Maa Tujhe Pranam

Mother India teaches us again and again that love and soul can conquer all

Krishnapriya Gopi

The TV show asked a group of middle school children about what they liked and disliked about India today. Young girls and boys in uniforms, sitting in neatly demarcated rows with sparkling smiles of hope, raised their hands to answer. The air was filled with their excited answers – “unity in diversity”, “rich traditions and culture”, “sweets and celebrations all the time”.

A young girl got so excited she stood up and waved her hands.

The interviewer held the mike up to her and breathlessly she said, “You know, sir, we are in a crowded train with people everywhere. And yet there is a smile.”

“A smile in the crowd?” asked the interviewer.

“And a packet of peanuts, in your hand. Peanuts which you…” She smiled to catch her breath.

“Peanuts you extend your hand to…” Her voice was breaking up as her smile seemed to touch her ears.

“To share them. In the crowd. With a smile.” The interviewer helped her finish the sentence.

The entire hall clapped. There was something in her answer which touched all our hearts.

I remembered attending a conference at a prestigious university in Chicago, USA nearly a decade ago on the study of ‘National Cultures’. A learned speaker was saying, “Every country, why every language is unique. If Italian is the language of passion, French the language of enjoyment, then English is the language of commerce. Each country has a soil rich for human beings to grow in a certain direction. This is a historical fact which is well documented by years of research.”

In the coffee break, I asked him, “What does your research say about my country, India, our national culture?”

“You do not belong to one country. It is many countries, many people, many lives, times living together, somehow in one magical union. Our research uncovered one underlying construct – continuity, cyclical change with a steadiness underlying it all.”

“I understand the change and yet what is the steadiness?” I could not help asking.

“You should know,” he said taking a sip of coffee. “Steadiness through time. The heart of your country.  Spirituality.”

“You mean..?”

“No, I don’t mean religion. I understand it to be spirituality.” He put his coffee cup down and leaned forward.

“I think I understand. From the ancient seers of Sanatana Dharma, to saints and mystics across time.”

“Yes,” he said. “Buddha, Mahavira, monks and nuns, Sufi mystics, Jewish quarters, devout followers of Christ whose heart opened in India.”

“Wow! You know a lot about India,” I said.

“Yes. I am a researcher and the data we collected made no sense. So I had to travel to your country and immerse myself there. What an amazing experience!”

“Amazing? In what way?” 

“Every way. The good way and the bad way. The beauty of nature to the congested roads. The wealth in the culture and such abject poverty. Yet the smiles and light in the eyes of the poor children alongside the bribes and corruption of the rich.”

“Yes, oh yes! We are a country of contradictions,” I nodded.

“You are and yet you are not. Remember my research finding?”

“Hmm… Of continuity? Really?” I had to shake my head now, as I did not understand.

But the bell rang and we had to attend the next and last talk. I did not get a chance to meet that wise old professor again.

Today, as I watched these young children and heard their answers on TV, a light bulb lit up. Not one of them mentioned sky scrapers, our wonderful IT sector, new supermarkets or convenient airports. We are special not because of all the changes that are happening outside, but because of the loving heart within. Each of their answers spoke of two qualities in one way or the other: love and renunciation. For if truth be told, pure love arises from renunciation. We have unity in diversity, when we renounce our need to be the ‘most’ unique or special community, region, language, religion and expand to see the same beauty and light in other communities, languages, regions and faiths. Yet in this renunciation, there is no pain, for the joy and lightness of love lifts our hearts and makes us one.

It is this continuous bedrock of spirituality which sustains and nourishes our soul with love, strength and expansiveness. It makes us the same through time and space. With a fragrant, seamless glue it binds our hearts in a beautiful garland of continuous celebration. I bow down to the holy soil of Mother India for being a shining example and teaching us again and again that love and soul can conquer all. Maa Tujhe Pranam.

Krishnapriya Gopi is an academic and writer based in Bangalore. Her interests are in spirituality, arts and culture.

Featured image: DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images