Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Dinner to Celebrate

Of course, Copyright BBC Good FoodI have reason to celebrate. The reasons include a delicious dinner and hence I celebrated the day with a wonderful dinner! Of course, I knew that the meal will come out well and hence the celebration planned in advance for something in the future experienced now.
What I prepared today was a take on Gordon Ramsay's Cream of Cauliflower and a simple pasta arrabiata (more chunky sauce). I think this is the first time I am making this soup and such a soup. I would love to give you the way I did it (I replaced mushrooms with aubergines because I didn't have mushrooms) but I think it is fair to let you read Gordon's idea and then let you work with it the way you wish to. I was delighted with the results (so I am sure Gordon's idea in its fullness must be wonderful too). I simply couldn't stop having the soup and then the pasta and then the soup and back to ... Sigh! Such meals should never end, but perhaps it is in their end that one can pause to register delight.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


What goes through a man's and a woman's mind when someone says: "Let's go for a drink..."

Complicated, man
Simplicity Personified
All for a fishbowl

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sri Sri Sri Sri

Why not? If we can have Sri Sri then I am sure we can string a few more and feel elevated! I couldn't help writing this post after reading a piece titled "The Ambassador of peace" in the ToI today. Yes, you guessed it, our ambassador of peace is none other than Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
I shall refrain from commenting on his teachings or his relevance as a spiritual guru (and readers of this blog are well familiar with my views about a guru for spiritual matters). I would direct the curious reader to some really entertaining posts by Atanu Dey about his favourite diversion
I was amazed at what I read in that article. I jumped and hobbled my way to my computer when I read the "You ask, Sri Sri answers" column-let in the advertisement (I think that is what it was).
By the way, does anyone know where Sri Sri Sri Sri received his advanced degree in science at the age of 17? I have looked around and I have no sources. In case someone can get me that info I would be truly indebted. I don't even want to go into the "astonished teachers by reciting the Bhagavad Gita" at the age of four claim!

So here is the piece. I am going to type it out because I get the pleasure of hammering some imaginary nitwit in the process. They call this stress-relief! :-D My comments interleaved.

A not-to be missed part of the Mahasatsang is the Q&A with Sri Sri. A few nuggets:
Q: Do you believe in rebirth?
Sri Sri: I don't believe in it. I KNOW (there is).

Was the (there is) inserted? Because I can always say "I KNOW" and then leave the real knowledge to be guessed or altered later on! I KNOW (that you will never know what I know, for I don't know too).

Q: Guruji, you have visited so many places around the world. Which is your favourite place?
Sri Sri: (touches his heart) Right here.

Cho chweet! Please note that nearly all his answers seem to evade the basic question by giving some really clever answer. It is like someone asking "Is there God?" and a sage replying "In asking that there is God. In not knowing the answer there is God. In knowing the answer there is God and you ask is there God?" Sounds like Bill Clinton answering the question of "Did you have sex with that plump woman?". I don't think it is so difficult to say "I liked Florida" or "I am not sure whether I liked any place in particular over the other. I liked the beaches of Riviera and the dunes of the Sahara, but nothing to supersede the other". No, I am not over-reacting, just wondering why people enjoy giving cute answers to simple questions. Here is another one which was quoted in the article without being a question:

How many of you have IPOD? Everybody should have IPOD. Do you know the meaning of IPOD? It means Inner Peace and Outer Dynamism. Got it?

What is there to get in it? That's not the theory of relativity is it!? I wonder whether Apple should sue them for infringement! :-)

Q: I want to develop patience. What should I do?
Sri Sri: I will tell you next year.

Really? And till then what should I do? Sign up for half a dozen AoL classes and courses!? This is why I prefer JK. He was probably not an enlightened being nor one whom I would consider to be in touch with the Divine. He was honest and clear. Very clear. He was immersed in the daily problems of the human mind and being, but he wasn't cute. He didn't evade questions. If someone came to him asking him about his constant search, he didn't reply with a cute answer but actually patiently went into the issue and discussed it tediously with the questioner. Perhaps the snippets are taken out of context but still they only give a gimmicky feel.

Q: Who are you?
Sri Sri: First find out who you are. Then you will automatically know who I am.

Yet another gem! God! Grow up! The man is probably earnest in asking you what he did. Can you stop playing to the audience? Why couldn't you lead him to finding out who he is so that he gets an answer to who you are?

Q: What does Rama mean?
Sri Sri: You know the English word radiance. Ray comes from the sanskrit root rA... rA means ray, rashmi, light. So radiance comes from rA. You know the English word me comes from the Sanskrit root mA. mA means me. So Rama means the light in me, the light in my heart, the light within me. That is the real meaning of Rama, ok?

Not ok! Ray did not derive from any Sanskrit word. rA in sanskrit means just this:

rAti means giver, btw. So where did this whole thing about rA being ray originating from rA theory come up? Like an egg pulled out of the magician's beard (and we at least have the beard here)!  Please see for yourself. Similarly, "me" did not come from mA or any other Sanskrit word. If one were to stretch it far enough, one could at best get to mama (mum-uh and not maamaa) which means mine and its root is in aham (I). But there is no clear connection to that.
Secondly, the Indian scriptures (Padma Purana, for instance) give a very different etymology to Rama having nothing to do with any ray of light within me. The Rig Veda mentions the word Rama in certain places and whenever used as an adjective it means black or dark!! Far from a ray of light!
Adi Shankara and others have given at most 3 possible interpretations to the word Rama and none of them include the one provided by Sri Sri Sri Sri with English etymology thrown in!

I hate it when people assume we are stupid enough to be taken for a ride. I have had the fortune of meeting and interacting with ridiculously stupid people who make claims and allegations without a basis and expect me to accept them all without blinking. God! Let me at least blink!
This whole urge to appeal to the lowest common denominator (LCD) seems to be driving several "guru"s into being cute and giving these capsule answers which thousands of LCD folks can repeat ad nauseam without understanding a thing. Dimwits who are only interested in these capsules will follow the most clever and gimmicky guru. Not that it makes them any better but neither has any religion and hence people think that this is better than the austerities of a religion. People are stupid in both cases, one out of fear and the other out of stark laziness and dullness. To make matters worse these devotees start out with laziness and then are also governed by the fear of the guru's institution and paraphernalia. 

Matters of daily life cannot be addressed with cute ad-lines or by breathing techniques. It needs an alert mind which is always willing to seek and understand. Any other route is merely an escape, a drug. So it doesn't matter whether SKY has been proven to release better body-chemicals and the like or not. So does caffeine, LSD, marijuana and dark chocolate. So do all the medically prescribed drugs. It doesn't matter whether the guru has clever answers or 4-word-summaries of the Vedas to give. If the issue is that of a daily human problem, then address it head-on and don't find escapes. To organise SKY and AoL courses in a summit on environmental issues is as ridiculous as having a wine-crushing exercise at an AIDS awareness conference. Very good marketing but shabby, nevertheless. Matters of daily life cannot be tackled at Mahasatsangs by chanting and singing songs in "full-throated abandon". It could clear your throat, for sure!

I think the day people stop looking for easy escape routes is the day when anything serious, anything honest and anything right can be achieved, be it in education (and I have an article coming up about that), human relationships or the other aspects of life. It is disgusting when people conduct themselves otherwise.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Use of the Genioglossus

Succulent Sin
I believe there is a particular way to eating Bengal sweetmeats. I suppose this is a class of sweetmeats which have a rosagulla like texture and constitution to any part of a fragment. I think the whole piece must be taken in, pressed to the roof with the terminal sulcus ensuring that most of the juice flows along the lateral border and into the receptacle temporarily constructed beneath the tongue. Wash your mouth in that juice and let some of it seep back into the porous pads of the sweatmeat (surprise!) and slowly chew on it. Slowly. Very slowly.

Burning Walls

I know you cannot see them, but believe me - if you can summon in your hearts a belief for someone who gives words to what you know - that they are there. My walks have turned along their edges and what you call the duality of me is but the shadow of those bars on my body, when you shine light on my being. You think I am standing idle and you chide me for not doing more. It is not that I can't but that I can and hence, cannot. Listen to me carefully, sweet Medusa, for only you can get me out of here.
Listen to me but do not look towards me for the cages know. Listen to me but talk to the rest of the world about moneys and citadels and the latest show on the nearest silver screen. But listen carefully for what I say is never understood the first time by these prison walls and if you miss it, I can't repeat it because then they will understand. It is always the first time that counts. Thereafter it is a plea and the prisons multiply with hope. So I cannot hope as I tell you, ask you to free me. But only you can free me from here but do not look here. Look elsewhere and praise the sunrise or admire the new Cadillac. Look elsewhere while your inner eyes bore through your head and look at me, for walls and chains are blind to the inner being.
These prisons are not the scions of a fertile mind gone along a path which "normal" human beings don't take. Please realise that these cages are real and when you understand you will see them. Then you will forge a key from your soul and that one key will shatter all these walls. But the key cannot tremble in your hands, for these bars are made of the finest uncertainties and will make a good cage out of you. When you walk up to these gates, bear that in mind that while you are looking at the lady pushing the crate of beer bottles and talking about Korean immigration issues with your friend on his way to the lecture hall, your hands cannot quiver. Hence, speak of less passionate subjects and do not see your dead wife in that passing woman whose curls resemble Rosaline's. She is not Rosaline. Rosaline is another cage here and quite sturdy.
Listen carefully, these gates open only when you don't want to open them but have, in provable ways, accidentally opened them. You can gasp and let out an "Oh!" when you do that but it has to be honest, even if borne on the wings of cunning. The keyhole? Don't ask me questions because the gates can hear conversation. I will sing them a song now. Hold on.
Would you know it was there if I didn't tell you?
Now listen, any place you believe the keyhole to be, is where the keyhole is. The gates provide that so that you can be careless and they make a good cage of you, nice chrome with twisted bars and a fancy brass padlock. You must know that the keyhole is where you introduce your soul but you must continue talking about deaths in the Ugandan mountains while looking at the man fixing the telephone wires. Of course, he is in a cage too, but he doesn't know it. Don't worry about him. You can't free a person who doesn't know he is trapped. The keyholes dance but open up to a soul that isn't trying to unlock the gates, so you must be careful in not wanting to open the gates. You don't want to. You were never told that there were jailhouses here. You were simply walking along gazing at shy Bolivian waitresses (no Rosaline) and talking about whaling off Siberia when your soul emerged as it often does (honestly) on summer evenings and lo! a gate opened! Oh!
Don't tell me you can't do it. You are not doing me a favour. You will one day need someone to open your prison gates and I can do it only when you let me out. These cages are there when you realise they are there and then they cannot be realised into oblivion. Once you know, you are doomed. Then you will need someone who doesn't know but believes you and walks up silently and... you know the routine.
I have been here for ages now and I must get out. The walls must collapse because they are growing stronger and they crumble most effortlessly when they are strongest. Now is that peak. I have strengthened them beyond measure by humaneness and faith. I walk to the edge of one and I have to choose, but when I do, I walk into another cage. I could return but the price is too heavy. The new one is not better or worse but simply stronger and holds me firmer to the world of cages. Yes, I knew you would see it. Make more of them, walk more, choose more, make them stronger and then... hope that someone comes along. But in hope they become alert and weaker and that weakens them (thereby strengthening the world of cages) faster than I could ever choose and make life as everyone does: based on choice. So I lose hope while making more choices but hope walks outside the cages and I do not extend my arm, though it is there. Then you come along, with your back turned towards me, looking at the man dumping garbage in the bin and talking about the bald tire you need to replace while your inner eyes look at me and your soul fills the dye of a key. No, don't look.
Yes, keep walking and thinking about whether gnocchi is available in Alaska. Maybe it is not. Keep looking at that man scratching his groin and tugging at his belt - sheepskin, third hole pierced by the buckle's lance. Keep thinking about how strange it is that you are walking forward when actually reaching backward and that soul slides into your palm though you don't know why it is there - what key? what keyhole? what cage?
Damn it!
I told you, no trembling. No trembling! NO TREMBLING!
Damn it!
What? That is all you can think of? Damn it! Rosaline's over there. Get out of my sight. Yes, you have to choose at the edges. Everyone has to choose at the edges and walk into another cage. Everyone.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Math and Counting

The man who reforms society is still caught in society, being free from conditioning he will act in his own way, which will act again upon society. So our problem is not reformation, how to improve society, how to have a better Welfare State, whether communist or socialist or what you will. It is not an economic or political revolution, or peace through terror. For a serious man these are not the problems. His real problem is to find out whether the mind can be totally free from all conditioning and thereby perhaps discover, in that extraordinary silence, that which is beyond all measurement.
K, London, 17th June 1955

I was walking back home with my daughter. She has inherited very less of my physical features (which is good) but mirrors a lot of my inner being (the goodness of which I am undecided about). She is the only person on earth who readily and effortlessly connects to my thoughts and views and like a flowing river cleanses the water that was once there. Our thoughts and inner unrest cohere on such excursions into silent worlds and still paths - as paths inherently are; isn't it amazing that the path we take to go somewhere doesn't go anywhere? All the grand movement of the world has been along paths which are still there, perhaps repaired, but dustily there - where unrelated topics swerve into deep conversations.
We were discussing school - her marks in the exams weren't good - and about the education methodology that her school follows. She was not sure whether she should feel bad about her results. I wasn't sure either, so I offered that we should feel bad for about half hour and then reflective for another half before rejoicing in the results for a final half hour's duration. She was willing to try this out (and it was her indecision which helped sell this idea, else we would have debated this). We were also discussing our neighbours and about the demonstrated selfishness of the young lady of that house. We were also discussing prices of vegetables as we had to go back home and write accounts though we wondered why we did that and whether growing our vegetables was an option and so on. I think it was the latter topic which rammed the doors open to our deep pondering. Allow me to paraphrase what might have been the words we exchanged before I quote the actual discussion.
"Why do we need to write accounts?"
"So that we can keep track of how much we spend on particular things."
"So that we know where to cut down if we need to budget."
"But can we do without veggies or the rice we eat?"
"Perhaps not, but we can learn to adjust with less if a day calls for it."
"Which is something that R next door doesn't now and hence the shouting and screaming."
"Don't gossip! R's problem is beyond that. She is not really interested in living as a family and hence is more keen on wanting more than she can offer to the health of the family. One needs to better understand the motivation behind such a person wanting a family in the first place."
"S! How immature of you to call people names without knowing sufficiently well about them!"
"Anyway, I suppose keeping accounts would help me put my math education to use."
Something like what was quoted above lead to the following:

"Dad, why do we need to count?"
"In order to measure, in order to plan, in order to budget, in order to predict, in order to capture knowledge about the functioning of certain systems, in order to prevent hazards arising from miscalculation, in order to ration things out, in order to estimate and several more reasons."
"I understand, but it feels unnatural."
"It is, sweetheart. It is a creation of man, and like most of the creations in there, it is rather unnatural. Counting per se is unnatural though measuring isn't."
"How so?"
"Measuring when it is a perceivable manifestation of a sense of rightness, is natural."
"Not clear."
"Well, Nature knows how much water will evaporate when exposed to heat. Nothing more, nothing less. It is natural and not something that one can will differently. Nature doesn't allow for a sapling to flower or bear fruits and the maturity of the plant or tree is measured before allowing for that. Mountains cannot grow indiscriminately. There is a measure which is controlled by the physical attributes of the rocks composing the mountain, gravity and isostasy."
"You saw Stacy?"
"Isostasy! Something that is used to explain the point at which the mountain base turns into mush due to the increasing weight above it. Let's go home and read about it."
"Ok, so measurement and counting are two different things according to you, right?"
"For the sake of a discussion, yes."
"And keeping accounts is?"
"Aah! Good! So do we need to count?"
"On?" (and this is where I always turn to look at her and love her even more. She listens and treats words seriously unlike people who would simply nod whenever I say "Depends". She has beautiful eyes, if you would allow me an aside.)
"On where you are and where the world is."
"Dad! Are you trying to evade this conversation as I have no hassles dropping it and going back home and doing the accounts till the day when I get married and have an intelligent daughter who would ask me "Why do we need to count?"?"
"No, sweets. I am dead serious."
"Ok, then explain."
"Let me give you an analogy before I proceed. There is this world which about 100 square feet. In a corner is a little gramophone record player which..."
"We are buying the gramophone record player, right?"
"Not now, but eventually, yes. So in the corner is this little gramophone record player which continuously flowers music. People are growing deaf and then they die when they are totally deaf. You want to switch off the music so that people don't suffer, but everyone else stops you from doing so. Their only way of knowing that they are alive is the music - if they can hear it, they know they are alive. And you plan to turn it off for their benefit?"
"Hmmm. And this is related to counting, how? You are saying that if we stop counting the world as we know it will collapse?"
"Or it would require the re-birth of an entire world which consciously notes the point at which it felt the need to measure and also count."
"The former is of no use, so let's go with the latter."
"Perfect!" and I held her closer. Sometimes a pointless hug means that I am still alive. S knows that and threw her arm around my waist.
"You are going to explain, right?"
"Of course. I don't think there is a need to count in order to be alive. So, if all I am interested in is eating my fill, sleeping when I want to and waking up when I am done, performing tasks because I need to survive and not be at the mercy of the elements, because I have no fur or claws but a brain which also needs to be protected then I do not need to count. Let us take a normal day..."
"... on an island where E and his daughter S are the only inhabitants and no can enter that place."
"I wish I get to see such an island."
"Not sure you will like it. Then you will hate me for having made it so enchanting by including it in all my theories."
"You sure know how to spoil a moment, don't you!?"
"Anyway, so on this island we wake up and stretch ourselves and brush our teeth. No counting needed so far. Then we walk around and get a few coconuts and some fruits and veggies."
"No accounts so no counting."
"Well, no counting because of no accounts but also no counting because we eat to our fill. We do not pluck beyond what we know is necessary for a meal. That is measure and not counting. One might be hasty to say: Oh! You picked 2 coconuts or a handful of figs so you are counting. That would be, as I said, hasty and silly. If we walk a thousand footsteps and know that we are going to get tired soon, and then repeat that several times before we automatically know when we are going to get tired and when we are going to get hungry, then it is measure and not counting. Of course, we see only one sun. Should we call that knowledge counting? No! We can see five coconut trees in front of us and one is rotting. We don't need to know counting to realise that we should plant some more trees. There is a huge difference between intrinsic measure and contrived counting. Are we together?"
"So far, yes."
"So we don't need counting till our breakfast. We know by experience the exact amount of sea water to use to cook our veggies, and we will rub the twigs till the fire is made and not till we reach the count of 582 twirls of the stick. We eat not 134 gms of potato but the amount we need to not feel hungry. If there is only this much tomatoes we set aside some for dinner. It might turn out to be less or more but that is fine. No one is giving us Michelin stars for our culinary capabilities or our standing as restauranteurs."
"Well, it is only the two of us, so its ok."
"Well, if we extend this to any number of people, it will still be ok if we understand the philosophy behind this. Then we walk around the island, write, read, sing, plant trees, build hammocks and watch the sunset and dance after dinner. Nothing needs counting. We are alive and hopefully happy but haven't had to count. We celebrate any day we want as your birthday. We make strawberry cakes whenever we feel like. We build sand-castles and design kites out of dried leaves and coir without having to count. Essentially we live and enjoy living without having to count."
"Ok. So now we are a village of fifty people. How does it scale?"
"Everyone consumes what s/he needs and produces enough to satisfy the village's wants. How much is the want? That is known by experience and understanding. The ability to count doesn't assure accurate estimates. Estimates is still a function of experience. For the farmer to know how much land he should bring under the plough and whether the signs in the sky auger well and whether he needs to repair his barn or not and how much of the produce will typically reach the cooking pot is not something that the ability to count helps. It is experience. Like a ironsmith who says that you need to heat the rod till it is hot enough to hammer. He doesn't talk in terms of degrees celsius or other counts. He heats the rim till it just fits the wheel before rapidly cooling it. No counting there; just experience and a measure of rightness."
"What about food? Someone will want more and some less."
"But there is only so much. One could increase the land that is tilled. The want for more could be a physiological aberration or plain greed. The latter has brought us to the state of the world as it is today and the former can be treated through medicines."
"But we need to count the millilitres of medicine that we give him."
"Or have a measure of the right amount. No doctor knew the right amount of a medicine without experience. No medicine discovered came with a count as to how much of it should be administered. The measure was obtained from experience. Earlier it was tried on human beings and now on monkeys and fruit flies."
"Indeed. Human beings are inherently destructive and greedy but are also the only creatures that can save this world from self-annihilation."
"The problem and the solution."
"God and Devil."
"But aren't you just using measure as an alternative to count? Isn't that just playing with words when the act is essentially the same?"
"Not really, sweetheart and don't drag your feet. I have told you what that does to the footwear."
"Let me give you an example. You know how much milk you want. That is measure. Do you count the ml of milk you drink? Watch animals around you and you will know how measure and counting are different."
"They probably do the counting unconsciously."
"If it unconscious then it cannot be counting. If you ate a measured amount of bonbons till you felt that any more would not do well for your tummy, do you know the count of how many you ate? Definitely not. If you had kept a count and at around 20 thought that this was too high a number and probably you should stop, then it is counting and not unconscious. If you did it unconsciously and then counted the wrappers then too the initial phase was measurement and the latter was counting - one unconscious and the other conscious."
"I get what you are saying, but I am not totally convinced."
"If you were blind and I was feeding you dinner with a spoon and I was also telling you a story, would you or not tell me when you are full? Does it depend on the number of spoonsfull you had? Does it depend on the duration of the story? Does the story's import depend on the amount you ate or the minutes spent?"
"Remember R's wedding we went to?"
"Do you recall how the cooks prepared the meals? None of them used teaspoons or weighing measures to decide on the amount of salt or dal to add to the dishes, did they? They didn't use beakers to measure the water to be added. You can call it counting. I call it measuring. All things natural are measured. You cannot count happiness or fear or greed or inspiration. They can only be measured."
"Ok. Now that makes sense. So I understand that counting is not instinctive or natural, but does that mean we can do without it?"
"If we accept that counting is not natural then we automatically know that we don't need it for survival. All that we need for survival has been provided to us by Nature and nature."
"But that would mean that we live like animals."
"Which is why I said, you cannot stop the music though you know very well that the music is not needed for the people in the world to be alive."
She held me tighter and I knew she was able to realise the place that counting has in this world.
"Then we need to understand where counting is vital."
"I suppose in budgeting and planning and the other things you mentioned."
"True, but before we go there, stop to think why do we need to do them."
"Because if we don't we can run into trouble."
"So counting is essentially a means to avoid running into trouble. It is our tool to prevent miscalculation, under-planning, under-utilisation and missing opportunities to gain from the environment around us. It is essentially a means to compare and contrast which measuring can never help in. I can never say which has more right sweetness - this dish or that if they were both prepared with a measure of rightness than a count of the number of spoons of sugar. Mind you, even with your count every batch of sugar and every ounce of green chilli you buy has a different taste and you need to alter your counts to match rightness of taste. Counting is a predictable way to avoid failures and re-learning or as cynics say: re-inventing the wheel. But the point is, we are re-inventing and measuring nearly every day in so many spheres of existence. We need to know whether to run at this speed or more to catch the bus that just left the bus-stop. No, you cannot and should not do that. If it has left then you wait for the next bus or reach the stop earlier. No climbing into a running bus."
"Fine dad! I won't. God!"
"We count a lot and then we store them in our head in order to create a safe world where things are predictable. We now have manuals and guides to tell us how much of this and how much of that should be there in order to produce X quantity of that. Then something changes (ore quality, fibre content, sucrose levels, tensile strength of raw materials, brittleness, etc.) and we are upset and we count all over again. Counting has essentially cut off the sense of measuring in human beings. Somehow monkeys know that a particular fruit is going to be sour. They know with one step on a branch whether it can take their weight or not. Counting helps us be safe and cocooned with the surety of the world around us. We don't count the amount we breathe or the number of breaths. Hence, counting is not necessary."
"But is counting essentially wrong?"
"Nothing is inherently wrong or right. Counting isn't when applied to certain technological and scientific things. Do we need them for living on this earth in harmony and in peace? No. Like most other inventions of man, counting helps only this much especially where re-invention has little benefit over the invented. For instance, if I know that this much temperature is required to fabricate silicon wafers and then so much photoresist is allowed I probably do not want to discover those measures every time I make a new wafer. It is far too wasteful to do that. I could probably feed them into control panels and have a self-managing manufacturing plant."
"I didn't understand a word."
"Ok. Let's try again. Do you remember the tea tasting ceremony we went to? There they explained how tea was manufactured and the oxidation process etcetera? So there are manufacturing units which know the temperature that should be maintained and the height of the drying beds and so on. Such knowledge is not worth re-inventing at every harvest as it would lead to excessive wastage. Here, I think, counting is utile. There are similar areas where it is worth using knowledge that comes out of experience."
"How does one decide?"
"By a measure of rightness. It is so simple if only we are comfortable with simplicity. But we cannot accept simple solutions as they all expect the human being to be simple too."
"But that doesn't quite happen."
"It doesn't and it won't. Man is inherently insecure and counting is the strongest pillar he invented to build his fortress of greed and grandeur."
"Woah! That is strong."
"No, sweets, listen. He started by counting the deer he killed and the men he could defeat. He built walls and then higher ones. We count spears and the dead to decide who should rule a piece of land and then count the number of heads that bow down and the acres of land under one's seal to decide who is more powerful and hence who should be more respected. We searched new lands and burned more forests to create food for the countless. We wallowed in orgies and feasts while a poor man starved because we counted greatness by the amount we could afford to waste. We invented new ways of military murder and sought better weapons to kill more with least effort. The less blood-thirsty invented money and used counting to decide who was richer and more powerful and likewise who could be enslaved or not. Then we measured the worth of science by the lives it could take or save but never bothered about the natural balance we were disrupting leading to more consumption and more resource utilisation. We count on providing a better standard of living at the cost of a measure of better living. We would burn more forests and build taller and grander buildings without measure though we would immediately count our expenses and investments in the same.

This need to count migrated into our relationships where we became calculative and want more without a sense of giving and balancing the measure of mutual happiness. The philosophy and the need to count is essentially the same whether it is done with numbers or with greedy wants. The ability to count creates a security in taking and hoarding. One who cannot count will only take what he needs and he who can see your pile of gold as being higher than his needs to count to ensure that the total weight of his is more than yours. With the ability to count comes the possibility of comparison and with that comes the illusion that that which is calibrated is less important than the calibration itself. If you look around you, everything is a count. All of business is a count, a count for profit, more revenues with least regards to things that cannot be counted - ethics, morals, exploitation, fairness. All of relationships has become whether the husband has bought more diamonds or not and whether the wife has mothered more sons or not and whether the parents bought X clothes and gadgets every month or not. Everyone is trying to grab and take whatever they can because they count and compare with others. All of education has become grades and scores and percentages and not what one has understood and what one can apply to the betterment of life around us. All of life is a count of what we have done, seen, owned, possessed and spent."
"So I needn't worry about my Math grades?"
"You better! Forget about the scores but figure out why you didn't understand the concepts well enough to use them in the exam."
"But I can stop counting them, right?"
"If you can stop the music, yes."
We walked on for a while silently.
"I spoke too much?"
"Who's counting?"

Counting has a purpose. Recognising that, is wisdom...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tamil Sangamam (in flux)

Here is Sivamani playing the... well, ... suitcase! The original which is better in quality is enormous in size and hence this edited version (low quality) is all that I can upload and share. Hope you enjoy it. There is more to come from this festival. Watch this space.

Update 1:

The Bharatanatyam dance performance by a team (I didn't record the name) was very good. This group had used a contemporary score for their performance and I thought it was very well choreographed. Of course, I couldn't notice the details as I was standing way behind (hence the poor quality of the photograph) but they were very good on stage. I have invariably seen Bharatanatyam performed to traditional pieces but this was a bit of a fusion though the dance steps remained standard Bharatanatyam. Quite enjoyed their performance.


Update 2:

I doubt if there is any sense in uploading all the pictures I took. I would only end up draining my bandwidth kitty. Here is a collage for the curious! (click on it for the full image)

Tamil Sangamam Finale

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Poorer by day

Yours, behind closed eyes
Oh cruel summer day -
Burn quickly into the black
Where dreams bring fortune.


Love Bites
Spring is two days old -
Drunk butterfly bumps into
Reeds and rose alike.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

True Freedom

Dawn had yet to shed her purple robes. Birds twittered encouraging cheers to the vast lightness that bleached the sky in gradual shades making darkness growingly desirable and bright life more welcome. They who embodied both but were each seen as only one side of that duality were taking a walk along the vast lake of Shimitonga. 

The lake was beautiful in that the waters reflected the state of the traveller who stopped by to admire its clear waters. What seemed clear from far or hearsay clouded as a common man approached. He who arrived with the intent of cleansing himself of all sins found the water dirty. Parents scolded their children for drinking from this lake leaving children confused as to why their wise seniors forbade them from sipping the cleanest of waters. Those who dipped their hands in the water and let it remain there saw their entire life re-lived on their palms in shimmering waves of memory constructed on the most astute recollection. Those who dived in never came out the same and the fear of that unknown change led many a man to merely dip his toes and rush before he was pulled in although the lake was never known to do that except in the myths. Several well meaning men had built fences around the lake to prevent harm but those fences had mysteriously vanished giving rise to stories of the monstrous lake's designs of expanding and the inevitable day when all will be consumed in the devious waters of Shimitonga. Some even said that the entire world was Shimitonga and hence people should worship what was visible in the form of the lake. Those who arrived at its shore with an unimpressed mind and those who came to the shore drawn more by a lost path than the fame of the lake found the lake to be beautiful in the thirst it quenched and the peaceful water that reflected all Time. Thus, the beauty of the lake gained several tones.

The lake was also mysterious in the fauna it housed. People said they saw birds fly out the water and back in there. Fishes of the most incandescent scales swam in schools alongside fins that belonged to bodies that seemed to be carved off granite. Lions were seen walking on the surface before they descended below without causing a ripple. But how could tigers and deer breathe under water, they asked? By taking in what they want and not resisting what was around them, the wise replied.

Such were the stories that surrounded this lake whose banks God and Devil had chosen for their morning stroll. The waters reached occasionally to wash their feet while being absorbed in the Devil's. They had had a wonderful banquet last night and the taste of wine was still on their tongue while their teeth dug themselves deeper hoping for some of that delicious veal.

God was talking about a recent discussion he had had in his chamber. Some of his friends had come over for a drink as was usually the cause for a visit and had stumbled upon thoughts which led to conversations about the notion of freedom. It seems the overcrowded tete-a-tete had tricked them into emptying the bottomless carafe without pausing long enough to savour the wine.

"And it was the wine of orchids in a stew of grapes from Bakhu and the first melt of the Gaumukh. It might just have been water."

"Quite an interesting discussion it must have been."

"To what purpose is a discussion that leaves the tongue insensate and the mind forgetful of time?"

"The finest, dear brother."

God shook his head and in boredom caught an intruding sparrow and hurtled it into the Shimitonga. The Devil whistled to a crocodile which swallowed the sparrow and dived deep. Those who saw this made the devil of the crocodile and the waters viler.

"It leaves one cluttered, dear brother."

"How could you and your friends ever be confused? Aren't you the rulers of the world and Time?"

"Once you are done mocking, Devil, let me know your views."

"On Freedom? There is hardly anything to say there. Those who know, are free. Being free is not being without bondage but deriving life from that freedom. Such a life too is free."

"Hardly makes any sense and it is rather vain of you to assume that you can summarise what vexed us for a whole long afternoon."

The Devil saw what was to come and smiled.

"Perhaps you are right. Maybe I haven't done justice to such a taxing subject. Allow me time to ponder. Not an entire afternoon but..."

They continued walking and an elephant trumpeted a fountain of kingfishers back into the lake. They smiled when the same elephant ran a good distance along the lake before leaping into becoming a dolphin that dived into the lake.

"It is never the same animal, you know."

"Yes, and it is only to Shimitonga that I allow such choice."

"You are very kind, dear brother. Who sits there?"

God squinted his eyes at the distant figure and the skies clouded. There he sat on a single rock near the middle of the lake. Arvidor was crouching over the rock and smiling, perhaps at his reflection?

"I think he cannot see his reflection in the waters."

"Why? Someone as hated as he can only see steel instead of waters?"

"Then the reflection would still form. Jokes apart, he cannot see his reflection because the lake absorbs whatever of him that is available, including his image. What then is left to reflect?"

"Why? What is so beautiful in his visage? He is a corrupt man, dear brother, your foremost disciple."

"Indeed my foremost disciple and corrupt as any free man can be."

"He is free!? You are verily muddled in your head, my friend. How can one who is hated by all, shunned by all, feared by all be ever free?"

"Isn't that required to be free? He who will be loved must act in order to be lovable by the few that surround him by whatever means he can employ. He will be loved, but never free. He who must be a saint, must act saintly and not necessarily Rightly in order to be revered. He will be worshiped, but never free. Arvidor acts not for the other but for Rightness alone. How can any breathing body love him for long?"

"Oh! Devil. You are such a romantic. Forever arguing for something that is pure imagination. Why would anyone care about Rightness in a far cave where food and water is refused? Why would anyone utter the Right when cast out of every fertile village and virgin's bed? Why would anyone look heavenward," and God swallowed, "or hellward when no pitcher tilts to whet his desiccated guts and no palm extends to help him from the gutter of his own imagination?"

"So that he can be like Arvidor, fishing the juiciest trouts that he creates for his own appetite!"

"What? Who can create other than me?"

"A man who is truly free."

"Rubbish! No man can ever live on this earth and create when I disallow him to."

"But he is not on your earth, my friend. He is in Shimitonga's world on a rock given to him by Shimitonga. How can you ever revoke what is Shimitonga's? The power that be Shimitonga's is beyond your censure or mine, hence it is so hated. Would not every man hate such a power when made visible in all its details? Isn't our repute clinging heavily to our invisibility and their ignorance? Shimitonga has found a mate in Arvidor and Shimitonga's power can be usurped only by destroying all this world and Shimitonga and recreating one without Shimitonga but all the same human beings and creatures who shall reward your act with the same ignorance."

"Stop it! Don't tempt me. It was your idea to let Shimitonga be."

"And I do not regret it as you do. Why blame Shimitonga for Arvidor's worth? Your anger should only be leveled against the man on the rock and not the power that created the rock for him. Burn him, my friend, for he stands singularly against You and all your devotees."

"Why do you ask me to burn your foremost minion?"

"Because he is not my minion and you cannot burn him while he sits there."

"Surely he will leave his perch."

"For a world as ignorant as this? Surely he will, but Shimitonga well spread His waters wherever he goes and you will still be limited in your powers to destroy."

"Why does Shimitonga regard him so highly?"

"Because he is free by his own accord and not as a means to gain favour - Yours or Mine. Arvidor loves not because he is lonely nor in supplication. He learns not to achieve nor to subjugate. He wields his sword not to rend the air with fear nor to amass followers and armies. He speaks not to beguile nor to spite. He walks not to reach anywhere. He eats not to fill his gut nor because there is a bottomless carafe with the finest liquor of orchids and Bakhu grapes. He is kind not to gain favour - Yours or his. He plows the field not for a bounty nor to scar the earth. He takes not more than what he can give and he gives before he takes. He creates not in order to rule or gain repute from them but because every fibre in his being wishes to create. And then he moves on though nothing changes. He bows his head to the wise men of the seas but with his eyes open. He kisses their palm because that is how one must treat those palms. He rides the horse faster than air because he doesn't know how fast air can whip through these worlds. He lives in innocence and dies every moment to knowledge. He who is not held by gold chains or be a lavaliere held by the worshipers' words, he who doesn't act according to the past or for a future, he who smiles effortlessly and walks without a weight other than his respect for this earth, he who toils not for crowns and crowds but for the task's worth and correctness, he who loves all with unequal due and flogs all with the most equipoised scourge, he whose conduct is not as if life that is centred on him but life that is centred on Rightness which every nightingale knows in its first tweet, he, Arvidor, is a free man. He is truly alone. He is what every man should look up to. He sits there where no one can harm him."

God's nostrils flared to hear Arvidor be spoken of in such exalting words. His knuckles cracked thunderbolts in the sky and the colour of his blood seeped across the never ending canvas. Arvidor looked up and smiled. He rubbed a beautiful white and orange fish from between his palms. He let it into the lake and it swept golden waves in its wake. Shimitonga which had always reflected the skies on its waters, refused to do so now. Shimitonga sparkled a beautiful iridescent blue which the skies were forced to reflect and the gloom melted away.

God smiled and turned around.

"What? Not interested in the walk anymore?"

"Well no. I have to invite my friends over to conclude the discussion of yesterday."

"And there is a conclusion?"

"Yes. No free man can ever exist on earth. My earth. What happens in the Shimitonga is - as everyone knows - but an illusion."
To be truly free, you must be absolutely alone

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stray Conversations with a Gregarious Misanthrope

There's Always a side you'll never know
It was yesterday when I was feeling on a high (sweet dreams, world going to the dogs) when I perchance found my dear friend online on GMail's chat services. It is very rare that one finds a person effortlessly reflecting and complementing one's thoughts as well as my friend does. Here is a snippet of the conversation because it contains in it a gem of a thought! :-D

Homo Hopelus is me and Homo Incredulus is not me. I hope that helps the Homo Sapiens. If the formatting is terrible find someone suitable to blame it on.

 Homo Hopelus: Dumb spiral spearmints?

 Homo Incredulus: :)

 Homo Hopelus: hello

 Homo Incredulus: you know, I like your translations compared to the actual one :)


 Homo Hopelus: but of course

                           I take the obvious out of the not-so-obvious


                           all that remains is not-so

   how have you been?

 Homo Incredulus: it was a hectic week

 Homo Hopelus: good

                            must be feeling happy

 Homo Incredulus: too many meetings...

                               not really

                               i was torn between being homicidal and suicidal

 Homo Hopelus: oh ok


   you must have looked like most human beings I get to meet nowadays

                           or most human beings


 Homo Incredulus: you are absolutely right!

       let me call my mothership and give them this good news...

 Homo Hopelus: what is good news?

                           I thought human beings still existing was bad news


 Homo Incredulus: oh no no

                               we need human beings for our own survival

 Homo Hopelus: really?

 Homo Incredulus: who will do all the dirty work of human beings are not there?

 Homo Hopelus: this is news!

                           There would be no dirty work, m'mselle

                           you miss the point

                           eliminate human beings and there is nothing dirty left on earth

                           hence, no work is dirty

 Homo Incredulus: hmmm you have a point

 Homo Hopelus: all will be beautiful!


 Homo Incredulus: but you see, we dont want to miss the pattern this nature is having...

 Homo Hopelus: Nature has gone tipsy

                           bribed by the champagne that man fed Her

 Homo Incredulus: oh well, i always thought nature was a little drunk when she

                               gave an intution to man to use his thumb

 Homo Hopelus: :-)

                          you don't like people operating the lift?

 Homo Incredulus: nor their cell phones

 Homo Hopelus: ooooooh! YES!

                           That is one helluva no-no

                           off with their thumbs

 Homo Incredulus: exactly

       you know over the course of evolution, there is always a species        higher than the rest...

       be it in power or in (mis)using the environment

                               humans have to wait for the next big thing thats all...

 Homo Hopelus: Britney Spears!!


 Homo Incredulus: :D

Don't you think the bit about the mobiles was simply a gem!? And this led me to dig out an earlier conversation which I like as I got a chance to explain what I perhaps didn't do well on the blog.

Homo Incredulus: your blog

      honesty stuff

      tell me one thing...

 Homo Hopelus: I wrote nothing today...

 Homo Incredulus: 26th baba

 Homo Hopelus: Oh that!


 Homo Incredulus: a terrorist held a british man at gun point and asked him if he was a

       brit if you were in that situation, what would you have done?

       tell the terrorist that you are really a brit or not?

 Homo Hopelus: I would have asked him why he needs a gun to elicit that info from me?

 Homo Incredulus: come on man

       boolean answer

 Homo Hopelus: I would have given him 2 pieces of cord and asked him to tie my hands

   and legs to assure himself that I am not running away

 Homo Incredulus: hmm...

      if you were alive that is

      in that situation, perhaps I would honestly lie

 Homo Hopelus: maybe I would

   but I am not sure

   in the state I am in

   where I care a damn about living

   I might just ask him which nationality will surely get me killed

  and tell him that I come from there


  but jokes apart

  I think I would say I am brit

  though, 99.99% I would not give a boolean answer

 Homo Incredulus: i am sure of that!

 Homo Hopelus: :-D

 Homo Incredulus: i am sure your answer will not be less than 20 words either

       if not a lecture

 Homo Hopelus: I would ensure that he drops the gun and doesn't go about this


   but that is life

 Homo Incredulus: hmm...maybe

 Homo Hopelus: I think honesty is not about mechanical truth

 Homo Incredulus: :-)

       in your post, you have equated honesty to truth

 Homo Hopelus: I think it is fun when people lie to tease to surprise or out of simple fear

 Homo Incredulus: which, i dont believe in

 Homo Hopelus: like your parents asking you whether you ate your greens

 Homo Incredulus: hmm...

 Homo Hopelus: I don't think so

                           I think I said that honesty is vital because it is rightness and the Truth

                           not sure though

  I have to go back to my post for that...


 Homo Incredulus: he he he

 Homo Hopelus: but that is what I feel

 Homo Incredulus: hmm...

 Homo Hopelus: honesty is an enabler for a right environment

 Homo Incredulus: "There is only one reason to be honest, because that is the Truth, that is rightness."

 Homo Hopelus: exactly

                           which is not the same as saying honesty equated to truth

 Homo Incredulus: right

 Homo Hopelus: truth is the state of being true to one's soul

                            it is also the legal act of stating facts

   which is important though not without a pinch of salt

 Homo Incredulus: but isnt truth based on a standard set of assumptions and also on a set

       of logical facts?

      sun rises in the east --> this is true; always

 Homo Hopelus: not sure I understand your earlier query


    truth is, to me, being true

    true to one's soul

    one's conscience

    one's vital nature

    and one's environment

    if I lie in order to bring harm directly or indirectly then it is not acceptable

    if I lie to insidiously misrepresent reality, then it is not acceptable

 Homo Incredulus: hmm...

 Homo Hopelus: but the slight meanderings of truth in order to encompass the lightness of being and

    enjoying life is fine, IMHO.

    and that is Honest and not Humble


 Homo Incredulus: :) i see

 Homo Hopelus: so you see where I make the distinction?

 Homo Incredulus: yeah

 Homo Hopelus: If I am called upon to speak the truth as a representation of facts in order to

     save someone or incriminate someone then I will

     but that is something that can be performed by a video camera or any

     recording device

     and that is not of the soul

     when I am called to be honest as a gesture of respect to my environment

      and fellow human beings

 Homo Incredulus: is you value truth more than humanity itself? doesnt a man deserve to atone?

 Homo Hopelus: then that is something that concerns me

   I am not sure I understand


                           atone for what?

 Homo Incredulus: hang on a sec

 Homo Hopelus: and what does that have to do with my being honest


 Homo Incredulus: i broke my glasses and i have trouble reading today

 Homo Hopelus: :-o

   what happened to the lenses?

 Homo Incredulus: ditched them!

 Homo Hopelus: :-)

 Homo Incredulus: you mentioned that if you are called upon to speak the truth to incriminate

       someone then you will

 Homo Hopelus: or incriminate myself, then yes

 Homo Incredulus: isnt is possible that if you lie about it, that "someone" may atone for his mistakes

       or whatever he has done and in the end might actually have a shot at being a

       better human being?

Homo Hopelus: valid question

Homo Incredulus: there could be circumstances surrounding the mistake done by that man and

      maybe our society would have driven that man to do that mistake in the first place

 Homo Hopelus: but do I have the wisdom to realise that he will atone

    or that it is for him to atone


 Homo Incredulus: maybe not

 Homo Hopelus: exactly

 Homo Incredulus: but maybe you do

 Homo Hopelus: in the absence of concrete information, honesty is surest vine to cling to

 Homo Incredulus: hmm...

 Homo Hopelus: but as always, there will be times when the mind/soul would guide one's tongue

   differently nothing is written on stone as to how a man should live...


 Homo Incredulus: nope

You needn't bother much in figuring out who the gregarious misanthrope is!!