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I am happy to host today, Gilu Mishra, a friend and a fellow lover and student of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Gilu and I first met several years ago in Pondicherry when she joined the institution where I was working at the time, to participate in some structured courses meant to help learners go deeper into some aspects of the wide-ranging thought and works of Sri Aurobindo. I had the privilege of serving as her facilitator for some of this study and research experience. Through this shared exploration and study experience, particularly of the major works related to the social, educational and cultural thought of Sri Aurobindo, we became better acquainted with each other and a friendship began to blossom.
Gilu has advanced degrees in nursing and psychology. Having worked for many years as a healthcare professional at a premier medical facility for many years, she presently works in the area of education of young children, especially at the pre-primary and primary levels. Originally from Kerala, Gilu now lives in New Delhi. As a seeker and life-long learner she writes about some of her reflections and life lessons, though not as frequently as she would like (I am sure!) at “all life is yoga.”
What makes me doubly pleased about her presence on this space today is that her post is actually about me! (Pardon the Ego Moment!) Well, it is not really about me, but about an e-book that I wrote and self-published a few months ago. Gilu is here to present her review of “The Thinking Indian: Essays on Indian Socio-Cultural Matters in the Light of Sri Aurobindo.”
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I present here some of my views regarding Dr. Beloo Mehra’s e-book ‘The Thinking Indian’, a collection of essays on several Indian Socio-cultural matters, as seen in the light of Sri Aurobindo.
Recently, during a casual conversation with a friend, our topic turned to the method of education being provided in the schools these days. We were talking about how today’s children are not interested in reading and how their thoughts are limited. ‘Thinking out of the box’ is out of question, we opined, but let them at least think!
As I was reading through the e-book ‘The Thinking Indian.’ I remembered this conversation and about the ‘thought phobia’ (as Beloo quotes Sri Aurobindo) which has become fairly common now.
In the prelude, Beloo mentions that it is heartening to see people are becoming more open-minded and curious learners. This e-book is an excellent aid for such people, especially the young generation to contemplate about the current events and widen their spectrum of thought. The topics and instances provided in these essays may act as a spark to the light the fire within. All the essays are written in an ‘easy to read’ manner which will definitely appeal to every reader and not only those with an academic frame of mind. There is definitely at least one topic to which every individual can connect.
This e-book consists of nine essays related to Indian socio-cultural matters. Beloo presents a myriad of topics ranging from Spirituality, Hinduism to commercialism and movies! And all topics are contemporary, making them interesting to even the ‘not concerned about what is happening in the world’ younger generation. There is one essay inspired by the movie ‘The Monuments Men’ and there are two essays based on the TV serials ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata.’ There is one essay about spirituality being the master-key of Indian mind and another one about Indian culture. For the one who is more materialistically oriented there are essays on commercialism and the study of Indo-American people where she talks about the evolution of the group soul.
I am sure all these essays give a different point of view regarding the matter and would definitely encourage the reader to explore more regarding the same. For example, in her essay ‘Don’t Blame the Culture’ she talks about two sides of a behaviour may be seen simultaneously. One may see some people jumping the queue in a public place and at the same time there may be some people who will let a more deserving person move ahead of them! Presenting such examples, she forces us to think about the individual behaviour rather than the common trend of blaming the culture.
In most of her essays, Beloo gives us some questions to ponder on. In her first essay, ‘Spirituality, the Master-key of the Indian Mind’ she asks, “What does it mean to grapple with the infinite and how is it native to Indian mind?” Another interesting question is given to us in the second essay ‘Don’t Blame the Culture’ when she asks, “Shouldn’t we be concerned about learning what a culture really is before we start finding faults with it?” Or when she asks, “Can a piece of art be more worth than a human life?” in the essay ‘On Movies, Art and Culture.’ I am sure each of the readers would really stop for a while to think about these questions.
Many of her essays are lined with her personal experiences or observations as well, which are again some things that the reader will be able to connect with. One example where I did sit up and thought “This happened to me too…” was the picture of the sunset on page 22. Just as Beloo did, I too said, “Wow, what a beauty!” And as I continued to read her explanation of ‘The God’s Labour,’ I was mesmerized! I would not be doing justice if I talk about it here, it would be better if one reads the author herself! This is just one example. There are several such instances in this e-book which I am sure the readers will be able to identify with. In many of these instances, the reader may see that Beloo has given words to bring out his/ her own sentiment.
There is one essay about the Hindi novel ‘Abhyuday’ titled ‘Re-telling Classical Literature, Awakening a Generation: Case of Ramayana.’ In this essay, she talks about how the author presents Ramayana in the modern setting and the relevance of Ram in the present intellectual society. Here also she provides certain instances to explain this point. How Ram faces the dilemma of war, how he learns about the cruelty and oppression faced by the people and even the story of Ahalya is told in a new perspective. Beloo has to be given credit that I, one who is not very fond of Hindi literature, is tempted to read the novel after reading what she has written about it!
As Beloo says in the title of the e-book, her essays are in the light of Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo’s words are significant even now and inspire everyone who turns to Him. To quote her, “It will be well worth reminding ourselves of these words of Sri Aurobindo that are meant to guide us through these wrong steps and detours, and inspire us to search for the soul of India that is leading her to her unique mission in the world.”
I could go on about how this little e-book ‘The thinking Indian’ is a motivation for every individual, but it would definitely be better for each to read on his/her own and be invigorated.
To conclude, I wish that the vibration of positive and open thinking which Beloo inspires is well received and more and more people are motivated by her.