Friday, June 25, 2010

Ladakh - Day 7 - Basgo & Spitok

It was getting dark because of the clouds and there were 2 more places for the day. The first one was Basgo.

From a distance, the place looked very desolate and forlorn.

We drove up to the foot of the ruins of the fort situated in the midst of reddish brown earth protruding in interesting formations.

We climbed up and into the fort and there wasn’t a living being in sight. Searching, crying out for a monk who might show us the Gompas did not get us anywhere.
I had to be content with the few pictures of the surroundings.

Until 16th century, before King Sengge Namgyal and rise of Leh, Basgo was a seat of power. The fort and palace are now in ruins but 300 years ago, it was an almost impregnable bastion. Three maitreya temples are now being restored by the world monument fund listing them as endangered historical structures.

That’s one thing common to most monasteries.
The lamas turn out to be quite ignorant about the history and legend of the place. The Gompas remain open only a few hours every day.

Though it was closing time for all Gompas we decided to go to Spitok and try our luck anyway.

The drive to the Spitok took us through a winding road. The clouds were lifting and the sun gradually came into view. The light softened by clouds fell on the valley and we saw that from the coordinates of our position in space and time, the cross section of Ladakh presented looked like several layers or cross sections thrown in to overlap with each other. Mountains criss-crossed fading away at infinity.

We reached Spitok - built on a craggy hill, it overlooks Leh airport. It is supposed to be among the most beautifully sited monasteries of Ladakh.

Between themselves the setting sun and clouds divided the earth below into pieces upon which to cast their light and shadow. This will remain one of my special photographs.

This must be the airport.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Secret - Rhonda Byrne

Old potion, transferred to a new bottle, wrapped in colourful, glittery paper and of course, sold under a new brand name.
A clever endeavour, successful because of un-clever consumers.

I heard about the law of attraction in 2007 from a friend while in California in late 2007. I could not believe it first, but was impressed after I heard him fully, half-believing though. It took a few months for it to sink in and I even posted a blog about it.

The book was too expensive (600 plus) and I thought I would wait for the paper-back edition, which never came.
Tired of waiting, I finally bought this for 400 something after a 20% discount.
An effective book, I must say, though too expensive.

Using different examples, different sentence formations, under different chapters, the book tries to say one thing. You are the master of the universe. The universe is your slave. Ask what you want and you shall have it.
The repetition is painful but behind it is the purpose of reiterating, emphasizing and reemphasizing the most incredible idea in the world – that you can have everything that you want in life. Whatever you have today in your life, you have chosen – health, wealth, love, relationships, mishaps, calamities, miracles… and you can choose what you want in future, a million dollar company, the car of your choice, the perfect partner, fame, ….everything.

Cleverly selected quotes (minus their contexts) by well known personalities have been sprinkled on all pages and interpreted suitably to endorse the message of the book.

The natural question would be ‘Why many a time we don’t have what we want if it is true that we can have all we want?’ According to the votaries of the law of attraction, most of us don’t know what we want or we don’t know how to want what we want. Most important of all, when we get what we want, we don’t want it anymore!

Thus, the book addresses the above one by one and attempts to teach us how, in a scientific and methodical way, we all can have all we want. A separate chapter dedicated to wealth, health, relationship, life and so on. The content is repetitive and could be cut by 25% but it anyway serves to impress the point of the book on the reader’s mind.

The techniques and processes mentioned in the book are

The creative process – Ask. Believe. Receive – Ask the universe (once) what you want. Believe that it is coming to you. Receive it – feel wonderful about it as if you already have it.

The process of Revision – everyday, before you retire to bed, revise in your mind all that did not go right and then play it in your mind exactly the way you would have wanted it to go.

Gratitude – be grateful for what you have. Say ‘thank you’ many times in a day and feel thankful. You will have more reasons to thank the universe.

Visualization – Visualize what you want in detail and feel good while doing it. Do this exercise often. What you visualize will realize soon.

Affirm - I am. I am beautiful. I am love. I am on time. I am healthy. Instead of I am late, I am sick, I am bored, I am broke…words are powerful.

Laughter is the best medicine – watch comedy shows, comedy movies, laugh, do what makes you happy and you will have more reasons to laugh…

Treat yourself with love and respect – treat yourself the way you want others to treat you.

But the book encourages individualistic attitude as different from collectivistic. It says you can have whatever you want, just about anything under the sky, anything on your mind, you only have to ask for it. Don’t worry about the how, about the means of realization of your desire.
It gives not a penny for right and wrong, for moral, immoral.
What kind of desires should be nurtured, what desires should be stopped or controlled because they may not be good for someone else or for you – these have been dismissed as unnecessary.
In fact the book explicitly says ‘don’t think of whether your wanting this is good for others – the universe will take care’.
Sacrifice has been called unnecessary. ‘All of us can have what we want, it is not necessary for one person to sacrifice for the good of others’, the book says.

When I call the book clever and the consumer unclever, it is because this book is a replica of The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy. And I am sure a lot of other books on positive thinking before this one carry the same message. It has been marketed as the discovery of a secret, as a new revelation and sold for millions.

Certain examples used to illustrate the effectiveness of the techniques are immature.
For instance, a certain man visualized in his mind, a feather of a particular shape and colour just to test whether this technique works. And lo behold! After 3 days, he found the feather of his imagination near an elevator.
A reader does not need this you know. Regardless of the truth of the incident, the author needn’t go that far to make her point. Silly examples and small talk.

A lady who was unable to find a right partner realised (after being enlightened by the author or her book) that she had been occupying the entire bed, so she started sleeping in her side of the bed leaving the other side to her partner ‘who would arrive soon’. She would park her car in the garage in such a way that there was enough space left for her spouse’s car. And indeed, in a few week’s time, she got married to the perfect man!
So what about those millions of singles who have a single bed at home and not a double bed? Will they never get married? 
The reader is being taught to go by the literal meaning of words instead of understanding the underlying sense and spirit of the advice.
The vast majority of the author’s readers being westerners, would not, of course, be able to see the ludicrousness. And used as they are to packaged solutions for every problem of life, such references would surely appeal to them.
A ‘packaged guaranteed solution’ approach to the law of attraction, I am sure, is what they are ready for.

But a more mature and sensible approach to the law of attraction would be to understand the larger meaning “Think good thoughts, feel good. You will attract more good in your life because of your own happy disposition. If you think bad thoughts, and consequently feel bad, you will attract more of bad in your life, because of an unhappy disposition.”

While the book proclaims that nothing is impossible, that the universe would move mountains to fulfil your wish, that there is no destiny, that no laws govern the universe except the law of attraction, that you can have perfect health, perfect beauty, lots of money...simply by believing that it is coming your way and that you already have it, it carefully avoids the difficult questions.
For instance, it says you can have any man/woman you want. But it avoids the question ‘If you love a person who is already taken (married or committed to someone else) do you have it in your power to eventually possess that person?’ Is it even right to desire something like that?
Very briefly the book says ‘old age is in your mind. You can remain young’. It does not dwell upon the subject too long. ’Can you attain immortality by asking for it?’

One really good thing about the book, however, is that it impresses upon the mind of the reader the urgency of the matter.
A lot of books describe in detail how important it is to think positively and avoid negative feelings – anger, vengeance, hatred, regret, guilt etc. We have heard it from our elders, read about it in various books, email forwards, SMSs. But none of them jolt you out of habit.
This book does.
“…every minute, every second, you are attracting into your life what you are thinking about. Now…this moment…what are you thinking, how are you feeling… its coming back to you…”
You become watchful of your thoughts like never before. For a week after reading this book, I was afraid of bad thoughts. I was paranoid about what I was attracting into my life and switched to positive, good, happy thoughts many times a day.
And guess what………..within a few days, the thoughts of people who had offended me at work, 2 years ago – that jackass manager, the spineless woman who was my mentor - tormentor, the jerk who would pinch my arm when I wore a new dress and stamp my feet when I wore new shoes, without my permission…all of them were forgotten. I was generally happier than before.

The thoughts came back again after a few months, but that’s not the fault of the book. You have to consciously practise what is advised. If you ask me, I’d say, carry a copy of the book with you all the time and read one page everyday so the urgency and gravity of the matter never get off your mind.

As I read through the pages, it was natural and inevitable for me to verify the contents of the book against how my own life had unfolded thus far and what my take on this subject was.

Most of the good things I attracted into my life, the US visit, the Himalayas, the Ladakh trip, the toastmasters, my company Sumeru were all without the process of visualization, gratitude or other techniques recommended in the book. It was all unexpected! They just happened. What I have consciously wanted and craved have been quite elusive.
So once again, it makes complete sense to present the general promise – good thoughts, intentions and feelings beget good while bad thoughts, intentions and feelings beget bad.
But getting down to specific thoughts and their direct result, I mean, trying to establish a one to one connection between every cause and every effect, every incident and its causal antecedent would be a futile exercise, an immature one and would result in one’s losing faith in the law of attraction because of too many exceptional cases that are not in agreement with the law.

After going everywhere that the author wanted to take me, I was back to square one. Actually, slightly better than that. And wiser.
What happens to us is the result of the combination of free will and destiny. So you cannot have all you want to have. But you can have a lot of what you want, by knowing clearly what you want, by taking steps in that direction and by completely shunning negative bitter feelings and thoughts of any kind from your mind.
And that requires effort. Being positive. Although it is supposed to be your natural state of being!

Karma plays a huge role in our lives. Destiny definitely determines. But a lot depends on free will too. That said, why worry about destiny when you cannot change it? Pretend that everything depends on free will and give it your best shot.

Last word. I would recommend reading this for as I said earlier, it impresses upon your mind the urgency of the matter. But do not buy the book. Borrow. Or perhaps buy the pirated version sold on pavements (I would never say this about another book, a lover of books as I am).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Blue Mug

Cast: Konkana Sen Sharma. Rajat Kapoor, Vinay Pathak, Ranvir Shorey, Sheeba Chadha & Munish Bhardwaj

This play, I watched in Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Bangalore.
With a lot of anticipation.

While Rajat Kapoor, Vinay Pathak, Sheeba Chadha & Munish Bhardwaj carry one thread, Konkana Sen Sharma and Ranvir Shorey carry another thread in the same play.

For some reason, the experience of watching this play seems to me, analogous to the experience of reading Somerset Maugham’s ‘Moon & Six pence’.
This is true of many plays I have seen of late.

The book has no story as such, but you will enjoy it for its literary splendor, for the beauty and power of language.
More than all else, you will be thankful for the details that it dwells upon, details dredged from the depths of the common consciousness of humanity and hence, details, that all people, at once, will be able to relate to.
Details that will serve to verify all of our preconceptions and hence remove our fears and assure us of our normalness.

The Blue Mug and other plays of its kind take us through a similar experience.
There is no story as such, but you will enjoy it for the beauty and power of rendition, for the talent of the actors, for the details that it dwells upon – details that all of us have chosen to forget, that we believe do not matter.
Details that when explored seriously by six actors on stage, became important and grave as they were the stuff we were are made of. An important source of our identity.

The blue mug is all about memories.

One part of the play attempts to show how we are defined by what we remember. The other part shows how we are defined also by what we have forgotten.
The two are interspersed – with alternating scenes from the two threads.

Fragments of memories are recalled by four actors - Rajat Kapoor, Vinay Pathak, Sheeba Chadha & Munish Bhardwaj. Memories of incidents from various stages of growing- Childhood, teenage and adulthood. Past and present. People and places. Happy, unhappy, delightful, funny, pleasant and unpleasant memories.

The actors do share stage space, but they do not particularly interact with one another, instead take turns to narrate their piece, giving the whole play a solitary air.

What one should not miss is the rendition. Dialogues are very well delivered; natural and effortless. They certainly bring out the laughs. They speak in the accent of the people they are talking to us about; the expressions on their faces and the intonations in their voices help to bring the incident to life.

Vinay Pathak I remember was very powerful.

Another, parallel thread has Konkana Sen Sharma and Ranvir Shorey occupying the corners of the front of the stage and engaged in a conversation.

During the course of exchanges between them, it becomes clear that Konkana is trying to help Ranvir whose memory seems to have betrayed him.
A 40 year old still clings to a time 20 years ago and has not moved on since. He suffers from short term memory loss and cannot recollect what happened 20 minutes ago but vividly remembers details of what happened in his childhood. He has lost sense of time and has forgotten who he is and where he is. He lives in a world of the past and has no awareness of the present.

Ranvir has done a brilliant job of acting. Throughout his scenes, he speaks in a typical Punjabi accent. It must have taken him a lot of practice to master all the nuances of the Punjabi people, their culture, their style etc. Towards the end, his acting becomes very intense and cannot fail to move the spectator.

I returned home after the play, thinking of how without our becoming aware, memories of real incidents sometimes merge with our imaginations, how the imaginary conversations we have all the time with people – real and imaginary - and imaginary incidents smudge the clear contours of our memory and how the real and imagined become indistinguishable…

It is the prowess of the individual actors that will remain in the memory of the audience as all the rest – the incidents narrated, the lines, the laughs – will eventually sink into the abyss of forgetting…

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ladakh - Day 7 - Likir

It was only 3 04 4 in the noon but because of the clouds, there wasn’t much light and we had 3 more places to cover... so we were on our way to Likir.

From the approach road this is what Likir looked like. Can you see the open air Buddha statue? Looks so tiny from this distance. But this statue is what made me look forward to visiting this place.

The colossal open air Maitreya sets the Likir Gompa apart; no other Ladakhi monastery has an outdoor statue so huge and impressive. The 75 feet high future Buddha, seated on a beautifully painted pedestal was completed only in 1999; it is the Gompa’s newest, if most spectacular addition.

Likir is a rich and influential gompa controlling the great Alchi monastery; its abbot is a cousin of Dalai Lama. Among Ladakh’s oldest monasteries, it dates back to the late 11th century when King of Ladakh invited sage Lawang Chosje to build a monastery on the sacred hillock near Likir village. The hillock was long thought to be the resting place of the snake gods, the belief bearing conviction because of its apparent coil like shape. The name Likir in fact is a corruption of the word Lu-Khi, meaning snake coil or snake encircled. The present buildings were erected in 18th century after the earlier structures were gutted by fire.

Some really beautiful murals... Colourful, bright, interesting...

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dancing on Glass


At the centre of the stage, has been erected a really tall and narrow platform, with stairs leading up to the top. On the platform is a lone chair with lights focused on it from above.

The opening scene shows one of the actors walking the stairs, occupying the chair and speaking into the mouthpiece attached to the headphone.

It’s a call centre employee.

There are just 2 actors. A boy and a girl. Both of them work in the same call centre.

At one time the central theme of the play seems to be the life and troubles of the youth of today working in a call centre or a BPO; working in shifts, sleeping during daytime when everyone else is making hay, skin problems due to no exposure to sunlight, having to work overtime to make up for a colleague who has fallen ill and gone on leave, pain-in-the-neck supervisors, eating 2 minutes noodles most of the time, the monotony of routine and generally, a lacuna in life.

The other thread that is interspersed with what one may consider the main theme is a boy-girl relationship.
A love triangle; the boyfriend, not shown on stage, dies in an accident; the girl moves on or so she wants to believe; the colleague (actor on stage), who happens to be the roommate and friend of the dead, loves her and woos her, but hesitantly; she knows; she begins to like him too, but feels guilty and disloyal to her dead boyfriend when she sees herself responding to the colleague; when the girl responds, the boy feels guilty and disloyal to his dead friend and roommate…
Thus both of them are unsure of what they should do next and elude each other.

One day they get drunk in a pub and ramble about a quiet street, late in the night, babbling and laughing, while all of a sudden, the girl remembers that she is standing on the spot where her boyfriend died in the road accident and breaks down uncontrollably. The play ends.

Both actors are very good with dialogue delivery and speak fluently. Language is far from formal, full of slang and colloquial which suits the call centre context very well.
They bring out the laughs. Body language of the male actor is particularly commendable. Full of energy and vigour, he made his dialogues more funnier and enjoyable.
The mood is light on the whole and only once or twice it gets grim. The last scene was a bit of overkill. though.

But I thought they got quite mixed up. As I mentioned earlier there were two different threads. One was the depiction of the life of call centre employees – highlighting all things characteristic of the life of a community of people living in a time period; a generalization. The other thread was a story of individuals that was neither characteristic of a people nor of a time period, but belonging to all people of all times. This is where I think they got mixed up. The second thread did not serve in any way to reinforce the depiction of lifestyle that the first thread was attempting.
It was as though two unrelated plays were combined to make one play so that 90 minutes could be filled up somehow.

Another thing I noticed was the use of property on stage. A miniature almirah, a miniature fridge, a miniature dressing mirror with an assortment of little objects on it, not to mention the tall platform with its stairs and the chair on top; very different from props used in other plays these days – sparing, easy to handle, easy to move.
While they looked good, was there a necessity? Did they make the play more impactful for all the hard work gone into setting up the stage? I am not sure.

The generous sprinkling of slang and titillating talk too, I think was because of popular demand for titillation and did not add to meaning or purpose. Or did it? given the ‘liberal values’ among the call centre population?

You could watch the play for dialogue delivery, acting skills and for the laughs.