An Unsung Song, An Unheard Tale

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A LIVING LEGEND STEEPED IN HISTORY

A first generation Baha’i, Kamruddin Bartar, is not only a great literary person (a poet friend of reputed Nida Fazli) but also a wonderful artist. He is one of the early pillars of Baha’i Faith in India and in Madhya Pradesh. Most importantly, it is he who gave the idea of ‘LOTUS’ for the world-famous Baha’i House of Worship of India, popularly known as the LOTUS TEMPLE.

Here’s a small write-up from him sharing his feelings when the first slides of the ‘upcoming’ Lotus Temple were presented at the Asian Baha’i Women Conference held at Vigyan Bhawan, Delhi, in 1977. His granddaughter, Mona Bartar—herself a third generation Baha’i and a writer and artist like her grandpa—has kindly translated his feelings into English. It’s worth reading!

The Baha’i House of Worship of India, and……..

  • By Kamruddin Bartar

It was the evening of 16th October, 1977, at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. The last round of Asian Baha’i Women Conference, chaired by Mrs. Bharti Gandhi, was going on. After the speech of Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, some Baha’i songs were being sung, while the arrangements were being made for showing some slides of the Baha’i House of Worship of India.

The Baha’i House of Worship of India- about which Mr. H. Fatheazam (A member of the Universal House of Justice) wrote- ” Baha’i Faith is an independent world religion, and henceforth, the Baha’i House of Worship is the universal place of worshiping God. When the Baha’i Houses of Worship are built, they are offered to the people of the whole world. Every individual, irrespective of their religion, caste, race or belief, is welcomed at the Baha’i House of Worship. Holy writings from all religions are read and chanted here. People gather here like a family, under the same roof, to worship The Almighty God.”

The structure of the Baha’i Houses of Worship are themselves a symbol of unity. They are nine-angled buildings. There is a door in each direction. All these gates open into a large room under a beautiful dome.These nine gates and nine-angled buildings symbolize the nine major religions of the world. They express the fundamental unity of all religions. When we reach the large central hall, upon running our eyes around, we see beautiful doors in every direction. There is no front and back gate in the prayer hall. All the gates are opened in all directions, each receiving rays of the sun and transmitting light to a large central prayer hall, where all kinds of people gather to worship the one God, the Creator of the universe. This is a wonderful way of showing equality and unity of religions in a building.

And-

The screen was fixed to reflect the look of India’s future Baha’i House of Worship. The projector was checked and the slide of a temple in South India was set on the screen with focus.Then, over the mic, Mr. “Sahba”, a noted Iranian architect, explained the outline of the future Baha’i House of Worship of India. He discussed a lot about lotus, the national flower in India and the site of famous deities with religious significance. I liked it.

And it felt very nice when there was a grand appearance of the future Baha’i House of Worship of India, depicted by the slide on the screen. Maybe I liked it even more because it was the sketch I myself made in the presence of three members of National Spiritual Assembly of India- Mr. Sohrab Olyai, Dr. Mrs. Perin Olyai and Mr. R. B. Tripathi- and gave it to the architect, Mr. Sahba. Along with this, details of its different sides were also given- that the sunlight would come directly from above, the gates will be surrounded by water, the water will keep flowing, pathways will be alongside pools, there will be stairs, etc.

All the copies of the design given by me were kept safe by Mr. Sahba, and he expressed gratitude.

But-

Sahba literally means to be a friend or befriend. Friendship was accomplished well that I had no mention of my name anywhere. In praise of Mr. Sahba, Vigyan Bhavan continued to resonate with applause and I – as is natural on such an occasion -stood there with filled eyes. I proceeded to say something and eventually asked permission from the Chairperson, Mrs. Bharti Gandhi, to which she said, “Not now, Let’s talk later about it”.

This reminded me of a famous Indian writer “Minto”. The departed soul, Minto, had written the story of the film “Mirza Ghalib”, which was taken away by the producers and the film was released, to which, his name was nowhere to be seen or heard. The writer lost his life on the stairs of the talkies.

I left from Vigyan Bhawan. There was a strange conflict between my mind and my heart. If anyone asks and confirms with Mr. Sahba,I am sure he will not deny this reality.

dawn….

And it was the dawn of 17th October. The buses started moving towards Bahapur. The foundation stone of the Baha’i House of Worship in Bahapur was to be laid by the hands of Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum.

In the moving bus, some women started singing Bahá’í songs, which were written by me. I was also requested to accompany them in those songs. And then, I not only accompanied them, but sang many of my compositions, to the effect that the artist living inside me- who was filled with the shock that I had last evening- forgot everything.

Buses reached Bahapur. All the Baha’i friends- women and men, children and old- gathered. Meanwhile, I tried to approach the architect, Mr. Sahba. He was at the place where the foundation stone was to be laid. I introduced myself with Baha’i greetings in my broken English.

Mr. Sahba started looking at me with mixed emotions, while a camera-man came to him and took him along, to the video camera. Mr. Sahba kept gazing at me while talking to the camera-man and my eyes kept reading his conscience.

Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum came. Everyone was engaged in her welcome and honor. I felt lonely. I sat down in loneliness.

I remembered God for peace of mind. Read a prayer, and then, my conscience began to convince the artist groaning inside me – It was God’s plan to deliver the design to Architect Mr. Sahba through you, henceforth God had oriented Mr. Sahba towards Gwalior, otherwise why would Mr. Sahba ever think of coming to Gwalior?

And I snapped back from loneliness and came to the point where Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum was laying the foundation stone with her hands. A crowd surrounded her from all sides. The applause was ringing.

I was also cheering happily

Heart understands a Heart

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My Father, a wise man, says- “Those who have a heart can understand a heart.”  But aisshh, we all possess a heart and none of us understand each other cent percent! Do we?

And, all a heart technically does is the work of transportation and purification. Extreme scientific analogy?

 Here’s something for all of us to think about-

Why don’t we let the heart not only purify our blood, but also purify our thoughts? 

The Little Arnica

Mankind has always been stupid at recognizing the most vital assets.

They say, “You only need the sun when it starts to snow, You only hate the road when you’re missing home, You only feel the need of high, when you’re feeling low, And the most important, you only love her when you let her go.”

These lines are from one of my favorite songs-Let Her Go, by Passenger.

The miseries of life are like this. You feel the importance only when you stumble, hit rock bottom or get a tough smash on the head, or rather say heart? Human nature. Isn’t it weird?

Ladies and gentlemen, pardon. I got a little moved.

I get easily lost in the wanderlust of my own city, that whenever I move out of the house, despite the ultimate target of buying goods, I am intrigued by every single thing around.

Usually, my target is to fetch one or the other daily use commodity. Range is diversifying – from white bread, a tray of eggs, a dosa mix, and a dozen fruits to fetch my brother from his commerce coaching. Amidst this fast paced mechanical life, I do behave aesthetic.

 I may be lost noticing the trembling legs of an old man pulling the cart by his fragile hands, or the enthusiasm in a year old baby- who keeps on shouting oye at any stranger, or the glittering dresses displayed on mannequins in Sarafa Bazaar, or the way the theme road is a hotspot for romantic couples. My city is perhaps one of the most happening cities. The Gwalior City.

I’ll share one such experience.

I was in a bustling street of the main city, again out for buying something which I no more remember. The street was pretty narrow- filled with people walking and some lean vehicles to pass by. Suddenly, an autorickshaw passed by furiously! It was as if the man was driving it in “My Life, My Rules” manner.

He was so involved and emotionally invested in his loud pop music that he forgot he had ridden his gigantic automobile over an innocent tiny pup’s leg. Thinking about it fills me with pain and anger!

 The puppy was crying in agony, moving to and fro the road, confused and baffled where to go, where to hide, where to stop and lay down safely and frightened by the gushing vehicles. But, not even a single person heard its cry or paid attention to it.

 I felt baffled too! I wanted to help, but have been an anxious kid since beginning. I girded up the loins, and finally rose up for help.

I simply held the pup, and caressed him, so that it knows I’m there.

 “I’m there for you. Just here.  Beside.” Yes, it works.

 I’m not sure whether the little animal understood my gesture or not. Human language, be it verbal or body language, has always been confusing. What people preach, they do not practice. What they wish to say, they never say; and what they say, is never understood correctly. There exists a huge gap between humanly actions and words.

Even science has failed to explain such abnormal phenomenon; or rather shall I say normal. What do you think?

It was shivering. The whole body was warm, and maybe, quite scared. I took him with me at home. I’ve got a few veterinary acquaintances luckily, and they were of great help.

Now here I rest my hands down, because I have an exam to give in the next two hours. But, for you guys to think, why don’t you scroll back to the top again, and read the first few lines?

Ciao!

Senescence

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Human civilization has evolved, from carts to cars, from leafy costumes to the tuxedos and ball gowns, from wood furnishings to the metallic architecture, and what not. We have the advanced technology now, and the pros and cons of these inventions too. We are so eager to have the luxuries that we fail to realize many important things.

Here, in a small town of Gwalior, I observe the eye-catching scenarios.

Fiction
A street of Gwalior

 In the hustle and bustle of the town, I notice a woman with a sheet of fabric spread over, encroaching on the footpath. It was a shabby mattress, with a thin cotton-stuffed handkerchief to lay her head on.

Was it really a handkerchief?

I wondered to myself. It wasn’t, perhaps. It was a pillow in disguise.  Numerous Tiffin dabbas lined at the borders.

What is she up to?

The woman, 55 or so, could be observed daily by any passer-by, as she holds her 10*10 property. She sleeps there, she sits there, she eats there, and she fixes her tangled hair, there…. The whole day she keeps herself active. 

But, in what activity? 

I wonder, and I keep on wondering.

I never could gather the courage to approach her and ask. Or was I too busy in my own personal jobs, that I couldn’t spare 2 minutes to share a moment with a stranger that struck my mind? She raised my curiosity levels, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.

A beautiful evening

There’s another lady in my life, just like this one. But my relationship with her is a bit different from the former.

I talk to her. No, nothing personal at all! The only exchanges between us are about vegetables- very simple and light hearted.

“Tai, kese diye nimbu?” (Aunty, How much for the lemons?)

“Beta, tu lejaa..bata 10 ke 5 dedu?” (Kid, they cost 10 INR for 5 units. Why don’t you take some?)

“Haan ji, dedo.” (Okay aunty, Please give me some.)

I know I am very poor at buying groceries, while my mom is a pro at bargaining. Moms got those skills, anyway. But I do have my own uniqueness. Keeping aside me bragging about my talents, I shall tell you about the lady.

The lady is a vegetable vendor. She doesn’t own a cart or a shop. She spreads her goods on a printed sheet of fabric, on the floor.

There’s nothing so deep between us, but these minor to and fro exchanges, her pure smile – the purest of all, and a hope in her eyes- an unknown hope, is enough to pull me.

She sits upon the floor amidst the buzzing grocery sellers on carts, with her antiques displayed. She cannot shout, like other vendors do. But, you want a cabbage or the green chillies, or the lemons or the lycopenoids, have a visit to her place, and she greets you the best.

Senescence has its own charisma only a few can see. Do we need to be wise enough to understand the hidden message? But I’m not wise. Then why do I have such a thought process? As philosophically said, “There are no answers to some questions.”

Strangers, Friends, Best Friends, Strangers: Part 1

I read somewhere- “When life gives you crazy people, make them friends.” And so did I. But the story is somewhat different. It is full of morals and lessons, which emerged from my crooked actions ( But, were they even crooked?)

Once upon a time, in this weird life of mine, I met a person. A giant person. Male. Tall and handsome. Or maybe not-so-handsome because friends never praise each other. He had that spark in his eyes, which was always ready to make fun of you and pull your leg. This meeting had a purpose then; a very meaningful purpose.

Not going deep into whats, hows and whens, I’ll jump to the part where I was employed as a Cupid. That was my first job ever, and yes, without a salary. How naive of me, No?

Eventually, the Cupid yielded some good results between two souls. Him and her. Behind the scenes, I started having some real friendship with him. My Facebook inbox contained millions of messages sent to this one person. Also, 8 years down the line, we didn’t had smartphones, and even though we did, my world was not having any internet social message exchange platform. We texted each other via “100-texts-per-day-pack”, with ultimate accuracy and precision of letter counts and space management, so that not even a single text went as a waste. All those 100 messages per day to a single number, that never changed for years.

The real warmth and little joy from an unplanned and unexpected Friendship.

Little bundle of Joy

“I’m Glad You Came”

Some of the beautiful moments of our lives just pass by in the blink of an eye…and we keep wondering how pleasant the time was. It has been two days since this monkey (my best friend) is staying with me, and I must say, she’s real talent. A good cook. A stupid head. Both in one package? She cries and wries for no reason. And, I have been listening to her “sorry”s since quite a good time. Why? Because she forgot my birthday. BEST FRIEND AND FORGETTING THE BIRTHDAY- you can imagine clearly the blunder she did there.

But, dear diary, please tell this silly damsel in distress that I’m glad she came all the way to meet me, to stay with me, to teach me something new, to keep me awake and to tell all of her silly stories to me. I’m glad that she’s cooking some good food for me, killing some time with me, moving around for no reason and talking a lot to me. I’m glad that she is making my days comfortable. For a workaholic like me, she has brought some peace, some sunshine and some happiness.

How swiftly these days passed, and only a day more is left for her departure. She’ll move away back again. Miles apart. But, heart strings still attached.

I’m Glad You Came.

Balloons

Not everything is going to stay in place. Not everything is going to stay perfect. You may try really hard at something, making details finer and sometimes, it doesn’t work out well despite your efforts. Sometimes, things are not in your control and that is perfectly fine.

Every balloon you stuck on the wall may either stay or may fall. But that shouldn’t worry you. Because, you tried your best and if it still comes off, it isn’t your fault. At the very least, all you can do is enjoy every balloon fall down gracefully, instead of frowning and forcing it to stay onto the wall.

My example of balloons on the wall may not be the best and most intellectual one. But, the idea of being at ease when things aren’t under your control stays in utmost simplicity.

A 21st Century Princess

Once upon a time, in a Kingdom not so far away, there lived a pretty girl. Soft, shy, reserved, tender like the velvet green of flora, delicate and smooth. A perfect princess who just leaped into the 21st century.

She had built a castle- beautiful and huge, with the walls so high, that one wouldn’t dare to climb. But, old words read “the women with the highest walls harbour deepest of love” and hence, the same was proved.

Enter her land and she will shower all her love and happiness upon you. She will share some of her most magical tales and she’ll make you a part of her wonderful stories.

Beware, she may hit you on the head too, so as to knock some sense in you. Her appearance may deceive you. Don’t go for her lean, thin and fragile look. She is stronger than you may know.

She is certainly one of her own kind. I know her personally, and thus I am able to write a whole lot about her. I have walked up to a good milestone with her, knowing her responsibilities and challenges. I have been able to climb that high wall, and I may jump in sooner or later, but what I firmly believe now is that she is the 21st century princess for sure.

Spring May Arrive

New city, new lifestyle, new vibes and the better me. The soft breeze of the city has something to share with me. Perhaps, some of her secrets?

Sunshine, let’s talk for a while.

Every morning , when I walk down the aisle, to meet the end, I pass by the fenced land- inhabited by the autumn leaves and thirsty trees. But, amidst the woods, grows a youthful plant. Adorned by the pink blossoms and the green velvet, it shines under the bright sunlight.

It tells me its story of transformation. It shares with me how it grew under the unfavorable conditions. It expresses its happiness of achieving something which was thought to be impossible. It tells me how lonely it felt back then, when it stood upright in the wilderness throughout the night and how happy it was to see the sun shine bright in the morning. It advises me to be hopeful and never let the contrast pull you down. It teaches me not to be afraid of the dark and dull. It also said how the other seedlings were empowered, and that’s how it firmly believes that the spring may arrive soon.

The spring may arrive soon.

Equality

We talk about equality- in terms of money, gender, races, background and whatsoever. Do we actually practice it? No doubt, the world is evolving. Human race is progressing. We do have empowered people and I appreciate it.

But, I’ll ask again- Are we actually practicing equality?

I was traveling to Maharashtra. To travel from North India to this gigantic land, railways and flights are the most preferable options. Being on the more economical side, I chose to travel by train. Indian railways have progressed, and their services have become qualitative.

Waiting on the platform for my half-an-hour late train, all I could do was to sip my mango juice and watch the trains pass by. Kerala Express lined up – with the hustle and bustle caused by “in-n-out” of people. Some were boarding the train, others were leaving. Some were running out to fetch food and water, while some were running behind the ticket incharge for clearing their “waiting list” ticket.

In this big mess, an old lady- maybe in her 70s- along with a 5 year old little girl, grabbed my attention. Dressed up in a worn out green saree, with black rough slippers, tanned skin and grey hair tied up in a loose bun, the old lady was walking slowly, holding the little girl’s tiny hand. Her walk made me infer that she may have rheumatoid arthritis. The little girl, dressed in pink frock, her brown hair poking out of her ponytail, carried a white canvas bag. My observation led me to assume them to be grandmother and granddaughter.

Both of them were searching through the coaches of the train, eyeing them from outside- moving first to the left and then to the right side. They must be looking for an empty seat or maybe a secure place to sit. They were still under confusion, that’s when the honk of the train alarmed them. It was the time to depart the station.

Grandma quickly pulled the little girl close to her, and directed her to enter into the S9 (the sleeper section). The little girl hopped on, helping her grandma to step up on the stairs. How beautiful it was to witness such a scenario!

What do you think, did they go inside and find a seat? S9 comes with reservations. Do you think the two travellers would have got the seats reserved? Even if they would have asked somebody to lend the empty space for a while, do you think they would have treated them with kindness? What is the most common reaction?

The two travellers found their seat. It was next to the wash basin, situated beside the washroom. And, the train departed.

For how long they would have been sitting there? I wonder… thinking about the generosity displayed by the train in-charges.

Do you feel sorry for them? Please Don’t. They don’t need it. Think about what good you can be to them.

In my simplest of thoughts, while some people enjoy the linen and air conditioning, some struggle to procure a ticket. While some sleep carefree, some struggle to find a seat. While some recklessly throw the eatables, some are struggling for food. Why is the difference? If the difference lies in materialism, do we have the guts to overcome it? Or even if we do, will the survival be possible?

And that’s how we talk of equality and liberty.

Equality, where?

The Journey Begins

We are able to see the different colours around us- be them the pretty pink flowers or the white blossoms, the lush green lawns or the grey roads, the people and their skins or the hair colour , the fancy shoes or the funky clothes. We see them because of the light. What if that light goes out? We see nothing but something called “black”, which is of course a colour. No? 

 

Let’s play with the light around us. Let’s see the different shades of colours. It is the light that creates the different shades. How powerful is your light to create shades people have never seen before? 

Journey, of course, begins. The little writer joins the platform of expression. 

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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The way we see isn’t the only way to see. Perceptions vary.