Coffee Tales


Last week while in Bangalore, I caught up with a friend of mine at Coffee Day in Indiranagar to discuss business activities of mutual interest.

The temperature outside was hovering at 37 degree Celsius. The abnormal temperature is becoming the norm in Bangalore and you may blame it on global warming or the relentless destruction of greenery. The mercury rarely crossed 32 degrees while I was growing up, which I distinctly remember. Coffee day is a nice place to visit to beat the heat and the noises outside. I settled down with a cool refreshing lemonade with a touch of mint and ginger as described in the menu.

Our discussions drifted to how one can find the purpose of life in business and structuring organisations for happiness and fulfilment.  I was curious to know about the document my friend was browsing on his smartphone, which he described as King Bharthari and his Shatakas.  I have not heard of Bharthari until then and found his life story very interesting.

Bhartrihari lived in the 6th century as the king of Malwa and its capital city was Ujjain. Apparently, the most famous emperor Vikramaditya was the stepbrother of Bhartrihari.

One day, a pious Brahmin gave a fruit to Bhartrihari, which he had received for his years of austerities and worship. The Brahmin felt the king deserved the fruit better than him considering the fruit was expected to provide long life span. Bhartrihari did not eat the fruit and instead gave it to his beloved wife Pingala as he loved her the most.

His queen Pingala was in love with a horse keeper and she gave the fruit to him. The horse keeper in turn presented the fruit to another woman with whom he was madly in love. This woman who wanted to be in good books of the king, met Bhartrihari in his court and presented the fruit for the king to consume.

Bhartrihari was dumbstruck when he received the fruit and after thorough investigations found out the entire story. He was very angry with his queen and put her to death. Subsequently, he became frustrated with his life and renounced his kingdom to Vikramaditya and became an ascetic.  Over a period of time, he composed three Shatakas to inspire and guide humans towards happiness and fulfilment.

The next day morning I was preparing for a long haul flight and amply used the time in the flight to read some of his Shatakas. The compositions represent his personal experiences in his life and one can selectively pick morals to benefit one’s personal and social life.

Some of his words of wisdom are below.

“We can get tasty fruits from every forest without any worry. We can drink pristine and sweet water from pure rivers flowing from different places. We can also get a bed covered with creepers and tender leaves and which is soft and comfortable to sleep on. Despite all this, misers, destitute are ill-treated when they seek help of the wealthy and rich”.

“Every day when the sun rises and sets our life becomes all the more emaciated. We don’t even realize the time spent on out work, our body, our domestic work and other things. Despite seeing old age, birth and death our mind does not fear anything. This proves that the entire world has drunk the wine of attachment and greed and is not in its senses. This is indeed the glory of time that despite realizing the truth we tend to neglect or overlook it”.

“The work, which has to happen, has to happen in the determined method and in no other method. So one should relax and take rest. One should work freely devoid of fear of tension. We should neither think nor ponder over the past nor should we waste time imagining the future. I think, of all those things, which I can enjoy in the present”.

“Whose father is patience, mother is forgiveness, faithful, wife is peace, true friend is truth, sister is pity, brother is restraint of the mind, bed is the ground, clothes are the directions and food is the elixir of knowledge. O friend! The person who possesses these above-mentioned family members is devoid of all types of fears”.

“There are 3 types of people in this world- The ignorant, the experts and the idiots, the ignorant person can be taught and explained very easily. Similarly even a scholar can be explained very easy and smoothly. But not even a scholar can explain or convince an idiot”.

“Human can make the impossible possible, but to explain this to an idiot is absolutely impossible. A human could possibly remove a gem from the mouth of a crocodile, he can cross a turbulent ocean, can hold an angry snake on his head, but a person who is biased cannot be pleased and cannot be convinced”.

And it goes on.

Interestingly I found a document dated Friday, the 19th November, 1949 about a speech in the Constituent Assembly of India.


Friday, the 18th November, 1949.

The Constituent Assembly of India met in the Constitution Hall, New Delhi, at ten of the Clock, Mr. President (The Honourable Dr. Rajendra Prasad) in the Chair.

Ramnarayan Singh (Bihar: General): * Mr. President, Sir, I have got today the first opportunity of speaking on the Constitution. I thank you and consider myself fortunate for getting this opportunity.

Sir, in ancient times there was a king in our country named Bharthari. He has given the description of the work where he says “No one can say whether the world is full of nectar or full of poison”.

That is what I want to say. We spent a lot of time, money and energy in framing this constitution and it is nearing completion now. It will now be adopted in full. Some people say that it is very good and a section of the people has this opinion and other says that it is very bad and worthless.

When I begin to think on the lines of Bharthari the idea occurs to me that some time back the British were the masters of this country but now they have departed and the Indians are framing a Constitution for the future administration of their country. The idea is very pleasing but when I go deeper into the Constitution I am pained to see all that has been accepted for shaping the future administration of the country. I know it is a fact that we were slaves for a long time but there was a time when we too ruled the country and had an empire also. At some places the democratic system of government was also followed.

But if you look into this Constitution it would be difficult for you to find anything Indian. I would go so far as to say that those of our future generations who might be unfamiliar with the History of this constitution, would say that it was framed not at Delhi but at London. It is a fact Sir, that the British have departed but I regret to say that our countrymen have not forsaken the ways of their former masters and that they are ingrained in their minds. I am of the opinion, and this is shared by other people also, that we would experience much more difficulty in bidding good-bye to the ways of the British than we experienced in bidding good-bye to the British themselves.

The legacy of Bharthari lives on.

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