Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mahabharata & Nuance

I’ve been working on my rendition of the Mahabharata again for the last month. There are quite a number of Mahabharat’s available in English, starting with Ganguli’s 12 volume translation of the 100,000 verse epic. It was first published serially in 100 parts as Ganguli worked on the book from 1883 to 1896. For me, the writing of Mahabharata has been an on and off relationship for about three years. Trying to figure out where to begin, what to include, and what not to include. Sometimes it’s a problem because the story threads are so detailed and intertwining. The thing about my book is that I want to keep it short, keep the story moving, and tell it in a way that is interesting, comprehensible and of substance for an American readership unfamiliar with the story and the tradition which it espouses.

Last year I came up with a beginning I was excited about. But then I decided to put that at the very end of the book. So then I started to look for a new beginning. I knew it would be a flash back opening – an opening that would start from somewhere within the story and then flash back to the beginning. But from where? I had to find the precise moment. I couldn’t continue with the writing until I found it. For months I toyed with different openings, considering how the story would unfold. In June it happened. And the new opening led me to include sections of the story that I had not planned to include before.

Creativity, and life, is a fascinating organic process - an unfolding – a process of discovery that takes you from one stage to the next. When you can look at the events in your life like that, then it becomes interesting and exciting. Like with a good book or poem, you want to see what happens next. From early on, I saw creativity itself as a spiritual path. Art is a discipline. It’s what you do in the boundaries you set for yourself (or that you find yourself in) - be it a stage, a canvas, a composition, - words, pictures, music, movement, stone, shape, light, color. Cultured life, spiritual life, is about nuance.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What are neighbors for?

I want to thank my friend and neighbor Madhava Ghosh, (who lives two miles up the road) for encouraging me to reactivate my blog.

I started off with a flurry of posts at the beginning of the year when I...

A short time later, I found myself working feverishly into the night on a new manuscript. I was off to a good start, but then...

Soon after that I was forced to focus on...

I didn't want to stress myself out so I thought I would reduce my writing schedule and go on protracted walks...

When that didn't work out I…

Finally, I spent two exhausting weeks getting ready to attend the National Storytelling Conference in Pittsburgh last month. Fortunately, it was only an hour and a half drive from my home.

Then my friend and neighbor left several messages on my voice mail. He was wondering why there had been no activity on my blog for seven months, (obviously he didn't understand how busy I was) and he encouraged me to begin again.

I didn’t call him back because I lacked the courage to tell him that I had forgotten both the name and password for my blog. I spent several days scrambling to get that info.

Ghosh, Thanks! For not giving up on me.
Check out his blog at:

Krishna Janma

Janmastami is coming up Aug 16. Many Hindus and followers of the Vedic tradition fast the entire day and look forward to a midnight service commemorating the appearance of Sri Krishna over 5000 years ago. In the Bhagavat Purana, the story of Krishna begins "Once the world was overburdened by the unnecessary military forces of different kings who were actually demons, but were posing themselves as the royal order..." Even Bhumi, the earth goddess, was disturbed by the activities of the demoniac kings.

Krishna's parents did not have an easy time. For years they had been persecuted by wicked King Kamsa. They did not even see Krishna grow up. At Krishna's birth Vasudeva, Krishna's father, risked life and limb, when in the dead of night he carried the newborn child to a nearby village to protect Him from Kamsa's wrath. Kamsa ordered the killing of all the newborn children in the area.

And even as Krishna grew up in the house of Nanda & Yasoda, many dangerous personalities tried to infiltrate the idyllic village of Vrindavan with the plan to kill Krishna and the other children there. Nanda and Yasoda were Krishna's foster parents, and they, as any parents, worried and prayed endlessly that Krishna should be protected from any harm. The Janmastami story is a special story. Krishna's parents and foster parents are the heroes of our story. They went through so much for little Krishna. They had tremendous courage. Every parent can empathize with them, and like them, every parent who raises their child with love and care are heroes.

But to love and protect only our own children is not enough. One cannot claim to be a hero or remain in the Grace of God by using their intelligence to protect one’s own child and at the same time destroy, or even burden, another’s child. This is the greatest darkness.