Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wedding Anniversary of my Maternal Grand Uncle at ISKCON Bangalore

My mother’s mother’s younger brother – Prabhakar Gurjer and his dear wife Sheila Gurjer celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on the 4th of November 2010 at the ISKCON temple Bangalore. It was indeed a joyous occasion for everybody around. All their near and dear ones were at the temple to rejoice the function. The couple themselves were radiant and cheerful and their happy disposition permeated everywhere. More importantly they looked healthy and in total control of all their faculties. May god almighty bless them with good health and many more anniversaries. After the function we all went to the temple resturant 'Higher Taste'. They claim that "the sattvic vegetarian cuisine of the Higher Taste satisfies the senses,captivates the mind and enriches the soul.Prepared from the freshest ingredients and rich in nutrients,the food is as nutricious as it is delectable". True to their claim the the food was excellent and with equally vibrant atmosphere and decor.

Personally it was even more joyous as Prabhakar mama was a very close friend of my father. They met each other in the late thirties in the college and their common interest in swimming drew them closer. They used to swim in Kempambhudi lake near Gavipuram under the tutelage of Mr Munivenkatappa (see my earlier blog One thing led to another and my father ended up marrying Mr Gurjer’s sister’s daughter.

My father kept in touch with P Gurjer and they used to visit us in Bangalore. I also fondly remember visiting their coffee and tea estates in Javali and Koppa near Chikkamagalooru along with my grandparents. I must have been around eight years then (1957). Family history has noted that on our train journey from Bangalore to kadduru, whilst sleeping, I rolled off from the upper berth causing unnecessary distress and anxiety to my grandfather. Records also note that I had forced a part of a tea cup handle into my nose (for what reason, is not known), which remained hidden there till it was forced out by sniffing snuff powder. I saw a juke box for the first time and used to listen to Lipstick on your collar by Connie Francis. I also learnt to play Scrabble in their estate. My grandfather being a sculptor took detailed notes of the scrabble board, tiles and the rack. On our return to Bangalore my grandfather’s deft and skillful fingers went into action and in no time he had carved out a wooden Scrabble for me. What an extraordinary present (with due respect to Mr. James Brunot).The game survived me and was passed on to my brother who later on gave it to young Ram Gopal from next door. It’s a great pity I do not have this invaluable gift now.

Some Gyan. For all Scrabble lovers -Wikipedia notes “In 1938, architect Alfred Mosher Butts created the game. The new game, which he called "Criss-Crosswords". In 1948, James Brunot, a resident of Newtown Connecticut — and one of the few owners of the original Criss-Crosswords game — bought the rights to manufacture the game in exchange for granting Butts a royalty on every unit sold. Though he left most of the game (including the distribution of letters) unchanged, Brunot slightly rearranged the "premium" squares of the board and simplified the rules; he also changed the name of the game to "Scrabble" a real word which means "to scratch frantically”.

Click to enlarge. My father in open collar and Gurjer in combination – 1946 Bangalore

Prabhakar Gurjer and Sheila Gurjer enjoying their lunch - Nov 2010

A thing or two about ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). The temple came into existence on 31 May 1997 as noted in their website - two engineers from IIT (Mumbai) – Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa and Sri Jagat Chandra Dasa were responsible for conceiving the architectural plan and execution of this lovely temple. As you enter the temple there are a number of factors which catches your attention. The temple and its surrounding is extremely clean and tidy. The cleanliness has a salutary effect on the devotees who come to worship. The serene atmosphere of the temple certainly helps you to focus clearly on God. For one who is used to usual Hindu temples, the ISKCON comes as a breath of fresh air. All of us loudly proclaim “Cleanliness is Godliness” and do nothing about it. But in this temple this adage is implemented and practiced to perfection. Strangely, all the devotees were adhering to the strict code of cleanliness whilst in the temple. This only goes to show that there is adequate awareness of cleanliness in the general public. There was no disorderly behavior, queue jumping, shouting and screaming one normally sees in a temple. The entire lot of devotees moved around the temple in utmost dignity, adding to the overall serenity of the occasion. It only reinforces the belief, that we are all capable of changing the way we treat our temples – provided some one initiates the process. Temple managements elsewhere have a lot to learn from the ISKCON experience.

I had noted in my earlier blog - - It may be time to bring in lot more space, light and ventilation to accommodate the huge and rising Hindu population that visit the temples”. I was so delighted to see the Garbhagudi or Sanctum Sanctorum which houses the gods is at an elevation, large, ventilated and very well lit. This enables large number of devotees to see the god clearly. The viewing area is a huge enclosure with a 90 feet high octagonal dome decorated with huge murals depicting life of Lord Krishna. The entire temple architecture appears to be a deviation from the traditional ‘Cave – Shrine’ concept. The temple also provides facilities for conduct of weddings, prayers and such other religious activities.

In short ISKCON is a well built temple which caters to the requirement of modern India. To any outsider it is obvious that good management practices are in place. There is a lot to learn from the way the temple is run – be it the orderly way in which the foot ware is collected and stored or the absence of beggars and touts sullying the sacred atmosphere. The security and crowd management are examples of good organization. Their kitchen, restaurant and the bakery are well kept and run to commercial standards. In addition to all this, they manage a number of socially relevant activities such as the ‘Akshaya Patra’. As sited in their website – “The Akshaya Patra Foundation, a not-for-profit, Bangalore-based secular trust evolved a free lunch program in schools in the year 2000. What started as a pilot project in five schools in Bangalore, feeding 1,500 children, has now grown into a mammoth endeavor reaching out to over 12,54,698 children in over 6,900 government, government aided schools and anganwadis (day care centers) in 19 locations, across nine states in India, day after day. Akshaya Patra is now the world’s largest NGO-run school meal program”.

The overall ambiance is conducive for prayers and meditation and we left the temple with a feeling of wanting to come back again. There is certainly an urgent need to introspect and see whether other temples can emulate some of their practices and programs.


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