Thursday, December 18, 2008


I finally said good bye to the Indian Air Force, and hung up my uniform, on 31 Dec 1999 - a career which I would love to re-visit in any future births, if any. I was immigrating to Canada and wanted to do a course that would help me with a second career in Canada. 'e-business' was the in thing at the time, and I decided to do an IBM certificated e-business course in Delhi. I met my co-students on the first day - they were all in their early 20s. One of the student, Vince, was an American, who had flown down to India to do this course as it was much cheaper to do it in India. He generally kept aloof, like most Americans. However, over a period of time he got friendly with me and started to share his ideas, thoughts and views with me. Asking an American about his personal life is a total taboo, unless of course he knows you well enough and is willing to share stuff with you. In keeping with this I never asked him anything personal.
I did notice though that Vince would vanish on Friday evening's and would appear back in class on Monday's. This happened every weekend. After about three months into the course, I was close enough to invite Vince to my place for a meal over the weekend. When invited, he told me that his weekends were all booked. Curiosity got the better of me and I asked him why he could not even spare one weekend for visiting my home and family. He replied that he went to Rishikesh on every weekend. He had rented a room there for the weekends. The room cost him Rs. 300 per day and was located on the banks of the Ganges, as it emerged from the hills. He told me that the view was very beautiful, and that he always enjoyed his stay at Rishikesh.
One weekend when he returned from his trip, he was all excited and showed me some photographs that he had clicked at Rishikesh. These were photographs that Vince had taken with a sadhu with long matted hair wearing only 'bhasm' (ash) and a loin cloth. The sadhu had built a small hut with his own hands, and was living in that. Vince told me that the sadhu could speak fluent English and had been a professor in a college who had retired to Rishikesh to go through his 'vanprasth' (going to the jungle) ashram. He had renounced everything worldly, and had finally settled for good on the banks of the Ganges. Vince had many conversations with this sadhu, and many others like him, during his numerous visits to Rishikesh during the four and half months that we were together doing the course. Of course like a true American, he had taken a number of photographs of monkeys, elephants, snakes and the likes in close human contact. He also had some with a python around his neck holding the snake with both hands - even I would have felt creepy about doing this pose.
At the end of our time together, Vince one day confided in me about his dream, and dilemma, in life. He said that he had always wanted to start a software company, earn a lot of money, and when he had earned a million dollars, he wanted to buy a cottage on the beach in Virginia (his home town), put an easy chair out in the sand on his own private beach and relax, doing nothing. This was an understandable dream of an average American, but what he said after that shocked even me. He said that "I want to go through all this just to relax on the beach and here is this sadhu who has nothing except a loin cloth and a few other bare minimum belongings doing exactly what I want to do after all this struggle, and after earning a million dollars". We both looked at each other. We ran out of words after this for an appreciably long time. We were too busy trying to comprehend the enormity of this realisation. I still wonder at times about this incident. Is life actually that simple? I know it is, but my senses force me to think otherwise.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


I was surfing the internet trying to get more information on Quantam Physics and happened to hit upon this website - address is given below. The site has a wealth of information, and also had this prominent para that I found absolutely fascinating. What attracted me to this para even more is the fact that the last few days have been very difficult for most Indians and everybody wants things to change - we are tired of our politicians and our political system. This para gives one an insight into how we can change our system. Quote.
"Attracting desirable conditions like a Magnet with our emotionalized, focused thoughts is easier than constant efforts at manipulating the outside world.
Do you look in the mirror and wait for your reflection to smile?
No, you smile and the reflection returns it.
It's how Reality works.
Change who you are first, and this becomes your world".
I was very pleasantly surprised to find a blogger who had already made a promise to change, and her reasoning was something very similar to the logic given in this para above. We sure are on the right track.

Monday, October 27, 2008


This appeared in the Times of India, Chennai edition of 27 Oct 2008 under the Sacred Spaces column. I found this very very enlightening and so I thought of putting it down on my blog. Made lots of sense to me. Here are the writings:

"By whom willed and directed does the mind alight on its objects? By whom commanded does the prana(vital breath, that precedes all, start? By whom willed do men utter speech? What intelligent power directs the eye to see, the ear to hear?"
- Kenopanishad 1.1

"It is the ear of the ear, It is the mind of the mind, It is the speech of the speech, It is the breathing of the breathing, It is the eye of the eye...."
- Kenopanishad 1.2

"The teacher proceeds from the known to the unknown....We all know that we hear with our ears. But a set of ears on their own are as deaf as a post. Follow the sound vibrations through the eardrums along the nerves. It is the brain which is actually hearing those vibrations. But that is not the end of it. If the Consciousness leaves the brain you won't hear. Even if that Consciousness simply shifts the focus of your brain for a moment, the ears still transmitting the sounds to it as it ticks away, but you are deafened...

Consciousness is the see-er in the eye, the mind in the mind, the speaker in the speech. That says the teacher, is the source of existence, is God(Brahman). So God is the subject of all you see, hear, smell, touch, taste, feel or understand. Therefore, God can never be an object of perception or comprehension."

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I love reading the column, 'The Siege Within' by M J Akbar in the Sunday Times of India. This week he has written on a subject that should make every one of us pause and think. The article 'Identity wars trump class wars for India's poor'. This article is just brilliant and captures what is going on in our country today. It is indeed shameful to see the barbaric acts of some of our countrymen - probably misguided by narrow political considerations. Whatever be the reason, we the people of India must ensure that we live up to the grand visions of our founding fathers , as enshrined in our Constitution.

I have to quote the last few lines verbatim, as there can be no better way of expressing my feelings too on this particular subject than what has been written by M J Akbar. He says, 'Indian Muslims are bitter, but it would be foolish of them to permit this bitterness to ferment into bile. Any government is a passing phenomenon; the nation is a permanent asset. Governments can fracture; a nation must hold. When those in power fail, it becomes vital that we, the people, Hindu and Muslim and Christian, reach out to preserve the common good. Common sense is often the best recipe for for the common good; alas, that is the first thing that a victim abandons'.

How true Mr. Akbar. I do hope that better sense prevails. Our strength is unity in diversity. Let us not make it our biggest weakness. We the common people must resist this divisive politics by every means possible. Jai Hind.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I received this article in my email today. It sort of answers the question that I received in one comment yesterday about ' what makes us so busy in our lives to leave them alone at this age??? So, I am reproducing the article, as received. There are other issues too, but they would need to be addressed some other time.

group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups- porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite-telling them to help themselves to the coffee. When all had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said.

“If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.

Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what you drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups. And then you began eyeing each other’s cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups They are just tools to hold and contain life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us. God brews the coffee, not the cups. Enjoy your coffee! The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything.”

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I was away to Chandigarh to celebrate the 60th wedding anniversary of my parents, which fell due on 10 Oct 2008. We kids never even knew the date of their wedding anniversary, as it was not the fashionable thing to celebrate one's wedding anniversary during the time when my parents got married, and also the weddings were done according to a different calender which has a different relationship to the calender that we use. My father was motivated to celebrate it this time, when he was invited to attend my brother's 25th wedding anniversary. To cut a long story short, all five of us siblings, and some other members of our families, got together in Chandigarh for the occasion. I have since returned to Chennai, and my blog. The event left me thinking......

My parents married 60 years ago, had five children, who are alive - four sons and one daughter. All of us married and had two children each, in due course. This whole big family last got together about a decade, or more, ago, I think. My daughter is now married, and has had a baby girl, 'Meher' on 29 Sep 08. This time, we were many members short of this huge big family. My parents missed the ones that were not present, but had a good time, and basked in the attention that was showered on them. My mother could not hold her emotions...she did not say anything but we could sense her loneliness in her old age.

Imagine, having been directly or indirectly responsible for bringing so many of us into this world, they live by themselves. Three of my siblings live independently in the same city along with their families, and two of us live in Chennai and New Jersey respectively. My kids live in Toronto. My mother still manages her own house, and kitchen, as best as she can. It's not too difficult for us to fast forward 20 years.

We are all parents and would have to go through the same fate, when we grow old - the fate of having to be content with just memories of happier and fulfilling days, or of days spent in waiting for the off springs to drop by whenever they have the time and the inclination, or for an occasion, or for some bad news. Everyone has to go through this cycle of childhood, parenthood and then waiting........watching your off springs following some 25 years behind. The Kaal Chakra never stops!!!!!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


In India, religion and politics are generally intertwined. This is 'what is', and is probably one of the strength, or weakness, of South Asian polity, depending on how you view it.

In my opinion religion’s only purpose is to help the individual achieve his long term spiritual goal. How? Religion, like all else in life, has its own primary education of rituals, which are further re-inforced by the secondary education in mythology. Eventually each one, depending on his/ her personal motivation, must go through the university education of philosophy, if the final goal of understanding the Unity of all Creation has to be understood, which is the essence of each religion. Practiced religions differ on rituals and mythology but are very similar when it comes to philosophy. Philosphy is the most important part of religion and helps each individual evolve as per his own understanding. Once you reach the summit and look down you will find any number of paths, both charted and uncharted, to reach the summit. All paths will finally reach the summit if you keep on climbing. Each individual has his own perception of his Creator, irrespective of his religion. Even in the same religion, we may follow the same rituals and may have been fed on the same mythology, we still would have our own perception of the Creator in our brain/ mind, which will be different from every one else. Rituals and mythology provide us humans the basis to develop the faith to go onto bigger things in the spiritual field. Rituals and mythology are taught/ learnt through pandits/ mullahs/ granthis/ priests. They would in all probability be inadequate guides to help one progress in the Doctorate of spiritualism. We need to understand this important difference - a primary or secondary school teacher cannot guide one at the Doctoral stage. Only some one who has ‘been there/ done that’ can show the way. The trudging has still got to be done by the individual. This is the spiritual realm and has nothing to do with politics and democracy.

Politics on the other hand has to do with our needs to live a purposeful and fulfilling life in the physical world. Human needs are common, irrespective of religion. We all need certain facilities, freedoms, laws that can fairly regulate our rights and responsibilities, and the like. Any good politician, irrespective of religion, should be able to provide us with all this in a democracy, as long as we can hold him accountable, as in the West. However, in South Asia vote banks are created on the basis of religion, caste etc. and this does not help anyone but the politician and his coterie. The only way out, I believe, is through separation of the physical world of politics from the spiritual world of religion. Education and strengthening of our democratic institutions is probably the only answer. We Indians, irrespective of caste or religion, need to understand this basic fact. Once this happens there will be no majority/ minority vote bank to woo and politicians would have no choice but to concentrate on providing good governance.

Friday, September 26, 2008


While replying to a comment on my last blog, I was suddenly reminded of an incident that took place in 1985, the year our son was born.
Our son was born on 18 May 85. That year, I was posted in Gorakhpur, but deployed in Leh since April. I had come to Delhi for his birth and went back to Leh on the next day. I finished my tour in June 85 and came to fetch my family - my wife, daughter - 5 years, and son - one month plus, and our dog - Tootsie, a Lhasa Apso. I came to Chandigarh, and bought my first car - the good old Ambassador. We had a lot of luggage and we had to travel from Chandigarh to Gorakhpur, via Delhi, where my in-laws lived. The summer was at its peak and car ACs were not so popular. So we decided to travel early mornings. Chandigarh to Delhi was a short trip and was thus no problem.
From Delhi my sister in law vounteered to come with us to help us with the settling in phase. We left Delhi in the early morning with our luggage loaded in the dicky and on the carrier on top of the car, and three adults, two children and one dog inside the car. The journey from Delhi to Kanpur was uneventful. A little after leaving Kanpur, we hit a pothole and the right leaf spring of our heavily laden car gave way. We somehow managed to reach Lucknow, sometime in the afternoon, and stopped at the first mechanic we found who could do the job. I told the gentleman that we had a one month old baby and wanted to reach Gorakhpur before dark. Chaitanya, our son was crying non stop, as we were having problems with his milk, water etc. and the heat, of course. The mechanic assured me that he would do his best and help us leave at the earliest. He immediately started his work and was straightening the leaf spring, when it came time for namaaz. All the neighbouring shops were promptly shut down and the people started leaving for namaaz.
A number of people, on seeing this gentleman still at work, would stop and tell him 'namaaz ka time ho gaya'. He would hear them, and still continued with his work.
Finally one gentleman stopped and said to him, 'kya paison ke liye namaaz bhi bhool gaya'.
He replied, 'yeh bhi to namaaz hi hai, inka chhota baccha roye ja raha hai aur inko Gorakhpur raat se pehle pahunchana hai'. This angered the other gentleman and he said something which upset the mechanic. He got up and left for namaaz. We were delayed for about half an hour, the time it took him to come back after namaaz. He apologised and completed the job at his earliest, to our satisfaction. On my asking him, he assured me that the car would not give me any trouble till Gorakhpur. I paid him and left after thanking him.
This illiterate mechanic had understood what most of us never seem to fathom. But look at the irony, even after having understood this final truth, he had to bow to lesser mortals for fear of being outcasted by his own friends. We finally need friends and relatives to survive in this world, unless you are willing to renounce all.
This incident has stayed with me ever since. Who was right? The mechanic who understood our predicament and who could empathise with us, and knew that Allah would also have wanted him to offer namaaz in this fashion on that day, at that time OR the other gentleman who was the custodian of everyone else's faith? God only knows!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


In the end all religions point to the same light. In between the light and us, sometimes there are too many rules.

- Paulo Coelho
How true!!!

Swami Vivekananda has said that ‘every religion comprises of three parts – mythology, rituals, and philosophy’. Religions vary in their mythology and rituals but very nearly propagate the same philosophy in different words, i.e. they all point towards the same light. I believe the problems of this world are due to the differing mythology and rituals that we imbibe from imperfect humans and then practice them considering them to be the end in themselves. These rituals and mythology are only meant to strengthen the desire to know, and also to create doubts, so that we can develop clarity and faith, with the final aim of understanding the philosophy. To reach there, we need to listen to the mythology, question it – find answers; perform rituals – to strengthen our resolve and will power to finally use these attributes to get to understand reality, and in doing so reach the destination of ‘the same light’.

Every thing that we do in life follows the same pattern. Take our education. Why do we study? Who enjoyed studies? Remember how your parents gave you stories of why education was very important. Why start with the alphabet? Is the aim of education the teaching of the alphabet? Why do we go through the ritual of going to school at a set time everyday? Rituals and mythology have a role to play but what must be remembered is that these are but a means to an end. Education is much larger than learning the alphabet. Similarly religion is beyond rituals and mythology. Please do not mistake the means for the end – which is ‘the same light’.

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother

- Khalil Gibran