Today my thoughts are running to a war that millions of people wage with themselves; a secret war, unspoken of, which every one of us has faced at one time or the other. I am speaking of our battles against a sense of inadequacy. Falling short of other people’s expectations is bad enough but when we fall short of our own standards, that is really difficult to deal with. The nature of such failure is that it can be seldom talked about openly; it lies dormant, a dirty secret which poisons our thoughts and behaviour in innumerable ways.
Take the inadequacy that millions feel regarding the way they look. Shallow, perhaps. but so very core to the sense of ‘I’ in all of us. I consider myself to be not at all superficial, but I can’t remember a day in my adult life when I have not worried about my rather plump form and ways to shed the ever-increasing excess weight. I doubt if I am alone in this. When this sense of inadequacy blows out of proportion, it leads to problems like bulimia or anorexia, self-mutilation, seeking the plastic surgeon’s scalpel etc. Most people however just learn to live with this feeling of inadequacy.
The same sense of being suboptimal regarding one’s financial, social or academic status is, no doubt, equally prevalent. I guess a certain level of insecurity acts as an incentive to work harder, to strive and achieve. But is it not also the seed which turns some others into crooked ways, be it cheating or bribery, embezzlement or plain thievery? The same sense of inadequacy turns some into snobs and others into sycophants, some into bullies and other into the bullied.
What about moral inadequacy? How many of us tell ourselves that we are not ‘good’ enough? How many constantly bring up their old wrongdoings in their mind, never forgiving themselves for their own slips?
Let me present an imagined scale of human morality as a bell curve. At the bottom end, section 1 is filled with the pits of humanity, from ethnic cleansers like Hitler, pillagers like Attila the Hun, murderers, violent dacoits, rapists, child molesters, torturers and all those who thrive on violence. Section 2 is more populous, made of non-violent criminals, bribe takers, dirty and greedy politicians, con artists and such. Section 3 is the most populous with ordinary people who are saddled with the common human weaknesses such as greed, selfishness, envy, anger and laziness. All these weaknesses are still capable of harming others. Section 4 are the ones who have controlled these weaknesses to a large extent and also strive to help others, are thoughtful, charitable, forgiving, ethical, moral. Section 5 are those who devote themselves to the betterment of humanity in any way they can, either through charitable work, intellectual and creative endeavours or devotion to God. Where do you stand on the scale? I ask myself this question when a sense of moral inadequacy overtakes me. And I tell myself, ‘Average+ is ok! There is hope!’. But the truth is, I think I was a better human being at 10 than I am 55. So was this life a waste? sigh!
So you see, I am in perfect sympathy with Papanasam Sivan when he writes ‘Am I worthy of understanding your reality?’. Calling himself a hard hearted villain and saying that he has no Satvik qualities seems a bit harsh though. Seems to me that he is suffering from a bout of moral inadequacy! He seems to forget what our scriptures and epics say again and again – that it is possible for the basest of beings to achieve the grace of God. Think of Valmiki, surely he belonged to the bottom pile of my bell-curve before he redeemed himself? Whatever the sense of inadequacy we all battle with, we are ALL still in the running for God’s forgiveness and grace, and with that, the understanding of His truth. See footnote for lyrics and translation.
To present this wonderful song in Raga Ritigowla, I have selected two renditions for you to listen to. The first is by Trichur Ramachandran whose unique voice adds even more beauty to Ritigowla.
Alternate Link : Click here
The second is by O.S.Thyagarajan. I noticed that I had not featured this illustrious artist so far, a sad oversight on my part. So here he is.
Alternate Link : Click here and download song number 2 (needs free membership to Sangeethamshare.org)
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Composer : Papanasam Sivan
Raga : Ritigowla
Language : Tamil
தத்வமரிய தரமா (நின் )
மூலாதார கணபதே சுரபதே உனது
சத்வ குணமும் ஜீவ தயையும் ஞானமும்
சற்றும் இல்லாத கிராதனுக்கு உனது
மதுர பரிபூர்ண மோதக கரனே
மகா விக்ன வன குடார வரனே
நிதியோன்பதும் அன்பர்க்கருள் பரனே
நிகில சராசர பீஜான்குரனே
மதிசேகரன் மகனே சுமுகனே
மத வாரண முகனே
சுருதி முடி உணர்வருள் சித்பரனே*
குக சோதரனே ராமதாசனக்குனது
* uncertain about this line
Note : For some Sanskrit words are used, I have preferred to transliterate them in their original Sanskrit pronunciation rather than the Tamil one in common usage!
tatvamariya taramA (nin)
mUlAdhAra gaNapatE surapatE unadu
satva guNamum jIva dayaiyum jñAnamum
saTTRum illAda kirAdanukku unadu
madhura paripUrNa mOdaka karanE
mahA vighna vana kuTHAra varanE
nidhiyonbadum anbarkkaruL paranE
nikhila charAchara bIjAnkuranE
madishEkharan maganE sumuganE
shruti muDi uNarvaruL chitparanE
guha sOdaranE rAmadAsanukkunadu
Am I worthy (taramA) of understanding (ariya) your (nin) truth / reality (tatvam)? Oh Lord of the Ganas (gaNa patE), Lord of the Suras (sura patE), O Lord of the Mooladhara chakra (or the support (AdhAra) for the origin (mUla)), your (unadu) truth (continuation meaning from first line).
Is this hard-hearted villain (kirAtan) who is totally without (chaTRum illAda) Satvik qualities (satva guNam), compassion (dayA) for other (implied) beings (jIva) and higher knowledge (jñAna) worthy of understanding your truth (from pallavi)?
O one who holds (karanE) the Modaka sweetmeat which is saturated (paripUrNa) with sweetness (madhura)! O the excellent (varanE) wielder (implied) of the axe (kuTHAra) against (implied) the great (mahA) forest (vana) of obstacles (vighna)! O God (paranE) who blesses (aruL) his devotees (aNbar) with the nine (onbadu) treasures (nidhi) (this refers to the nine treasures of Kubera)! O Seed and Sprout (bIjAnkura) of the entire (nikhila) world (charAchara, literally that which moves (chara) and that which does not (achara))! O son (maganE) of Shiva (madishEkhara)! O benign one (sumuganE) ! O one with the face (muganE) of a proud (mada) elephant (vAraNa)! O Supreme Spirit (chitparanE) who blesses with the realisation of (uNar varRuL) the last sound (shruti muDi) (I am uncertain about shruti muDi). O brother (sOdaranE) of Guha! Is this (implied) RamadAsan (signature) worthy of understanding (implied from pallavi) your (unadu) truth/reality (from pallavi).