Thursday, July 24, 2014

Naanu hodare...*

I was cleaning out a shelf today and found old letters. We destroyed a majority of our letters and keepsakes last year during a massive cleanup, but these seemed to have survived. Written by me to my sister almost a decade ago, when she spent a few months in Bhopal. Easy to see, in hindsight, the recurrent themes: what films I had seen, where I had been, commentary on friends and associated affairs, an obligatory comment on the downslide in my handwriting, my preoccupations, worries, concerns… same old, same old. It was only a matter of three letters but I grew so tired of this person.

I see with astonishing clarity sometimes that I am a trap.

* The title is from a famous Kannada phrase "Naanu hodare hodenu" attributed to the saint Kanakadasa.

The legend sets the story in a gathering of spiritual seekers presided over by Kanakadasa's master Vyasarajatirtha. The Guru asks Kanakadasa how he fancies the chances of the present gathering in attaining Moksha. For each scholar present, the saint shakes his head, doubting their chances at this final glorious goal. Finally, Kanakadasa is dubious of even the Guru's making it. The seekers are dismayed and angry. What of your own chances of attainment, he is asked. "Naanu hodare hodenu", he replies - translating generally to "I might" but the idiomatic phrase is more literally broken down to "I might go, if I do."

The punny statement is a masterpiece: If the 'I' is dissolved, then yes, I might attain.

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