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My Philosophical Evolutions

 

In my childhood days I was a ‘Bhakta’( devotee of God). I could see the temple and its premises, opposite to my Tharavad ( the home where I was born). My home and temple were separated by vast paddy fields and a rivulet that flowed from south to north ,a few feet away from my home. The temple had tiled roofs and the walls white-washed. There was a pond at one side of the temple filled with crystal clear water. Devotees from the early morning took bath in the pond and in wet clothes, chanting Rama Rama, Krishna Krishna, vaguely audible and entered and stood in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum to have a ‘darshan’ of God Siva- it was a Siva temple. Some people spent a lot of time before the Sanctum Sanctorum praying, complaining and beseeching the God to bless them and to bring tranquility in their lives.

Often in the rivulet nearby my home and on some occasions I went to the temple-pond with my mother or my ‘chittammas’ (sisters of my mother) to take bath. Even today a sort of nostalgia caress me while recalling my early life in the home which was a joint family and with an orthodox outlook on life. I recount those days, reluctantly waking up early in the morning, completed my daily routine and proceeded to temple crossing a wooden bridge across the rivulet and entered the paddyfields, walked along the serpentine and narrow mud bank without upsetting my equilibrium by holding on to my mother’s or her sisters’ fingers (my chittammas), to the temple.

While standing infront of the Sanctum Sanctorum, I always kept mum, looking at the idol of God Siva decorated with ornaments and also a number of oil lamps hanging from the ceiling. I didn’t pray, as I didn’t know what to pray for, while others slowly chanted hymns with devotion and reverence stood with folded hands. As if in a trance I stood with folded hands without praying and my mother and chittammas might have been thinking that I was immersed in meditation before the God. Childhood days are always like this, with all the children remaining devotees. ‘Thirumeni’ ( the priest of the temple), gave us sandal paste with handful of flowers to us before leaving the temple and we would return to home through the green paddy fields and crossed the bridge across the rivulet. Because of priest’s fondness for the children, he used to give me and my young friends jaggery and fruits to make us more delightful. In the process of my ideological evolution, Bhakti( devotion to God), came first.

Much water flowed through the rivulet. I entered the teenage and on learning much from books and teachers in the school, my quest for further knowledge and experiences grew. Gradually I began to lose faith in the God and often doubted the very existence of such a power.

 

I was in the process of transforming into a revolutionary. The daily prayer by sitting beside the ‘Nilavilakku’(oil lamp) placed in the verandah was slowly coming to an end. In the school, I became an SFI (Students Federation of India) activist and worked untiringly for the revolutionary organization. SFI is a foster child of Communist Party of India (Marxist). This revolutionary fervour developed further through books related to Marxist ideology, their newspaper, and also fire-spitting speeches of the leaders of the student federation and other prominent leaders of the party and got inspired.

I began to think deeply and with compassion, the evils of inequality, untouchability, poverty of the masses, malnutrition, lack of elementary education and a proper health-care system. By working in the organization with all sincerity, held jathas (processions), shouted slogans, attended Marxist study classes and decided to work and spent long hours, days and nights for the upliftment of people suffering at the bottom line of the society. I earnestly believed in Marxist values, imbibed the spirit in them and the potency of Marxism-Leninism, in dealing with the basic problems of masses.

After my college days, I began to search for a job, knocked at many doors, sent umpteen applications for a job somewhere. Then also a thirst for more and more knowledge continued and read more and more books. Over the passage of time with the party attaining power at State level, prominent leaders’ previous enthusiasm, vibrancy and sincerity began to lose and many of them indulged in luxurious living, forgot past history and dedication of the party to the masses. Like many of my generation began to impose self-imposed isolation and finally withdrew from the whole scene to loneliness and disillusionment. I observed with disappointment, the decline of the party, their intermittent infighting often crossing the line of discipline, even clashes erupted pitting comrades against comrades.

Thus my ideological affiliation to Marxism ended. Sorry, not Marxism, but the apathetic attitude of its leaders.

First Bhakti (devotion to God), then came the parties which swear by Marxism-Leninism. My outlook on life turned to Existentialism. When I think about existentialism, I am reminded of Soren Kierkegard , considered by many as the father of existentialism. Some thinkers still refused to consider him as a philosopher and saw him as only a Theologian.

While writing about him, I always recall Hum, a native of Holland, who came to India as a tourist. One night at MarineDrive in Mumbai, I was sitting alone on the concrete wall built along the shore, watching the turbulent sea and also hoardings of various famous business establishments owned by business tycoons at the other end of the sea illuminated with colourful bulbs twinkling and blinking like the shining stars up above. After a few minutes, a white man in orange robes sat nearby and as if in meditation, was spending time by enjoying the sea at night and delightfully experiencing cool breeze blowing across the sea.

I found long duration of sitting alone boring, I turned to him and introduced myself to him and he introduced himself.

Name: Hum
Mother Country – Holland
Purpose Of visit- to travel across India and then the plan to return to Holland.

“You look like a philosopher”- I beamed a smile. He returned the smile and spoke- “No my gentleman, but I have great interest in philosophy”.

Existentialist Philosophy was at its peak then, so naturally I felt like asking him about that philosophy. I also didn’t forget to mention prominent existentialists of the time, across the World, the names like Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Morris Merlopondy, Martin Heidegger and Soren-Obeu Kierkegard- considered by many as the father of existentialism.

“You are mistaken gentleman. Actually the first existentialist was Lord Buddha of your land- not Kierkegard”.- He was trying to correct me. As the industrialization developed with lightning speed in the Western World, man lost his individuality and identity and got reduced to the status of nut or bolt of the roaring engines in the factories. Life of the masses became mechanized. A huge flow of people from rural areas started with the advent of industrialization in search of jobs in factories and they also got lost among the faceless crowd of the city. Kierkegard experienced severe agony on the status of men getting reduced to the level of nuts and bolts of engines, he wanted to regain the individuality and identity of man.

Kierkegard from his very birth was a gloomy figure that he inherited from his father. Eventhough he was not a good looking and a hunch back, fell in love with a girl named Regina Olsen, that relationship would have continued, the thinker in him didn’t get impressed and voluntarily snapped the romantic ties between them and devoted more time to thinking ,learning and writing. What happened to Regina Olsen, about that nobody is interested now. Kierkegard remained a believer in God throughout his life emphasized the concept of faith,went beyond reason and he found happiness by dedicating himself to the God Almighty. With the outbreak of Second World War, massive destruction of the properties, crores of massacres- many were guillotined, many were put in gas chambers and asphyxiated to death and many were sprayed with bullets at point blank range.

This outrageously tragic happenings forced the followers of existentialism like Jean Paul Sartre , Albert Camus and other philosophers got disappointed and they firmly believed in the non-existence of God. They became atheists. People young and old alike, similarly became non-believers, values got lost and believed in the absurdity and meaninglessness of the life. The World as a whole was in shambles. These thoughts naturally encouraged Sartre, Camus and others to write about absurdity of life. Sartre’s ‘Nausea’, Camu’s ‘Outsider’ and many of their works dwelt on the souless, heartless and meaninglessness of the life. Their thoughts and writings fascinated the next generation and spread like a contagion. In our own India, there were many followers for Sartre and Camus and their writings of that period were the reflections of existentialist philosophy.

Years have gone by. Recently I read in a newspaper an interesting news. Sartre, the intellectual giant of France once is not even a talking point among the present generation of France. The inspiration and knowledge about existentialism once kindled my thoughts had also disappeared. The third evolution also thus came to an end.

While studying journalism one of the faculty members, touched upon, some World famous writers of the time and specifically mentioned about late Ayn Rand, her philosophy, her powerful works like ‘Atlas Shrugged’ , ‘Fountainhead’ , and ‘For the New Intellectual’ and a drama. I went through all of them found them impressive and sparkling. While going through her Objectivist philosophy and her fondness for Laissez- Faire- capitalism (refer her book -Capitalism an Unknown Ideal), I was attracted to her thoughts. On pondering over her philosophy for a brief period, I found it impractical and left it in the lurch. Anyhow the lady was a very powerful writer; that we have to admit. The after effects of her philosophy led to the financial melt-down in America, and European countries that we are witnessing today. It is worthwhile to note that Alan Greenspan, the former head of the Federal Reserve was one of her confidents. While thinking about housing bubble,the picture of Alan Greenspan emerges in my mind.

My honeymoon with Objectivist philosophy ended, once and for all. Now, I am in the process of searching for another philosophy. Another evolution. After all, man is a bundle of contradictions…

Contributed By   K.R. Surendran, hailing from a village called Pulluvazhy near Perumbavoor. Four books in Malayalam are there to my credit now, Pooviriyumkunninte - Santhathikal”(Stories), Gloriyayude Dinarathrangal”(Stories) and “Mumbai- Sketchukal”(Novelettes). A novel “Indiayude Bhoopadam” was published recently. krskartha@yahoo.com  


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