Friday, January 12, 2018

'Idol' Worship or 'Idle' Worship?

Sharing a cartoon which I happened to create, nearly 5 years ago, as a small tribute to the cyclonic monk, on his 155th birth aniversary. Thanks to all my friends who encouraged (threatened :) ) me to share it, despite my nearly-zero skills in art ;)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Spoonful of Army Life

An unplanned session of sorting out some untouched-for-ages files in my cellar lead me to an unexpected leaflet, bringing back nostalgic memories. This rusty almost-ready-to-crumble piece of paper was a copy of an essay I had penned down as an NCC cadet way back in 2007 in an 'Army Attachment Camp' in Bangalore, India. Jobless enough, thanks to the long-weekend, and as a tribute to the memorable camp, I decided to blog it down as-it-is. Here it goes.

It is said, "the finest steel is passed through the hottest fire" and "the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war". Indeed, the Madras Engineering Group and Centre (MEG & Centre), Bangalore has been doing this job of molding youth into powerful and extremeley disciplined jawans and officers. In fact the history of the MEG dates back to the time of the British, by whom it was established. 

I must thank all the people concerned, who made possible a camp in the MEG. Situated near the Ulsoor lake, a huge part of which is also a part of it, the MEG is a spectacular city in itself. The well built huge compounds of the MEG clasp a huge landmass, several thousand square meters in area, camouflaged by huge trees (including rare and precious trees like the Nilgiri) which seem to be positioned as if ready to go out for a drill, any moment. The efficiently built buildings which seem youthful, thought built ages ago are hidden by the green shadows cast by the countless trees, Each building is connected by a network of well maintained, skillfully laid roads. To say in short, the MEG is a city in micro-form, with all commodities and amenities available within.

We reached Bangalore on the dawn of 11th June, 2007. Later on, 2 army trucks, unique to any civil truck, carried us to the MEG in minutes. Treated with a sumptuous breakfast, we were allowed to settle down in the vast dormitory of the 'Yo's Hostel', containing neat cots lined on either sides. We were joined by one engineering company from Manipal and one from Mysore. No sooner had we met each other than we had become good friends. The day passed out marking open a new thoroughfare in the annals of our memory. The next day, we woke up early and were falled in by 5.45 am. We were marched into the parade ground, which had a troop of Jawans wearing army dress (green) on one side and officers in snow-white on the other side. Within minutes we were lead 'jogging on toes', by the trainer. We jogged for quite a long distance (which I vaguely guess, should have been not less than 3 kms). No sooner did we finish the job than we were pushed into the 'bend position'. After a few exercises we broke off to a tasty breakfast (anything seems tasty, when hungry!). This was followed by a formal address by Lt. Col. Mishra. After this was over, we had a heavy lunch and the entire barrack was flooded with games and activities. In the evening we were marched to the basketball court where we joined the others in a game of basketball. We had a tiring but a content day. Silently we slept off. Time simply flies when one does something he likes. Similarly, in our case days just flew off, each day leaving behind memories sweeter than that of the previous day. We were taken to the 'Assault Course' where we tried overcoming a few 'obstacles'. How can we ever forget the '9-feet ditch' wherein we were challenged to stand in legs-up hands-down position for an uncomfortably long time. We had weapon training with the ingenuously-built INSAS rifles, which included firing several rounds. We also got to handle Pistols, hand grenades and LMG (light machine gun), which was a rare opportunity. Other activities included rowing on special boats in the Ulsoor lake, which is normally closed to the general public, a movie at the Basanthar Auditorium and  a visit to the museum.  

Now, the days left for us here are few, but still I am sure that we will cherish the days we spent here. Before I conclude, I must confess that there is no word in our vocabulary to describe the discipline in MEG, nor is there a match. The systematic happenings here remind us of the existence of the word "perfection" in the dictionary. Long live our soldiers.

Monday, March 10, 2014

AAP- Anti-corruption or anti-everything?

A woman had this problem of getting a severe headache every time she went to bed. After suffering enough, she finally decided to consult a doctor. This doctor who was very old and well experienced in his field, studied her case and told her that the root cause of her ailment was her unhealthy lifestyle. With a few changes in her lifestyle, in addition to a few medicines, her chronic ailment would be gradually cured in six months' time. The woman was not happy with the old Doctor, as the treatment would take such a long time. Moreover, she was not ready to mend her ways. So, she decided to consult another doctor, this time a very young doctor, with hardly any experience. This young doctor promised an instant cure. The solution was simple. All the woman had to do was to let the doctor chop her head off.

There are situations in life when the solution to a problem happens to be more problematic than the problem itself. This is exactly the current political scenario in India.The impatient woman represents India and corruption is her ailment. Without caring to change our own lifestyles, we tend to always aspire for that Messiah, the 'young-doctor', who can solve the problem instantaneously. What India needs at the moment is not the Messiah, the one who can provide the instant cure that is going to end up killing the system, but the 'experienced-doctor' who can understand the root cause, chalk out an effective plan against the ailment and treat the ailment, not just the symptoms. It was always my intention to keep my blog apolitical. However, considering the immense danger India is headed to if it votes the wrong people to power, I felt the pressing need for a (few) 'political blog-post(s)'.

Arvind Kejriwal has succeeded in converting the massive momentum gathered by the 'India against corruption movement' into commendable success for his party in the Delhi assembly elections. However, with a few days of (mis-) rule in Delhi, it appears that it is not really corruption that is of interest to the AAP, but it is, like that for any other party, "Power". This is understandable for them as party.  What is questionable is the following:

1. As per his own statement, Kejriwal thought that Dharnas were of no avail to bring about the changes he wanted, and that is what drove him into politics. But once elected, he continues to use the same tool, this time carrying out Dharnas in the assembly. Instead of making use of powers he already has, in order to bring about some changes, he protests for powers he does not have. This raises suspicion in my mind as regards his real motives.

2. Kejriwal seems to make scores of allegations against all top notch leaders and creates the image that all other parties are corrupt. Hurling such foul allegations is totally inappropriate for a politician, particularly for a politician who has been promising clean politics. 

3. If one observes the actions of Kejriwal in his so called fight against corruption, it is not difficult for one to notice that Kejriwal's attack mostly stops at the step of  making allegations, or at most fighting for the filing of FIRs as in the particular case of Sheila Dikshit. Fighting corruption is much more than just that. The fact that he is no more interested in the very cases he himself tried to expose, makes me get the feeling that he either does it for the mass publicity, or for blackmailing the parties concerned for political favours.

4. One need not be very educated to see that his promise of reduction in the electricity bills and the free water schemes are mere populist measures, and that a truly far-sighted government would invest in developing the infrastructure instead. I don't see these schemes any different from parties distributing free TVs or free liquor just before the elections. These schemes can only have one motive, i.e., getting votes in an immediate election. 

5. Prior to the elections, the AAP  had clearly promised that they did not want to align with any party, which I totally appreciate considering the fact that every vote for the AAP was a vote against the Congress and BJP. When the people of Delhi did not give them a simple majority, it clearly meant that they did not want to be ruled by the AAP alone. The AAP should have ideally gone for re-elections. But then, they decide to go for a referendum. This is a clear insult to the outcomes of our constitutional procedures and shows that the AAP does not believe in elections. I find it amusing that when they decided to dissolve the government dramatically, they did not resort to any sort of referendum, nor was there even a discussion in that regard. It is clear to me that the AAP has the strategy of selectively making use of its various faces as per its convenience. 

6. The way Somnath Bharti took law into his own hands is a disgrace. But it is not the first time a public servant has done such a thing; so the AAP need not have been blamed for it so long as it expelled him from the government and the party. Shockingly, the chief of AAP not only defends him, but approves of his act. In addition, a lot of allegations and subsequent evidences had surfaced against Somnath Bharti's indulgence in cyber crimes. The AAP totally ignores it. This act is quite opposite of what the AAP expects of other parties when it makes allegations against them, more often without any evidence.

7. The way the AAP wanted to pass the Jan Lokpal bill, it is clear that, he wanted the bill to be NOT passed more than any other parties. I find it surprising that the AAP has been trying to fool people into believing that the responsibility of not passing the bill lies with the opposition parties. 

8. As per Kejriwal's own statements, his party is expecting around 100 seats in the elections and the next govt. shall not be formed without AAP-support. Now considering the fact that the AAP has been making allegations against every other party, it would be interesting to see which party the AAP would align with. Kejriwal's recent statements indicating AAP's shift of focus from 'corruption' to 'communalism' appears to be a precursor to AAPs alignment with the corrupt 'non-communal parties'. I would not be surprised if the AAP would support the  very parties, the polluted blood of whom it thrived on so far. 

9. I give credit to the AAP for voicing the need for Decentralisation of power and for fielding 'clean-candidates'. However, ideas alone are not sufficient. Do we have someone who can give us results? We have seen that the AAP is not even capable of handling a small gathering (Delhi Durbar). I wonder if AAP is even capable of implementing these said promises at the state-level, let alone at the national level.

10. The disassociation of Kejriwal's once-close associates, ex. Anna, Bedi, and some leaders of the AAP, does add some fuel to the constant allegations that Kejriwal dictates his ideas on others. 

and leaving the worst for the end,
11. Kejriwal's himself has admitted that his Kabir foundation has been previously funded by the Ford foundation which is known for its support in civil wars and the subsequent toppling of governments. Moreover, AAP has a very open association with people of Naxal ideology and those who believe in Anti-national policies. This has been more and more apparent from the operations of AAP so far. These, by themselves, are sufficient reasons for me to not even consider voting for AAP. 

If surveys are to trusted, the AAP will find it hard to even achieve double digit figures in the upcoming Loksabha elections. So the question of AAP coming to power is very remote. But the dangers associated with AAP are not restricted to it's coming to Power. Even a sizeable representation of the AAP in the opposition can stall proceedings and lead to chaos. So, it is my hope that India will vote wisely bearing these things in mind.

[Disclaimer: Naturally, the views expressed here are mine, and there is a good chance that I have erred in my assessment. I am not Mr. Anarchist to believe that I am always right!]

Monday, July 29, 2013


It was a sunny afternoon in one of the most populous metropolitans of India. We, a group of about 4 friends, being new to the city, had set out fully determined to explore this city. To start with, nothing would have been more handy than a map of this city. For obvious reasons, we chose to make this purchase from a road-side vendor. The vendor,  a woman seemingly in her forties, offered a colourful-guide of the city for Rs. 35 (Rs.=Indian Rupees). As my friend was about to hand over the crispy notes to her, I stopped him and began bargaining for a better price.
"We cannot pay you more than Rs. 20", I asserted.
"But sir, I make no profit if I sell it for anything less than Rs. 35", she counter-argued.
"Well, then I am afraid we shall have to buy it elsewhere", I said, gesturing to move over to the vendor sitting next, who was eager to make this his deal. Accepting defeat, "At least pay me Rs. 25", she mumbled with a sigh, handing back the 10-rupee note that was thereby due. With a sense of great victory and accomplishment, I handed back the note to the friend.

After a couple of hours of wandering in the city, hungry and famished, we decided to munch a quick lunch at a famous Pizza-joint. After a sumptuous meal, we went over to the cash counter to pay the bill and handed out the exact amount. "Would you like to contribute?", he questioned, pointing at a box labelled 'Charity Fund'. My friend readily grabbed a 10-rupee note from his pocket and put  into the box. No sooner had he done it than we realised that it was the same ten-rupee note that we had saved earlier that morning. What an irony! We had crossed the limit of hypocrisy! We had mercilessly deprived a poor vendor from getting what she totally deserved only to 'donate' it to this so called Charity fund. We had made a mockery of charity! Our letting the woman keep her 10 Rupees, would definitely have entitled her children to a slightly better meal that day, or lessened the burden of their education on her to a small extent. Falling for the common notion that charity can be done only by donating money to organisations that claim to work towards charity, and without, for even a moment, realising that charity could be exercised at the grass-root level in our normal every-day lives, we looted the already-looted and trampled the already-trampled in the name of 'Charity'.  Thoughtful, and heads hung in shame, we silently walked out of the restaurant, wiser!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Swami Vivekananda, as a wandering Monk

It is said, "A nation that can produce ten great men, in the eyes of the lord, knows no extinction". This has indeed been the secret behind India's eternal existence. Selfless men have risen in every age and have laid down their lives for the good of the masses. The 19th century was fortunate to see the flourish of one such modern-Yogi, Swami Vivekananda. On the 150th  anniversary of his birth, I feel a sense of accomplishment and a gush of spirit as I compose this post (the first of a series of posts to follow) on the 'Cyclonic Monk'.  
(I have attempted to only describe two incidents from his life as a wandering monk. It would also be relevant to check this previous post: )

The Swamiji, during his five-year-long wandering in India as a monk, was invited to the courts of several kings. On one such occasion, the Maharaja Mangal Singh of Alwar (in modern day Rajasthan), owing to 'unassimilated western education', strongly condemned idol-worship as nonsense and deemed all idol worshippers to be fools. Swamiji, pointing to a portrait of the Maharaja, ordered the courtiers to spit on it. They were greatly shocked and raised a voice of protest at Swamiji's unreasonable demands. 
"O King, although this is merely a piece of paper with no flesh or bones, people nevertheless have a reverence towards it. It is quite understandable that it is 'you' that they actually revere and not the paper of the portrait. Similarly, when a devotee worships a piece of stone or a log of wood, it is the infinite lord that he worships. The idol simply aids him in personifying the lord which he clearly understands to be infinite, far from being trapped in an idol". No sooner had Swamiji said these words of wisdom than the Maharaja, full of shame, landed on Swamiji's feet.

On another occasion, at a railway station where Swamiji was seated, people kept flocking to him, seeking answers on various issues. This went on, without any respite, for 3 days. Yet, he patiently guided them, without pausing for even food or water, let alone for sleep. At the end of the third day, when a cobbler expressed awe at this, Swamiji was suddenly reminded of hunger. He requested the cobbler to get him some roti (bread). 
"Reverend Swamiji! If I, a pariah (outcast), give you roti prepared by me, not only will people stop revering you, but I too am bound to be punished by the king. Instead, I shall get you the necessary flour and you can prepare roti as you will".
Swamiji replied, "These three days, no one even cared to ask me if I was hungry. Their reverence is of no value to me if they consider you an outcast. Only if you prepare me roti, shall I eat."
The cobbler readily obliged by fetching some freshly prepared roti, which Swamiji accepted with tears of gratitude. This incident made him feel deep agony at the plight of the so called 'outcasts'. Quite often during his wanderings, he noticed that it was in the downtrodden poor-class that the richest values of humanity manifested. 

He had once asserted, "It may be that I shall find it good to get outside of my body—to cast it off like a disused garment. But I shall not cease to work! I shall inspire men everywhere, until the world shall know that it is one with God." True to his words, even a century after his departure from the world of mortals, Swami Vivekananda continues to inspire millions all over the world. 
 (to be continued......)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Does it ring a bell?

For thousands of years, temples have played a significant role in our history, than have anything else in the history of any country. Very often, we hear people criticize the various customs and rituals of ancient-India. But, with a little investigation into the origin of most of these practices, what we dismissed to be cheap superstitions, reveal, yet again, the high intellect of our ancestors. Temples are no exception to this.

Not many of us would have cared to bother about the significance of the vastly abundant bells in our temples. Are they mere invocations to God or are they something more? Physics answers this question. The sound produced by the striking of bells, decays in an exponential manner; to speak in a layman's language, this sound keeps decreasing (in amplitude) at rates that diminish with time. Theoretically, the sound exists for infinite duration, very feebly, though.

The main purpose of the bells has been to facilitate meditation. A person who wishes to meditate (that used to be the motive behind a person's visit to the temple) simply has to bong the bell and tune to it, concentrating on its chime. This chime, steadily diminishing in amplitude, is capable of absorbing a person into deep meditation. The more intensely the person concentrates, the longer will he be able to keep track of this diminishing sound. This fact is very easy to verify, individually. Moreover, it is not difficult to deduce that these bells were traditionally designed to generate sound waves within a particular frequency-band, researched to be the most suitable for meditation.

This purpose, unfortunately, stands defeated in most crowded-temples, where, the striking of the bell by one devotee is immediately followed by that of another, giving the former hardly any time to meditate on it.

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Dr. Gururaj S. Punekar of NITK for throwing light on these otherwise veiled facts.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

India, the eternal

In 1897, exactly 50 years before independence, Swami Vivekananda had predicted that "India would be free in the next 50 years in unforeseen circumstances". This prophecy was made at a time when the idea of an independent India never even crossed the minds of Indians. Far from fighting for freedom, many Indians were even convinced that British rule was a symbol of justice, peace and prosperity. Many of them even thought it was a blessing. No one attached any importance to Swamiji's words. Today, even after 60 years of Independence, Swamiji's teachings are as relevant as they would have been way back then. Noted below are extracts from Swamiji's descriptions of India. To avoid diluting the flavour in Swamiji's words, they have been reproduced as it is from the book, "My India- The India eternal"*.

"If there is any land on this earth that can lay claim to be the blessed punyabhumi, the land where humanity has attained its highest towards gentleness, towards generosity, towards purity, towards calmness, above all, the land of introspection and of spirituality-- it is India."

"The debt which the world owes to our motherland is immense. India has given to anitquity the earliest scientific physicians, and, according to Sir William Hunter, she has even contributed to modern science by the discovery of various chemicals and by teaching you how to reform misshapen ears and noses. Even more it has done in mathematics, for algebra, geometry, astronomy, and the triumph of modern science-- mixed mathematics-- were all invented in India, just as much as the ten numerals, the very cornerstone of all present civillization, were discovered in India, and are in reality, Sanskrit words. In music, India gave to the world her system of notation, with the seven cardinal notes and the diatonic scale. In philology, our Sansksrit language is now universally acknowledged to be the foundation of all European languages. India has given to the world the fables of Aesop, which were copied from an old Sanskrit book; it has given the Arabian Nights, yes, even the story of Cindrella and the Bean stalks. Last but not the least, she invented the game of chess, cards and the dice."

"So great, in fact, was the superiority of India in every respect, that it drew to her borders the hungry cohorts of Europe, and thereby indirectly broughtt about the discovery of America."

"India I loved before I came away. Now the very dust of India has become holy to me, the very air is now holy to me; it is the holy land, the place of pilgrimage, the tirtha!"

"This national ship, my countrymen, my friends, my children-- this national ship has been ferrying millions and millions of souls across the waters of life. But today, perhaps through your own fault, this boat has become a little damaged, has sprung a leak; and would you therefore curse it? Is it fit that you stand up and pronounce malediction upon it, one that has done more work than any other thing in the world? If there are holes in this national ship, this society of ours, we are its children. Let us go and stop the holes. Let us gladly do it with our heart's blood; and if we cannot, then let us die. We will make a plug of our brains and put them into the ship, but condemn it never. Say not one harsh word against this society. I love it for its past greatness." [ be continued in future posts.]

* "My India, the India eternal" a compilations of swamiji's messages on India published by the Ramakrishna mission institute of Culture, Kolkata. To purchase online, please visit: