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Love letters of our race

The best valentine I’ve come across recently is this poem in Hindi. It contains the feelings expressed of Lance Naik Sukhwinder Singh, the first liver transplant recipient, writes Renuka Narayanan.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2008 22:11 IST

The best valentine I’ve come across recently is this poem in Hindi. It contains the feelings expressed of Lance Naik Sukhwinder Singh, the first liver transplant recipient at the Armed Forces Organ Retrieval & Transplant Authority (AORTA), Department of Gasteroenterology, Level S, Army Hospital (Research & Referral), New Delhi-110010, aorta.ahrr@gmail.com.

AORTA was established by the Ministry of Defence in April 2007 and already, over 1,000 personnel, veterans and their families have pledged to donate their organs after death, as you read recently in HT. Here’s how this young soldier thinks of the dead lady whose liver now keeps him alive and fit. Calling his poem Jigar ki Dhadkan, he says, “Khushkismat hoon main ki mamta ke aanchal mein ji raha hoon/Tootne lage the jo sapne dil ke, un sapnon ko phir se see raha hoon/Ek Ma hai jisne janam diya aur laad pyaar se paala hai/Ek Ma hai jisne jivan diya aur girte hue sambhaala hai/Apna jigar ki dhadkan de kar so gayi jo sitaaron mein/Bhool na paaon kabhi main unko chamak rahi jo taaron mein/Aasamaan ki taraf dekh ke ghoont sabr ke peeta hoon/Khushkismat hoon main ki…"

One of AORTA’s posters says, "Don’t take your organs to Heaven; God knows we need them here.” Come to think of it, isn’t organ donation an amazing valentine to leave behind? That once you’re braindead and no longer ‘live’, your spare parts can give life to others who got randomly messed up by nature? It fits in perfectly with both philosophy and physics, that matter never disappears but simply rearranges itself and ties itself into a huge red bow with the scriptural verse, om purnam adah purnam idam/purnat/purnam udachyate/purnasya purnam adaya/purnam evavashishyate.

It means, “That (the soul) is full (perfect); this (the manifest universe of matter; of names and forms) is full. This fullness has been projected from that fullness. When this fullness merges in that fullness, all that remains is fullness.” It’s the fabulous peace invocation from the Isha Upanishad that begins: ishavasyam idam sarvam/yat kincha jagatyam jagat/tenatyaktena bhunjitha/ma gridhah kasya svid dhanam. This means, roughly translated, that ‘Everything quick or dead within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for oneself, and one must not be greedy, knowing well to Whom everything really belongs’.

This is how the Upanishad, a short one of 19 verses, begins, dedicated in praise of the Formless One, who is beyond physicality, containing everything, all of us. It is a document of love. (And you can’t help wondering right now whether the impending Union Budget will be a document love for the Indian people from Mr Chidambaram. Doesn’t seem likely, does it? He’ll want to show his Budget in the black, won’t he? No spending then, on farmers’ relief and development, just lots of grand announcements. But perhaps closer to the General Elections, the sarkar will make a big deal of how much paisa they’ll give for our pyaar?

However that may be and we’ll know soon enough, don’t you think something like organ donation, unlike kidney kidnaps, perfectly embodies the stupendous thought in the Upanishad? That all our bodies are gifts of that Formless One, whom some of us, in our human frailty, are allowed by ancestral tradition to approach as personified deities? So when we let others use our hearts, livers, kidneys and eyes, we are not in any way ‘desecrating’ God’s gift to us but consciously doing our duty as an inter-dependent race?

Ghuma-firaake, it’s hard not to go back to the old myth of Prajapati, the All-Father’s message to the human race in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: “Datta.” Give, be generous. Don’t hold back on good energy. It’s hardest and easiest with good emotional energy, though, isn’t it? To be fair and honest in our dealings with each other, without being greedy about short-term gains or so self-absorbed that our encounters are mainly about ourselves and not about what the other person may feel?

About justice vs prejudice, lots of people say that the Americans may be ready for a black man as President sooner than they would for a woman. As we wait and watch for all these great events to unfold, what sense can we make of our own lives the while? Just this, perhaps: that while life unfolds its many dramas on the great stages, our own role can be played with good feelings.