Much has been philosophized about beauty since the start of times. Socrates and -before him- Pythagoras related beauty to ethics. If something is morally good, then it is beautiful.
I particularly like the later description by Kant. He divides beauty in two type: Free and dependent. If something “beautiful” refers to deriving some other (dependent) pleasure from it (eg a building, a bottle of wine, cheesecake…), its beauty is “dependent.” But if you find something beautiful simply for what it is, promising no further pleasure than experiencing it at the moment; then it has “free” beauty. Perhaps, seeking the free beauty is a surer route to sustained happiness.
Compare a Monet (that you can never afford to buy) and a social-media video showing an act of human kindness (that you got nothing to do with). We enjoy both nevertheless. “Beautiful,” we say in either case. This is free beauty. (There is ample scientific evidence to prove that kindness and happiness are strongly correlated.) We often agonize as a struggle with our inner-selves simply because we were unkind to others.
So, Kant and Socrates did not contradict each other.
We also derive free beauty from poetry and music. Some people in this area are beautiful. Some are awe-inspiring. If you were awestruck by something and it made you happy, that thing is beautiful. Just take Kant for his words!
I find some poets, musicians, and singers to be awe-inspiring and, hence, beautiful. Elvis Presley singing “In the ghetto”, Suresh Wadkar singing “Sanjh dhale”, Khayyam composing “Ae did e nadaan,” or Anand Bakshi writing “lambi judayee”: All are beautiful humans. The old Baba Nagarjun with his unkempt beard is just as beautiful when he writes “badal ko ghirte dekha hai. “
Time moves on. And as Heraclitus once rightly said: nothing stays the same: Time passes and with that the context changes. So, we cannot see something beautiful the same way as we did in the past. Yet, we can salvage some of our past reactions to something beautiful.
Listening to some melodious numbers is one such trick that makes us happy. And what makes us happy is beautiful.
Call me outdated, but I spent this evening listening to Khayyam Sahab’s songs (yet again). His beauty has no match. His deep musical compositions are a portal to free beauty. You pine, you extract joy, feel good about what you got and just make your peace with what you could never achieve. It’s all beautiful.
Our grandfather “KarnShree” Khadga Ballabh Das ‘Swajan’ (KB Das hereafter) (1912-1999) is known for authoring his Maithil epic Seeta Sheel. His emotional attachment to our ancestral village Imadpatti was strong, and a temple he built is worth mentioning. Imadpatti lies in the Jhanjharpur division of Madhubani district in Bihar. https://goo.gl/maps/Rvdt1B1kMZ1FZe8AA
As was, perhaps, the “cool” thing to do in those days, my grandfather took early retirement from his government job in 1970’s after his eldest son (our father Sri Lakshman Das: 1932-1993) took over the family responsibilities as a government officer. That did not particularly help with the financial situation of the family and my father struggled for decades to make the ends meet in his family (that included his two siblings, parents, occasional cousins who lived with him, and his own kids). In the meanwhile, KB Das’s second son (our uncle) Sri Ramakant Das joined the Bihar Police force. Sri KB Das counted on his sons’ (and his son-in-law’s, in later years) support to fulfill his selfless desires for community service. Despite the challenges, his family always supported his missions.
While his Maithili epic Seeta Sheel was being written, KB Das concurrently launched another ambitious project i.e. to build a temple in our ancestral village. His second son Sri Ramakant Das remembers: “Babuji realized that beyond the symbolic Brahmsthan, our village did not have a temple at the entrance. People did not have a place of worship when entering or exiting the village, as is customary. So, he reached out to us with the idea of building a temple. His book project already needed some budget. Moreover, fundraising from the village was not immensely successful. Yet, we brothers happily agreed to fund the temple construction wholeheartedly, although over several years“
[Clockwise: KB Das and wife Smt. Indramaya Devi | Eldest son Sri Lakshman Das (1932-1993) | Daughet Smt. Vidya and son-in-law Sri Arjun Narayan Chaudhary | Second son Sri Ramakant Das and daughet–in-law Smt. Sheela | Eldest daughet-in-law Smt. Ashal Lata]
Here are some glimpses of the temple:
The temple has three deities: (1) Sri Radha Krishna (2) Sri Mahadev, and (3) Sri Chitragupta. For the first several years, Sri KB Das continued to send some “stipend” for the priest. His nephews in the village (Sri Vijaykant Das, in particular) was helpful in administering the construction. The Mukhiya ji of the village was also supportive in building the temple. In recent years, the temple has evolved as one of the destinations in the humble village and supports some small shops.
Prashant Das (Gram- Imadpatti) | Lausanne, Switzerland | 21 Aug 2020
आग भी, अंगड़ाई भी, पुरजोश भी, मुरझाई भी अजीब कितनी है रही मेरी ज़ीस्त की लड़ाई भी . हम समंदर के किनारे सोचते ही रह गये सैलाब और तूफ़ान आए, बह गई परछाई भी . चिल्मनों के पार हमनें अश्क कर डालें हैं सुर्ख़ ग़रूर उनका चढ़ चला, गहरी हुई है लड़ाई भी . ख़ुदा बन जाने की ख़्वाहिश उनकी जब-जब हो गई हम तमाशा देख रोए, फिक़्र भी, रुसवाई भी . तारीख़ को गढ़ने की कोशिश कर रहे वो रात-दिन हक़ीक़त की क़स्में हमने खाई भी, निभाई भी . घर जला कर ख़ाक कर दो, रूह है महफ़ूज हरदम फेंक कर दरिया में काग़ज, कलम और रौशनाई भी . आवाज़ की उन सरहदो-दीवार तक, उन मरहलों तक ख़ामोश दिल की मौसिकी हमने सुनी और गाई भी . शमशीर, खंज़र सब चले, ख़ामोश हम सहते रहे सलामती इसी में समझी, इसी में थी भलाई भी। .
[पुरजोश = enthusiastically, ज़ीस्त: life, रुसवाई=embarrassment, तारीख= history] Thank you Hemant Das for the valuable edits.
[[ My poem dedicated to those homeless laborers who are walking hundreds of miles on their way “home”, tired, hungry, fatigued… with young children on their shoulders, and watching their fellowmen suffering at an unprecedented scale…]]
मज़हब नहीं, क़ुव्वत नहीं, चेहरा नहीं और घर नहीं धड़कनें तो चल रही जीने की फुरसत गर नहीं। .
उन मकानों के झरोखों में, दीवारों में, छतों में, दफन मेरा है पसीना, छड़ नहीं, पत्थर नहीं। .
मेरी जवानी, अश्क़, मेहनत, खोज लो उस नीँव में मेरे बिना कंक्रीट के उन दरख्तों में जड़ नहीं। .
घर उन्हीके, दर भी, उड़ान उनकी, पर भी हम भी सितारे देख सोते रात में कमतर नहीं। .
रोटियां सूखी सही, बासी सही, और कम सही एक-दो मिल जाएं तो, हम मांगते अक्सर नहीं। .
शहर में रोज़ी गयी, फिर छत गई, उम्मीद भी गाँव में ग़ुरबत सही, पर ज़िन्दगी बदतर नहीं। .
ट्रैन की उन पटरियों पर, गाँव के रस्ते जो हैं कुचले गए मज़दूर हम साहब से तो ऊपर नहीं।। .
Vocabulary: क़ुव्वत = dominance, झरोखा= window, अश्क़ = tears, दरख़्त= tree, ग़ुरबत = poverty Thank you Hemant Das, for the edits.
बिन बेचैनी चैन क्या; दुःस्वप्न बिना ये नैन क्या भूखे हैं, वो फिर भी चुप; बंदूकें क्या, तेरे केन क्या दिल के टुकड़े दूर फँसे; कारें क्या, अब ट्रेन क्या इंसानों से प्रेम न हो तो; क्या हिंदू और जैन क्या सबको मारा बारी-बारी; दास, स्मिथ, हुसैन क्या गहरी जेबें, पर दिल छोटे; लेन क्या, तब देन क्या इंतज़ार में बीत रहे हैं; क्या दुपहर, और रैन क्या।