EVEN WHEN…

Even a cactus can grow up
to be beautiful with all its
prickly thorns and
thick petal flowers,
alone in the desert
with no nurture or
refreshing water showers.
With no gardener
to take care of it,
or some bird to
come and sit on it.
No animals to
gnaw on its leaves,
no prayers to be offered
Around, with any beliefs.
Strong and alone in the
barren land it stands,
taking in all it can get yet
happy playing with hot sands.

Even the most beautiful
tchotchke seems unnecessary
at times, feels like it’s just
taking up space for something
better, something nice.
But all it is doing is beautifying
the corner, not expecting
to be admired all the
time in spite of being a loner.

Even a festoon gets
unnoticed albeit hanging
on top of the main entrance,
just dangling, looking
beautiful, not causing
anyone, any hindrance.
Not bothering if anyone
pays any heed to it ever,
nor expecting to be
witnessed on some
auspicious occasion, never.
Sun, rain, wind or cold, any
weather not causing it to
bow down low,
on the top, the glossed
over festoon hangs,
with pride aglow.

Even with a worthy life we
tend to astray from our path,
not trying to move forward,
clinging on to our inglorious past.
Loving, cherishing the present we
ought to live despite any strife,
standing tall and moving forward
with all love’s glory in life.

SIN – A MESSY STATE OF MAN

Five-year old Blessy came back from school scared that day. The Dictation answer sheets had been distributed in class and she had committed two mistakes, thus losing two marks. She thought she had written all correct spellings and hoped to score full marks. Now what awaited her was a nice piece of her mother’s mind. She debated within herself whether to show the answer sheet to her mother or hide it. Finally she decided to show it. After all, her mother was going to find it sooner or later! With shaky hands and lowered eyes, she extended the answer sheet to her mother after dinner – all the time thinking what excuse she could give. Her wise mother brought out the text book from the school bag, turned to the chapter, showed Blessy the correct spellings and explained that anything other than those mentioned spellings, are wrong.

Mistake

Wrong

Error

We use these words interchangeably in our everyday lives to indicate any deviation from the norm. Anything that is not correct, is considered incorrect. Anything that is not right, is considered wrong. To declare whether something is incorrect or wrong or erroneous, we need to have the knowledge of what is correct or right or the norm. Absence of standards renders mistakes/errors/wrongs into irrelevance – just as without traffic rules, adherence to / violation of traffic rules is insignificant.

AN UNCHANGEABLE STANDARD

Violation of absolute moral laws put in place by the Creator is called sin. All moral law begins with God. We cannot speak of sin without mentioning God. It is because of the presence of a self-existing and pre-existing God, that there are absolute moral laws in place for the whole of mankind even before civilizations emerged. Culture defines civilizations. Education and development refine human functioning. Awareness empowers the human mind. The Constitution of a country establishes the law of the land. All such standards are very essential for the civilized functioning and growth of the human race. However, they are subject to modifications and amendments according to the changing times. To give an example – today we have Cyber Crime cells in place, in the law and order systems of most countries; decades before, they were non-existent. God’s moral laws, however, are uniformly meant for the entire mankind for all times to come irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, sex, race, caste, language, socio-economic status or occupation. That is why God’s laws are absolute! His standards are unchangeable even in the changing times. This is because, God Himself doesn’t change.

In the Bible, God declares, “For I am the Lord, I change not.”  

Hence, violation of God’s standards, is sin.

ALL SIN IS SIN AGAINST GOD

We cannot substitute words like ‘mistake’, ‘error’, ‘wrong’, for sin. These substitute terms hold good for violation of human standards. But, not to refer to the violation of the absolute moral standards of God. Hence, mere euphemisms do not reduce the gravity of violating God’s standards. All sin, whether it harms us or others or no one in particular, is ultimately against the Holy God.                                   

A PERVERSION OF GOD’S DESIGN

Human beings have been created in God’s image to reflect His glory. What a high mandate for us! No sin dwells in God. Hence, no sin ought to find place in our lives. But when we sin, we mar the very image of God and raise our hands against God’s glory. We attempt to distort God’s design!

NO EXCUSE FOR SIN

The legal frameworks of many countries have the provision of not convicting people accused of legal aberrations if they are in the ripe old age. The heads of countries and certain government officials enjoy legal immunity till they are in power, for any action of omission or commission. However, there is no excuse whatsoever for sin against God. A sinful man is without excuse. Sin is sin irrespective of the age at which it is committed or the circumstances under which it may be committed. Because we have been created in the image of God, we have His moral law etched in our hearts. This rules out ignorance / lack of awareness as an excuse for sin.

The Bible says, For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

SIN  CAN NEVER BE HIDDEN

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

All sinful deeds committed under the table, behind closed doors, in the darkest corners, in mountain holes or in the deep seas stand exposed before the Omniscient God. People around us may remain ignorant of the petty or humongous misdeeds committed by us. But, you and I can never escape the All-seeing eyes of the One who watches everything.

SIN HAS CONSEQUENCES – ON EARTH AS WELL AS IN ETERNITY

A spelling mistake in exam would result in less marks and scolding from parents/tutors. A typo in an important document would lead an employee to wash his/her hands off the job. A misprint in the wedding invitation card may lead guests to land up at the wrong venue. Similarly, sin’s consequences are inescapable. To give an example – A person fiddling with multiple sexual partners is bound to suffer from STDs, apart from other social and emotional consequences.

“For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing…”

INTENSITY IS NOT THE DEFINING PRINCIPLE OF SIN

A sin is a sin if it violates God’s standards, no matter whether it is measured as big or small by the world. And God’s standards are really high. The Bible says –

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

So, if we have been categorizing murder, robbery, rape as grave sins and dismissing petty lies, cheating, anger, bribery as circumstantial acts of misdeed, it’s time for a reality check!

As long as we are in the flesh, we are susceptible to sin. The Bible says, “…each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin…”

It is easy to brush aside this whole concept of sin which tends to make one pretty uncomfortable. But, it is not right to live each day ignoring the fact that we may be sinning in multiple ways. Such an understanding would ultimately lead to a doomed eternity, as our sinful thoughts, words and actions are bound to come before us one day. Sin calls for repentance and repentance leads to seeking forgiveness from God and man.

Friends, living in sin equals to dying to God. Let’s not mess with sin. Let’s seek to remove the shadow of sin from our lives.

 

THE DREAM OF A FREE CITIZEN

The dream to tread on the free soil of their beloved motherland was a dream left unfulfilled for the countless named and unnamed martyrs of India’s freedom struggle. Long nights of intensive strategising, violent and non-violent protests, famous slogans like ‘Go back Simon’, ‘Quit India’, ‘Give me blood and I will give you freedom’, boycotts and satyagrahas, non-cooperation movements and Round Table Conferences finally gave way to the jubilation of independence. The epic speech of the first Prime Minister of independent India, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in the Parliament on the eve of India’s independence towards midnight, as the hour hand and the minute hand shook hands to welcome 15th August, 1947 began thus –

“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…..”

What a joyous moment it would have been for those involved in the freedom struggle to breathe the air of their free motherland!!

Today, as we celebrate the 71st Independence Day, we have indeed come a long way. The freedom to emphatically run across the length and breadth of this independent nation with one’s head held high has been long realised. The freedom to own property, the freedom to sow and to reap, the freedom to manufacture, the freedom to buy and sell – has put India among the mighty nations of the world.

From a shattered economy, today India finds its name resounding along with the topic economies of the world. From widespread illiteracy to a decent 74.04% (as in 2016) of literacy of a diverse population amidst various stigmas to education, is no less a feat. The development from crippled industries and roadways to world-class industrial establishments and posh highways, is yet another achievement worth celebrating. From the years of famine and agricultural disappointments to the era of Genetic Engineering and numerous Food Revolutions, the progress sure deserves applause. Speak of Science and Technology we have the likes of Mangalyaan and the Chandrayaan to boast of.

The India echoed in the national song is truly an India witnessed today by the present generations – ‘Sujalam suphalam malayaja sheetalam Shasyashyamalam’

“Yet the turning point is past, and history begins anew for us, the history which we shall live and act and others will write about. A new star rises, the star of freedom in the east, a new hope comes into being, a vision long cherished materializes.” – said Pt. Nehru in his speech to the nation seven decades ago. 

As the star of freedom rose, Indians celebrated the independence from foreign rule. No longer were they subjects under Dominion rule. No longer were their wings clipped down. No longer were sons and daughters required to be martyrs. It was the time of self-rule. With their loins girded, the intellectual think-tanks set to give to Indians the exclusive rights of citizenship. The new found freedom was indeed a prized possession earned with much sweat and blood.

“May the star never set and that hope never be betrayed by.” – remarked Jawaharlal Nehru in his address to the nation that significant night. 

The India of today, is a great example of unity in diversity. Diverse languages, religions and ethnicities have made India what it is.

But, the heart sinks as one witnesses the numerous threats to this hard-earned freedom!

The freedom that was reaped by a largely non-violent struggle is subject to vagaries of untold violence in the names of caste, sex, religion and ethnicity. The freedom of speech and expression provisioned by the Constitution has started being stifled to the extent of being silenced forever. The freedom to ‘profess, practice and preach’ the religion of one’s choice is being brought under the hammer with a heavy hand.

The unique blend that makes up India is under the threat of distortion in the pretext of Indianisation.

Social, economic and scientific development never happens overnight, and India is marching ahead in all these aspects. The future is indeed prosperous for this nation. No doubt about it!

But, what about the soul of India?

“We shall never allow that torch of freedom to be blown out, however high the wind or stormy the tempest.” said Nehru in his speech that night.

However, as the days go by it seems that the torch of freedom is on its way to being blown out – this time not by foreign rule, but by self-rule. The fetters that bind and the guns that shoot, the hatred that boils the blood and claims the lives of innocents, the hands that discriminate and strangle the underprivileged – belong to the high and mighty fellow citizens.

Was it for this type of a free nation that precious lives were sacrificed years ago? Where are the lofty ideals of:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation

We have so developed a ‘chalta hai’ attitude for everything that happens around us that misgivings don’t seem to be misgivings any more. Corruption? It happens every where! Domestic violence? What’s new in that! Hatred for neighbouring countries? That’s how it has always been! Dominance of the upper caste? That’s the societal norm!

The soul screams – ‘When will man respect man as man?’

Till we have fixated identities of sex, caste, religion, ethnicity, language and economic status of the people living around us, our perception will never be free. The shackles of intolerance, ignorance and apathy need to be broken down so as to be replaced with tolerance, awareness and compassion.

Not that these fetters are unique to free India alone, but the heart-cry of an emancipated soul is to see one’s nation soar high and high way – above the rest – to see the tricolour fluttering high in the breezy sky. As Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore penned –

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Yes, into that heaven of freedom, let India awake.

Jai Hind.