June 4, 2020
Now that we have stayed within the four walls of the house for more than good two months (except for a few forays for quick grocery pickups), it is time to take stock of how I have passed these two months +. I know that my story would probably be the same as many people and it may not necessarily be colorful, but I feel like jotting down thoughts on a piece of paper and share with my near and dear ones.
One thing good that has happened due to Coronavirus and lockdown, is the proliferation of Zoom and Skype video calls, meetings, and webinars. So much so, that now, one has to decide which one to attend and which ones to skip when there are competing and tempting invitations. Like everyone else, in the past, we have had so many family gatherings, sleepovers. etc., where we five brothers and spouses, sister and brother in law, grown-up nephews and nieces, their children, etc. had gala time. Now, we are all separated and locked-down in different locations. We are in Florida, two brothers and two nephews are in NJ; two brothers, a niece and my 96-year-old matushree are in CT and sister and brother in law (both from USA), and their daughter are in Bharat. The other day, we had a family Zoom session and it was interesting because for the first time one person was speaking while others were listening attentively. There was no crosstalk, and everyone spoke with a purpose. So, while we missed physical touching and hugging and horseplay with young children, we loved the output of the video call. Of course, we had to celebrate the first birthday of my niece’s son also by Zoom. Only a few months back we were all planning excitedly for a great get together for the birthday!
Over the last few weeks, I have attended a seminar by a physiotherapist (Namrata Dixit) form Bhakti Shakha of HSS (Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh) in NJ, weekly online Shakha from Edison, NJ, and a weekly temple storytelling class by the same Bhakti Shakha where not so famous temples are highlighted. It is a good education. I also took part in an Antakshari of VHPA (Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America) camp volunteers, a full-day meeting of the Executive Board of VHPA, six weekly OM chanting sessions by VHPA for the well-being of the universe. Then there is a biweekly Satsang of VHPA’s governing council members. I have been involved with COVID-19 relief work through Global Indians for Bharat Vikas (GIBV) of which I am a founding member; GIBV also arranged a webinar of Sri Uday Mahurkar, a senior editor of India Today on the subject of Future of India and its Progress.
I have attended a weekly dance class choreographed for a Hindi film song for raising funds for the frontline healthcare workers, police and firemen, etc., in NJ. My friends know that I am terrible with physical coordination. I guess my left brain has been so busy whole my life that like a neglected sibling, my left brain never got a chance to develop to its full potential! So, for me doing a dance and that too on a modern-day film song is akin to Rahul Gandhi trying to recite a Vedic hymn! While practicing, I was reminded of lines from a beautiful dance by yesteryear actress and a great classical dancer Vyjayanthimala in the film Leader (with Dilip Kumar.) One was, बंधे पग में शर्म के धागे, दइया रए दइया लाज मोहे लागे (Friend, I feel shy and my feet are bound as if by modesty) and other was, पग ठेहरे तो मन मोरा भागे (if my feet stop then my mind is running/rushing.) My situation was a bit different. It was पग ठेहरे तो हाथ मोरे भागे (if my feet are stopped, my hands are running!) All the same I stuck through all eight classes just because it was for a good cause and it was fun. At least, it has given me a new appreciation of how difficult it is to choreograph a seemingly easy looking three-minute dance. This Seva is performed by a young college going girl from our Bhakti Shakha, Jaanhavi Ganesh.
I attended Celebration of Life, Mrutyu Mangal, a Shraddhanjali to COVID-19 victims on tristate area organized by the Gujarati Samaj of New York. The three-hour event drew about 400 online participants and Dr. Narendra Bhalodkar of New York, drew upon our scriptures, incidences from Mahabharat, Bhajans, Abhang, etc. and weaved a beautiful tapestry of the journey from life to death. I also found time to listen to a four-hour long Gujarati poetry event that brought together poets, young and old, known and unknown on one platform to regal the audience. Good part was that they did not have to travel anywhere. Some were in California, one In Boston, many others in New Jersey and New York.
I also enjoyed a one-hour online musical program from Mumbai of my favorite singer Sangeeta Melekar. She is a versatile professional singer who is part of several public concerts arranged by Klub Nostalgia in Mumbai. I have known her for a few years and to Asha Ji and me, she is like a daughter. Many of my friends will recollect that she had come specially to USA to sing at Asha Ji’s 70th birthday celebration in 2018. There is one more program coming up with Sangeeta and Surojit Guha on June 13th celebrating the 100th birthday of Hemant Kumar and I hope to attend it.
I have not done any active gardening yet except planting one rose plant it has beautiful roses with fragrance; most roses here in USA do not have fragrance. I do water plants, banana and papaya trees regularly. I am sort of lazy when it comes to doing such tasks. That is why I have also not paid any attention to hanging up all the photos and artworks in the new home. You can ask me to sit in front of the computer and keep typing for three hours, no problem. Ask me to sit in a corner and read a book(s) for six hours at a stretch, no problem. But ask me to go out and weed the garden bed for 30 minutes, I will find creative ways to postpone it as long as possible.
I have called and received dozens of calls from friends and forgotten contacts inquiring about each other’s health. Our younger Bharatiya neighbors are very nice. They called to inquire if we wanted to have the grocery or anything else and when we did, they delivered it to us.
I have started reading (infrequently) Quran! I have a couple of copies for a long time and I always have wanted to read the Bible and Quran myself to understand them and juxtapose then with our scriptures. It will take a long time to finish it because the language (translation) is not lucid.
I am also attending a weekly two-hour online course on the History of Christianity and Critical Study of Bible run by the Mission Kali Gnan Yodha group. We have spent 16 hours over eight Fridays to complete the History of Christianity. The next eight weeks will be the Critical Study of the Bible. Sree Balaji from Seattle has been an excellent teacher.
Interestingly, I have joined daily yoga, Pranayam, and Meditation class out of Karnavati (Amdavad), Bharat! It so happens that when I am in Bharat and in Karnavati during my yearly three months or so time there, I go for a morning walk in a nearby garden called Manekbag or Sakun garden. I am in their WhatsApp group. One of the young ladies, Bijal Desai who is a B.K. Iyengar Yoga certified teacher and a dietician used to take free classes in the garden for interested morning walkers. Now she has started to offer the same classes via Zoom. She is a particularly good, knowledgeable teacher who strives for perfection in her students. I have joined her class for a little over a month and I have participated regularly and vigorously. Initially, it was pretty tough because I had fallen off the track for quite some time. I found out bones and muscles that I did not know existed! Now I am getting comfortable with it and look forward to it every morning. It has another advantage. I am a night owl and going to bed around 2 AM has been quite common for last so many years. Now that I have to wake up at least by 6:30 AM to attend the yoga class at 7:30 AM, I have forced myself to go to bed no later than 11:30 PM.
Now, When I come up to my office room upstairs at 6:30 AM, I see the first rays of sun rising from the window near the stairs. Without any effort automatically I start reciting Gayatri mantra. I enter the office room and look out the window before starting the Yoga session, and I observe a white crane moving on the opposite bank of the lake. I see two birds with large wings taking a stroll on the bank near my window. A lone red and blue robin always glides in at a specific time fluttering its small wings, sits on a bough of the pine tree in my backyard, and then flies away.
With all these, I do not find much time to read all the books that I have lined up to finish over the next six months. Hopefully, I will be able to go slow on online Zoom events, and another time-eater, social media, and return soon to my first passion, reading books.
While we were in New Jersey, my social calendar was always overloaded. There were so many events to attend to keep in touch with organizations and people that on average, two evenings a week were used up for such events. At times, TV ASIA auditorium felt like a second home to me since many programs took place there. Then there were endless meetings and conference calls. NJ and New York being the gateway to USA, there was a steady stream of visiting dignitaries and obligatory meetings with them. Add to that occasional demonstrations in New York, be it in front of the Pakistan Consulate, United Nations or CNN and my plate was overflowing at times.
As it is, Tampa being not a major center like NJ-NY, life was bound to be quieter. But Coronavirus had made it totally quiet. I have not been able to meet people and acquaint myself with those who are engaged in serving the community and Hindu Dharma. But a big positive point is that
I have quality time with my ardhangini Asha Ji, who has accepted my continued absence for an awfully long time with an encouraging smile. I feel like I am rediscovering her qualities now!
When I was in the science college, though I selected mathematics stream that would lead to the engineering studies, my heart was on biology stream and I wanted to be a doctor. That did not happen but thanks to corona virus I have donned the plastic gloves so many times that I do feel like a doctor!
In two and a half months, I have used up hand washing soap worth one year’s supply. My palms are now so clean and shining, that I have detected extra few lines in them! A palmist would have a field day with such clear lines- maybe he can find some interesting things in my future.
So, all these I call a blessing in disguise because I have done things, I would not have thought of doing before the pandemic forced us inside the house. I would not have found the joy of staying indoors. I would not have taken time to observe and appreciate the beauty of nature all around me. It has also given me a realization that, no matter, how much “progress’ we make as the mankind, we are nothing in front of the nature’s wrath.
Someday, we all will look back to this period of great uncertainty and anxiety and talk about how it helped us to change our outlook of life and how it helped us to find joy in small things. For the time being, Stay Inside, Stay Safe.
(My next blog will be on a book and film from the early 60’s On the Beach which is relevant to current environment of anxiety, fear and uncertainty.)
“It is a sad irony. Can you imagine the Jews honouring the Germans with preferential treatment instead of seeking compensation for the millions of Jews killed? Yet Islam and Christianity that have gravely harmed Indians over centuries get preferential treatment by the Indian state, and their own beneficial dharma that has no other home except the Indian subcontinent, is egged out. And to top it, this is called ‘secular’!”
Read full eye opening article by Maria Wirth at