Friday, May 09, 2014

What has size got to do with it?

I often joke around that I am an American who was accidentally born in India.  Such is the ease with which I live here.

I am certain that had I been born and raised here in the US, I would have been one heck of an Indophile.  India is simply way too fascinating, and I cannot imagine why millions do not have that level of an intense curiosity about India.

To a large extent, one (of many) of my disappointments with the people in the old country is that even they do not seem to have an intense curiosity about India.  The "mera Bharat mahan" (My India is great) is, more often than not, a superficial statement. A hollow sentiment. An empty rhetoric. Even worse than the jingoistic "USA! USA!" that is chanted here in my adopted country.

As much as I am innately curious and passionate about my family's stories, I am equally curious and passionate about all things about the old country itself.  As much as immigrating to the US did not mean a disassociation from the family and the stories, there is no disconnecting from the old country and its rich stories.  And, therefore, the shocking disappointment every time I find that there is not a great deal of genuine interest among most people in the old country about their own respective family stories nor about their own country.

One of the ways in which as a kid I came to understand the rich past of India's was through the stories, literally stories, that were presented in comic book format--the Panchatantra.  The stories appealed to the kid in me, but one did not have to be the proverbial brain surgeon to know that there was more to the stories--serious philosophical and moral undertones.  

The older I get, the more I find simple and powerful timeless messages in many of those verses from the old country.  Like this one:
हस्ति स्थूलतरः स चांकुशवशः किं हस्तिमात्रोंऽकुशः
दीपे प्रज्वलिते प्रणश्यति तमः किं दीपमात्रं तमः ।
वज्रेणापि हताः पतन्ति गिरयः किं वज्रमात्रो गिरिः
तेजो यस्य विराजते स बलवान् स्थूलेषु कः प्रत्ययः ॥
- पञ्चतंत्र - मित्रभेद

An elephant is very big. But is controlled by a very small hook. Are they both of the same size?
A small lamp destroys mighty darkness. Are they both of same size?
A diamond can bring down a mountain. Are they both of the same size?
He who has courage will become a winner. What has size got to with success?
- Panchatantra, Mitrabedha

I think that I am the luckiest guy on this planet to have been an American who was accidentally born in India, so that I could get to experience and understand the world the way I do.

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