Tag Archives: #grace

Knight's armor

Grace in Defeat Trumps All

As I watched the US election results make their agonizing progress to the end, the lines of a poem came to my mind.

Do not go gentle into that good night

Old age should burn and rave at close of day

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

This poem by Dylan Thomas, who himself died tragically at the age of thirty-nine, is practically an anthem to all those who struggle against insurmountable odds. Incidentally, this poem is made use of very effectively in the iconic movie ‘Interstellar’, where it is used as a weapon against the apparent futility of trying to save humans when the earth is dying.

When Trump’s numbers began to lose traction in one, two, three, and four states, he could have conceded. His time was up and he could have quit gracefully. But Trump being, well, Trump, no one seriously expected him to concede. But filing lawsuits and worse, to allege election fraud, seemed to be sinking his basic nature to a whole different level. 

However, at that point, a quiet voice in my brain said, “Why not?” Why should Trump not fight until every last vestige of power is taken away from him? After all, in 2000, Al Gore found himself conceding and then took it back when votes began to sing a different song. From the moment of conception and until the moment of death, we are engaged in a constant fight for survival, though it is not always apparent. Therefore, why should not a person fight, especially when there is a chance around, however wraithlike? 

‘Everybody loves a lover’ sang Doris Day. But it is also true to say that everybody loves a fighter, maybe even more than a lover. Looking at a person who doesn’t give up or give in lends hope to other people who are fighting insurmountable odds themselves. The very thought that there is someone else out there who’s not going to take whatever is handed to him is inspiring.

In his poem ‘If’ Rudyard Kipling exalts the fighter thus:

And so hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ After all, we do know that we will have to surrender in the end. As a Viking saying goes, “It’s better to stand and fight. If you run away, you’ll only die tired.”

On the other hand, to accept defeat gracefully – that is a quality that puts man among saints. It is not lame to surrender, say great minds, it is a great strength. ‘They are the chosen ones, who surrender,’ says Rumi. “Peace requires us to surrender our illusion of control,” said Jack Kornfield. In William Booth’s opinion, “The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender”. 

Then it came to me that it is a question of preserving your dignity and self-respect. It is hard to hold yourself erect when you are fighting. However, in the honorable fight, it is okay to lose your dignity, since the fight itself is in the cause of it. But, in every fight, there is a tipping point, a point at which you know that you’re definitely going to lose. There is no point in surrendering before that point is reached because there of the chance that you may win and uphold your dignity. And there is no point in fighting after you know you’re definitely going to lose, because you’ll not only lose the fight, you’ll also lose your dignity. 

Therefore, it is in your own best interests that you stop fighting when there is absolutely no hope of victory. No one said it better than the great Kenny Rogers: “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away.”

But where is that tipping point? How does one find it?

Aah, those are some of the questions that truly matter in life. One of the hallmarks of the greatness of the human spirit is the ability to know where that tipping point is. This ability comes from soul-searching honesty that doesn’t shy away from even the bitterest of truths. At that point, surrender brings a deep and abiding peace, since the battle was well-fought, but ended before it cost too much. 

I used to think that all of us have this ability, but I guess I just learned that some of us … just don’t.


Lakshmi Palecanda moved from Montana, USA, to Mysore, India, and inhabits a strange land somewhere in between the two. Having discovered sixteen years ago that writing was a good excuse to get out of doing chores, she still uses it.

They Call Me “Manu Master”

Virtual Bharat’s most recent film is set in Koolimuttam, Kerala. A story of a man, a rebel, a master, known to his disciples and thus to the world, by one name; “Manu Master,” he says with pride as he looks at the nature around him. His eyes are kind and filled with strength and wisdom. His red shawl flutters in the wind. 

Manu Master was born in Koolimuttam, in the 1960s, as Abdul Manaf. Little Abdul loved the arts. He accompanied his uncle to Kathakali recitals, performances and katcheris alike. He jumped across the compound wall at school every day to simply watch and admire the dance lessons that were being taken by a teacher right next door. Spotting his interest in the arts, his uncle enrolled him to learn bharatanatyam when he was only 12 years of age, and that marked the beginning of Abdul Manaf’s journey in Bharatanatyam

Bharatanatyam was considered a temple art form. The postures and grace of the dance are a reflection of those of several Hindu gods and goddesses. Abdul Manaf was not a part of this culture, and was thus regarded an outsider. He trained in several other dance forms – Mohiniyattam, Kathakali…but his heart always lay with Bharatanatyam. At the age of 20, he decided to move to Tamil Nadu to train and master the traditional style of Bharatanatyam – one that had been banned by the British, in their move to stamp out Indian culture. Today, he is one of the leading exponents of this style of dance. 

Abdul believes that “the true God, is love, and art is the medium to reach love. “Mohabbat,” he says, is what his dance is an expression of. He refused to allow aspects like his name to get in the way of his love for dance. Abdul Manaf took the name ‘Manu’, a nickname given to him by his mother, and started to practice under this name. He admired the Tantric school of the dance and says it was his Guru Chitra Visweswaran who changed his life. She showed him how the body, was but a small replica of the entire universe, and thus how through certain postures one could unveil the Maha Mantras (sacred truths of the world). 

His movements echo the simplicity, grace, and freedom of postures of love and desire – characteristic of the Tantric school of Bharatanatyam. His audience is spellbound when he moves. The very air around him changes. There is a silence and magic to his performance and even the simplest of mudras can bring tears to the spectator’s eyes. Manu today, dedicates his life to not only keeping this Tantric tradition of Bharatanatyam alive, but to his disciples as well. He looks at them with a smile, and says “my teachers have always shown me the right path, but I want them to be able to choose their own paths.” 

As the team of Virtual Bharat shot with Manu Master, they were spellbound by not only his movements but the way these movements echoed the beauty of the nature around him. Watch the film capture his story through his dance below!

 

Virtual Bharat in collaboration with India Currents will release a monthly series highlighting the stories Virtual Bharat is capturing in India. Stay tuned for more!

Virtual Bharat is a 1000 film journey of untold stories of India spanning people, landscapes, literature, folklore, dance, music, traditions, architecture, and more in a repository of culture. The vision of director Bharatbala, creator of Maa Tujhe Salaam, we are a tale of India told person-by-person, story-by-story, and experience-by-experience. The films are under 10 minutes in length and are currently available on Virtual Bharat’s Youtube Channel