Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Roots and Riches

During my flight to LA, the book which kept me company was an anthology, 'The Best of Ruskin Bond'. It is well-known that frequent and familiar references to flora and fauna is the hallmark of this author's writings. However, I think that apart from their charm and evocativeness, these descriptions of nature are motifs illustrating a world-view of harmonious and joyous acceptance of one's natural circumstances without struggling against ones own nature and the workings of nature. Bond quotes this Japanese proverb in the book, "In the marketplace, there is money to be made, but under the cherry tree, there is rest!" This proverb is not a dictum, but a question in disguise.The hustle of the marketplace is the din of busy activity and ambition. The shade of the cherry tree is the very picture of contentment and passive acceptance. It is choice we must all make. If man must indeed live according to his natural yearnings, then what comes naturally to man: acceptance of what is or ambition of what will be?

Elsewhere in the book, Bond writes about his restless stay away from India in the United Kingdom, and how staying away from his home country troubled him, even though he was not a territorialist. In keeping with his life's message to live in harmony with one's natural circumstances, he appears to suggest that living abroad places you in surroundings which are unnatural to you and hence undesirable to your inner well-being. It was a coincidence that I read this on my flight to the USA where I must come to further my academic ambitions and must stay away from home;for a couple of years certainly, but possibly indefinitely. What makes so many of my compatriots forsake the cherry-tree of comforts and familiarity back home and rush almost penniless to the marketplace here with nothing but the hope of making a fortune? How do they so readily make the tradeoff between five-star comfort in their third-world setting, and survival with minimal amenities in what is outwardly the first world? Has ambition won over acceptance and they are willing to undergo hardship to follow their dreams? Or has acceptance won over ambition with the resignation that they cannot have their riches where their roots are, and must necessarily uproot themselves?

Staying rooted safely and taking wing adventurously are both natural yearnings though at any given time, one or the other does seem unnatural. Swami Parthasarathy says often in his lectures that people at Malabar Hill in Mumbai are extremely prosperous, but they are not happy. People in the village of Malavali are always happy, but they are not prosperous. I have observed that several people in the so-called creative professions of media and entertainment are extremely adventurous, but somewhat lacking in discipline. On the other hand, several people in the mainstream software industry are extremely disciplined and committed, but sometimes thoroughly lacking in creativity and adventure.

How can we have both prosperity and peace, both the thrill of adventure and the security of discipline? How can we have closeness to our roots and also have the riches within reach? Why go to the marketplace? I could have cheerfully spread out basketfuls my wares in the shade of the cherry tree and sold them singing. Even now at the edge of the marketplace where my stall will be, I will plant my cherry trees who will in time put their roots down as the riches bloom in their shade.


vikram said...

bolo sab baba arivndanad ji ki jai...

Nitin said...

This comment is quite shadowed with redundancy since the last sentence in the article very aptly projected the ideas I could conceive while still reading the post.

Nevertheless, there were many other thoughts that came storming in and I couldn't help but put them down so that someone may care to reflect upon it. The distance between the riches and the roots, as may be metaphored by the physical world, is a relative one; it being lesser for the one who can find his hold at the roots while he stretches towards the fruits.

And even while discussing what's more of a natural choice, one can have the adventures of his ambition giving him deeper levels of serenity and contentment which may bring in a different tang of creativity and discipline that is undecipherable by others. Or it may possibly be that isolating his being from the hustle-bustle of the market place be one's goal in life and he may get his sense of achievement while dreaming 'under the cherry tree'. Afterall, the creation of a verse may enrapture a poet not lesser than a victory in a battle for the warrior!

What is also equally interesting to note is that you wish to set up your stall at the "edge" of the marketplace!

Seeker of Truth said...

This is so true.

The serene warrior with the battle raging outside and calm reigning within, and the heroic poet in calm surroundings battling his inner demons; both attain their highest selves.

They would have however brought ruin on themselves if each had followed the method of the other only in motions but not in spirit. The Geeta says, " He is a hypocrite, who in spite of not engaging in any action, nevertheless imagines delusions of action in his mind". Therefore, merely holding on to, or merely giving up certain motions is futile if the spirit is not engaged.

Whether the spirit must engage itself to the spirit of the warrior of the poet; the Man of Action or the Man of Thought, may not be our decision at all, since our innermost being has already made a decision as it were, and will rebel against any effort to alter it. The Gita again says, " Struggling against one's intrinsic nature is futile and makes success impossible".
Wanting to set up my stall at the 'edge' could mean either indecisiveness to choose between two ways of life, or simply a magnanimous accommodation of two worldviews.