Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rand and I

A friend had once asked me, "Why haven't you read Ayn Rand yet?" and I had replied, "Because I am forming a philosophy of my own. Something about Ayn Rand unsettles me and hence, I wanted to read her once I have steadied in my thought and understanding of the world."

I had said this when I had not read more than a few words from her books. I really mean that these words were but few. I later understood why I held in my heart a trepidation for her works and it dawned on me once I read her works a couple of years ago. It is not to do with what my sister and some friends call a sharp resemblance to some of the main characters in her work (and orange-head I am not!). It is to do with the fact that you cannot use logic to argue with her. What she says is absolutely right if you think that the life is simply a sum all that you know and enact on a daily basis. If like several scientists, you believe that food is a sum of all its nutrients, then you can't argue much. There are people who don't believe that and go on to live a happy life and there are people who do not view their life as a bunch of logical theories and have enjoyed life too.

But there is one thing I have gotten to agree with Ms. Rand. I realised this way back in 1996 but Ms. Rand has been solely responsible for putting it down in the clearest set of words. When Ms. Rand says that relationships can only be between equals, all my life comes up ahead of me. This how she employs John Galt to summarise it for her:

"The symbol of all relationships among such men, the moral symbol of respect for human beings, is the trader. We, who live by values, not by loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit. A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. A trader does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does he ask to be loved for his flaws. A trader does not squander his body as fodder or his soul as alms. Just as he does not give his work except in trade for material values, so he does not give the values of his spirit—his love, his friendship, his esteem—except in payment and in trade for human virtues, in payment for his own selfish pleasure, which he receives from men he can respect."

I still recall the way a manager recoiled under the suggestion of objective passion (or as I call it, dispassionate passion) as a work culture. 
I once believed that sacrifice and compromise were the key to keeping relationships intact. In my personal evolution (which is far from complete) I realised that that approach only creates deeper disrespect between the individuals in the relationship.
I have always held that one cannot and should not claim a right before delivering what one is supposed to. While at work, one cannot claim to be best employee before delivering top quality software. My manager considers it easier to ask me for what rating he should give me. I invariably give him a value based on my objective analysis of what I have done that year and it works fine with him.
I do not agree with what Ms. Rand says about logic being everything, because I have personal experience and knowledge otherwise. But in relationships, I agree with a lot of what she says.

We, who live by values, not by loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit.
People who wish to live parasitically should be treated as parasites. My theory on love has always been that love is a decision. When people decide to love someone, there is a sense of rightness that prevails. There is a sense of beauty that stays like the love one feels in watching a beautiful sunrise. Neither the sun is aware of itself and neither am I while enjoying it. The enjoyer and the enjoyed aren't disjoint and in that there is equality and in that there is love.
Relationships can only exist between equals. The minute it is established between a giver and a taker whose roles never reverse, it is pure evil. When there is but one person who is taking disproportionate to what one gives (and I do not speak in terms of Ms. Rand's materialistic offerings) then there is a parasitical relationship. The existence of several samples doesn't justify such imbalanced relationships. If one brings in a lot of care and affection then the other needs to bring in a lot of stability and security. If one brings in a lot of labour and hard work then the other must bring in a lot of thought and planning and resources. To have one always the provider and the other always as the enjoyer is utterly vulgar. 

A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved.
Most importantly claiming rights is a vulgar act. Claiming rights and privileges based on sentimentality and emotions is even more so. This is what I was referring to earlier. A person cannot claim to be an expert until one has demonstrated expertise and proven it time and again. HBR had a wonderful article called "The Making of an Expert" where they outline the following as essential to characterise someone as an expert:
1. It must lead to performance that is consistently superior to that of the expert's peers
2. Produces concrete results
3. Can be replicated and measured in a lab
The last one seems to tackle cases of freak brilliance and capabilities. I will not go into whether these are right or wrong, but expertise is different from genius or creativity.
Back to the point I was making. Claiming any position in a relationship is vulgar. Positions need to be earned and commanded not demanded with threats and/or sentimentality. If a person wouldn't grant that position to another, then there is no honesty in claiming the same. If I feel that for such a pathetic service I wouldn't give so-n-so any tips, then I cannot expect my boss to give me a bonus for doing just what he wanted. Similarly, if my mother hasn't bothered to sit with me and sort out my personal problems in life she cannot claim the title of confidant as much as I cannot claim the same of anyone reading this post. She can make sentimental statements about "Is this how you will treat your own blood? Your own mother of decades?" but she still wouldn't be my confidant.
Recently a friend's mother expired. He was amazingly close to her and was most dedicated to her. I have learnt so much from him in the past few months and haven't met a truer son than he. He has every right to claim the title of a dutiful son. Not he who doesn't even bother to be there for his parents and runs off to far away lands just because his wife wanted that for herself.
If one cannot give, one has no right to take. 

A trader does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does he ask to be loved for his flaws.
Treating the other person in the relationship as an equal is vital. If one wishes to be treated as king/queen then they should be willing to bow low to the other person's whims too. If one wishes attention from the other, one must be willing to grant that too. If one wishes to be pampered then one must be willing to mollycoddle the other person too. If one wishes to hawk their pain and sentimentality in public, then they should be willing to treat other's pain and difficulties with the same eye and respect too. If someone doesn't trust you, build it. If someone doesn't consider you a good worker, demonstrate. But if someone wants to use such ploys to simply keep gaining what they want because you are going to build it or demonstrate it, what are you doing with such a person? 
When one's whim, one's wants, one's anxiety and one's life is more important than the other, that person has automatically lost all rights to a relationship. This creates a demand for being treated as one wishes in spite of whether one is even capable of that treatment or not. It is like asking for a promotion whether I delivered anything or not. It is like asking to be loved whether I have been a good and considerate lover or not. "Whatever be my inadequacies I must get what I want". That is the sickest way to treat another person because the other person is pulled into the quagmire of a vulgar relationship.

...he does not give the values of his spirit—his love, his friendship, his esteem—except in payment and in trade for human virtues...
Honesty and respect are vital to a relationship as well. Not everyone is perfect but one who is not interested in perfecting themselves as a genuine offering to the other person in the relationship is not fit to be in a relationship. One who refuses to learn because they are too proud to admit that they are wrong, is not a good human being and a misfit in a relationship. When one receives genuine care and respect, it is vital to give in return the same or something that is of value to the other person. To stand up and say, "Of course I deserve all of that, why should I have to move a finger?" is parasitism personified. If one can't respect the other, there is automatically no relationship. People don't relate to looters and knaves. I know of a relative who takes whatever his wife says and doesn't open his mouth for anything. She treats him like dirt and embarrasses him in front of everybody. I feel sorry for him because he is a man with a heart of gold. I would say that he has had on of the most miserable marriages I have ever known. I know of another person who tries to be honest and genuinely believes in the truth of people, but he has had a horrible deal with his near relatives. He is only dealt with twisted lies meant to bleed him off all humaneness. Such people are unfortunate to have entered into such relationships. It is more so that they wish to stick to them even after recognising them to be utterly evil.

For relationships that are based entirely on the beauty of the Divine element (like the love of Radha and Krishna or the devotion of Tyagaraja and Sri Ramachandra), there is no trade as there is nothing to give or take between one wave and another in the ocean of love.

But life goes on. People will continue to make demands, will continue to lie, will continue to fall in love, will continue to believe that honesty can survive, will continue to be parasitical and will continue to write blog posts.... :-)

But to those who are in a relationship or planning to enter into one (be it business, blood or voluntary), I would advise you to think and honestly figure out why you deserve to be treated the way you want to be treated. Why are you so important in the grand scheme of things? What do you bring to this relationship? How honest are you? If you can find answers to these, please bear them in mind and don't fake things. Relationships are beautiful only as long as there is a rightness to it and honest respect.

So aham asmi

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ten Observations in My Life

Om Namo Naaraayanaaya
  1. If something can't last forever, it won't and it most likely will make your life miserable
  2. Beauty lies in the Divine breath of everyday life
  3. Happiness is often inversely related to the number of people who have a say in your life
  4. If you do something with good intentions, there is no necessity that people or time should consider it that way
  5. When lies are used to address a matter, that matter doesn't matter.
  6. You can never convince everyone because there will always be people who cannot stand your nerve to convince them
  7. People do not like to change, improve, learn or approach matters in an objective manner
  8. A conscious want to connect to the Divine is vital. The minute that want is lost, decadence creeps in.
  9. To assume that rightness, righteousness and honesty have any value other than to yourself, is a sign of your immaturity.
  10. To do what is rightly your Truth requires complete realisation which in turn requires complete observation which in turn requires complete stillness which in turn requires complete vairagya.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Made my day

"For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three."
  - Alice Kahn

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Of course I watched it. I enjoyed it too. Because I paid to watch it and I think it is mandatory to give a film enjoyment commensurate with the ticket price. A fantastic movie is one where you toss the ticket in air and enjoy without a weighing scale. Dasavatharam (10 avatars) is not that.
My first notion of this movie was, here is going to be a story where 10 different characters will be required who can be best played by only Kamal (and I think he is the greatest actor in India. Honestly, no one to beat him in anyway). I hope my preconception is understood. If there is simply going to be a cricket match in which 10 of the 11 players are going to be Kamal in different guises, I see no point and I think it is purely a whim and indulgence on the part of an actor to do something like that. If there is a story where there are 10 characters, each very very important to the story and so important that we need the best actor available to perform those roles, then it makes sense (to me) to make a Dasavatharam. Dasavatharam probably had 2-3 such roles which deserved great attention. That is the first thing that disappointed me.
Let me start with the good things about this movie. It is fun to watch. Kamal has done a wonderful job in linking all the stories together in a very interesting manner. The humour was ok but Balarama Naidu took the award for making the movie most enjoyable. He had this typical Telugu patriotism of which I have been personal witness many times during my stay in Hyderabad. I had a colleague who was so passionate about Andhra Pradesh that he couldn't help enquire into everyone's village of origin and then ascertain whether it was to the east or west of the Godhavari!! He would only read the online Telugu e-nadu or whatever it is called. I thought it was peculiarly him, but it turns out that many such individuals exist in the Andhra population. Balaram Naidu was absolutely amazing and the best scene was probably when his mobile phone rings with some weird tune!! Kamal, hats off to you for that. I liked the music though not too much. The fight sequences were also good. The dialogues were also good and I esp. liked the twist of Arivom to Hari Om. Balaram Naidu's dialogues were also fun. Hmmm that's it.
Let's now look at where the movie failed. First of all, the CGI was below poor. It looked like a movie made in 1990s. That gave the movie a very amateurish feel. I think even the direction should have been placed in able hands. Andal (played by Asin) was truly annoying but that might have been intended. My greatest grievance was the pointlessness of certain roles and the greater pointlessness in having Kamal to do those roles. The Afghan, Avatar Singh, Earth activist and the Japanese were totally pointless and seemed to be forcefully inserted in the story. I couldn't stand the way Kamal pronounced "chaos" at the start of the movie. The greatest silly part was Kamal and Fletcher arriving in India at the same time. Huh!? Kamal was in the cargo plane which took off immediately (or nearly immediately) but Fletcher was generally killing people and traveling to Vegas to get Mallika as a translator and then marry her (but why marry her? He is not Indian to have the kind of ethics that he will only travel with his legal wife and no one else!) before catching a flight to India. But he is there within few minutes of the main Kamal being taken into custody!!! Whoa! Doesn't make sense. Some of the stunts also seemed pointless and wasted (like Fletcher cartwheeling off the roof into the parking lot). Mallika was a total waste inserted merely to titillate. She was pathetic in dialogue delivery and even more so in her acting. I wonder why she acts like a grand artist in real life. Asin was passable and served the purpose of the heroine that must exist in every Indian movie in order to achieve commercial success.
In summary, the movie can be watched if you have time to spare! Too long a movie though, but ok.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Canada versus India

No, this is not about some cricket match that might have occurred between the two teams. I don't even know whether the Canadian team still exists (maybe their willow lost weight and got transformed into an ice hockey stick). I don't know much about the cricket world anyway!
Having lived in both environments, I feel capable to compare their cultures, psyches and way of life in general. Let's look at some of them.

Road less taken: In Canada, green, red and orange actually mean different things!! In India, they are just colours that blink at drivers. For many it is a matter of matching colours. A lady driver in India might look at the red light and think, "That so matches my blouse. Or does it? Let me go closer and check... hmmm. Not really. Let me go to the next light and check." And thus she moves on. In Canada, they actually stop. I don't mean pause or consider pausing, but actually stop! For some drivers in India, it is a Godly indication. A driver might actually be mulling over whether he should go straight to join his friends for watching the cricket match or turn right and go home to his family. Red means, go with your friends! In Canada, they just go with their friends (why? will let you know soon) once the light turns to green! There both countries agree. Green means go! Red can basically mean anything in India. Orange, in India, is mostly ignored and treated like this spoilt cousin of red and green, appearing when no one really asked for it. I am surprised that VHP and the Sena haven't taken on this matter and insisted that whenever the light is orange, everyone should get out of their vehicles and shout "Jai Shree Ram"! In Canada, they start slowing down. I truly found that weird. As in, the Indian mentality is to think that the orange was actually for a transition to green and hence rush forward. Canadians apparently know that such transitions don't exist. Indians pretend not to know.

Road mostly taken: At any given point of time, either a human (with or without an attached pet, and I don't mean the boyfriend) or a motorised vehicle moves at a junction. The roads are laid out nearly along the sides of some repeated rectangle, which only makes me wonder how Canada could take a shape other than a rectangle. Or probably it is a rectangle fit within the boundaries and all the uncovered portions of the country basically have no roads. In India we keep changing shapes and are very adaptable. Our roads can extend to sidewalks and sometimes over vehicles too. In India, at any given point of time every human in the vicinity and every form of motorised transport will intersect and/or overlap any and every square inch of tarred or untarred road. We seem to believe in effective usage of space. Canadians seem to like to spend their day watching patches of road and imagining their life as a child when they would do the same. Indians can only imagine what a patch of road looks like! If at any point of time we get to see a patch of road for more than a few minutes, we check the news for a curfew! Or we go stand there... BTW, we don't understand what a junction means and we have always thought zebra stripes are simply places where there wasn't enough tar.

Geriatrics: Canada and India agree on one thing: an old woman about to cross the road might take anywhere close to 5 minutes to cover 10 feet. What we do with that information, however, differs. Indians conclude that it is best to drive on as the lady will hardly make it to where the car will cross her path (if she had continued walking). Canadians, on the other hand, assume that she would be repeatedly hit if they budge an inch and hence, stay put till the old lady and her shadow cross the road. Hence, if you are really really old, and do not remember which country you are in, god save you.

Notion of Free: In India, anything that is free will be hoarded till you regret having offered it for free. The time taken for this change of emotion is roughly about 5 secs on a lazy day. Canada probably knows that if it is for free, they definitely don't want it ever or already have tonnes of it. Indians don't usually think that much in 5 secs. Then there is a notion of mutated-free. In India, if no one is watching over their wares (I mean the stuff which is up for sale) then they are inherently free and hence, we will hoard them till you regret not having watched over them. In Canada, they would read the small sign above it which might say something like "$0.99 per piece" and then call the shopkeeper to let him know that they are taking 2 of them. As I said, that is a lot to do in under 5 secs. If a show is on and no clearly visible sign (and Indians have a habit of squinting when they enter a show) exist specifying the cost of the show, then an Indian assumes it is free. A Canadian might assume it is free till they are asked to pay $2.45 per person. Indians, when asked to pay, will make you feel cheap and guilty for having tricked us.

What's in a Hi?: Indians will never say hi to you if they don't know you. If you are a sexy babe (then please write to me on the address given in this blog), an Indian will keep looking at you but still won't say a hi (for various reasons including what if you tie a rakhi around his wrist!!). In Canada, you can say "Hi" to just about anybody on the road. You could say hi to the person who just entered the elevator, to the person who stepped over your shoe as well as the drunk lout in the corner who is mumbling something which you thought was a hi (if you are Canadian, you are always forgiven to have assumed that about drunk louts). Indians will clutch their handbags tightly if you said a hi to them. If you smiled at them while saying that, they will move their children away from you and then when they think they are out of earshot, they will advise their children to study hard and get the first rank in 10th and 12th else they would end up like the mad man they just crossed.
"Son, do you want to grow up and be like him? Saying hi to everyone!? Study Physics properly!"
Canadians will actually have conversations with you about the most random things. I had fun (I am not sure whether I am Canadian or Indian or Zulu. I might be Swedish as I like their women better) with the house-keeping folks who would come over to clean my room. We spoke about their families, their life in Ottawa, where they shopped, whether they had had their lunch and a lot more. I remember chatting with this old lady at the WalMart (South Keys) and she was telling me about her day (I didn't share details of mine as it involved compilation errors and cussing at routers and server configurations). I agree that none of them seemed to be native Canadian and hence, showed traits which are ex-Canadian. Which brings me to the next two points.

Everything's in a hi: In India, once people are friendly enough to say a hi, they will talk about everything. I remember once traveling to Palaghat with an American friend of mine. We were attending a wedding and we decided to travel by train (I always make that decision but to an American, that is an adventurous decision. He also found eating with his hand from a green leaf, an adventure! Americans!!). There was an old gent from interior Andhra Pradesh who was accompanying us. He found our duo interesting enough to talk. In India, it is ok if a really haggard old person talks to you. We respect our elders enough to not clutch our purses and wallets. So he started talking to us (mostly me though he was looking at my friend from top to toe) and within 5 questions (oh! old people only ask questions) he was on the topic of my salary!! He wanted to know how much I earned. I had to be polite while maintaining my personal space so I replied with a "It is highly confidential and we are not supposed to disclose it to anyone". He was unfazed. He turned to my friend and asked him the same question!! :-o My friend was about to say "a few crore rupees" when I shook my head and helped him evade the topic. Point is, a few crore rupees to an Andhraite means "prospective groom" whether or not the other person is married and has kids or not (oh! Indians assume that marriage and kids are unrelated for Americans). I loved my friend's kids and family to let that happen to him. I love him too!! :-) In Canada, that would never happen. When they say "Howdy!?" they expect you to utter a monosyllable and move on (even if you don't utter the word, it is ok, but please move on). To a hardcore Indian, that is a serious question and he might respond with,
"You know, our drain pipe broke today. I have been running all over the place trying to find a plumber but darn rascals are charging me too much. So I had to go to the hardware store to pick up some stuff when I realised that WalMart might be cheaper. Right? And then my wife is returning from her house today so I have to go pick her up. The last thing I wanted was a migraine and... no, no, not my wife but a real migraine. It is so difficult nowadays to juggle..."
Our Canadian might have decided to never ever speak that word again in public! We really mean what we say and assume that others do too. Indians are fairly naive in that sense. A Canadian just said that to mask his burp. He really didn't want to know how you were doing, for Christ's sake!! An Indian always assumes that people around him are concerned about him as much as they are concerned about their own milkman and postman and son (no, no, the postman and son are two different people! Gosh! How Canadian!).

Show me a Canadian: There aren't any! They are either from Ireland or Sweden (aah!) or Germany and settled here for a few generations. Catch an Indian in Patiala and ask him if he is truly Indian. He will first beat the pulp out of you and then answer your question (we always do). He will start counting his ancestors on his fingers, then his toes, then on your fingers (at least the ones he spared) and then on your pretty toes. Then he will give up because there aren't any digits left between the two of you (reuse of digits doesn't occur to the Patiala mind). I remember ambling into a store in Montreal and asking the couple behind the counter for directions to the Antique village (it is called something fancy in French and I said it fast and nasal enough to make it sound French). They started out giving me directions and then brushed all the rights and lefts aside with a "but our antiques might just be yesterday for you. You people must have a history that goes back really long and nothing out there might be antique enough". Honestly, I wasn't asking to be taken to some archeological site. I was plain bored and wanted to go there! Every single person I met and spoke to, has a traceable history to about 3-5 generations. No one is really Canadian in the sense of being sculpted out of the soil of Canada. We can at least talk about some century BC and the like. BC in Canada only means British Columbia and they will immediately start talking about Vancouver and the like (and they get all excited because the winter olympics of 2010 is going to be held there. Indians do not recognise winter olympics)! So it makes sense that the house-keeping folks (who aren't Canadian beyond a generation) still have ex-Canadian traits.

Canadians drink: So do we, we consider water, buttermilk (sweet and salted), tea, coffee, milk, fruit juices, milk shakes, thandais, etc. as drink. Canadians think that beer, whiskey, wine, rum, vodka to be the only drinks and everything else that looks liquid as suspicious!
The only thing Canadians think is to do in a city is visit the pub. I would ask guys what is there to do in Montreal and they would reel out names of pubs and strip clubs!! I ask the same about Ottawa and they stick to that response. I ended up finding tonnes of places in Ottawa which these had vaguely heard of! If a Canadian came to India and asked anyone what to do, we would be more interesting and reel out names of a few hundred temples! If they needed variety, we would name a few old monuments (which were once upon a time, a temple). Other than this, we might recommend malls and botanical gardens and museums and boat rides and a helluva lot more. We won't say "There is Murugan wine shop, and... that's it."

Maple's in their blood: Canadians can't think beyond maple. They have maple leaves, maple tree, maple trunk, maple root, maple butter, maple syrup, maple doughnuts, maple sighs, maple farts,maple everything!! I can't believe the things maple can go into! Their flag has a maple too. We don't put coconut trees and neem trees everywhere. We don't make ever use one single incredient in everything. Think of biriyani flags and biriyani butter, biriyani bunyan!! Rhymes, but urgggh! They never seem to get tired of the maple at all. That surprises me. We would get tired of bigger (banana leaves) and smaller (tea leaves) stuff. Maybe because we have so many things to play with. If all Indians ever had was maple, we would emigrate! We do that anyway.

Curious bunch: Canadians are curious but are told never to stare, so they would ask you weird questions. Like the red mark on my forehead. They would look at it as if it was some alien smoking a joint and then ask, "Do you want some cotton or bandage? Your forehead's bleeding!" I would then have to tell them that I carry marks of every street fight wherever I go, so no thanks. I then offer to show them the other marks, which they politely refuse. At another place, the mark is the result of my head-banging against an OC Transco bus. Stories are endless. In India we don't ask anything like this. We will stare at the mark (we actually wouldn't, because we are used to all kinds of marks from -5 to 105/100) if it is really weird (and you have to try hard to stun an Indian; bikinis are a sure success) and then call everyone to see it. We would then reach out to touch it and then recoil in shock and then laugh at it. We would then follow you all over the place. We will call you a spoilt-sport if you wipe it off and then follow you for being a spoilt-sport.

A lot more could be said, but are best savoured by spending a few months here and a few months there. If you have a job which allows you that, gimme your contact information!

Friday, June 06, 2008


What may this drop bring?
Myriad fathom fallen and wet
Will it sprout a rose, pink
Or join many to a rivulet?

What worlds in it held?
A child's thirst quenched;
A leaf's sere dispelled;
Fall from eyes clenched.

Oh! A shy pearl's reflection!Life giving wetness
Why leave heaven's manor
For worlds where black mansions
Cage souls none the whiter?

How shall I preserve you?
How shall the wetness stay?
No rock so hard to hold you through
No silk to hold your sway.

No arm to hurl you back above
No ropes to pull the skies down
No pure heart to make an alcove
For your simple Truth's renown.

So why fall on my palm
And make sinner of me?
Please rest in the calm
Of heaven reflected on sea.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Land of the dead

I have lost this post more than once to Blogger. Everytime I hit a "Publish" it publishes nothing. No, I mean it. It publishes nothing. My whole post just vanishes!! Truly the Land of the dead


I have been wanting to write this post since several months, but haven't yet found time, i.e. till today. I really liked the way Agnee has rendered the song very very well. To those who know very little about Kabir, please read this, this and this. I have been reading (like many Indian students who study Hindi in school) his dohas from a very young age but understood less of them then. I love the way Mohan (I think) has sung this song. Nice earthy touch to it in a full throated depth.

Sadho re! Ye Murdon ka gaon
Sadho re! Ye murdon ka gaon, Ye murdon ka gaon.
Oh Seeker! This is the land of the dead, the ghost's land indeed.

Peer marey, paigambar maree hai
Seers have died, the Divine have died too (Paigambar means one whose feet are set in the heavens)

Mari hai zinda jogi (Agnee sings it as Mar gaye instead of Mari)
Dead is the living Yogi (Beautiful line!)

Raja mari hai, parja mari hai
Kings have died, subjects have died.

Mar gaye baid aur rogi
The healer and diseased have died too.

Sadho re! Ye murdon ka gaon, Ye murdon ka gaon.
Oh Seeker! This is the land of the dead, the ghost's land indeed.

[The following lines in blue are not in the song above]
Chanda mari hai, suraj mari hai
The Moons die and so do the Suns

Mari hai dharni akasa
Dead is the Earth and firmament.

Chaudan bhuvan ke chadhary mari hai
The lords of the fourteen worlds are dead too

In hoon kee kaa aasaa?

Then why desire any of them? OR What hope do any of them house? (not sure)

Nau hoon mari hai, Das hoon mari hai
They have died in single and double digits (I interpret 9-nau and 10-das to signify the numerocity of deaths)

Mari hai sahaj atthaasee

Effortlessly die the infinite ( I interpret 88-atthaasee to signify the infinite, 8 does look like the infinity symbol on alert!!)

Thaenthees koti devata mari hai
The various Gods we believe in, are dead too

Badi kaal ki baazi

Great is the play of Time.

Naam anaam anant rahat hai
Our effort to categorise (name) this world and proclaim the unnamed, lives on.

Dooja tatva na hoi
There is no other truth to this.

Kahe Kabir, suno bhai sadho,
Says Kabir, Listen Oh! Seeker.

Bhatak maro mat koi.
Don't lose yourself to death/the dead.

(For the song in Devanagari, please click here (thanks to Nila-Kantha-Chandra)

An interpretation:
Kabir is probably not being casual or simplistic when he says that nearly everyone is "dead". He seems to use the word dead to the common effect of one who hasn't lived, esp. lived the Divine. Undoubtedly, this keeps changing depending on the "person" whom he proclaims "dead".
In the first few lines, he denounces the teachings of all great saints and seers. This is very much like the Dao story about the Master reading all the ancient texts and the smith passing his comment about they all being a waste. In Dao too, the very first stanza declares that no uttered word is the real Dao. Kabir, too, seems to follow that path in declaring all seers as dead. They have had their time and are now dead (literally). To cling to them is as ridiculous as clinging to a corpse in the hope that one can gain whatever he had when alive. What the seers have realised is purely theirs. To know the Divine requires to be reborn every single minute and know the Divine for oneself rather than follow Google Maps to Heaven! To be reborn, also requires one to die every single minute, and hence the living Yogi is actually dead (he is not what you saw, and just died to what you see). Those who were the messengers of the Lord, have done their bit and died. They were dead to this world the minute they knew the Divine, though they appear alive in the land of the dead.
The great achiever dies (the king) and so do the insignificant multitude that crowds this earth. Neither of them pause to connect to the Divine. The King is in the grips of his power and wishes to maintain his position, the commoner is struggling to live and make life manageable, unable to spare a minute to do anything about that which never dies (the soul). Thus, he kills both the named and the unnamed though the naming and living in oblivion is deathless. In Sankhya, the Purusha (unnamed/unqualified) and the Prakriti (qualified/categorised based on guna) are eternal and are the cause of this world. 
Every person who tries to realise this truth (the healer/priest) dies too (whether he was successful or not) and so does the diseased (the person who is caught up in his individual complaints and worries) because neither attempt to realise that which cannot be tainted. The Divine is not available to atrophy. The decay of the body is a matter of chemistry and one who can break all vulnerability can keep his body and soul alive forever (reminds me of the story of the Lost Horizon by James Hilton, one of my favourites from school). To the rational mind, this appears weird and unproven, hence, unreliable. To the blinded mind, this is possible as is anything else. It is the gnostic mind that smiles (well, it always was). 
The elements in their very nature die every minute and are reborn. They are consumed and return to this earth in various other forms. The human mind worries about extinction and erosion. The Earth does not. The universe does not. Nothing of this universe prevents a man from doing what he wants to do, because the universe knows, that nothing of the rational mind can thieve that which is eternal. In that, the universe always lives and neither hinders nor assists the individual or collective body. None of elements have any desire nor do they function in discordance with the Divine will. They follow and hence, have their own way.
In all their physicality, every single creature that is born, has died. Why does anyone wish otherwise? Why is the timeless not preserved? We cling to that which is of time and then blame Time for its expiry. How amusing is the way of the people here in the land of the dead!
That which we name, probably lives down centuries. That which we haven't been able to name, lives on. We never stop naming (and hence, forming cults and sects) and often do so in an attempt to grasp the unnamed. As is also said in the Dao Duh Jiing (I finally found some wonderful Chinese folks to pronounce it for me!), our need to recognise and recall creates the named and going beyond all of that creates in us no need to deal with the named. The named world dies and repeatedly, so Oh seeker, why do you wish to lose yourself in the dead? Why, oh! why do you wish to not unify with the Divine but die? You roam this world in search for that one which won't die but refuse to hold it in you. You seek laurels that are eternal and friends who will always be with you. You seek leaders who are flawlessly living forever and spend your time amidst people who die due to the very fact of their ineptitude and disconnect. You look for Gods to keep you alive when they themselves have died to that need and hence, live on forever. Why lose yourself in this land of the dead? And in wandering like this, why do you lose yourself to death?

Please watch the video in this post. I like the way they have captured the commonness of man (and death is the only common thing to all men) with a little innocent girl running around the streets. I also like the scenes shot in the ghat. Watch it quick as they seem to be disappearing from YouTube! The video that I now have in this post is the complete one but I sure didn't like the end with the "priests" dancing with the band. If you want an idea of the hairstyle I am sporting, trim the singer's hair some more!!! :-)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Serial Killers

Look at me, I say!
"She is her father's daughter only. She will of course cry, no?"

This was the most touching dialogue in the serial before some guy started screaming "Ravana, return Sita", clutching a dangerously eye blinding orange coloured drink. This gent (the one who spoke the dialogue about fathers and daughters) dressed in all white with atrociously large square specs (you could see the magnified horendously pink upper lip) is supposed to be a great scholar who insists on speaking in hilarious Tamil (he calls an autorickshaw a "moon-chakra-vaaghanam" because vaahana is too Sanskrit and autorickshaw is plain unpatriotic). This was his response to a young girl's desperate attempt to have a seizure long enough to produce water from her eyes upon hearing the tragic news of her father's illness(I still remember when everyone in my house would start mumbling "glycerine" as soon as someone on screen would cry. I grew up thinking glycerine was the root cause of all sorrow!). I think she simply ended up shaking the hospital table too much (this moving scene was shot in a hospital or so we were made to believe with a nurse or two periodically pushed into the scene).

I could never understand the need for that dialogue, because I didn't get enough time to ponder over its valuable import. My mother was quick to shake her head and confess chokingly, "This is surely based on a true story?" What? There really are such men with gaudy pink upper lips!!?
"You know E, these are true stories."
"Mom, please. Not every one of your serials can be based on real stories!"
"No, no, something like this must surely have happened, else why would they show it on TV!"

Duh! How did I miss that profound logic? My mom blurs the line between real news and serials, the same way IPL blurs the line between gimmicks and ... whatever they are doing with willow and leather ball (I remember kids calling such balls "cover-ball").

She continued seriously to draw links between the Nathari killings, adultery in mango pickles (she still pronounces ingredients as inheridients so please realise that she was not talking about an extra-marital affair of a raw mango slice), bungee jumping, petrol price hike and eventually wraps it in a dollop of wisdom gained from the latest show of her favourite Iyengar scholar (the gent who comes on Podhigai) to help me understand how everything is actually an instantiation (that's OOP for you) of what happens in real life!

I simply nod my head for fear that she might involve me in her next club's meeting. She is a devout member of the See?-Real! club. The other members are my sister (shame shame), my grandmother and my uncle. Their meetings are conducted with least respect to boundaries. My mother could be on the moon making idli for Neil (did they bring him back?), but she will still call her mom to check on what happened in Kolangal, Anandham, Lakshmi and Arasi/Selvi (that heroine freaks me out! Initially she was just one woman in the size of two. Now she is actually two women!!!).
"Houston! Can you hear me?"
"Yes, ma'am loud and clear!"
"Loud? Should I speak softly? Since there aren't people on the Moon it's a while since I spoke and hence ..."
"Ma'am, its ok. Do you have a message for the people on Earth?"
"Message? ummmm Lakshmi should realise that Nethra won't change! She is only trying to cheat her and her husband. Please ask my brother to let me know what happened to Arasi? Is she in jail? She should go looking for evidence in..."
"Ma'am, ma'am we are losing contact. We are..." Beeeeeeep Beeeeeep Beeeeeep.
"Are we sure we did the right thing by sending E's mom to the Moon?"
My TV would sure feel happy!!
The most annoying and simultaneously funny thing is watching all the club members gather around the tube and pass comments about the characters. Weird part is when my mother would turn around and call out to me and ask me for my opinion (actually they are just cursory request for comments. If I keep my retarded look long enough, they just ignore me). Suddenly people think I am that secret member of the club!! Here is how a typical conversation between the club members and the idiot box would be. Does it matter who are the speakers?
"How dare she?"
"But then he did that to her in the Tuesday episode"
"I tell you, all these this time (indha-kaalam) people are like this only" (that's grandmom for you)
"But her sarees are always so good."
"Hey! E, he is wearing the same shirt that you had in the summer of 1995" (Not the same one, you dork. She meant the same pattern. Yes, that was my mom speaking)
"Hit sinner!!" (Adi paavi)
"I knew she would do that. Didn't I tell you, she would?"
"Now I am sure she will ditch him and marry him" (both hims are different. Don't make matters worse for me by sharing your confusion!!)
"What happened to that lady who adopted her own daughter as her daughter-in-law" (that was my sister who gets quarterly updates about the serials whenever she visits home. Trust me, she is the queen of remix! She can take 10 serials from 14 languages and create a mess that probably only Ekta Kapoor can relish)
"Hmmmm" (that is my uncle. Very serious See?-Real! member)
If Harsha Bhogle thought he invented the post trauma analysis, then he better not meet my mother. My mother would pause before serving me rice and look squint-eyed at the distant table. Damn! I should have had that cleaned before she arrived!

"You know what!? How come he never saw through her all this while? She has been cheating him for so many years (God! Mom! this serial is only 5 months old!) and still he trusts her. All these men fall for a woman and ruin their lives!" then she would look at me with reprimand glowing in her eyes "Don't you ever let that happen to you!"

"Mom, women? Me? Cheat? Him? Life? Rice, please?"

They would spend hours and call each other to discuss their theories of vamphood and various other hoods. I am amazed how 30 minutes of 20 minutes of commercials could generate so much matter to discuss. As in, I am glad that they have commercials. 30 minutes of serial could actual give me a heart-attack.

Why do the Westerners call it a soap? Or rather a soap-opera? I see nothing cleansing or operatic about the serials with loud song-and-dance sequences at the start and end. Oh that's the opera part! Got it!

One thing I find astronomically amazing is how easily these people accept a new character as an old one. What I mean is the serial producer's choice to bring in some new actor to replace another for a character in the serial. As in, next day we suddenly see this sane man calling a totally different woman his mother!! My mother would consume that easily with a "Aah! They have changed the actress!" and then continue to convince me that this is based on real life! Really!? :-o I could understand that for the husband (well, look at the Sheiks in the Gulf. People must be making such remarks about them every other day!) but for that man who just uttered "Amma" with all sincerity!? Gosh!

Watching the club members is sheer fun at times. You should see how they gleefully exchange the demarche of the leading characters and how and what will happen in the days to come. Hindi serials are equally crazy what with their ladies having 25 year old boys but look like they are their son's younger sister! Actually, that could be the twist in the tale!! Every bahu looks absolutely freshly plucked from a nearby Lakme salon (though they will all confess on screen to using nothing more than turmeric, henna and clarified butter for their eyes! That they had an affair with their husband's friend's father's two-timing brother makes up for the sauce. Hence, Sauce bhi kabhi bahu thi or, in English, There's a saucy daughter-in-law for you!) and make me doubt the innocence with which her "son" hugs her and takes her blessing!! Yeah right!

Mom would have comments about everything that happens everywhere. Every character is addressed on first name basis and scolded like how I was for not having washed my clothes for over a month. She is surprised why some character won't listen to her (which is not just her view but the most commonly held view and hence, something that was available to the character but was disregarded making the character less liked by her!) or how someone could speak like that (not what I explained to you, but what the character just said). Her personal favourites are the ladies who suffer due to callous children!! She is quick to fling them around the house in the hope of making us feel more watchful of our ways or just plain guilty for something we never did!! But I never attended the class where they taught us about guilt!! :-D

Never confront such worldwide See?-Real! members. They will quickly point to you that they know that this is not real (woah! I thought they were, no?) and they just view it as "timepass". Some will twist the sword around to remind you that you hadn't spent time with them else why would they have to spend time with an idiot box! No amount of "But you have always been watching..." will help unless you are damn good with dates (and that doesn't help much when you are up against the members) or crazy enough to get into a chicken-and-egg discussion. They are quick to let you know that they never bothered when the serials got over (but of course! Thanks to the channel enticing you for months into another one which would start on 4th April in the same time slot). Any such announcement and the members' discussions about the fate of the characters in the doomed serial reaches frenzied heights. Someone has to die and hence someone has to be the killer, but he is too sweet and she is too traumatised to be the killer (so let's make them a cook and a bus driver respectively) and then what about him who vanished in that bomb blast (but actually had to be removed as he was getting more money in another serial)? Will he return to supply the missing clue and will they all live happily ever after? Several mini-serials are run before the serial actually ends with each member claiming that s/he had thought about it already! After all it was just a slight modification (that A died instead of B is slight enough in this world) of their mini-serial number 56K8T4.

With every serial being the last one my mother will ever watch (how can they produce such tripe, E? Honestly, who watches these things, son!?), I wonder when I will have the TV all to myself so that I can watch Nigella Feasts without disturbance! Now that is fun and real (I am told they are both real! Come on, they look real! Don't you talk about Nigella like that!).

Devil's Handiwork

"Father, I wish to confess..."
"My son, no man is above sin."
"I don't think it was sin for it was such a beatific moment. There she stood near Mary's shop..."
"The florist?"
"Yes, and the flowers gossiped about what I lost myself to. Those flowers who readily gave their finest shades to her... to her cheeks, gossiped about my insane attraction."
"The flesh is the strongest Devil and..."
"Not the flesh, but her cheeks... listen to me Father, for my sin is to have held this in my heart too long. She stood there grasping the wicker basket to her breasts which are still the slightest rise from her ribs, but how the basket breathed with her. But my eyes returned to her cheeks. Aaah! Such a splendid sight it was. So utterly soft and succulent. They were so ... so tender. Her hair tried their best to scar it with their wanton sway, but lost their vile ways upon contact and gently slid their sinuous fingers gently from where her lower lashes ended to where her chin turned towards a more delicate neck. Aaah! I could see the throb of life against those cheeks, and so pure were they that a drop of Heaven's purest milk would pale in comparison. The air stood to watch the satiny down of them and kissed her so lightly. And when she blushed... aaah! I cried and cried at the sight of such Taste thisbeauty, when the flowers vied to offer their finest colours to her. So soft... so full of life, and with each step they gained a life of their own and moved oh! so gently, and my heart learnt then why it beats and to whose rhythm. A slight jiggle as earth and heaven tugged at those cheeks for themselves ... hardly noticeable were it not for the thumping in my breast. Imagine running my trembling finger over Heaven's softness and hardly feeling the peach of her skin... such a lovely gossamer, so lovely a face and those cheeks... aaaah! I was feverish to hold them in my hands, hands that I knew could only destroy them, but so blessed would be those hands... to slide my nose from her jaw up to her where her brow vanished and the lovely colours of a virgin maiden spring... to place my tongue against it and draw life's nourishment from it... to..."
"Stop it Joseph! You are possessed. I have never known the Devil to grasp so tightly and so quickly."
"But those fair cheeks..." and Joseph smiled.
"Enough. I order you to confine yourself to your room for the next week. You must read the Psalms throughout the day and ..."
Joseph rose as if in a daze and walked out.
"Joseph... Joseph... listen to me..."
Joseph kept walking but before he stepped out of the church he turned around and looked at the enormous cross on the farther end of his path. He saw Him nailed to the cross and saw His cheeks. He shook his head and smiled.
"It is such an irony that only the Devil can reveal the beauty of Your creation."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Idea Engine

To think forever...
I have been on the look out for places where I could simply ideate and brainstorm with creative people about solutions to problems in various spheres of human relevance. John and I started a blog for that which unfortunately fizzled out (though John is still going strong). I was part of the Global Ideas Bank and had submitted a few ideas there but that was kinda limited. Google/Yahoo groups is really not my favourite. Here is what I want (and probably something that I will go ahead and create if/when I find time):
The website is divided into the following parts:

  • Ideators
  • Stakeholders
  • Portfolio
  • Agora
  • Synthesis

    Ideators are those who simply enjoy thinking and solving problems irrespective of size. Their life's joy is in solving a problem and the zest multiplies with the relevance the problem has with life around us. A Sudoku puzzle is fine, but handling a medical supply delivery logistics to sites of natural disaster could be something entirely different. They thrive on the fecundity of the mind and bask in the appreciation and recognition it brings them. Most of them hold true that what is of the mind, is by far the greatest contribution an individual can ever make to the world.

    Stakeholders are basically people who are interested in having a solution to their problem. They might be motivated by monetary benefits in the solution, or in rapidly realising a solution for the benefit of society in general. They could be NGOs who are plagued with a problem which they recognise needs more eyes than the pairs they have, or they could be biophysicists trying to figure out something missing in their approach to making ligaments stronger in their core molecular structure. They could be companies trying to work out the nature of chemicals that they need to treat stains on clothes or government bodies trying to find ideas to handle traffic congestions in various parts of a city. They could be educational institutions worried about the core fibre of students who pass out or a car manufacturer interested in new designs for bumpers. They are basically people who have a problem and would love to hear solutions to them. They might also be willing to reward you for your efforts! Anyone can pose a problem. This means that I could pose a problem that I recognised and a solution for it (both being done in different areas of the site), though this problem might not affect me. Corporations can purchase problems (that have been posted by others and which are up for sale). Problems will have the detailed description and can have stipulations about various IP issues (copyright, etc.). They can insist upon contractual agreements and other stipulations.

    The site facilitates portfolio creation and management where individuals can store and present ideas/solutions to various problems and feature prototypes of their solutions. They can trade these ideas with commercial and government organisations. The portfolio will highlight their depth and breadth of knowledge, creativity, research skills, collaboration and facilitating skills and a wide range of skills and talents to give a more complete description of the person. This description of the person will be based partly on the individuals opinion and qualifications as well as informed and objective rating provided by other users of the system. A portfolio would be mix of text documents (secure) in some standard formats, images, videos and users' response to each of them. This is very serious stuff so moderating will be quite strict and people simply cannot post their navel piercing images or discuss Britney Spears' latest beach video (btw, have you seen it?). Every user is allowed to customise his/her portfolio to reflect his/her individuality and the face s/he wishes to present to the world. The portfolio could be a very well integrated flash presentation running the viewer through the various achievements and ideas of the user in a coherent and appealing manner or it could just be a simple HTML page with links to various other pages. This also helps those who are seeking jobs to better reach out to their employers.

    The agora is basically the space in which users meet and share/discuss ideas. Here is where the commenting, critiquing, polishing, volunteering and grand presentations take place. Here is where web-conferences, team/project rooms and white board brainstorming happens. Every activity is tracked and hence, stealing of ideas or any such abuse of the facility can be captured to the maximum extent feasible. The community will be divided based on user requirements, i.e. a new group will be created within the community and at a particular level in the tree if a group of (say) 5 or more individuals express a need for it with a clearly documented purpose and justification as to why they cannot fit in elsewhere. Initial moderators will be assigned and policies for election, shuffling, rotation can be structured. Here is where comments, rating, accolades, brickbats are available in surplus.

    Synthesis is what happens mostly in the background. A person's rating and value to the thought community is converted and presented as clear and non-technical indicators. A person's involvement which provided value to a discussion or a problem's solution is also gathered and used as input to the final score. The indicator is representative of the various skills that a person has to provide and not just an "A" or a "B+". A colour matrix or some spider-web is envisaged to provide secondary level of detail. The first indicator could be some title or names of great personalities who demonstrated similar combinations of skills. These are details that can be worked later on. Stakeholders are also marked based on the level of interesting problems that they present as well as the help they provide in clarifying doubts that ideators may have.

    Do you know of any such site? In my search (did that just now), I came across a site called which come spookily close to what I have described here in some aspects described above, though the agora nature of the site doesn't seem to be well developed and I feel they are missing out on a lot of valuable information. I was recommended ThinkCube by John but am yet to assess it.

    Why do I need such a community? I just enjoy hanging around with people who love to think!! :-)