Of Grandmother’s Guidance and Practical Wisdom

Book Review by Kanwar Dinesh Singh


Amma’s Gospel 
by Rajinder Krishan
Setu Publications, Pittsburgh
Paperback, 2020, pp. 168
ISBN: 978-1-947403-11-6
US$ 14.95

‘If nothing is going well, call your grandmother’―this Italian proverb shows how significant a grandmother’s presence is in one’s life. Grandmothers are proverbially associated with storytelling, elderly guidance, practical wisdom, domestic healthcare, and, of course, the first schooling of a family’s children. Grandma’s tales, bedtime stories, and affectionate lullabies make little kids cling to her. Grandma’s home remedies are the most relied upon methods of healing and forms of first aid for all family members. Grandmother’s wise sayings continue enlightening the young generation even today when all amenities and resources have become easy to access.

Kanwar Dinesh Singh

New York-based Indian poet and editor of literary website Boloji.com, Rajinder Krishan’s recently published book of poems, Amma’s Gospel, speaks volumes about his grandmother’s influence on his overall attitude to life. In a poetic narrative, he articulates his grandmother’s experiential wisdom in simple, conversational parlance. The duologue between the grandmother and the grandson centered on queries about the meaning and purpose of human life and existence and human predicament vis-à-vis divine will. The inter-locution between the two is more-or-less like Arjuna and Lord Krishna in Srimad Bhagavad-Gita. Even the narrator’s ignorant questions to his grandma bear the innocence and naivety of a person tugged in the problematic, dual, and dilemmatic situations of life. The grandma’s life-experience offers answers or solutions to the grandson’s queries and problems. But these questions and answers carry workable solutions to everyday issues and certain philosophical issues.

Raj Chowdhry
Rajinder Krishan uses Amma’s gospel, which is also her sole answer to various questions of life and existence, as a refrain in this collection of poems:

 

Love yourself

by being true to yourself

Be not in haste to react

First anticipate then contemplate

and / then respond

Follow the right path

Be happy

Be successful.

She clearly tells him, “Stop electing / the path of deceit / in the journey of life. . .,” giving a straightforward rationale: “This play of deception / sets up boundaries / to make you / a prisoner of the past / . . . / And you simply keep longing / to be free from the bondages . . .” (pp. 45-46). Amma’s words echo the spiritual lore of the Karma principle enshrined in the Bhagavad-Gita, according to which all our actions have consequences depending on our action’s quality. It states that one’s good and bad actions, accumulated over several lives, bind one to the cyclic recurrence of birth and death.

The grandma clearly exhorts the poet to discern between good and evil and refrain from resorting to immoral ways: 

 

There are no better riches than

acceptance of Life as it is

Doing what you can do best. . .

Wisdom to differentiate

between right and wrong. . .

(pp. 49-50)

 

In Amma’s code of ethics and morality, there is no place for avarice or wrong means to getting something in life, however dear to one’s heart. She preaches honesty, uprightness, patience, and waiting for the turn, as she believes, “You get what you deserve / Only when it becomes due.” (p. 50). Besides, she believes that sacrifice, charity, or philanthropy can empower a person from inside. She tells a sutra – “Feel rich by sharing” – that can raise one’s being from a petite level of self-centredness to a higher consciousness of altruism and empathy for all creatures of God. Amma perceives divine presence in all human and non-human creatures of this world. She believes we should be grateful to God for His benign grace and blessings He showers on us. The poet underlines Amma’s mysticism in these lines: “Death is inevitable / sleep with gratitude / for the ultimate dawn.” (p. 66). Each step takes us closer to death, so we should be wary of our every step in the journey of life. The poet takes this lesson from Amma’s gospel:

 

First step

marks the onset

of journey

 

Every next step

taken gracefully. . .

intuitively transforms

the chosen path into

precise direction. . .

(p. 107)

 

Amma’s gospel emphasises that one’s karma plays a decisive role in shaping one’s destiny or fate; not only during the lifetime but also in the afterlife. The poet realises one’s good karma is the only way to happy living and spiritual salvation, and it will serve as a lighthouse for the coming generations as well:  “. . .we are busy /. . ./  building, destroying / . . . and rebuilding. . . / eventually / leaving something behind / good, bad, or ugly / for the next generation / to inherit.” (p. 53). Hence the poet comprehends how important one’s karma is, even as a duty or responsibility toward posterity. He cherishes every word of Amma’s gospel and comes to a resolution: “Let us pray / Amma’s way.” (p. 50).

Amma’s Gospel offers practicable solutions to everyday problems and solemn metaphysical issues in a very simple and lucid manner, which philosophers would confuse people with their highly complex jargon. Some statements have become sutras or aphorisms. I congratulate the poet, Rajinder Krishan, for sharing Amma’s invaluable wisdom with the readers in an intelligible way.


Foreword by PCK Prem aptly explicates the content of the book. The artwork by Niloufer Wadia enhances the impact of the thoughts and ideas conveyed through the words and adds to the book’s visual beauty. Meera Chowdhry deserves special kudos for the overall concept of this priceless volume.

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