By Dr Usha Bande
Title: Be Present in Every Moment: Life Lessons from Moinuddin Chishti
Edited by Babli Praveen.
Moinuddin Chishti is a familiar and revered name across religious faiths. This Sufi saint, originally from Central Asia, made India his home; served the needy and the poor for more than five decades and became one of the venerated figures of the subcontinent. Be Present in Every Moment has selected nuggets from Moinuddin Chishti’s preaching translated into English. The slim volume is full of everyday wisdom and imparts practical knowledge to help enhance our potential for happiness through tolerance and peaceful co-existence.
The editor, Babli Praveen, who teaches at Delhi University, specializes in Medieval Indian History and has researched on Sufi saints and Sufism in South Asia. The book, published by Aleph under their “Life Lessons” series, is a handy compilation of the great Master’s penetrating yet straightforward teachings that emphasize renunciation, tolerance, generosity and spiritual transformation.
The organization of the book is simple; the introduction gives relevant biographical information about Chishti; it is followed by his teachings arranged thematically. This allows the reader easy access to the key issues highlighted by his insights on the oneness of being, personal piety, music, charity, compassion and spiritual cleanliness.
Hazrat Sheikh Khwaja Syed Moinuddin Hasan Chishti, commonly referred to as Khwaja (sufi teacher) was a mystic, scholar, philosopher and poet known for introducing and establishing the Chishti order in India. Born to Khwaja Ghiyasuddin Hasan and mother Syeda Bibi, in 1142 CE, Moinuddin was an heir to the spiritual legacy of his parents’ lineage. Even at a very young age Moinuddin showed spiritual inclinations.
By Mitali Chakravarty
Title: Adventure Stories of Great Writers
Author: Dr Usha Bande
Adventures Stories of Great Writers is a collection of episodes from the lives of well-known writers across the world through different periods in history. These vignettes from the biographies focus on adventures faced by twenty such persons transcending borders and nations. The different stories touch upon the lives of great writers like Winston Churchill, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Louis Stevenson, Knud Holmboe, Washinton Irving, Herman Melville and T.E. Lawrence ranging from a variety of countries including Denmark, India, America, England, to name a few. The stories are set on the rough seas around the world, including the Arctic Ocean, where Arthur Conan Doyle was thrown off his ship among frozen chunks of ice in the cold waters; in the deserts of Arabia and Africa where, T.E. Lawrence fought for the Arabs and which Knud Holmboe made into his own home; in India, where John Masters battles a deadly man hunting tiger; in apartheid ridden South Africa, where Gandhi learns never to give in to injustice… Transcending borders, religions and creed, the common thing that strings these stories together is perhaps best expressed by a quote from Rabindranath Tagore at the start of an episode from Gandhiji’s life:
“Power said to the world, ‘you are mine’.
The world kept it prisoner on her throne.
Love said to the world, ‘I am thine’.
The world gave it the freedom of her home.”
Most of the episodes reflect compassion, kindness and love for mankind. Some depict indomitable spirit, courage and boldness while some focus on the spirit of adventure and innovative solutions to get out of situations that seem impossible. Conviction in one’s beliefs, the energy and the determination to push through to achieve one’s objective and to make changes that were felt to be necessary are also highlighted by these vignettes. All these episodes go to show what has been summed up by a quotation from Swami Vivekananda at the start of a chapter on Sir Winston Churchill:
“The history of the world is the history of
a few men who had faith in themselves.”
Dr. Usha Bande is an Indian writer and critic who lives in Shimla. She writes in Marathi, Hindi and English and translates short stories from Marathi into Hindi. She has several research papers and more than a dozen books to her credit including Writing Resistance: A Comparative Study of Women Novelists. Her most recent work is a collection of short stories, A Box of Stolen Moments (Lifi Publications, 2014).
Kitaab recently interviewed her through email.
When did you start writing short stories?
Long back. I was in school when I wrote my first story but it was never published. In fact, I did not know where to send, how to send and all that. I mean tricks of the trade. In 1960s we were not much aware and smart as youngsters today are. Anyway, I wrote a small piece in Hindi for a story writing competition when I was in college; it was published in Navbharat Times and I got a third prize. It motivated me but again there was a gap of several years. My first real story which got published in English was “Painter Sahib”, included in my collection A Box of Stolen Moments. And I like this story as it has a kind of soft touch to it. It is partly real.
Tell us about some of the interesting stories in this collection and what inspired you to write them?
A very relevant question, indeed though a little difficult to answer!
Jaiwanti Dimri reviews A Box of Stolen Moments by Usha Bande. New Delhi: Lifi Publications, 2014. Rs. 160, pp 164.
A Book of Stolen Moments by Usha Bande is a collection of twenty one short stories that capture, or to say, click on some momentous and revealing moments in the lives of people belonging to various regions, nationalities and ethnic identities. Written in the early 1970s and 1980s, these stories were published in journals and magazines. However, the basic thematic concerns and issues addressed in these stories are still very much contemporary and contextual as they touch upon the simple yet penetrative, day-to-day realities of life in terms of the joys and pains and the twists and turns of life. Based on the ‘lived experiences, observations, reaction to and interaction with life” (Preface) by the writer’s own admission who is a fine mix of an academic scholar and creative writer, the collage of these tales unfolds the multi-faceted moods and manners of the people like the flow of the river.