Sunday, September 21, 2014

Blessed are those.......

The head of the family has an important meeting or function to attend that day.  He is up early, finishes all the daily chores quickly and gets ready to catch the earliest mode of conveyance to reach the venue of the meeting or function. A carefully chosen set of all white dress is kept ready for wearing on the occasion. He is all dressed up and ready to go. Something tugs him from behind.  He turns around to find a pretty little face smiling at him. His grandchild is pulling his dress and looking up at him. The child was playing around in the house and its entire body is dirty. So are the hands. The dirt has now firmly been transferred to his all white dress and makes a striking impact at first sight. There is no way now for him to go out in that dress. He has to either change the dress or answer everyone who sees him as to why the dress is dirty. He is in a quandary.

He shouts at the grandmother or mother of the child. The admonition is all the more severe if the grandmother is nearby. "You are so careless. See, what your grandson (or granddaughter, as the case may be) has done. My dress is all dirty. How can I go out now in this dress?  I have no time to search for an alternate set and change over. You are causing unnecessary problems for me. You are always like this." Shouting is reserved only for the grandmother or mother. The child is not to be scolded. He picks up the child and embraces it unmindful of adding further dirt on his now half-dirty dress. The urgency of the meeting or function is temporarily forgotten and he continues to play with the child for some more time. Other things can wait but not the moments to be spent with the child. 

His departure is delayed further and plans for the day are disrupted.


The door bell rings. Head of the family is busy with some important task. He frowns and hurries to the door to open it. He finds someone elderly and dignified standing at the door. His expression changes immediately.  He prostrates at the feet of the guest and brings him in by holding his hand. The guest is seated now. He calls all the other members of the family. Mere mention of the name of the guest changes their expressions and all of them pay their fullest respects to the guest. He is treated as a messenger of the god they believe in.  When the guest is finally ready to leave, the head of the family says with folded hands, "Our long time wish is fulfilled today. We are extremely thankful for your visit. We are fortunate to have your "Paada-dhooli" (dust on the feet, meaning your visit) in our house. We are indeed blessed today!"


Kavikulaguru Kaalidasa has no hesitation to say that the first one above, with the dirty dress, is indeed the blessed one! The second one is blessed too, but the bounty received by the first one is no less than the other. This is a scene from his celebrated work, Abhignana Shaakuntalam: 

King Dushyanta has gone to the heavens to support and assist the King of Gods, Indra, in fighting his enemies. After the victory in the war with a substantial contribution by King Dushyanta, Indra has instructed his charioteer Maatali to take Dushyanta in Indra's personal chariot back to his kingdom on earth. On the path of the journey, they pass through Sage Maareecha's ashram. They stop to pay respects to the revered couple. While entering the ashram, King Dushyanta sights a young boy fearlessly playing with a lion cub. 

They boy forcefully opens the mouth of the cub and tells the cub, "Yawn and open your mouth widely. I want to count the number of teeth in your mouth". His mother's friends forbid him from forcing the cub. They exclaim that the name "Sarvadamana", meaning tamer of everyone, is justified for the boy. They offer him an alternate toy, a peacock. He is not interested in it and does not let go the lion cub. (King Dushyanta does not know that the boy Sarvadamana is his own son and Shakuntala is the mother. He does not also know that they boy will, in due course, become famous as Bharata chakravarthy and our land will be known as "Bharata", getting its name due to him). Dushyanta exclaims:

आलक्ष्य दन्तमुकुलान् अनिमित्त हासैः  अव्यक्त वर्ण रमणीय वचः प्रवृत्तीन् |
    अङ्काश्रय प्रणयिनस्तनयान् वहन्तॊ धन्यास्तदङ्ग रजसा मलिनी भवन्ति ||  

Aaalakshya dantamukulaaan animitta haasai
             Avyakta varna ramaneeya vachahpravrutteen,
Ankashrayapranayinah tanayaaan vahanto 
             Dhanyaastadanga rajasa malinee bhavanti

"Children smile for no reason.  When they so smile, their pearl like teeth peer through the mouth. When they talk, the words may not make meaning and yet we understand them. When you hold them, the dress gets spoiled due to the dust present all over their body. But the ones who have such muddied (dirtied) dress are the real blessed ones!" 


There is a big difference between the blessings brought in by the two (the child and the elderly guest) in the two instances discussed above. In the second instance, the elderly guest has dust only on his feet as he walks erect. The head of the family receiving him, therefore, says that they are blessed by his "Paada-dhooli".  But the first one is even better. His grandchild is playing on the ground and its whole body is covered with dust. Hence Kaalidasa uses the term "Anga-rajas" as against "Paada-rajas". This is the subtle difference the Mahaakavi makes in his interpretation.

There is another important dimension between the blessings brought in by the two discussed above. The elder one has attained the position and the capacity to offer blessings due to leading a long, dignified and pious life devoted to serving others. The child does not bless us nor understands even the meaning of "blessing". But it is in itself a package of blessing sent from above!  It is truly blessing personified. This is not just a blessing; it is a symbol of continuity of life, its eternal charm and unending pleasures. 


  1. Great read. Informative. Em glad you do send me these blogs of your

  2. Great sir. Very happy to read yours.

  3. have touched the hearts of elders like me who already have become grandparents. It is said grand children are loved more than the children! (Asaliginta baddi mele aase jasti!!). Why dirt? something worse may also be okay at that time!!!

    In the first case the grand father enjoying the company of the grand child despite the dirt is natural. But one may not admonish the grand mother/mother for the dirt at that time. May be he may pass a mild comment. Lakshminarayana K

  4. Nice article. I enjoyed reading it.

  5. Daniel S MahantyJuly 9, 2017 at 4:24 AM

    Very true. Reminded me of a poem by Charles and Mary Lamb:
    "Thou, straggler into loving arms,
    Young climber up of knees,
    When I forget thy thousand ways,
    Then life and all shall cease."