Glorious Phoenix

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The bird proudly willing to burn,
So that he may live again,
Chooses the flames of fires
That burn the aged Phoenix
The nature stands still
Till a new young bird starts again,
and begins the legend of the Phoenix.

- Claudian (Roman author)

One day in the ancient times, the sun looked down and saw a large bird with bright red and dazzling gold feathers. The sun god blessed him, “Glorious Phoenix, you shall be my bird and live forever!”
The Phoenix was overjoyed to hear these words and sang, “I shall sing my songs for you alone!” But living forever didn’t make him happy for long. Men, women, and children were always chasing him, wanting some of those beautiful, shiny feathers for themselves.
Tired, the phoenix flew off toward the east, where the sun rises in the morning.
The Phoenix flew for a long time, and then came to a far away, hidden desert where no humans lived. Here, flying freely he would sing the songs of praise to the sun alone.
Five centuries passed. The Phoenix was still alive, but it had grown old. It couldn’t soar so high in the sky, nor fly as fast or as far as it was young. It wasn’t as strong.
The Phoenix sang, “Sun, glorious sun, make me young and strong again!”
The sun didn’t answer. When the sun still didn’t answer, the Phoenix decided to return to the place of its origin.
The journey was long, and because the Phoenix was old and weak, it had to rest along the way. Each time it landed, it collected pieces of cinnamon bark and all kinds of fragrant leaves.

Phoenix on the top of the tree

When at last the bird returned to its home, it landed on a tall palm tree. Right at the top of the tree, the Phoenix built a nest with the cinnamon bark and lined it with the fragrant leaves. Then the Phoenix collected myrrh, a sharp-scented gum and made an egg from it. It carried the egg back to the nest.
Phoenix (vvsmall)
The Phoenix sat down in its nest, and once again, sang, “Sun, glorious sun, make me young and strong again!”
This time the sun heard the song. It shone down on the mountainside with all its strength. Everyone, every animal, reptile, bird hid from the sun’s fierce rays — in caves and holes, under shady rocks and trees.
Only the Phoenix sat upon its nest at the top of the tallest palm tree on the highest mountain and let the suns rays beat down upon it beautiful, shiny feathers. Suddenly there was a flash of light, flames leaped out of the nest, and the Phoenix became a big round ball of fire.
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Books, books and books

Mohan Deep with bookshelf in the background

Unlike my friends I haven’t selected my 10 favorite books, and find the task extremely difficult. I prefer reading fiction – though, many books of non-fiction too have left an impact on my life – and biographies.
My current favorites include Michael Connelly, the creator of the Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller series, Jeffrey Archer, Mario Puzo, and Frederick Forsyth; and the authors I repeat include Harold Robbins (specially his earlier books), Irving Wallace and Arthur Hailey.
Parallel to these books is the fiction of Ernest Hemingway, Guy de Maupassant, O Henry, W. Somerset Maugham and DH Lawrence.
I may still have one of the earliest editions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. I read this as a curiosity, and then read ‘Sons and Lovers’. Sons and Lovers remind me of Joseph Conrad’s ‘Lord Jim’. I found a lot of similarity between Lord Jim and the character Amitabh Bachchan played in Yash Chopra‘s ‘Kala Pathar’. Of course, there is no comparison, but then there can be no comparison between The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Paa.
Love for reading began with Phantom, Diana and Dave Palmer, Mandrake, Narda & Lothar, Jiggs Maggi and Bimmy, Archie’s, Blondy and other comics when I was in my teens. Having shelves full of books, brought from Karachi by my mother, along with the belonging Sindhi refugees brought during partition were my introduction to serious literature from different languages and countries. These books along with a lot of reading of Indian mythology shaped an attitude. Read Sufi writings in Sindhi, novels of Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Khandekar, Bhagwati Charan Sharma and pulp of Ibne Safi BA, Om Prakash Sharma along with stories, books, poetry and plays of Agyaya, Dharam Veer Bharati, Mohan Rakesh, Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, Krishan Chandra, Yashpal, Gulshan Nanda and many others
And then there are books on Feng Shui and Vastu.
My reading and writing began very early with books from Hindi, Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Bengali and Marathi.
To select 10 books is doing an injustice to all of them. A hundred is more like that.

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Lord Ganesha’s Milk Miracle

Milk Miracle

Today begins the 11-days festival that will culminate in ganeshvisrajan.
I have been a follower of Lord Ganesha from the day the world saw the miracle of Lord Ganesha, the day every Ganesha Idol drank milk!
On September 21st 1995.
My first thought when I heard about this was that BJP or VHP or some right wing Hindu groups have unloaded thousands of statues with suction pumps or some other gimmick to politically capitalize on the sentiments. Or perhaps it was a new show-piece we would be able to buy after this publicity gimmick.
I didn’t even bother to check it by standing in the long queues. I wasn’t a temple-goer and loathed queues.
I shrugged off the story again when the lady I was interviewing received a call from Solan about Ganpati drinking milk. “It has been organized very well but then BJP has a powerful presence all over,” I said and returned to questioning the lady.
My next stop was Santacruz Police Station where I was investigating a story. I had to get some documents photo-copied. This got me the opportunity to witness the miracle, without even standing in the queue. I found a general store which also had a photo-copier. Even as the documents were being copies, I noticed a couple of persons were offering milk to an idol of Ganesha. I was mildly curious.
My first question to the shopkeeper was, “Where did you buy the idol? Who sold it to you?”
“Sir, this idol has been with us since decades!” said the shopkeeper.
Amazed, I picked up a spoon and offered milk to the stone idol. As the spoon touched the lips of the idol it disappeared. I offered one more spoon of milk. Again, it disappeared!
The unworldly happening brought worldly cities and towns to a standstill, and its vast stocks of milk – more than a million liters – sold out within hours. Just as suddenly as it started, it stopped in just 24 hours.
Television stations (among them CNN and BBC, radio and newspapers (among them Washington Post, New York Times, The Guardian and Daily Express) eagerly covered this unique phenomenon, and even cynical journalists held their milk-filled spoons to the statues of gods – and watched as the milk disappeared.
The scientists from India’s Ministry of Science and Technology offered capillary action as an explanation; insisted that the surface tension of the milk was pulling the liquid up and out of the spoon, before gravity caused it to run down the front of the statue. Skeptics called it mass hysteria.
And whether you call it a miracle or ‘capillary action’, every statue of Lord Ganesh drank milk at the hands of lesser mortals – even the disbelievers and half-believers.

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