Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This And That...


These days, I sit in my chair contemplating nothing in particular and everything in general, momentarily taking control of my mind which is full of ideas buzzing about like the seventh orbit electrons – with the outcome of some serendipitous self discoveries, some epiphanies, some things that matter and some others that don’t…

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With all the reading that I have been doing, my vocabulary has extended.
The result is that, these days, I find myself in a major crisis of semantic muddle.
There are too many adjectives to choose from and too many ways of phrasing a sentence. I can’t believe I grope for words, although once in a way.

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There was a time, when I used to love arguing. I would argue passionately with friends and family. I could go on forever.
I am easily incited and therefore it was easy to pull me into an argument.
But things have changed. (The change has taken me by surprise because I do not know when it happened.)
I prefer calm discussions to heated arguments.
It vexes my spirit when the other person is not looking at the same picture as I am, interrupting me when I have half finished a point, but countering vehemently all that I am saying.
These days, I give up. I try to reach a quick consensus or just say “May be”. And then, half the people who try to argue are those who do not matter. So why waste time and energy trying to convince them?

Elocution suits me better than debating. I have all the time to say peacefully all that I have to say. I don’t have the need to battle my way through interruptions.
Also, I am not mercurial in my responses. I can present irrefutable arguments, but I need time as I build my arguments brick by brick.

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I had an epiphany, just like that.
If a business is completely ethical, then there should be no profits.
If a business is hundred percent ethical, then such a business should break even. No profit, no loss. After all the produce has been sold, all expenses have been met and all employees compensated, there should be no money left in the coffers.
If there is money left in the coffers, then, somewhere, someone in the system has been exploited or some harm done to the environment(unless money can be created out of thin air).
Nobody will agree with me. But that’s OK.

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A lot of people take great pride in having the ‘freedom’ to ‘blow up’ all their money, ‘enjoy their earning’ and not be ‘burdened or pressurized to save’.
What a semantic muddle we live in!
A very important definition that I learnt in the recent times is the definition of ‘Financial Freedom’.
Financial freedom is not ‘having the freedom to squander your money the way you like without having to explain anything to anyone’. It’s not ‘being free to spend your money the way you like’.
Financial freedom is a measure of time. It is the amount of time, in days, months or years for which you can sustain the same standard of living as of today, if you stop working from tomorrow - without begging, borrowing or stealing.
So the more judiciously you spend the greater your financial freedom.
The more you save for tomorrow, the more financial freedom you enjoy.

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One of these days, I woke up to the sound of my own laughter. What’s happening?

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As I read more, write more, think more and contemplate more, I am becoming more self aware. I am wondering if I have, in the past, mistaken self awareness for narcissism. I am wondering if I should change my blog title.

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Newspapers are a source of amusement, more than anything else; what with a world full of idiosyncrasies.

‘Stop using our songs to break terror suspects’!!!
Popular tracks by singers like Britney Spears and Bruce Springsteen are played out at earsplitting volumes to break terror suspects at US military camps.
The singers are furious that their songs are being used in prison camps in Iraq, Afghanistan etc Ha Ha Ha.

Pakistani textbooks teach “Hate India”.
This great historic discovery is taught to class 5 students. “Previously, India was part of Pakistan”. My blood begins to bubble and simmer. I am trying to be amused before the boiling point is reached.

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Having a vision makes life difficult – because you have something to compare reality with;
and this comes in the way of acceptance.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Kasol


After the adventure on river Beas, the four of us, still wet from the experience, (literally and figuratively), left to our next destination, Kasol.

Himachal, I must tell you, is very different from Uttaranchal.
Uttaranchal is for pilgrimage. Himachal is for recreation.

Tourists to Uttaranchal belong to every rung of the economic ladder. There are devotees from all classes; the rich in cars and luxury buses, the middle class mostly taking packaged tours, the poor and miserable in government buses and the sadhus and swamis on foot.
The scene is also different. People thronging temples, bathing in rivers, bhajans playing on loud speakers, shops selling idols and pictures of Gods, semi precious stones, Prasad etc.
Labour is available in plenty. Drivers, coolies(porters), guides, tea shops… mules and their owners, palanquin bearers… and there is competition between them, so you can bargain.
Most of the places are Hindu religious places. I did not see any Buddhism.
There is nothing specific about the local culture that differentiates it from the common Hindu culture.
There are but a few foreigners.
The place is dirty.

But, only slightly away from the clutter of pilgrims, there is much scenic beauty, plenty of water, great mountains and greenery.

Tourists to Himachal on the other hand, belong to only certain rungs of the economic ladder, mostly the upper rungs.
There are many foreigners. The places are not known for temples and the few temples you will find are not acclaimed.
There are many Buddhist monasteries.
In many places, of a certain belt, people grow crops used in the making of drugs. It would not be an exaggeration to say that these drugs are worth their weight in gold.
These drugs attract a lot of foreign tourists. The local people make money. Needless to say, labour is not easily available.
Himachal is more expensive than Uttaranchal. Himachal is more urbanized.
The culture is markedly different; the presence of Buddhism and foreign tourists. Also, economy dictates culture to an extent. The local people here don’t have that subservient attitude.
People engage is various sports like para-gliding, river rafting, river crossing etc.

To someone who has seen the breathtaking grandeur of nature in Uttaranchal, Himachal will not seem special. For Himacahl is comparitively dry and the mountains are not very high.
But it is special in other ways.

So we reached Kasol and checked into a hotel.

I took this picture from my hotel room.



Since it was dark already, I did not venture out.

The next morning, I walked out of my hotel and strolled in the surroundings.

This is not a river but a stream that, in less than a kilometer from here, merges with the Parvathi river. I stood on the bridge as I took these pictures. After we returned to this place from Rashol, the clear water had turned to muddy brown water. This was because somewhere high up, it had rained. This happens in the mountains...







As I strolled towards the bus stand, I saw shops selling western clothes, fashionable accessories, paintings which glow in the dark, etc.
This is a place where you will see Israelis in great numbers. They come here mostly for the drugs. Grass, or marijuana or hashish or whatever they call it. To my surprise I learnt, that it was available over the counter. You just have to ask for it. A small quantity, a spoonful, can cost as much as 500 rupees.
People inhaling the drug from a chillum is a common sight here.

Shops sell the kind of garments that westerns, especially Israelis wear. Restaurants too sell the kind of food that is to the liking of the tourists.

Momos are available on push carts on the streets just like pani puri is available in other Indian cities. This is not just in Kasol but generally in Himachal. This could be because of the presence of Tibetan population in the state and its influence.

There was a German bakery. Too bad I did not take pictures of these.

After some strolling, we began trekking to Rashol, our next destination.

This is where the stream merges with Parvathi river. Can you see? Parvathi river is at the far end, muddish and brown in colour.


We crossed the Parvathi river over a bridge and began our 8 kilometer trek to Rashol.

Here is a raging, roaring Parvathi river.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cat O' Nine Tales - Jeffrey Archer



The author has served 5 years in the House of Commons, 14 years in the House of Lords and two in Her Majesty’s Prisons, which spawned highly acclaimed prison diaries.

When incarcerated for 2 years in 5 different prisons, he picked up several ideas for short stories.
This book is a result of all those days of imprisonment and association with prison mates!

A classic example of time and resource management!

It’s a collection of twelve short stories. Most of them are set in Europe. One is set in Russia. One in India. I might have forgotten any other place.

The protagonists of the story were mostly fellow prisoners of the author (perhaps you should call them antagonists!)
All stories are based on real life incidents and therefore interest you as they reveal the strange ways of people. And since the characters are all involved in crimes of varying magnitude, they are extraordinary (please read it as out of ordinary) on account of their idiosyncrasies and their cunning.

I must say, the book is a classic case of ‘parts being greater than the whole’.

Almost every story, for most part is the stuff banality is made of.
And the supposed twist that makes the story a story is not twist enough. (for me!)

Some of course, stories of theft, deception, stealing, conning are interesting. They always are.

A smart story writer, I must say, solely with reference to this particular book. The stories are eight to ten pages each. The pages are filled with details that actually grasp your attention and fill the pages but have no bearing upon the story itself.
To make my point clearer, I will have to tell you something.
When I open the book today to write this review I don’t remember the stories when I see the titles. I don’t remember even after I read from the pages. Only when I read a certain part that forms a central point, I am able to recollect.
And this, I cannot help comparing with the experience of reading some of those books, the details of which, I so clearly, vividly remember, though months and months have passed since my reading them.

To compare thus is probably not fair because some books simply are not written to make an impact or to inform but to simply entertain, please or amuse.

But then again, even among those books belonging to the latter category, I am reminded of so many, the subject of which is banality, but the rendering of which makes them spectacular, leaving an ever lasting impression.

Do you remember ‘The Last Leaf’ of O Henry or ‘The Eyes Are Not Here’ by Ruskin Bond?

Anyway, let me not compare. For even without making comparisons, I can say in a sentence ‘This is one of those books that you will read very attentively and forget soon after’.

The twelve stories are:

The man who robbed his own post office – a lot of banality with some twist in the end.
Maestro – a case of investigation of fraud, where the fraudulent guy, a restaurant owner, a tax evader, outwits the investigators.
Don’t drink the water – As you sow, so shall you reap. This story is set in Russia.
The red king – I would call this a story – some history, some interesting facts, some conning, … The Wisdom of Solomon – A court trial – a divorce case. The twist in the end is extraordinary but the story that leads up to it is itself not much. Men all over the world would love the ending.
The commissioner – This is set in India. A story of a commissioner of police dealing diplomatically with a prisoner. Good one!

The following have no story really unless i missed something.

It can’t be October already
Know what I mean?
Charity begins at home
The alibi
A Greek tragedy
In the eye of the beholder

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And now, certain lines from the book…the author…

The old cliché that there is a book in every one of us is a fallacy. However I have come to accept over the years that most people have experienced a single incident in their life that is unique to them and well worthy of a short story. –

I agree with this one. So true! I tried to believe in the philanthropic stand that each one of us has a story. But I realized soon that I was pretending to myself. Perhaps some people, as the author says above, are worthy of a short story only.

Whether you are a peer or a pirate depends on whom you share your spoils with-

Here, the author refers to the customary practice of a time.
Those pirates, who robbed ships on seas and kept the spoils to themselves were called pirates and brought to subjection.
But if they gifted the spoils to the King or Queen, they were conferred upon with the title of Peer!

The ways of the British monarchy do not stop to amaze me!


Friday, December 19, 2008

River Rafting On Beas


I had to tear myself away from Manali. Virtually.

I was joined by two friends Pradeep and Venkat in Manali.

After visiting the Hidimba temple (it was the third time for me) and eating some more strawberry and cherry fruit, I said goodbye to Anu Thakur and we left to Pirdi from where Atul’s team would help us go river rafting.

The bus drive from Manali to Pirdi was very scenic as our road was by the Beas River throughout. I took some pictures from the moving vehicle.



You could see the rocky river bed. Quite shallow, I thought. It would be wonderful if I could get down and wade through the waters to the other bank on foot. I was to realize soon that appearances are deceptive especially when you are in the mountains.



We reached Pirdi and waited for some time on the banks of the river Beas.


I am compelled to explain something here. The river Beas is actually river “Vyas”, from Vedavyas or Krishna Dwaipayan, the great sage who divided the Veda into four parts realizing that no individual would be able to study in one lifetime, the Vedas in it’s entirety. So he divided them into four parts and assigned each one to a group or sect of people.

This Vyas river became Byas and then Beas. :-)

As we had refreshments by the vast expanse of the Beas, close to where a hanging bridge had been built, we were joined by Ranjana.


The four of us put on our life jackets and helmets and sat in our raft all ready for adventure. We decided to do the 7 kilometer rafting from Pirdi to Bhuntar.

There were two oarsmen apart from the four of us. Our two guy friends performed the courageous feat of maneuvering the raft, of course with instructions from the oarsmen. But the oarsmen were in ultimate control of the raft and mercifully so :-).

We sailed for sometime on calm waters. And then the rapids began - causing excitement in the beginning and mild cardiac arrests a little later!

What had appeared to be disturbances on the surface of a shallow river, whose rocky river bed could be seen, turned out to be huge waves that threatened to capsize the raft which kept us afloat.

It was only upon riding the first rapid that I realized how cold the water was. Ooooooh! One splash and all of us were drenched.



These rapids I was told were of the order 2 or 3.

The raft wobbled this way and that. Now I thought I would tumble down. Now, I thought the raft would capsize.

With one hand I held on to a rod firmly. With the other hand, I held my camera and struggled to take some pictures. With all the splashing of water around, I had to wipe the water on the lens frequently.

Now, as I look back, what I fear is not the danger of tumbling into cold waters or drowning in the Beas but the thought of what I would do if the camera slipped from my hands! Ooops! I would surely jump after it.



There were trees and much greenery on both sides of the bank. And beyond, there were mountains. On our way, we saw a layer of mist just above a patch of water. This was magical. I had never seen such a thing before.

Calm before storm!





This was a frightening sight. A rock… we were heading straight towards it… the raft was made of rubber and pumped with air. Would it survive this collision? What if???


This is the confluence of Beas with Parvathi. Do you see they are of different colours? Green here and brown at the far end...Didn’t I tell you each water has an identity? Its not just two of hydrogen and one of oxygen...


This confluence happened at Bhuntar. We had reached the end of our 7 kilometer adventure, but we had the option of going further to Bajaura. That would be another 7 kilometers… all of us said YES…and we started again…





This was my first river rafting experience, partly on Beas River, partly on Parvati River and some through the confluence of the two, with mountains and greenery all around, cold water and some sunlight. Perfect.


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Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Bangalore


The gardens, the greenery, the lakes, the weather, the calm, the peace, the eating joints, the English and Hindi speaking people and the friendly, tolerant, hospitable Kannadigas…

I do not remember how many times, but I have fallen in love with Bangalore, all over again and again and again. The last time was this morning when I picked up my copy of TOI.

I feel so proud as I read…

In 1537, Kempe Gowda designed the city as it exists today.

Cubbon Park : It was developed by Sir Mark Cubbon in 1864 when he was the viceroy.

Lalbagh : It has over 1000 species of flora. It has one of the oldest rock formations, the Lalbagh Rock, which is believed to be 3000 million years old.

Bangalore was the first city in India to get electricity. The first electric bulb was lit up in a shop in City market in 1905.

Stone City : Because of it’s rich granite deposits, Bangalore was also known as the ‘Stone City’.

Oldest Sanitary System : Bangalore was founded in the second century and still has the same drainage and sanitary systems – the oldest in the world.

Flowering trees of Bangalore : Jacaranda, Gulmohar or Mayflower, Parijatha, Moulmein Rosewood, Hibiscus, Tabebuia, Silk Cotton and Indian Coral are seen in Bangalore in abundance.


The more I fall in love with this city and the more I become attached to Bangalore, the more I fear for it.

My father uses the analogy of “yele mare kai” often.

Those fruits on a tree, covered with leaves and twigs are safe. The minute these fruits become exposed to public eye, people pelt stones at them.

Everybody is enthusiastically talking about putting Bangalore on the global map; IT, development, tall buildings, huge malls and so on…

Seeing all the wretchedness that has befallen Bombay and Delhi, I wonder if we were better off living in oblivion.

O God! May your grace bless my city.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Shall Not Hear The Nightingale - Khushwant Singh



Time – 1942 – 1943

It’s the story of a relatively important Indian Sikh family during a period in history. Such a blend of history with the story of common civilians gives you an improved perspective of history when compared to the perspective you get when you read history merely as a chain of important events in chronological order.

While the story itself is a nice one, its characters serve to provide meaningful insights into the life and thoughts of people of bygone years under uncommon circumstances. I like such books for the insights they provide about specific dynamics of sociology at a time in the past.

There is the sycophant Buta Singh who is a magistrate reporting to a British officer. He has political ambitions and his ideological stand is a fickle one. For most part, he wishes to keep up the ancestral tradition of unflinching loyalty to the British, not without a selfish ulterior motive. All the same, he cannot oppose his son Sher Singh who is secretly leading the youth towards rebellion.

Here’s what he says to his son during one of their arguments “English have treated us better than our own kings did in the past; or the Germans, Italians, or Japanese will do if they win and take over India. We should stand by the English.”
For all the resentment (of the people) that the patriotic movies show us year after year, this is the sentiment that a lot of people had towards the British. And why not?

Sabhrai is Buta Singh’s wife. She can’t be bothered about politics and all that. Like a dutiful wife and mother, all she cares about all the time is the well being and harmony of the family, especially father and son. Much of her time is devoted to reading the ‘Granth Sahib’.

Champak is the wife of Sher Singh. She is an amorous woman having a fling with her husband’s friend.
I have always held that the passing of years sees the dilution of morals, that yesterday’s men and women were purer than today’s. But when I read books like these I wonder if people are people: the same everywhere and at all times. (Although characters of a book are fictitious, they are inspired by reality. Aren’t they?)

Shunno the maidservant is a widow of 50. She troubles the young servant boy Mundoo who in turn causes her real trouble. The solution to a non existent problem is then provided by a ‘Hakim’, a quack, in whom Shunno has more faith than in educated doctors.

There is Mr. Taylor, who is aware of the undercurrents of rebellion, and his sympathetic wife and between the two of them they think, …… “It may be a hard thing to say, but despite the close living, in joint families and the formal respect paid to the elders, there is less contact, understanding or friendship between parents and their children in India than in Europe”… quite true!
And then there are other characters. Madan, Sita, Mundoo, Beena…

The story revolves not just around one or two main protagonists but several characters, all of whom have been adequately sketched. This must be quite a difficult thing to do – to draw the readers’ attention towards all characters – to divide the story equally among many and yet have a certain cohesion between the many threads that makes it one single story.

The language of the novel is beautiful. It is a mix of the right amount of all ingredients – simplicity, standard, imagery, portrait, poetry, historical facts... but the language is also crisp and brisk where necessary.

I loved the beautiful imagery in this para and the observation he tries to make, about what monsoon means to Indians.

To know india’s people, one has to know the monsoon………

Summer – another day begins with it’s heat, it’s glare and it’s dust…………

After living through all this for ninety days or more, one’s mind becomes barren and bereft of hope. Its is then that the monsoon makes it’s spectacular entry. Dense masses of dark clouds sweep across the heavens like a celestial army with black banners. The deep roll of thunder sounds like the beating of a billion drums. Crooked shafts of silver zigzag in lightening flash against the black sky. Then comes the rain itself. First it falls in fat drops; the rises to meet them. She laps them thirstily and is filled with fragrance. Then it comes in torrents which she receives with the supine gratitude of a woman being ravished by her lover. It impregnates her with life which bursts forth in abundance within a few hours. Where there was nothing, there is everything: green grass, snakes, centipedes, worms and millions of insects.

It is not surprising that much of India’s art, music and literature is concerned with the monsoon.

Do read this book.
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Now, some language…new English words…
Do you know the English word for ghee?!!!
Clarified butter :-)

And a noteworthy line…
Vice responds only to vice; it dare not accost virtue.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Resurgence


This was meant to be prose and part of another blog post.
But as I completed the really long sentence, I saw that it deserved to be a poem :-) An instance of serendipity!

Believe not that wounds heal
Merely covered are they
By layers of time inexorable
Until they settle to the dark bottom
Of a bygone past
And the tears have dried.

Forget not the smouldering lava
Beneath the deceptive calm
Of a snow covered volcano

Every fresh wound inflicted,
No matter how slight,
Descends upon a vulnerable heart
Like a sword or a bludgeon
Wielded with all might
It becomes the last straw
That assumes a stone’s weight
And falls upon the tranquil surface
Of a tormented soul
Creating not mere ripples
But waves of an unfailing memory
That carries glimpses
Of that trauma of adolescence
On to the shores of the happy present


Inheriting The Only Bequest


Four Miles
Value Of Pi & Bodhayana Sutra
Quadratic Equation, Algebra And Permutation Combination
Square Root And Cube Root
Lost Treasure
First Step Of The Thousand Miles

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Value Of Pi & Bodhayana Sutra


Bodhayana Sutra

This theorem now known as Pythagoras theorem was known to Bodhayana and Katyayana 1000 years before Pythagoras. Bodhayana has written this verse.


This was adopted in the construction of altars of sacrifice. Quadrangular, equilateral altars, bilateral altars and quadrilateral altars were used during sacrifices.

The value of Pi

Aryabhatta had discovered the value of pi much earlier than anyone. The value he gave was pi=3.1416. The value arrived at in modern mathematics is pi=3.1416926.
The verse of Aryabhatta giving this value is


Trigonometry

Trigonometry is one of the most important contributions of India to the entire world. In the field of trigonometry, Indians used ‘jya’ and ‘kotijya’. This word becomes cosine in the European languages.

Aryabhatta first composed ‘Jya Kostaka’. He has designed the lines of a circle from 0 – 90 degree. In order to fix the places of planets in Indian astronomy he was using many theories of Trignometry.