Today being the last day of the year let us not simply get excited to step into the new tomorrow, but let us also look back into our past and understand that there are some things we need to change. Though we have the strength to alter a few of those there are bound to remain some rigid impenetrable walls. But then let us pray to receive the gift of mercy which could help us to transform the impossible and the unbearable into a possibility with the knowledge of love.
Every New Year holds before us, stories of the last year to cogitate upon. These are the accounts which in the long run make history which assesses notable events and becomes a subject of study in schools. Ironically, these stories which are the collection of the doings of the adults become a burden of learning for their very own children, while the adults keep repeating the errors.
As we all know that children learn by seeing the performances of the adults, a lasting impression is left on them and then, ‘history repeats itself’.
Like many years in the past history of the world, last year too, a great many people in our world slept with the terror of destruction and woke up to the fear of suffering. When during the Christmas week, news arrived of a Gurudwara in Canada vandalized with ‘racist’ graffiti, a part of the world once again indulged in anger which obviously gave rise to fear.
A Gurudwara - the ‘Doorway to God’, is a Sikh temple where the believers continue to worship a book containing the teachings of their masters. The Sikh as a community rejects the caste system of the Hindus and believes that all are equal before God. The racist graffiti displaying the Swastika – symbol of prosperity is not revered by the Sikhs and in fact was instigating and distressful when used against them on the walls of their place of worship.
Cogitating over this recent happening far away from India, the home town of the community, a whisper reminded me of the 1984 Operation Blue Star, a military operation ordered by the then Prime Minister, Ms. Indira Gandhi to remove Sikh militants who then had formed a political nationalist movement – the Khalistan Movement; as they wanted to create an independent state for the Sikh people and were amassing weapons in the Golden Temple to establish control over it. The operation was accordingly launched as a response to the deterioration of the state of law and order in Punjab.
Surprisingly, it was only a few days back that I happened to watch, a Punjabi writer Waryam Singh Sandhu’s story, ‘Chauthi Koot – The Fourth Direction’ directed by Govinder Singh. The story was all about the time in the history of India when fear had gripped the hearts of the turbaned people. Ironically though, when fear and mistrust rule, the victims are always the ordinary men and women, whether it be the Punjab of 1984 or the Syria of 2016.
The film began by showing faces gripped in fear and like always, there was no one story of fear as there are fears within fears; the story had a microcosmic story of fear within the macro cosmic story of fear in the environment. The train moved making all the noise it could when it’s few passengers sat numb, their tongues silenced with the fear of the times. It appeared that only inanimate objects or nature had the courage to make noise.
To show us these silenced people of the times, the director led us into the life of Joginder, a lone humane voice living with his family and a dog that refused to cease his barking.
The dog in the film was a metaphorical voice of the spirit in each one of us which is often caught in the crossfire of human brutality. That particular voice of the spirit of those times wanted to continuously bark at the Sikh terrorists as well as the military men who insisted that Joginder kill his noisy pet. But it has never been easy to silence the voice of one’s spiritual conscience. And though Joginder claimed that he had tried to keep that voice silenced and even deserted it, it returned with sheer determination. Every time he went and tried to leave the dog in faraway places, it searched its way and returned to Joginder’s house to bark once again.
It’s actually only when people feel wronged from the direction of the self, of the other and of the mind that the Fourth Direction becomes the only choice - and that is the direction of the spiritual conscience. The seed of consciousness has to be allowed to grow and bark out loud enough to be heard by one and all and not crushed in the silence of fear.
When humanity begins to fail, it gives rise to a silent human angst which amidst the disturbing scenes of torn limbs searches for dignity in life. The film, ‘Chaauthi Koot’ speaks of this search in the silence of human words as the director makes nature speak loud and clear in the atmosphere of fear. Nature is not distinct from man and therefore when man gets violent, it also feels pain. The audience in this environment of hidden terror is held under a coverlet of fear, with eyes anxiously fixed on the screen. Nature, in all its simple sounds of thunder before the actual rains, the raindrops falling on the muddy floor, the quiet of the fields, the whistling of the breeze when the crops begin to dance, all tear through the viewer’s heart. In fact, fear in this film can be seen more in the atmosphere than on the faces of its characters. A heavy cloud of anxiety is spread all over the lush greenery.
Coming back to our present times when racism throws paints on Gurudwaras, the question is do all humans who wish to preserve humanity believe that they have a task at hand? Will they choose the ‘Fourth Direction’ of the spirit, like the dog in the film who does not seize to bark until silenced to death or will they like Joginder, despite the pounding of the heart which is trying to speak fearlessness, kill the voice of the within because the voice from outside is a scared voice? However, before jumping to criticize Joginder, we must not forget that the voice of the outside has seen blood unlike the voice from the inside which has never seen the outside. The outside of the world today can shake up many an inner voice with its shocking reality.
But then, as Pope Francis in his last Christmas message for ending war in Syria said, “It is time for weapons to be still, and the international community to seek a solution, so that civil co-existence can be restored.” This is not a message for Syria alone, or may be Canada, but for all the world that never seems to learn from its past and instead continues to spill hatred and fear.
In this new beginning let us then look back and focus on what we need to change not only for a New Year but also for a New World. Let’s keep aside our own little resolutions of giving up sweets or studying better or working harder and getting home a fat packet. Let’s instead focus on the biggest problem our planet faces today; that of hate leading to fear, and instead work to change it into love and fearlessness. Let’s be accountable for every pain in every heart. Let’s not forget the grief of the yesteryear's for if we forget, there is no hope for change. Let’s work towards a transformation. Every man has to be set free from this repelling fear of men and instead have in his heart the fear of God. For it is only when man will begin to fear god that he will cease to hate and be filled with love and then as John says in 1 John: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Let us begin this New Year with the knowledge of the power of love. Let us continue to bark.
(Pic. courtesy: Google)