Quotes n’ Notes: John Keats # My name is writ…

Quote: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” [John Keats]

Notes: Ever heard of a man who, in his lifetime composed his own epitaph message? Here we have one, John Keats, who did exactly that. His well-meaning friends felt he deserved one and thus his own words became a part of the epitaph on his grave, for the posterity to learn about the man and his life. The complete epitaph reads:

“This Grave contains all that was Mortal of a Young English Poet Who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart at the Malicious Power of his Enemies Desired these Words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone: Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water. 24 February 1821.”

Keats had picked the idea from a 17. century play ‘Philaster‘, which said: “All your better deeds / Shall be in water writ.” Truly, if you write something on water surface, it would instantly vanish.

Hurt by his critics’ adverse, vicious criticisms of his works, Keats’ health had started deteriorating. He was diagnosed tuberculosis and sent to Italy for treatment. But his lungs had decayed beyond repair. On a fateful evening in February, 1821, he told his friend, “I shall die easily, don’t be frightened; Be firm, and thank God it has come.” And then he went to sleep…for ever.

Ironically, overwhelmed by merciless criticism, whatever pessimistic ideas Keats had been harboring about the worth, futility of his works and whole life, were belied after he passed away. Very soon he was among the most popular 18th. century Romantic poets, and till date, holds the position of honor.

# Ashok Misra

Watching the Birdie Theatre


Watching the Birdie Theatre 

Early risers usually don’t have to set a mobile alarm to wake them up. Nature especially provides them with its own morning alarm device – the birds. Yes, the cock has been man’s age-old wake-up caller. Today, if cocks are no longer heard in most urban areas, there are flocks of various other birds doing the job collectively, sparrows  being among the most regular callers. They punctually arrive with their chirpy ‘good morning’ message.

Waking up apart, birds are great fun, indeed a blessing, to have around in the early hours. If one is able to shake the sleep off soon after, and there is no binding schedule to rush for, sparing a small precious slot for birds could be a happy investment. It is indeed a treat to coolly watch sparrows, mynahs, bulbuls etc. performing their acts, through your open window amidst the morning breeze. I am saying this because I myself fell into their trap some time ago.

Last summer, touched by a Save Sparrow Campaign run by birds lovers and various NGO’s, my wife started placing a small wooden bowl of water for thirsty birds on our boundary wall. Our compound has a thick Jasmine vine in one corner and a large Harsingar in the other. So it happens to be quite a cool corner, especially for birds. Some even make their nests and lays eggs in the branches.

Soon, many birds, especially sparrows started visiting the mini pond all day long. One morning, having tea with biscuits in my room, I thought of sharing those with the feathered visitors, for a change. I crushed a couple of biscuits and served them on in an earthen plate (big diya).

With that, a new scene started. One sparrow came down, took a few dips of water at the tub, brushed its beak against the brim, then hopped up to the the biscuit plate. It took a couple of picks and flew away to devour at some distance. It was immediately followed by the next and the next and the next, and soon there was a queue of sorts chirping and waiting for their turn.

That day, I learnt that the birds too had a system of their own. They would come chirping merrily, sit for a while, go to the water tub and have a couple of dips/gulps, rub their beaks clean at the brim, and then proceed for the food. After gobbling some crumbs, they would once again rub the beak clean against some branch or wall edge and fly off. So much for hygiene, I suppose.

Sometimes, there are unusual scenes. Once, incessant chirping started quite early, in the darkness of thick jasmine vine. I was amazed what it could be. I waited for a while but when that didn’t stop, I took two biscuits, crushed them and put in the plate on the wall. Soon after, I saw four sparrows popping out from the jasmine and collecting at the plate. On closer look, I noticed they were two kids and their parents. The kids couldn’t hold their hunger and chirped desperately. They sat with their tiny beaks wide open and the parents took turns to put the crumbs into their hungry mouths.

In the meantime, some other visitors also started arriving, but the protective father would pounce at them and they would fly off. It became virtually a protected plate and nobody was allowed to approach it. That went on for more than a week, until the kids became fit enough to fend for themselves. However, squirrels happen to be the bully of the area who obey no birdie command. There are many of them and they would pounce at the plate the moment it is set. They would sit on the hind-legs, pick the food and start gobbling greedily. I feel bad for the birds. Then I started going out and driving them off to allow the birds have the stuff meant for them.

As of now, this birdie theatre has been going on uninterrupted for more than an year. Gradually, more and more feathered characters – kinds of birds, got attracted to the biscuit joint. Each announces its arrival in its unique melodious voice and the morning air is charged with their spirited, delightful notes. Early rising, I’d say, is not a bad idea, is it?                                                          * * * * *

# Ashok Misra

My Reflections: On Life’s basic elements

My Reflections: On Basic Elements of Life

As we grow up, our mind too grows, in maturity. A new kind of curiosity gets into us and we start asking basic questions about – ourselves, life, cosmos, divinity, and so on. Faced with life’s ups and downs, joys and sorrows, gains and losses etc., we try to find crucial answers.

We crave for love, happiness and …peace. This quest has become more pronounced now-a-days. The media, consequently, is flooded with spiritual philosophical contents coming from sages and spiritual gurus, and motivational leaders.

Through our quest, we realize that life happens to be one of the foremost mystic topics attracting curiosity. ‘What is life and its origin?’ ‘Who creates it and how?’ ‘How it ends and…what happens after it passes away?’ We start asking ourselves and go pondering over. To begin with, life and its origin come first and foremost.

At the outset, we find that life is composed of many constituents/ aspects. They are – body, mind, emotions and soul. They represent the – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. But that is not all. Our craving does not stop there but grows more intense. We start looking around for deeper gyan in the true sense.

Books usually come up as a good source for learners in this vast field. Through them, they can at least pick up the basic vocabulary to decipher the mystic script. In this era of Google and Wikipedia  as you know,  there is no dearth of basic contents online on this crucial topic. Almost every spiritual guru and leader is online in LIVE or recorded form.

Basic Elements or Panchamahabhootas: Life, as the theory goes, is composed of five basic elements. According to Hindu philosophy, the entire cosmos, that is, srishti, is made up of them. They are – Earth (Prithvi), Water (Jal), Fire (Agni) , Space (Akash) and Air (Vayu). Ayurveda refers to these Five Elements as Panchabhootas, and calls them – Khshiti, jal, pawak, gagan and sameera.

Each of these elements has its own character and characteristics, which it lends to create a life. Their energies flow in a living being and perform various roles. Together they combine to form life reflecting their respective characteristics. If they act in harmony, one is able to live a perfect life.

Gross and Subtle Elements: Out of the five elements, three, i.e., earth, air and water are gross and are responsible for creation of the gross body. The rest two – fire and sky are subtle. Fire is energy which runs the thought and emotion system. And both are located in the sky, which is vast, open and untouched.

Material body is created by earth, air and water. Fire is the energy that fuels the mental or thought producing system. That is located in the sky. According to scripures, God is in the form of the sky. Being with Him implies that we become sky-like. Sky is infinite. Nothing touches it. Nor does it contradict with any person or thing.

If our mind becomes infinite, untouched by petty worldly things, benign and empathizing with everyone, we can experience closeness with life and God. Open-mindeness has a direct impact on the body. Despite being based in the self, it can remain healthy  being free from contradictions gives a sense of satisfaction and contentment to a person.

Basic Traits of the Elements: Let us try to have some basic idea about the traits various elements carry and which we acquire from –

Element/Bhoota Trait
Earth/Prithvi/Khshiti Stability, support
Water/Jal Joy, well being
Fire/Agni/Pawak Wisdom, power
Sky/Aakaash/Gagan Oneness, knowledge, intuition, dignity, trust and creativity
Air/Vaayu/Sameera Compassion


Importance of the Elements: As mentioned earlier, each element plays some important, rather crucial role in creating and running the cosmos and all its beings. Let us have a quick look at what each does:

Sky is the origin of light, heat, gravitation etc. It produces waves/rays which affect the life on earth. It also gives the man qualities like – openness, generosity, enthusiasm and hope.

Air is the source of oxygen we use for breathing. Thus our breathing system is entirely supported and fed by the air. Without that life on earth cannot even be imagined.

Fire is the provider of light and heat, so cruicial for existence.  Sun and Mars are regarded as the sources of fire. Fire from the sun is the force behind the system of the life cycle on the earth.

Water: Life on earth cannot exist without water. It helps in blood circulation as well as digestive and cleansing systems of the body. So the entire plant as well as animal life is wholly dependent on water.

Earth: The entire life in the universe is basically supported, nourished and regulated by the earth.

However, the material body composed of the five elements is inanimate or lifeless. To bring it to life, it requires the life force – the soul, which complements it. The soul activates the body and makes it start on the journey called the life.

The Five Elements and Yoga  

The entire creation, inanimate as well as animate, can exist only when all the five elements combine in appropriate balance and function in harmony.  Among the living beings, that is, plants and animals, any disturbance has a direct impact on life. It could produce setbacks like illness and other problems. Life becomes full of hardships and misery.

To live a smooth and successful life, we need to have mastery and control over ourselves. That comes by adequate understanding of our basic elements and having them in harmony. Yoga is one option. It trains us to acquire mastery over ourselves. That is achieved through yogic practices or sadhana of individual elements. For   instance, activation of chakras. The process is known as Bhoota Shuddhi. There are specialized temples for sadhana of individual elements in India.

In Hindu system, it is customary to regard, offer prayers and worship to all those who give them something, as Gods. Since the five elements happen to be the very genesis of life, they too are their Gods. That is why, before any auspicious ceremony (puja) starts, they invoke each individual element, offer prayers and worship to have their blessings. So that, there may be peace, harmony, love and happiness all around. Amen!




Writ in Water


I’m not writing an epitaph,

but the leafless skeleton of a dead tree

standing forlorn beside the lake,

making a mirror image…reflection

of its lifeless form

reminds me of a painful desire by

an immortal poet,

died young merely twenty five.

Braving his agony

with a touch of sour humour,

John Keats pensively uttered

the indelible words meant for his own epitaph.

So said he, “Here lies one whose name is writ in water.”

Oh, so transient – the name, the reflection,

or whatsoever put on water!

So transient!

  * * * * * *

# Ashok Misra

Water Is Life


Water is life, 
every single drop is precious! 
So teaches the mother…nature, and
the offspring…money plant follows,
holding the precious pearls
close to heart, receiving
the green cheer in blessing.
What say?

* * * * *

# Ashok Misra

Your Earliest Friends

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Can you remember your earliest friend(s)?

Any happy recollections, down the memory lane?

Well, birds usually happen to be

one’s earliest, childhood…rather infanthood friends.

How about you?

I’m sure, while still in your mother’s lap,

you must have often gazed wonder-eyed, mesmerized,

at the strange, small toy-like winged creatures,

the chirpy sparrows, landing in your courtyard,

hopping all around, picking at the rice grains,

laid out for them by your Mom, alongwith a bowl of water.

Every morning, the ever hungry guests

would merrily arrive, gobble their meals,

take a few sips of water and fly away,

leaving you thoroughly entertained, cheerful.

Gradually, as time passed,

you grew up and naturally,

got preoccupied with lots of

other things and newer mates.

You stopped looking for your earliest friends.

You simply outgrew them, drowning yourself

into the busy, hectic life in the materialistic world.

There was hardly any time

for the chirpy friends and the simple

joys and pleasures they offered.

But friends are forever!

True mates are companions, rather soulmates,

but only, if you care to look for them, and

spend some quality time with them.

Birds are no exceptions.

As your grown up wisdom can perceive, 

they are part of the fauna of the nature.

Along with flora, they form

the entire creation of  Mother Nature, and

can well be your guide to the nature.

Hark! Just try to listen once again to what

that bird perched on the branch of

the tree outside your window

is chirping about.

Pay heed and turn towards the nature,

even if for a short while, to breathe free,

relax and rejuvenate…and discover

the joy of living, like you did

gazing at the birds, sitting as an infant

in your mother’s lap, ages ago!


Ashok Misra


The Mountain River


When water goes scarce,

reduced to a mere trickle,

the mountain river seems to strain harder,

braving the rocks and pebbles

that threaten to block its way.

The challenge, however

makes the emaciated stream

a bit frustrated, but more determined,

since it’s her test of perseverance,

the struggle for survival.

Thoroughly fatigued, feeble,

it keeps flowing adamantly, furiously,

till the very last drop

when it hits the river bed,

taking shelter in mother earth’s bosom.

In mother’s embrace,

it finds solace, lying peacefully,

until divine reinforcements arrive – from the sky

and all other directions,

as fresh, vibrant water

the next season.

The mountain river rises yet again,

in its reincarnation,

all bubbling and youthful

with a robust stream,

drowning the rocks and pebbles

in its stride.

Doesn’t life seem to resemble

the river at times –

with it’s ups and downs,

confronting the challenges,

accepting them and holding on,

finding rejuvenation

and finally rising  again reincarnated.

Thus flows the stream of life

year after year…

life after life!


Ashok Misra

*Pic.of river Binwa (Binduka), a tributary of the Beas, at  Baijnath, the exotic Siva Jyotirlinga (pics. below) in Kangra district, Himanchal Pradesh, India.

All pics. by Ashok Misra

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Rejuvenating Thoughts on the Riverfront


Land, water

and sky – 

together in perfect harmony, 

at the riverfront! 

There’s so much space  

of all kinds, 

to catch puffs and puffs of fresh air 

in an overcrowded, space starved metro 

gasping for breath.

You simply have to 

approach, outstretch your arms

to embrace nature,

in a pure, unblemished, divine form, 

and have your fill 

of rejuvenation  

for yet another spell of

hectic urban schedule.

But hark!

Strain you eyes to

read the ‘conditions apply’ –

In order to receive nature’s bounty,

approach it consciously, with awareness 

and care, concern and respect

and infinite love!

Must take a leaf 

from the age old wisdom of

nature lovers

from time immemorial!


Ashok Misra

(At the Ganga Barrage, Kanpur, India)