyond the visible.’ Indeed, the portion referred to seeing what usually remains unseen by going inwards…a deep, spiritually heavy sentence. Typical of the author’s style, super simple, and oh-so-heavy with meaning!

I tried many a combination and permutation. The zing of satisfaction did not come.

My phone pinged. Another dear friend had forwarded a Sufi song…Tu Jhoom sung by the inimitable Abida Parveen.

Ah, Lord! Just what I needed!

The sentence translated itself in matter of moments.

He watches over every green blade , does he not?
**

So both the forest journeys, soon to be in book forms, are hereby dedicated to the Lord.

He, who is love

He, who is kindness

He, who is mine

And yours


Bharat charit japjaaga…

Doha:

Shrota tribidh samaj pur gram nagar duhu kool/

Santsabha Anupam avadh sakal sumangal mool//

Three types of listeners habitate the neighbourhood, the village and the city situated on both shores of the river; and the convergence of the sages form Ayodhya which is the root of all auspicious prosperity.

**

Rambhagati sursaritahi jayi/ Mili sukeerati saraju suhayi//

Sanuj Ram samar jasu pavan/ Milevu mahanadu son suhavan//

The beautiful Sarayu, glorious and healing merge in the Gangaji which epitomises deep devotion to Lord Rama. Into this confluence, flows the great river Son which represents the glorious victory of Sri Ramji along with his brother Lakshman, in the war with Ravan.

**

Jug bich bhagati devadhuni dhara/ Sohati sahit subirati bichara//

Tribidh taap trasak timuhani/ Ram saroop sindhu samuhani//

Amidst the Sarayu and Son, the Ganga of bhakti flows, radiantly representing wisdom and detachment. The holy river, with three parts, drives away all three forms of worldly sufferings and proceeds to merge in the ocean called Sri Ramji.

**

Manas mool mili sursarihi/ Sunat sujan mann pavan karihi//

Bich bich kadha bichitra bibhaga/ Janu sari teer teer ban bagaa//

The origin of Sarayu is Sriramcharitmanas and it merges with the Gangaji of devotion to the Lord. The good souls who listen to it will find their minds purified. The stupendous stories studded inside the narrative are like the enchanting forests and groves by the riverside.

**

Uma mahes bibah baraati/ Te jalchar aganit bahubhanti//

Raghubar janam anand badhayi/ Bhawar tarang manohartayi//

The entourage of Lord Shiva’s marriage procession, all of them, are the various creatures thriving in the waters of this holy river. The ecstatsy triggered by the birth of Sri Ramji can be seen as the beauteous springs and ripples of the water.

**

Doha:

Balcharit chahu bandh uke banaj bipul bahuranga/

Nrip rani parijan sukrit Madhukar baari bihanga//

 The childhood pranks and stories of the four brothers are the gorgeous, colourful lotus flowers blossoming in the river. The good fortune of Raja Dasradh, his queens and family members are the bees and waterbirds fluttering around those.

**

Seey swayambar kadha suhayi/ Sarit suhavani so chabi chayi//

Nadi naav patu prasn aneka/ Kewat kusal utar sabibeka//

The beautiful story of Sitaji’s swayamvar is the cool shade which is palpable near the river. The philosophical questions which are deep and lovely are the boats bobbing along the waters and the discerning, remarkable answers are the alert boatmen who guide the boats to safety.

**

Suni anukadhan paraspar hoyi/ Padhik samaj soh sari soyi//

Dhor dhar bhrigunadh risani/ Ghat subadh Ram bar bani//

The discussions which happen on listening to this story, are used to garner radiant wisdom by the pilgrims following the river’s path. The untrammelled fury of Parasu Ram symbolises the deadly whirlpools in the waters and Sri Ramji’s great, serene, wise words are the ghats on either sides which control the flow of the waters.

**

Sanuj Ram bibah uchahu/ So subh umaga sukhad sab kahu//

Kahat sunat harshahim pulakahim/ Te sukriti mann mudit nahahim//

The enchanting swell of this river is caused by the euphoria surrounding the marriage of the Lord and that of his brothers. Those who are entranced at listening and singing this story, take a dip in this river, and are truly elevated souls.

**

Ram tilak hith mangal saaja/ Parab jog janu  jure samaja//

Kayi kumati kekayi keri/ Pari jasu phal bipati khaneri//

The conglomeration of devotees around the river brings to mind the celebrations of the Lord’s impending marriage. But the twisted mind of Kaikeyi is like a deadly whirlpool causing many misfortunes in its wake.

**

Doha:

Saman amit utpat sab bharat charit japjaaga/

Kali agh khal avaguna kadhan te jalmal bagh kaga//

Bharat’s illustrious character is  akin to the great yagya where the Lord’s name is chanted, which cleanses all the accumulated , innumerable forebodings and evils. The slush of the river and the ill-auguring crows and cranes, are equivalent to the sins of Kali Yuga and the rampant evil doings of the wicked therein.

**

Keerati sarit chahu ritu ruri/ Samay suhavani pavani bhuri//

Him himsailsuta siva byahu/ Sisir sukhad prabhu janam uchahu//

This celebrated, ausipicious river is beautiful in all the six seasons. It is always bountiful and extremely pure all through the flow of time. The wedding of Shiv and Paravatiji is the pre-winter season (Hemanta); and the birth of Sri Ramji is the much awaited, gladsome winter (Sishira).

**

Barnab Ram bibah samaju/ So mud mangalmay rituraju//

Greesham dussah Ram banagvanu/ Pandhkadha khar aatap pavanu//

The eternal, joyous, prosperous spring (Basanth) is the description of the crowds during the marriage of Lord Ram. His departure to the forest is the intolerable Grishma(summer) and the story of the journey epitomise the blistering heat and harsh winds.

**

Barsha khor nisachar raari/ Surakul saali sumangalkaari//

Ram raj such binay badayi/ Bisad sukhad soyi sarad suhayi//

The war with the rakshasa can be understood as the monsoon season (Varsha); which is welcome and augurs prosperity for the harvest called devas. The peace, humility and greatness of Ram-rajya illustrate the pure, good, cool season of autumn (Sharad).

**

Sati siromani siya guna gadha/ Soyi guna amal Anupam padha//

Bharat subhavu suseetaltayi/ Sada ekaras barni na jaayi//

The illustrious story of Mata Sita’s qualities form the pure and incomparable waters of this divine river. The coolness of the waters spring from Bharat’s sweet nature; which is always unflappable, steady and ineffable.

**


When He Walks With You…

**

The publisher is putting the finishing touches to the third translation/transliteration from Shri Ram Charit Manas : Aranya Kanda. I was fortunate to complete Aranya Kanda and Lanka Kanda in 2021. The kind hearted editor informs me that the artist has now started working on Lanka Kanda/Yuddha Kanda. I simply express my heartfelt gratitude for their commitment and sincerity. The Lord works through us: when we submit the results at His beautiful lotus feet.

I recollect the struggle of the days when I was completing these two translations. Perhaps, the words, page by page of grueling work, saved me from slipping into the morass of depression.

Today, when we discuss the publication, I wish to bow my head in reverence again to that ineffable loving energy which guides, protects and embraces all seekers. By whatever name we hail the Lord, in whichever manner we choose to pray…He is my light and signpost…the spark in my soul. May He allow this insignificant speck of dust to cling more to Him.

May my beloved Hanumanji bless this book too.


The Grace of the Lord

Kadin kusang kupandh karala/ Tinh ke bachan baakh hari byala//

Grih karaj nana janjala/ Te ati durgam sail bisala//

The horrifying wrong path is the companionship of the wicked. Their words are like tigers, lions and serpents. The multiple challenges of daily household life appear like unconquerable huge, mountains.

**

Ban bahu bisham moh mad mana/ Nadim kutark bhayankar nana//

Desire, vanity and pride are like dangerous forests; and the accusations and wrong arguments are the terrifying rivers.

**

Doha:

Je sraddha sambal rahit nahim santanh kar saadh/

Tinh kahu manas agam ati jinhahi na Priya raghunadh//

Those who do not have faith, and are not supported by sages; and for whom Sri Ramji is not dear, they will find access to Manas impossible. (Without devotion to Lord Ram, faith and satsang, one cannot access Manas).

**

Jaum kari kasht jayi puni koyi/ Jatahim need judayi hoyi//

Jadata jaad bisham ur laaga/ Gayehu na majjan paav abhaga//

Even if a human reaches the lake of Manas even after much ordeal, the sleep shall catch him unawares; and the heart fills with stupid and foolish thoughts and consequently the unlucky one will not be able to take a dip in Sri Ramcharit Manas’ holy waters.

(Note: The undeserving shall be kept away from relishing the nectar of Manas. Without the Lord’s blessings, nobody can relish this beauty.)

**

Kari na jayi sar majjan pana/ Firi aavayi samet abhimana//

Jaum bahori kovu puchan aava/ Sar ninda kari tahi buchava//

Such a person returns, filled with hurt pride, not having taken a holy dip or tasted the holy waters of Manas. If someone were to enquire about his experience, instead of speaking about his misfortune, he shall mock the Manas and try to justify his experience.

**

Sakal bighna byapahim nahim tehi/ Ram sukripam bilokahim jehi//

Soyi sadar sar majjanu karayi/ Maha khor traytap na jarayi//

But on whom Sri Ramachandra’s gracious, bountiful glance is cast, all these troubles never bother a true devotee. He takes a dip in these divine waters and escapes being scalded by the Tri-taap: Spiritual, Mental, Physical.

**

Te nar yeh sar tajahim na kavu/ Jinh kem Ram charan bhal bhavu//

Jo nahayi chah ehim sar bhayi/ So satsang karavu mann layi//

The devotee whose heart is filled with love for Sri Ramji’s lotus feet shall never leave the lake of Manas. Whoever wishes to take a dip in this holy lake should cultivate ‘satsang’ aka companionship of the good and wise souls intentionally.

**

As manas manas chakh chahi/ Bhayi kabi buddhi bimal avagaahi//

Bhayavu hridayam anand uchahu/ Umagovu prem pramod prabahu//

After seeing this divine Manas through his heart’s eyes and diving delightedly into it, the poet’s intellect has become pure; the heart is full of enthusiasm and bliss; and the whole body is filled with great joy.

**

Chali subhag kabita sarita so/ Ram bimal jas jal bharita so//

Sarju naan sumangal mula/ Lok bed mat manjul kula//

In such a manner flowed the waters of beautiful poetry which is filled with the pristine glories of Sri Ramji. The name of this poem-river is Sarayu; which is the root of all prosperity. The voices of the world and Vedas form the two shores of the river.

**

Nadi puneet sumanas nandini/ Kalimal trin taru mool nikandini//

The daughter of the beautiful Manas, river Sarayu is very pure; and shall uproot all the small and big sinful shrubs and trees epitomising the burdens of Kaliyug easily.

**


The Story of Shri Ramcharitmanas

Sab bidhi puri manohar jani/ Sakal siddhiprada mangal khani//

Bimal kadha kar keenh arambha/ Sunat nasahi kaam mada dhambha//

Knowing that Ayodhya is beautiful in all ways, grants all siddhis and is the seating place of all prosperity, I started writing this pure story. If anybody listens to it, all desires, ego and pride (kama, mada, dhambha) shall be cleansed from within.

**

Ramcharitmanas ehi nama/ Sunat shravan payia bishrama//

Mann kari bishay anal ban jarayi/ Hoyi sukhi jaum ehim sar parayi//

The name of this work is ‘Ramcharitmanas’. On hearing it with one’s ears, it leads to peace. The elephant called mind, which is burning in desire’s fires, shall find itself cool and blissful when it steps inside the lake called ‘ Shri Ramcharitmanas’.

**

Ramcharitmanas muni bhavan/ Birachevu sambhu suhavan pavan//

Tribidh dosh dukh darid davan/ Kali kuchali kuli kalush nasavan//

The Ramcharitmanas is beloved to sages. This beautiful and pure story was told by Lord Shiva. It destroys three types of doshas, sufferings and penury; and all the hypocrisies of Kaliyuga and all forms of sins.

**

Rachi mahes nij manas rakha/ Payi susamavu siva san bhasha//

Tatem Ramcharitmanas bar/ Dharevu naam hiyam heri harashi har//

Lord Shiva conceived the story and it stayed within his mind until he narrated it to his wife Parvati. Since the Lord’s story was gracing his heart (manas), Lord Shiv was pleased and named it ‘Ramcharitmanas’.

**

Kahavu kadha soyi sukhad suhayi/ Sadar sunahu sujan mann layi//

I am going to narrate the same beautiful, blissful story of Lord Ram. Devout souls, listen to it with sincerity.

Doha:

Jas manas jehi bidhi bhayavu jag prachar jehi hetu/

Ab soyi kahavu prasang sab sumiri uma brishketu//

Now, remembering the divine Uma and Mahesh, let me describe how the Ramcharitmanas was created and which reason it spread across the world.

**

Sambhu prasad sumati hiyam hulasi/ Ramcharitmanas kabi tulsi//

Karayi manohar mati anuhari/ Sujan suchit suni lehu sudhari//

Due to Lord Shiva’s grace, intelligence dawned, and Tulsidas became the poet of Shri Ramcharitmanas. He has created it as beautiful as his intelligence could endeavour. Yet, devout souls, by listening to it with pure hearts, kindly modify any mistakes.

**

Sumati bhumi dhal hriday agadhu/ Bedh puran udadhi khan sadhu//

Barashahim Ram sujas bar bari/ Madhur manohar mangalkari//

Clear, pure intelligence is like earth; the heart is a place within; Vedas and Puranas are the oceans, and the sages and saints are the rain filled clouds. These clouds shower us with the rain waters of Lord Ram’s glorious, beautiful, sweet, wondrous and ever bountiful grace.

**

Leela sagun jo kahahim bakhani/ Soyi swachhata karayi mal hani//

Prem bhagati jo barni najayi/ Soyi madhurata susselatayi//

The elaboration of all the wonderful lila of the Lord forms the pure waters of Sri Ramji’s glory; which annihilates all evil. The ineffable loving devotion to the Lord causes the sweetness and coolness of the above said divine waters.

**

So jal sukrit saali hith hoyi/ Ram bhagat jan Jeevan soyi//

Medha mahi gath so jal pavan/ Sakili Shravan mag chalevu suhavan//

Bharevu sumanas sudhal dharana/ Sukhad seet ruchi charu chirana//

The waters of Sri Ramji’s glorious story are very beneficial for the rice crop of good deeds; and is the very life of Ram devotees. The pristine waters of Sri Ramji’s story fell on the earth of intelligence, flowed through the ears, and entering the ‘Manas’ or heart, stayed still therein. Residing there forever, it became beneficial, cool, sweet and beautiful.

**

Doha:

Sudi sundar sambad bar birache buddhi bichari/

Teyi ehi pavan subhag sar ghat manohar chari//

The four enchanting and glorious conversations interwoven within this story ( Kaka Bhushundi-Garudji, Shiva-Parvatiji, Yagyavalkya-Bharadwaji, Tulsidas-Sages) form the four ghats of  the immaculate and lovely lake.

**

Sapt prabandh subhag sopana/ Gyan nayan nirakhat mann mana//

Raghupati mahima aguna abadha/ Barnab soyi bar bari agadha//

The seven sopans (cantos) are the seven steps of this gorgeous lake of Ramcharitmanas. Gazing at which, through eyes of wisdom, the mind becomes pleased. The description of SriRamji’s nirguna (transcending all qualities) and unique greatness ushers in the depths of the graceful waters.

**

Ram Siya jas salil sudhasam/ Upma beechi bilas manoram//

Purayini saghan charu chaupayi/ Juguti manju mani seep suhayi//

The glories of Sri Ramji and Janaki are like amrit.  The metaphors in the poetry are like the play of waves. The beautiful chaupayis are like lotus blossoms in the lake; and the poetic references are the sea shells holding pretty pearls.

**

Chhand sorada sundar doha/ Soyi bahurang kamal kul soha//

Aradh anoop subhav subhasa/ Soyi parag makarand subasa//

The beautiful play of words (Chhand, Sorada, Doha) is like an ensemble of vibrantly coloured lotus flowers. The incomparable meaning, spiritual elevation and exquisite language are the pollen, honey and fragrance of these flowers.

**

Sukrit punj manjul ali mala/ Gyan birag bichar marala//

Dhuni avareb kabit guna jati/ Meen Manohar te bahu bhanti//

The gathering of punya is like a flock of blue bees. Wisdom, detachment and contemplation are the swans. The intonation, word play, quality and character of the poetry are like beautiful fishes swimming about the waters.

**

Aradh dharam kamadik chari/ Kahab gyan bigyan bichari//

Nav ras jap tap jog biraga/ Te sab jalchar charu tadaga//

Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha: these four purusharthas, the wisdom and practical knowledge ingrained within, the nine rasas of poetry, recitation of the Lord’s name (jap), tap or meditation, yoga, and affirmations of detachment- these are all the enchanting creatures which thrive in this water body.

**

Sukriti sadhu naam guna gaana/ Te bichitra jalbihag samana//

Santsabha chahu disi avarayi/ Shradhha ritu basant sam gayi//

The pure souls, sages and songs eulogizing Sri Ramji are the scintillating water birds around. The  groups of sages are like the mango orchards surrounding the lake and the prayerful dedication shines like the spring season.

**