Prayers, Learning

Sanitized from an email I sent:

Recently I became interested in prayers and what they *really* mean and my mother and I talked about it quite a bit. There are a lot of gaps in her understanding (and her knowledge) of all these shlokams (stanzas) and condensations of nice little prayers. I learnt however to say the Ramayana and Mahabharata in ten sentences. But I’ve realized that my children won’t know a tenth of what I know. That’s a tenth of what my mother knows and that’s a tenth of what my grandma knew. Not that I’m going to compulsorily teach them anything, but even if they become interested I won’t be able to point them in any direction. Which is kind of sad, now that I think about it, since although most of the prayers are outdated and silly, some are really nice poems whose literary worth is often underestimated. For e.g., the translation of those ten sentences of Ramayana into English would be a lesson in brevity. I’m going to do that translation one of these days.

I hope somebody out there is collating all these word-of-mouth prayers and translating them to a live language, like English. But somehow I don’t think so; authors have better things to pursue. [..] One of the things that any school should do is to teach children the history of their locality – their city, state, country and the world – *in that order*. I don’t know a twang about the history of Kerala and I think it’s a huge gap in my brain. [..] I want to know a bit about this mainly because I’ve realized that however imaginative you are, writing about completely fictitious people is artificial. When I write about stuff that happens in America, I’m going by the 21-inch view that I get from the TV, and the even smaller (or the bigger) view I get from books and the net. Though some of that is close to reality, it’s a static one where the chain of motion is only in my head (and that’s limited since I’m only one.) When I write about stuff that happens around me, the chains of motion are infinite and unpredictable. I’m not hinting at a true story or an autobiography (God save me) but the fact that something which happens around you is closer and truer. I haven’t exactly written a story which is that true yet, though I’ve started experimenting in poems. [..] I have to edit what I said before, stories which have characters you don’t know, are artificial as long as you don’t know what will happen if those same characters were to be transplanted to your backyard.

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