Friday, July 29, 2005

Dr Zakir Naik

Nowadays Islam has become almost a synonym for terrorism. Muslims are looked upon with suspicion everywhere. After the attacks on WTC and London, even those who were willing to give a benefit of doubt are beginning to have second thoughts.

Fortunately, there are saner voices in Islam who can do something about this. One of them is Dr Zakir Naik of Mumbai. I stumbled upon his speeches when I was surfing channels and I was quite impressed with what he said.

There is a channel called Q TV, which telecasts his programmes.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Thiruvasagam in Symphony - Scintillating

Illaiyaraja's 'Thiruvasagam - A classical crossover' is something no Indian must miss.
Thiruvasagam is an ancient Tamil literary work by Saint Maanikavaasagar in praise of Lord Shiva. That the language is Tamil must not prevent anyone from listening to it. In fact, even Tamilians find it difficult to understand Maanikavaasagar's classical Tamil. But what puts it in the 'must listen' category is that it has the 'Illaiyaraja magic'. If you like good music, go for it.
According to the TIS Web site "This project is an unique attempt to present select verses from the Thiruvasakam in a musical form, synthesising ideas from both the Indian and Western classical traditions. The main objective of this project is to bring masterpieces from India's spiritual traditions, such as the Thiruvasagam, to the attention of the younger generation."
The project involves more than 200 musicians from India and Hungary, including the Budapest Symphony Orchestra conducted by Laszlo Kovacs. The English translation of the selected verses has been done by Mr. Stephen Schwartz, the Oscar award winning lyricist of Pocahontas and Prince of Egypt. The final mastering has been done by Richard King, the 2004 Grammy winner for the Best Engineered Album in the Classical category.
This is the first time such a crossover music has been attempted. An Oratorio is a musical composition with religious, serious, or philosophical text for chorus, orchestra, and soloists. And blending an ancient Indian literary work with the Western Oratorio format is not easy. But Illaiyaraja has managed to do it.
And the more you listen, the work grows on you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Sathya Sai Baba - A response

Some time back, I had posted my views about the allegations surrounding Sathya Sai Baba (SSB) and said why there were no attempts made by the SSB side to clarify or deny these.
I received an anonymous response today about a site which does precisely this. But it is an independent site, which has nothing to do with SSB's organisation. Readers can go through this site. The webmaster of this site has done a good job.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The religious mafia

Sometimes I feel the world will be a far better place without priests. As Osho says, they behave like a mafia. They have their own rules and regulations which we have to follow, else we will be sent to Hell through the nearest shortcut.
Here's one of their latest escapades. For reasons best known (only) to them, they tried to prevent a woman from perfoming the last rites of her mother. But she stood firm, and won. Ironically, the woman was a Brahmin - the same 'caste' to the priests belong.
Read ahead:

Woman performs last rites for her mother
Press Trust of India
Chennai, June 25

Breaking the rigid age-old traditions believed to have the sanction of holy scriptures, Rekha Harischandran, a woman belonging to an Iyengar family here has performed the religious rites of her dead mother, a task normally entrusted to the eldest son in a family.
‘‘I fulfilled the wishes of my mother, Viji Srinivasan, a well-known social worker. My family, including my father fully supported me,’’ she told PTI after performing today the last of the 13th day rituals that are performed in the immediate aftermath of the death of a person in a Hindu family.
Rekha, a costume designer, said a number of priests had told her that it was inappropriate for a woman to perform these rituals and they offered to perform the rites on her behalf if she gave the ‘‘darba’’ grass to them.
‘‘However, I did not agree to this,’’ said the only child of her parents.
Finally, a Non-Governmental organisation run by women called ‘‘Vishranthi’’, suggested that she get in touch with a priest, Govinda Sastrigal who told her that ’Srartha Kaandam’, a book which lays down the rules for various rituals, approved of either a son or a daughter performing the rites.
Asked whether the priests had acted in ignorance, she said ‘‘I think they are more afraid to take on any opposition. I think rituals are essential, but they have to be understood properly. But I want to say that women are permitted to do such things as the shastras (religious scriptures) provide for it,’’ she said.
Viji Srinivasan, who worked in organisations like UNICEF and the Ford Foundation, had taken ill and was admitted to a hospital in Bhopal. She died of fungal infection in both her lungs on June 13.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Vethathiri Maharishi

In a world flooded with gurus who claim they are Gods, here's one with a difference.
He is Vetathiri Maharsishi.
You can find more about him in the Web Site:

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Bookless in Churchgate

Our politicians have a queer way of doing things. Some of them in Mumbai want to turn the city into a Shanghai. Of course, it is a difficult task - cutting red tape, etc. But there is also an easy way out - arrest beggars, evict slumdwellers, chase away pavement shops... the list can go on and on.
Some of the victims have been the booksellers on the pavements. Especially near Churchgate. They thought the books made the pavements look ugly (target Shanghai, remember?) So, they threw the booksellers along with the 'useless' books out.
The Times of India has an article about this by Jerry Pinto. Here it is:


It is a matter of public record that the oldest book published in India in the Heras library at St Xavier’s College was found on the streets. It is the account of the imprisonment of a French officer in the reign of Tipu Sultan and it was bought off the streets by the enterprising Father Henry Heras sj, Spanish Jesuit and Indologist extraordinaire.
This is only one of the smallest ways in which the booksellers on the
streets have enriched the public and intellectual life of the city. When we were disbanding the PEN office, hundreds of books went to libraries and institutions across the city. The rest were in safe hands, we knew, for as one of our members put
it, “They’ll end up on the streets around Churchgate and the people who want them will get them.’’
Part of the joy of the downtown area was the stroll out of Churchgate into a vast open-air library. Here medical students bargained for marked down copies of Gray’s Anatomy and secretaries hired romantic fiction, paying an average of Rs 50 for a book, forty of which would be refunded on the safe return of the book. That’s where I bought 17 volumes of Sir Richard Burton’s translation of The Arabian Nights (11 volumes and six supplementary volumes), in faux leather and gold, one of my proudest possessions. That’s where I got talking to Kamleshbhai who could look at my list of Camus and tell me which ones I hadn’t got. Any book lover in the city can tell you of similar experiences.
And now they are gone.
This is part of the class war that the state of Maharashtra has been waging on its citizens for the past months. The demolition of the slums cannot be equated to the removal of the booksellers at Churchgate but it is part of a pattern. You know what the pattern is. In its attempt to transform Mumbai into Singapore or Shanghai, the State has decided to wage war against the poor, against anything that does not fit into the cosmetic pattern of the international city. Of course, Singapore is one of the developing nations and Mumbai is part of one of the poorest nations, but the State isn’t going to let a fact like that stand in its way.
Perhaps it is best to see the city as a dictatorship masked as a democracy. It is all very well for politicians of the ruling party to say on camera that Mumbai would collapse in two hours without its slum dwellers. It is another thing to put that into action and create a situation in which the city and the slums co-exist until the slums can be replaced by low-cost housing. It is all very well for us to prate of our glorious heritage and our respect for learning but of course, the State can neither give us a public library to which we could all go nor will it allow the spirit of entrepreneurship to create ad hoc libraries on the pavements.
The Churchgate booksellers cannot be treated like other hawkers. Where the government has made provision for markets, it has not provided for public libraries. In the absence of such libraries, these pavement booksellers are the common person’s only source of affordable books.
This is the age of the market. It is for the market that we have demolished slums. It is for the market that we have cleared the pavements of the booksellers. Not only must we spend our money recklessly, foolishly, but we must spend it so that it goes back into the market. The pavement booksellers were not part of it. They paid the price for their subversion of our new tinpot god.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

J Krishnamurti on religious men

A religious man is not really one who puts on a robe or a loincloth, or has taken innumerable vows to be this and not be that, but is he who is inwardly simple, who is not becoming anything. Such a mind is capable of extraordinary receptivity, because there is no barrier, there is no fear, there is no going towards something; therefore it is capable of receiving grace, God, Truth or what you will.

J. Krishnamurti

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Body is the Temple - Osho

“The body is the temple, it is the shrine; god lives in it. It has to be respected... it is sacred. But the religions in the past have condemned it very much. Because of their condemnation man has become split; they have created a conflict in man's being. They have conditioned humanity to think that the body is the enemy -- one has to fight with it, one has to crush it -- that the body is the barrier between you and god. This is utter nonsense. The body is the bridge, not the barrier. It is god's creation. How can it be against god? God has chosen it to live in as consciousness. It's god's play.

Because of these teachings -- utterly false -- man has become almost identified with the mind, and the body has become, slowly slowly, insensitive. Man has become afraid of the body too. Because of the fear, the body has lost its joy, its celebration; it has become thick. And because of the fear, the body lives only at the minimum. The mind does not allow it to dance at the maximum, and only at the maximum dance of the body does the meeting with god happen.

I am all for the body, I am all for the earth. The earth is divine, the body is divine. And we have to search for god, not against the earth but through the earth. The earth has to be used as a passage and the body has to be used as a ladder. Once this is understood, life is no more a struggle. Then it is a dance. The consciousness and the body can dance together, hand in hand, and slowly slowly that great synthesis arises where consciousness and body are not two things but two aspects of one energy. That is the state of realisation, of enlightenment.

And the priests of all the religions have taught it; it is one of their trade secrets. Once a man is in conflict with his body he can never be happy, and when he is not happy he is in the hands of the priests. Only unhappy people go to the temples, to the mosque, to the church, and only unhappy people think of after-life. Only unhappy people think of, create, paradises in their imagination. Only unhappy people can be persuaded to sacrifice their lives for foolish goals. So the basic secret of the priests' power over man is to make man unhappy. And this is the only way to make man unhappy -- to create a division between the body and the man; then he will never be happy. You have broken him into two, you have broken the unity. And joy arises only in unity; out of disunity there will be only misery. A miserable man is bound to seek the priests, somebody who can help. First create the disease and then advertise the medicine; that has been the way of the religions up to now.

When I say 'priests' I don't include Jesus or Buddha or Krishna. They are not priests -- they are prophets. And that is the distinction between a priest and a prophet: a prophet is here to help you to become more blissful and the priest is here to exploit your misery.

So let this be my message: love your body, respect your body. In that very respect you will love others' bodies and you will respect others' bodies. In that respect you will respect the very earth you walk upon. If one is in deep harmony with one's body, one automatically becomes harmonious with nature. The body is the closest point to nature. Then ripples go on spreading and dance arises. That dance is prayer.”

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Osho on conversion to Christianity

Why do Hindus convert to other religions? The main reason is untouchability. The so-called 'lower' castes are almost trampled upon by 'caste' Hindus. Organisations like RSS have realised this and have been trying to do something about it. But it has been an uphill task.

One of my friends sent the following incident in Osho's life. It's in Osho's own words. It shows how Christians manage to convert.

If a sudra becomes a follower of Buddha, immediately he is no longer untouchable. If a sudra becomes a Christian he is no longer untouchable. This is a very strange world.

I had a friend who was the principal of a theological college in Jabalpur, Principal Mackwan. I was saying to him, "Why are you Christians interested only in the poor?"

He said, "Please come to my house." I was sitting in his office. He said, "My house is just behind the college; come to my house; I want to show you something."

He showed me an old man and woman's picture. They were certainly beggars, in rags, dirty; you could even see it in their faces-so hungry. You could see that all their lives they had suffered; it was written in the lines on their forehead.

He said, "Can you recognize who these are?"I said, "How can I recognize them?-I have never seen these people, but they look like beggars."

He said, "They were beggars. He is my father, she is my mother. And not only were they beggars, they were sudras, untouchables. They became converted, in their old age, to Christianity because they were so old, tired of begging; and now they were concerned about their children-particularly this boy, who is now principal of Leonard Theological College. What would happen to him if they died? He would also become a beggar.

"Because they were sick they entered a Christian hospital, because no other hospital will take poor people and give them free medicine, food, care, doctors. So they entered, they had to enter, a Christian hospital. And there the whole methodology is: with the medicine to go on giving as much of The Bible as possible; with each injection a little Bible. With food, the doctor talks about it, the nurse talks about it; the priest comes every day to inquire about their health, how they are.

For the first time they felt that they were human beings. Nobody had ever asked them about their health. They were treated like dogs, not like human beings. And had they remained Hindus they would have died like dogs, dying on the street corner. You don't know, because that is not the way in the West….

Professor Mackwan told me, "This is my father and mother. They would have died like dogs and the municipal truck would have thrown them out of the city with all the garbage that it carries every day, because there is nobody to carry a beggar to the funeral pyre. Who bothers about a beggar? Beggars are not men, not human beings."

And then he took me to another picture of his daughter and his son-in-law. I was looking at three generations: the father and mother, almost below human beings; Mackwan, who has gained status and is now in a very respectable post, highly salaried.

Now brahmins come and shake hands with him, not knowing at all that he is the son of two beggars who were sudras. I know his daughter, one of the most beautiful women I have seen; she is married to an American.

Looking at the three generations…such a change. You cannot connect the daughter with the grandmother and how can you connect the son-in-law with her grandfather? There seems to be no bridge. The son-in-law is a well-known scholar, professor-six months teaching in India, six months teaching in America. Saroj, the daughter herself is a professor. They are all well-educated; the son is a principal. They have moved in a completely different direction by being converted to Christianity.

I could not object. I said, "Your father and mother did well."

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Mumbai Xpress

I saw Mumbai Xpress. The Kamal Haasan-Singitham Srinivasa Rao combination, which has given several successful films has done it again.
Avinash (Kamal) who calls himself Mumbai Xpress, is deaf. He is a honest guy. He is forced to join a gang which plans to kidnap a kid for ransom. The gang includes a horse, whose main aim in life is to bite people and whatever crosses its way. They end up kidnapping the wrong kid who turns out to be the son of the Asst. Commissioner of Police, and the rest is mayhem. But Avinash wants to return the kid and the money he received. The film has just one song.
I regard Kamal as one of the brilliant minds in Indian cinema. He has a way with comedy - he has the ability to make even simple acts funny.
The jarring point is the riduculous scene where the kid threatens to commit suicide and Avinash agrees to be his father and Manisha Koirala's husband. The treatment of the scene is not adequate and the scene seems to drag. Avinash falls for Manisha the next second and there is a song which is almost like a duet. I never new becoming a husband is so easy!
Except for this, the film is an excellent entertainer. Ramesh Arvind as the Telugu insurance agent has done an excellent job.
But the film seems to end abrubtly. The reason may be the censor's cut of a song.
The movie is worth watching once. But please leave your logic at home.

Sunday, April 17, 2005


We were watching Omen. When Damien sees a Cross at a Church, he gets scared and becomes violent. My daughter wondered whether there were no pictures of the Cross or Jesus in Damien's house. He never came across one in five years? I had no answer. Is this a slip by the director?

God and his health benefits


A preliminary study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago shows that a belief in God may improve a person’s physical health.
The researchers are launching the first comprehensive study to examine the relationship between religious attitudes and health.
Measurable effects of strong spirituality, regardless of religion, are improved physiological functioning, health and well-being, especially in difficult times, team leader John Cacioppo said.
These benefits of belief in God accrue over time and are an important aspect of dealing with ageing, he said.
“The study is based on an evolutionary model of humans as social beings in which the motive to form and maintain attachments and interpersonal relationships is in part genetically determined,” Cacioppo said. As a result, people are born with the capacity for spirituality and humanity, he explained. The work will explore how this inclination to see a spiritual understanding varies among individuals.
Among the researchers’ initial discoveries is that African Americans, who say they have a strong relationship with God, were significantly less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who did not.
Among white participants in the study, there was very little impact of religious belief and reported depression.

Monday, April 11, 2005


My friend Pradeep has a nice posting in his blog. He mentions a shopping experience and wonders whether some incidents are in our lives are pre-determined. Similar incidents have happened in my life too. Here is one of them.

This happened a few years ago, when we were looking for a flat. My wife and I went with the usual rigmorale. Finally we shortlisted around four flats.
The first one was good. The builder called it a 'semi-independent' house. But it was quite far from the railway station. The watchman in the second flat warned us of water problems. The third flat promoter demanded immediate advance payment and refused to wait. The fourth one - the building was nearing completion - was somewhat to our expectations. Most importantly, the builder seemed to be a decent guy.
But all our plans had to be put on hold due to the death of my father.
More than six months elapsed before we resumed our hunt. But we thought of checking out the flat. I had no hopes it would be available as the location was good. We saw the building had been completed and the flats had been occupied.
Any way, we thought we will at least have a look at the completed flats, especially the one which we had thought of buying. It was on the first floor. But the flat was locked. We asked the neighbour whether the occupants had move in. But when he said the flat was yet to be sold, we were surprised. It was one of the two flats in the building which had not been sold.
We immediately contacted the builder. He confirmed it had not been sold and asked us to come to his office.
He said while all the flats were booked in record time, these were the only flats which were left out. May be the design isnt good, he said, but he could do nothing about it as the flat was completed. He offered us to give a good price if we booked the flat (as we had met him several times when we were looking out for a flat). The cost of the flat, including registration, came to more than Rs 8,50,000. He said he would make it Rs 8 lakh. A discount of more than Rs 50,000!
One more surprise was in store. I had my cheque book with me. I don't know why I had brought the cheque book. I immediately wrote a cheque for the advance amount.
Just as I was signing it, the builder got a call. This was from someone who had come to see the flat the previous day. He said he had decided to buy the first floor flat. By the time, the cheque was in the builder's hand. He told the caller he had just received a cheque for the flat. He could take the other flat in the building. The caller protested. He wanted the first floor flat and nothing else. The argument continued for more than half-an-hour! Within a few seconds of this call, the person called again to try to convince the builder.

Finally, the builder was exasperated. He said he had been looking for buyers for more than six months, and today there was a fight for the flat.
Now, why did we select this day to go to the flat? Why did I take the cheque book? And had I gone even five minutes late, we would have not got the flat. Destiny?
Talking about destiny, a prominent Nadi astrologer here says he never advertises. Why? Because, if someone is destined to get his palm leaf read, he would come there on his own. And he would come only on the day destined for him.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Sudharshan has a valid point on women

S Gurumurthy
Brinda Karat, a Left feminist, has criticised RSS chief K.S. Sudharshan for his views on the role of women. In Sudharshan’s view, a woman who puts the family above her career is the role model for others. Brinda chided him for being anti-women. For her, a family woman is subordinated. Conversely, a career woman is liberated. Sudharshan’s view and Brinda’s are not just a conflict of the ‘traditional’ India with the ‘modern’. Today, it involves the ‘modern’ West as well and a debate is on out there. Look at the facts and the thoughts on the role of women in the West, which our intellectuals of the Left and also of the rest generally benchmark.

Long before, the West had caught on to what the likes of Brinda now advocate for Indian women. The West, ideologically close to Brinda, moved even faster. In the Russian Federation, 65 percent of the marriages end in divorce. The divorce-to-marriage rate in the Ukraine is 63 percent, Czech 61 percent, the UK 51 percent, the US 49 percent, and Germany 41 percent. Swedish women are the most ‘liberated’ and ‘empowered’ with half and more of Swedish parliamentarians and civil servants being women. Is it just a coincidence — or consequence — that 65 percent or more of Swedish women and men live together without marriage, any one with anyone for any length of time? In the end, over two-thirds of Swedish elders are bereft of family support. This has forced the Swedish government to pass a law to provide caretakers, at its cost, for assisting the aged who are orphaned.

Look at the USA, which many look towards. The traditional arrangement where men go to work and women look after the house has fallen from 53 percent of married couples in 1972 to 21 percent in 1998. The divorce rate in the US has doubled between 1960 and 1998. Don’t dismiss it as merely a cultural fall. It is economic as well. The state had to step in to fill the void in families. So the social security cost, that is the cost of caring for the aged and the infirm, unemployed and others, has skyrocketed. Many in the West are frightened of this time bomb ticking under their economies. Some of the best minds in the US fear that the emerging ‘Fatherless America’, as one writer put it, will bankrupt the country.

In contrast, the entire social security cost is privatised in India through the traditional family mechanism. But for such traditional families the Indian state would have gone broke long ago. Now the West is realising the criticality of women who put home above career. A study made in 2003, covering over 100,000 families in the UK and the US, found all this: wherever men and women have competed and claimed arithmetical equality, families broke up; the happiness of families and their overall economic status stood eroded; wherever women had the full support of husbands and had been mothers taking care of the family, happiness in the family was complete; separation forcing women to remarry or remain single caused a drastic reduction in their overall happiness.

Look at the relatively more traditional Germany. An article in The Christian Science Monitor (March 25, 2005) reads: “In Germany, the idea that it’s possible to combine family life and a career is rejected by society as a whole,” argues Barbara Vinken, author of “The German Mother.” German society, she says, is increasingly split into two camps: those who have children, and those who don’t. “It’s a society in which a growing segment isn’t reproducing anymore.” The article goes on: “Sending your child (to day-care in order) to work is seen as something that weakens the family rather than strengthens it,” says Giscela Ehler, head of Familenservice, a childcare consultant based in Berlin. “Women,” she says, “feel that they have to choose between family and career.” Yet, only 16 percent of German women with children less than six go for work.

Now see the stunning decay in women’s status in the relatively traditional Germany. Like in all West the German government provides doles till employment is offered to the unemployed. An unemployed German girl receiving the dole was stunned when told by the employment office to either join a brothel that had jobs to offer her or, if she declined to, become disentitled to her dole! Why? As Germany had legalised prostitution as an industry, a job in a brothel was as good any other employment for women in market economics!

So the West is now debating what the ideal role of a woman should be. In the West, one abuses Barbara Vinken as anti-women or dismisses her as Biblical. Nor does anyone trivialise Giscela as medieval. What Sudharshan says in India is precisely what Barbaras and Giscelas say in Germany. So let us look at the debate in the West, developed and more than that, decaying — lest even as we replicate their development, we don’t bring in their decay. Sudharshan has a valid point. He never said women should not opt for a career. He only cautioned against idolising career women and trivialising the family-bound. In an intellectually spineless atmosphere, he has had the guts to raise a point, a profound one. Let us discuss it without being dismissive or abusive.

Writer’s email:

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Education cess: Have schools benefited?

Any idea what is happening to the Education Cess you pay almost on everything? Read on.

By Shivani Singh\TNN

New Delhi: The next time you pay a 2% education cess on any bill at the neighbourhood grocer’s shop, ask the government if your money will help install a girls’ toilet, a water tap or a blackboard at any sarkari school. A year ago when the cess was levied, there were no such facilities in most government-run primary schools. And indications are that nothing revolutionary has happened in the year gone by—2004-’05—for us to dramatically alter this view.
While we wait for precise information on cess collection and spending for the past fiscal year, data from the National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration (NIEPA) reveals that in 2003-’04 most schools did not even have toilets for girls. Only about 3.5% of the schools in Bihar and Chhattisgarh had such facilities. In Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh, only 12% to 16% of the primary schools had toilets for girls.
While focussing attention on improving the student enrolment rate (admitting children to Class I), the Centre and states clearly missed a point. A lack of toilets for girls is one major reason they drop out of school in such large numbers. The data also shows that in 2003-’04, the governments in most states could not even install a water tap in most schools.
While drinking water was available in only 51% of the schools in Andhra Pradesh, in Karnataka 33% of the primary schools did not have this facility. In Bihar and Jharkhand, nearly 20% of the children were enrolled in schools that did not even have a blackboard! About 62% of the primary schools in Assam, 34% in Andhra Pradesh and 30% in Meghalaya had just one classroom.
The central and state governments seem to have not achieved anything, despite political tom-tomming and elementary education being made a top priority. In Bihar, out of 100 kids who joined Class I, only 33 made it to Class V. Only 6.28 lakh out of 11 lakh students enrolled in Class V reached Class VI. The situation was marginally better in Rajasthan, where 42 out of 100 students who joined Class I reached Class V.
In UP, the survival rate up to Class V was 54%. But out of 29 lakh children attending Class V, only 15 lakhs made it to Class VI. With a few exceptions in states like Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat and Punjab, student survival rate was dismally low in most places. “This, despite the government’s policy to not fail any student in any class up to Std V,’’ said an NEIPA official.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Irritating bias

Why do newspapers publish reports which are totally biased? I am not talking of newspapers whose editorial policy itself is biased, but reports in newspapers which are neutral.
I do not know much about Deccan Chronicle's editorial policy. I have started reading the paper only recently. But a report in the Sunday edition of the paper 'RSS kids get anti-Muslim propaganga' goes to the extreme.
The reporter picks out passages from a Sangh-affilliated web site to prove his point. But he fails to mention why the passages are wrong. If a report says something is wrong, it must also say why it is wrong. The reporter doesnt seem to be aware of this simple rule.
The report ends with the following 'revelations':

And "Pakistan is still having a proxy war in Kashmir. It is training and arming Islamic terrorists, for which the country is paying a heavy toll. Thousands of Kashmiri Hindus are refugees in their homeland."
This colourful site also shows history of India through animation. The animation begins by showing India's map with the symbol of "Om" at the top and a Hindu priest at the centre. The animated history provides glimpses of how "Turks and Muslims invaded Bharat, massacred Hindus and converted them." It slowly moves on to the "tyranny of British rule." If that was serious stuff, the site also provides entertainment to children, who can play "match the pair." Here, children are expected to match pairs of Hindu gods, animals and fruits. Jigsaw puzzles are there from the Panchatantra fables and a quiz on Ramayana and Mahabharata. Hindu children are also told about the sanctity of colour saffron, tilak and the Hindu diet - vegetarianism.

I wonder what's wrong with this? And "Jigsaw puzzles are from Panchatantra". What else does he want the kids to do? Do jigsaw puzzles with Britney Spears pictures?

You can read the article below:

RSS kids get anti-Muslim propaganda
New Delhi, April 2:

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is out to catch them young. "Hindukids Universe," a link site of the RSS home website, is all out there to tell the "Hindu kids" about India's freedom movement -- the RSS way.
"A conspiracy was hatched by some powerful Muslims to hoist the Pakistani flag on the Red Fort and take hold of Delhi through the use of massive arms. The doomsday was set as September 6, 1947. The RSS volunteers alerted Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru and necessary steps were taken to foil the conspiracy," a section on India's Freedom Movement in the site states.
On Kashmir's accession to India, it reveals Jawaharlal Nehru insisted that the people of Kash mir should have a say in the merger of Kashmir into India and so despite Maharaja Hari Singh's approval of the merger it was delayed. The RSS version of history adds, "The matter could not be resolved and was taken to the United Nations. Nationalist leader Shyama Prasad Mukherjee died in the jail of Kashmir while fighting the passiveness of the Indian government to make Kashmir fully integrated to India."
There are more gems like this. "During the Partition of the country, Pakistan signed the agreement that it would make sure that the rights and safety of the minorities would be given proper care. But through planned activities of persecution and torture and forced conversions of minority Hindus and Christians, the number of minorities in Pakistan has gone down from 20 per cent in 1947 to 2 per cent in 1996. In Bangladesh, the number of minorities has gone down from 30 per cent in 1947 to 14 per cent in 1996.
And "Pakistan is still having a proxy war in Kashmir. It is training and arming Islamic terrorists, for which the country is paying a heavy toll. Thousands of Kashmiri Hindus are refugees in their homeland."
This colourful site also shows history of India through animation. The animation begins by showing India's map with the symbol of "Om" at the top and a Hindu priest at the centre. The animated history provides glimpses of how "Turks and Muslims invaded Bharat, massacred Hindus and converted them." It slowly moves on to the "tyranny of British rule."
If that was serious stuff, the site also provides entertainment to children, who can play "match the pair." Here, children are expected to match pairs of Hindu gods, animals and fruits. Jigsaw puzzles are there from the Panchatantra fables and a quiz on Ramayana and Mahabharata. Hindu children are also told about the sanctity of colour saffron, tilak and the Hindu diet -- vegetarianism.

Monday, March 28, 2005

'Sins' and sentiments


Are the objections to 'Sins' based on the film being made by a Hindu?

The latest victim of our twisted version of secularism has been Vinod Pandey's film 'Sins'. Last week the Jammu & Kashmir government banned it for fear of hurting Christian sentiments. And, the Minorities Commission, ever ready to jump on a 'secular' bandwagon has leapt into the act by demanding an explanation from the Censor Board.
When 'secularists' are in high dudgeon they pay no attention to the vital detail that not only was the film cleared by the Censor Board but found unobjectionable by the Bombay High Court. So, the film will probably end up banned all over the country in the near future because a handful of Christians are in the streets protesting against it. I find this particularly interesting because I have seen no protests against foreign films or plays that have questioned the very divinity of Christ. Remember the line from 'Jesus Christ Superstar', "Prove to me that you're no fool walk across my swimming pool. Prove to me that you're divine, change my water into wine". So are the objections to 'Sins' based on the film being made by a Hindu?
Not a surprise
'Sins' is the story of one bad priest. Far from being insulting to Christianity it is almost a tribute to it with the film's heroine finding peace and true faith when she meditates in front of a forgotten Cross on an abandoned beach. That there are bad priests should not be a surprise to Indian Christians considering the scandals that have erupted in the Western world in recent years over young boys being sexually abused by men of the cloth. The Vatican had to intervene. That should have brought Indian Christians into the streets but it did not. On principle I am against the banning of books and films and on principle believe that religion must be in the realm of literary and cinematic discourse. When India became the first country to ban Salman Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses' in 1988 I remember asking one of the smug bureaucrats responsible for the ban if he had read the book and he admitted that he had not. 'Its too convoluted and boring' he said 'but we have seen from reviews in various magazines that it could be offensive to Muslims so we are banning it as a precaution'.This act of stupid censorship drew Ayotollah Khomeini's attention to a book that hardly anyone would have bothered to read otherwise and along came the fatwa ordering Rushdie's death and then along came the protests of Muslims who would never have known of the existence of the book had it not been banned by the Indian government. Vinod Pandey, like most other members of the Hindi film industry, is a card-carrying secularist. Years ago he denounced Hindu priests and 'mutts' in a television series called 'Reporter' so it has come as a huge surprise to him that he is now charged with being a proxy of the 'saffron brigade'. 'How is it when we did six episodes against Hindu mutts nobody said anything' he aks in puzzled tones. Well, because in our strange understanding of the word 'secular' it is alright to abuse Hindus, arrest Shankracharyas and insult Hindu religious teachers but say one word against Muslims or Christians and you are in trouble. 'Sins' is not the only recent victim of this kind of secularism. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar also is. At the recent 'India Today' conclave famed lyricist, Javed Akhtar, sneered at Indian spirituality, particularly of Sri Sri's kind, for being little more than teaching rich people how to breathe.Everyone laughed heartily and nobody dared ask Akhtar his views on Islamic seminaries whose teaching of Islamic spirituality led to the creation of the Taliban. Nobody asked him if he did not think teaching the rich how to breathe was slightly less dangerous than teaching children how to kill innocent people by becoming suicide bombers. Sri Sri should have asked these questions but probably refrained because they are too politically incorrect. So, he came to Mumbai last week to inaugurate an exhibition on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits and found himself under attack again from another member of our 'secular' film industry. This time from my old friend Mahesh Bhatt. Mahesh sneered, a la Javed Akhtar, at Indian spirituality and said India was the most materialistic country in the world and that spiritual teachers like him were no better than entertainers. Rock Stars.
Respect religions
Would he like to tell us what he thinks of the mullahs that rule most of the Islamic world? Would he like to tell us the status of spirituality in Islamic countries? The spiritual aspect of Islam used to be reflected in Sufism and both Mahesh and Javed would be doing themselves a favour if they spent a few weeks finding out what happened to that kind of Islam. It has virtually disappeared, except at concerts at Humayun's Tomb, because it has failed to survive the onslaught of the new Islam that comes from Saudi Arabia and Iran and found its most significant political expression in the Taliban.Personally, I have no difficulty in saying loudly in print that we need to have more respect for India's religions and Indian spirituality if only because they have caused much less harm to the world than Western religions. And, there is no room for banning films and books in a country whose intellectual and religious traditions are based on the right to question.

Deccan Chronicle in Chennai

Was it intended to be a soft launch? There was no advance intimation that the Chennai editon of Deccan Chronicle would be launched today (March 28). I came to know of the launch only today from an advt today in a vernacular newpaper. I rushed out to get a copy. The 'invitation' price was Re 1. But today's issue came free. At last, Chennai has one more English newpaper.

But the issue is a disappointment. The layout is cluttered and the printing horrible. Even Indian Express is better. Why this soft launch? I have come across only a few hoardings or advertisements. And why does the paper look like this? If DC has to compete with The Hindu, which is known for its quality, it must do better.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

40 years young!

I know many people who think it's all over when they cross 35. It doesn't matter if you don't 'look' young, as this article from Indiatimes shows. Why do people get depressed when they reach this age? The answer is in the last sentence of this article.

Some men get naughty at 40!
by JHUMARI NIGAM (indiatimes)
Forty is no longer a dreaded word. Many people in their 40s are now rediscovering their strengths and enjoying life to the fullest.
And you thought, life ceases to excite at 40? Tch, tch! You surely seem to be out of touch with the latest headlines.
According to a recent study, 40's the age for some serious fun and 40-somethings prefer to wave good-bye to mid-life blues.
So what if this decade is often associated with failed ambition and sagging midriff? The worldly worries have done little damage to the spirit of living life. And it's pretty evident too.
Look at Sanjay Dutt, Aamir Khan, Anil Kapoor and the co. all in their 40s and still going strong!
Or for that matter Hollywood hunk Bruce Willis, who was recently quoted saying — "I am having the best sex of my life" — now when he's almost half a century old. Even Anil Kapoor feels that he's "got a long way to go".
The zeal to live — and live life to the fullest, is obviously as contagious as it can get.

So we have a few like Gita Patel who runs a kickboxing centre for fitness in Ahmedabad saying, "From sex to hair to body to life — everything gets exciting at this age." Patel who stopped counting her age after she hit 40, enjoys herself most when she gets the adrenaline running in her body. "I can't think of discontinuing exercises. Age is definitely no bar when it comes to making the most of life," she says.
Perhaps, this carefree attitude can be attributed to the emotional "growth spurt" that makes people more relaxed and easier for others to spend time with, as identified by scientists.
Agrees acclaimed dancer Maulik Shah, who feels, with age comes a sense of confidence that helps people take themselves a bit easy.
"Having achieved certain recognition as an artiste, I feel more comfortable since I don't have to prove myself," he says.
So does that mean one's ready to experiment at 40? "I am ready for calculated and not random risks since I've clearly understood my strengths and weaknesses by now," he adds.
Psychologist Suresh Majumdar calls this 'a phase of generativity' when a person begins to feel satisfied and relaxed. "At 40, a person is settled in his career and content on personal front also. That brings in a sense of security," he says.
However, there can be a different set of 40s too. "For some people who fail to give or contribute through their lives and only complain of dissatisfaction, 40 can be a depressing phase," Majumdar concludes.

Friday, March 25, 2005


Education is not the amount of information that is put into your brain and runs riot there, undigested all your life. We must have life-building, man-making, character-making, assimilation of ideas. If you have assimilated five ideas and made them your life and character, you have more education than any man who has got by heart a whole library.
Swami Vivekananda

There was an article in today's The Hindu 'Teachers walking a tightrope today'. It says teachers are feeling the heat because of a few students who committed suicide after being scolded by teachers. Teachers, who took the trouble of holding special classes on weekends, are too scared to bother.

"We don't tell the girls to work hard and study any more," says one teacher. "It is difficult to feel a sense of involvement in our work, when we are being blamed for everything — neither the students nor the government took our side."

The authority of the teacher has been thoroughly undermined, says the headmistress in a feeble voice. Several teachers in private and Government schools across the city feel the same. With increasing incidence of student suicides, the teacher is often the first scapegoat.

Educationist S. Swaminatha Pillai says every teacher is walking a tightrope. "With single or double children families, parents are pampering their children. Every want of the child is catered to. But at school, the child is one of 40 boys and girls. The teacher cannot be as sensitive as a parent. Moreover, the teacher is constantly under pressure — to finish the portions, to bow to the wants of the management, to deliver cent per cent results... "

This is expected. The worse is yet to come. In the US kids go on a shooting spree. "We don't know why he did it," say the parents and teachers. The reason is obvious - stress.

Education has become commercial. More students mean more money. So schools try to accommodate as many students as possible. It is common to see more than 40 students in a class. How an we expect a teacher to control 40 brats? Ask any mother - controlling a single kid itself exhausts her. Forty kids? It's insane.

The way students are taught has also become mechanical. The relationship between the teacher and the student has to be almost personal. The student must be made to think of the teacher as a friend. In the ancient gurukula system, students stayed with the teachers. It was one big family. It is not the case now. The child goes to the school in the morning. So do teachers. The students become a scapegoat for their tensions.

The way students are taught also leaves a lot to be desired. The teacher stands on a pedestal and shoves the material into the students' throats.

Swami Vivekananda says: No one was ever really taught by another. Each of us has to teach himself. The external teacher offers only the suggestion which arouses the internal teacher to work to understand things. Then things will be made clearer to us by our own power of perception and thought, and we shall realize them in our own souls.

You cannot teach a child any more than you can grow a plant. The plant develops its own nature. The child also teaches itself. But you can help it to go forward in its own way. What you can do is not of a positive nature but negative. You can take away the obstacles, and knowledge comes out of its own nature. Loosen the soil a little, so that it may come out easily. Put a hedge round it; see that it is not killed by anything. You can supply the growing seed with the materials for the making up of its body, bringing to it the earth, the water, the air that it wants. And there your work stops. So with the education of a child. A child educates itself. The teacher spoils everything by thinking that he is teaching. With man is all knowledge, and it requires only an awakening, and that much is the work of a teacher. We have only to do so much for the boys that they may learn to apply their own intellect to the proper use of their hands, legs, ears and eyes.

My idea of education is personal contact with the teacher — gurugriha-vasa. Without the personal life of a teacher, there would be no education. Take your universities. What have they done during the fifty years (this was told at Madras in 1897) of their existence? They have not produced one original man. They are merely an examining body. The idea of the sacrifice for the common weal is not yet developed in our nation.
One should live from his very boyhood with one whose character is a blazing fire and should have before him a living example of the highest teaching.

What is education? Is it book-leaning? No. Is it diverse knowledge? Not even that. The end of all education, all training, should be man-making. The end and aim of all training is to make the man grow. The training by which the current and expression of will are brought under control and become fruitful, is called education.

To me the very essence of education is concentration of mind, not the collecting facts. If I had to do my education over again, and had any voice in the matter, I would not study facts at all. I would develop the power of concentration and detachment, and then with a perfect instrument I could collect facts at will.

We want that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded and by which one can stand on one’s own feet. What we need is to study, independent of foreign control, different branches of the knowledge that is our own, and with it the English language and western science; we need technical education and all else that will develop industries; so that men, instead of seeking for service, may earn enough to provide for themselves and save against a rainy day.

Discipline. This is one of the most misunderstood concepts. When teachers try to 'enforce' discipline, what results is only the outward resemblance of discipline. Discipline cannot be forced. If forced, it will explode. Discipline must come from within. J. Krishnamurty says: Discipline in schools becomes necessary when there is one teacher to a hundred boys and girls – then you jolly well have to be very strict; but such discipline will not produce an intelligent human being. And most of us are interested in mass movements, large schools with a great many boys and girls; we are not interested in creative intelligence, therefore we put up huge schools with enormous attendances. At one of the universities I believe there are 45000 students.
You know, soldiers all over the world are drilled every day, they are told what to do, to walk in line. They obey orders implicitly without thinking. Do you know what that does to man? When you are told what to do, what to think, to obey, to follow, do you know what it does to you? Your mind becomes dull, it loses its initiative, its quickness. This external, outward imposition of discipline makes the mind stupid, it makes you conform, it makes you imitate. But if you discipline yourself by watching, listening, being considerate, being very thoughtful - out of that watchfulness, that listening, that consideration for others, comes order. Where there is order, there is always freedom. If you are shouting, talking, you cannot hear what others have to say. You can only hear clearly when you sit quietly, when you give your attention.

Till we change the education system, teachers and parents will continue to walk the tightrope.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

J Krishnamurti on marriage

This is from a question and answer session from J. Krishnamurti. This is quite long.

Question: Marriage is a necessary part of any organized society, but you seem to be against the institution of marriage. What do you say? Please also explain the problem of sex. Why has it become, next to war, the most urgent problem of our day?

Krishnamurti: To ask a question is easy, but the difficulty is to look very carefully into the problem itself, which contains the answer. To understand this problem, we must see its enormous implications. That is difficult, because our time is very limited and I shall have to be brief; and if you don't follow very closely, you may not be able to understand. Let us investigate the problem, not the answer, because the answer is in the problem, not away from it. The more I understand the problem, the clearer I see the answer. If you merely look for an answer, you will not find one, because you will be seeking an answer away from the problem. Let us look at marriage, but not theoretically or as an ideal, which is rather absurd; don't let us idealize marriage, let us look at it as it is, for then we can do something about it. If you make it rosy, then you can't act; but if you look at it and see it exactly as it is, then perhaps you will be able to act.
Now, what actually takes place? When one is young, the biological, sexual urge is very strong, and in order to set a limit to it you have the institution called marriage. There is the biological urge on both sides, so you marry and have children. You tie yourself to a man or to a woman for the rest of your life, and in doing so you have a permanent source of pleasure, a guaranteed security, with the result that you begin to disintegrate; you live in a cycle of habit, and habit is disintegration. To understand this biological, this sexual urge, requires a great deal of intelligence, but we are not educated to be intelligent. We merely get on with a man or a woman with whom we have to live. I marry at 20 or 25, and I have to live for the rest of my life with a woman whom I have not known. I have-not known a thing about her, and yet you ask me to live with her for the rest of my life. Do you call that marriage?
As I grow and observe, I find her to be completely different from me, her interests are different from mine; she is interested in clubs, I am interested in being very serious, or vice versa. And yet we have children - that is the most extraordinary thing. Sirs, don't look at the ladies and smile; it is your problem. So, I have established a relationship the significance of which I do not know, I have neither discovered it nor understood it.
It is only for the very, very few who love that the married relationship has significance, and then it is unbreakable, then it is not mere habit or convenience, nor is it based on biological, sexual need. In that love which is unconditional the identities are fused, and in such a relationship there is a remedy, there is hope. But for most of you, the married relationship is not fused. To fuse the separate identities, you have to know yourself, and she has to know herself. That means to love. But there is no love - which is am obvious fact. Love is fresh, new, not mere gratification, not mere habit. It is unconditional. You don't treat your husband or wife that way, do you? You live in your isolation, and she lives in her isolation, and you have established your habits of assured sexual pleasure. What happens to a man who has an assured income? Surely, he deteriorates. Have you not noticed it? Watch a man who has an assured income and you will soon see how rapidly his mind is withering away. He may have a big position, a reputation for cunning, but the full joy of life is gone out of him.
Similarly, you have a marriage in which you have a permanent source of pleasure, a habit without understanding, without love, and you are forced to live in that state. I am not saying what you should do; but look at the problem first. Do you think that is right? It does not mean that you must throw off your wife and pursue somebody else. What does this relationship mean? Surely, to love is to be in communion with somebody; but are you in communion with your wife, except physically? Do you know her, except physically? Does she know you? Are you not both isolated, each pursuing his or her own interests, ambitions and needs, each seeking from the other gratification, economic or psychological security? Such a relationship is not a relationship at all: it is a mutually self-enclosing process of psychological, biological and economic necessity, and the obvious result is conflict, misery, nagging, possessive fear, jealousy, and so on. Do you think such a relationship is productive of anything except ugly babies and an ugly civilization? Therefore, the important thing is to see the whole process, not as something ugly, but as an actual fact which is taking place under your very nose; and realizing that, what are you going to do? You cannot just leave it at that; but because you do not want to look into it, you take to drink, to politics, to a lady around the corner, to anything that takes you away from the house and from that nagging wife or husband - and you think you have solved the problem.
That is your life, is it not? Therefore, you have to do something about it, which means you have to face it, and that means, if necessary, breaking up; because, when a father and mother are constantly nagging and quarrelling with each other, do you think that has not an effect on the children? And we have already considered, in the previous question, the education of children.
So, marriage as a habit, as a cultivation of habitual pleasure, is a deteriorating factor, because there is no love in habit. Love is not habitual; love is something joyous, creative, new. Therefore, habit is the contrary of love; but you are caught in habit, and naturally your habitual relationship with another is dead. So, we come back again to the fundamental issue, which is that the reformation of society depends on you, not on legislation. Legislation can only make for further habit or conformity. Therefore, you as a responsible individual in relationship have to do something, you have to act, and you can act only when there is an awakening of your mind and heart. I see some of you nodding your heads in agreement with me, but the obvious fact is that you don't want to take the responsibility for transformation, for change; you don't want to face the upheaval of finding out how to live rightly. And so the problem continues, you quarrel and carry on, and finally you die; and when you die somebody weeps, not for the other fellow, but for his or her own loneliness. You carry on unchanged and you think you are human beings capable of legislation, of occupying high positions, talking about God, finding a way to stop wars, and so on. None of these things mean anything, because you have not solved any of the fundamental issues.
Then, the other part of the problem is sex, and why sex has become so important. Why has this urge taken such a hold on you? Have you ever thought it out? You have not thought it out, because you have just indulged; you have not searched out why there is this problem. Sirs, why is there this problem? And what happens when you deal with it by suppressing it completely - you know, the ideal of Brahmacharya, and so on? What happens? It is still there. You resent anybody who talks about a woman, and you think that you can succeed in completely suppressing the sexual urge in yourself and solve your problem that way; but you are haunted by it. It is like living in a house and putting all your ugly things in one room; but they are still there. So, discipline is not going to solve this problem - discipline being sublimation, suppression, substitution - , because you have tried it, and that is not the way out. So, what is the way out? The way out is to understand the problem, and to understand is not to condemn or justify. Let us look at it, then, in that way.
Why has sex become so important a problem in your life? Is not the sexual act, the feeling, a way of self-forgetfulness? Do you understand what I mean? In that act there is complete fusion; at that moment there is complete cessation of all conflict, you feel supremely happy because you no longer feel the need as a separate entity and you are not consumed with fear. That is, for a moment there is an ending of self-consciousness, and you feel the clarity of self-forgetfulness, the joy of self abnegation. So, sex has become important because in every other direction you are living a life of conflict, of self-aggrandizement and frustration. Sirs, look at your lives, political, social, religious: you are striving to become something. Politically, you want to be somebody, powerful, to have position, prestige. Don't look at somebody else, don't look at the ministers. If you were given all that, you would do the same thing. So, politically, you are striving to become somebody, you are expanding yourself, are you not? Therefore, you are creating conflict, there is no denial, there is no abnegation of the `me'. On the contrary, there is accentuation of the `me'. The same process goes on in your relationship with things, which is ownership of property, and again in the religion that you follow. There is no meaning in what you are doing, in your religious practices. You just believe, you cling to labels, words. If you observe, you will see that there too there is no freedom from the consciousness of the `me' as the centre. Though your religion says, `Forget yourself', your very process is the assertion of yourself, you are still the important entity. You may read the Gita or the Bible, but you are still the minister, you are still the exploiter, sucking the people and building temples.
So, in every field, in every activity, you are indulging and emphasizing yourself, your importance, your prestige, your security. Therefore, there is only one source of self-forgetfulness, which is sex, and that is why the woman or the man becomes all-important to you, and why you must possess. So, you build a society which enforces that possession, guarantees you that possession; and naturally sex becomes the all-important problem when everywhere else the self is the important thing. And do you think, Sirs, that one can live in that state without contradiction, without misery, without frustration? But when there is honestly and sincerely no self-emphasis, whether in religion or in social activity, then sex has very little meaning. It is because you are afraid to be as nothing, politically, socially, religiously, that sex becomes a problem; but if in all these things you allowed yourself to diminish, to be the less, you would see that sex becomes no problem at all.
There is chastity only when there is love. When there is love, the problem of sex ceases; and without love, to pursue the ideal of Brahmacharya is an absurdity, because the ideal is unreal. The real is that which you are; and if you don't understand your own mind, the workings of your own mind, you will not understand sex, because sex is a thing of the mind. The problem is not simple. It needs, not mere habit-forming practices, but tremendous thought and enquiry into your relationship with people, with property and with ideas. Sir, it means you have to undergo strenuous searching of your heart and mind, thereby bringing a transformation within yourself. Love is chaste; and when there is love, and not the mere idea of chastity created by the mind, then sex has lost its problem and has quite a different meaning.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On Strike (always)

The favourite passtime of our PSU (non)workers is going on strikes. They always have a 'list' of demands. They ensure the list is long so that even if some demands are met now, there is always something left for the next round.

When employees in the service sector PSUs go on strike, it is the people who are hit the most. On March 22, banking and insurance sector employees went on strike. The non-life sector staff thought this was not enough to squeeze the life out of people. So they went on strike for two more days.

The reason? Prominent among their 'list' of demands is wage revision. When where their wages revised? Just two years back. They are shameless to say it themselves. What do they want? Wage revisions every year?

They seem to have no thought for the hapless citizen. As it is, they work 'very hardly'. Now three days of paid 'non-work' will end up in piling up of files - premiums, medical reimbursements etc. What will the vehicle owners whose vehicle policies expire on one of these days do now? I don't think there is any provision to extend the validity of the policies because of the strike.

BSNL employees too are on the 'warpath'. The entry of private operators and the mass surrenders of landlines do not seem to have driven any sense. Just a few months back, BSNL linesmen in Bangalore asked one of my relatives around Rs 1.000 to install a telephone.

Because of the strike, phones, including mobiles have gone dead. So have the recently-launched broadband Internet services. Private operators too have been hit by the BSNL strike. They are unable to terminate the calls on BSNL landlines, and have to explain to angry subscribers that it is not their fault.

It's time we dump the PSUs and their heartless workers where they belong - in the gutter. At least what the Government can do is to privatise them (the PSUs, not the gutter, though both stink).

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Does this swanky office look like a MNC bank? No. Its our own desi PSU State Bank of India's Parliament Street Branch on the day of the bank strike on Tuesday, March 22, 2005. There is no point in having such swanky offices if the bank officials go on frequent strikes.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Festival Tamasha

A few days ago, there was some festival at a temple. A kid, not more than five years old, spilt some oil she had brought for lighting the lamps in the temple. She got a sound trashing from her mother for this.

Festivals are meant to be celebrated. They are not just rituals. If we convert the festivals into just rituals, we will be just left with a tired body and mind. We may also end up screwing up the ritual itself. I have seen the tension building up in several households during festivals. On the festival day, chaos breaks out due to the tension.
People 'celebrate' festivals mechanically. There is no shraddha. When we celebrate a festival, our mind must totally be with God.
There is another extreme. For some 'celebrating' festivals means having fun. What type of fun? During Shivratri or Vaikunta Ekadesi, theatres in Tamil Nadu screen movies in the night. You can buy a ticket and watch two, or sometimes even three movies. And the movies have nothing to do with religion. They are commercial potboilers. What is the point in waking up in the night during Shivratri to watch scantily-clad heroines? Do you expect anyone in the audience to think of Shiva or Vishnu?
In my flat, when I went back home at midnight, (no, I wasnt waking up for shivratri. I reach home only at around midnight)the women - young and old - were playing dice!
The problem here is both the festivals have become just rituals. All the people do is to wake up the whole night. In Gujarat, there is a sharp spurt in abortions a few months after Navrathri. Everyone freaks out. The only time they think about God is during aarthi. Later, its free-for-all.
It's time we bring spirituality back to festivals.

My friends

I have very few friends. For me, friendship just develops naturally. I dont go out to 'find' new friends.
Of them, I still have contacts only with Pradeep Nair and 'Shencottah' (as he calls himself in his blog). Both are in Bangalore. Shencottah will be moving soon to Hyderabad.
Pradeep is a down-2-earth chap - he didnt have a mobile till recently. I have met Pradeep's father. A simple man, he will always have some book in his hand. So is Pradeep. He is a book-worm and keeps himself well-informed about the latest developments.
Shencottah is doing some research. He can discuss any subject under the sun. I met him after almost 15 years. He learns violin. I have been to Shencottah's house only once. I do not know much about his parents. But what I know about Shencottah is that he was lucky enough to study in what i regard, as one of the best schools _ the one run by Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam of Swami Chidbhavananda.
In Chennai I have 'Valkannadi'. One common thread with all of them is that they are all bloggers.
The third - valkannadi ( - is my newest friend. Valkannadi is her blog name. She is a Keralite. When we were talking about the Vishu festival, I told her that I had read the meaning of the ritual - why we open our eyes before a mirror and worship our reflection. It is done almost just as a ritual everywhere. Only a few people know the real meaning - she is one of them. I know people who keep jewels before the mirror so that it 'doubles' before the next Vishu. I was glad that Valkannadi is one of the few who perform the ritual with fully understanding the meaning, which is important.
The next time she surprised me was when she explained the meaning of a sloka and the ritual associated with the sloka. I knew the sloka, and the ritual, but I did not know that the 'why' part of the ritual was associated with the sloka.
The third time was when I told her I would be writing a samskrit exam. Her eyes immediately lit up and wrote a complex (at least for me) grammar table she had studied in school. In school! That was some 20 years ago! I asked her how she remembered it. She said it was because of her teacher who drilled it into her. Why I say Valkannadi surprised me is because I never thought she would be interested in such things. She would always be seen with some novels. (This proved I am a poor reader of people) I neve knew she would be interested in any other book till she borrowed a book of spiritual wisdom in tamil and finished it in one go.
All the three friends, I believe, have had good guidance - from parents,teachers etc.. I do not know much about Valkannadi, except about her great teacher. What I want to emphasise here is that parents must take efforts to guide their children. It is of no use banging your head later.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Big B on B

BACHCHAN Black was unique experience: Bachchan
Mumbai, Mar 10 (PTI) Actor Amitabh Bachchan today said the film ‘Black’, in which he portrayed the role of a teacher of a blind girl, sends a strong message that pinnacles can be attained despite heavy odds.
‘‘Black is far from black. It is very colourful, uplifting and full of determination. It sends a message to everyone who wants to reach the pinnacle in life,’’ Bachchan said here.
Stating that the film has been a unique experience for him, the superstar said director Sanjay Leela Bhansali was able to portray in the film exactly what his (Bhansali’s) vison was.
‘‘A lot of recognition needs to be given to Michelle, the character (played by Rani Mukherjee) of a blind and deaf and dumb girl in the film, who despite all odds, challenges and stumbling blocks, succeeded because she had a will to succeed,’’ Bachchan said.
Asked whether the film would be nominated for Oscar, Bachchan said ‘‘I don’t know’’.
He was speaking at the launch of power bills in Braille by the city power utility Reliance Energy.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Insensitive audience

Sometimes, I feel we are losing sensitivity to whats happening around us. I came across a similar display of insensitivity while watching Black. In the movie, Michelle is deaf, blind and dumb (see previous posting). And her teacher, Debraj Sahai, is everything for her. In fact, she is the only man she knows, apart from her father.
When her younger sister gets married, Sahai gives a running commentary of the ritual to Michelle. When the couple kiss, he describes it also.
Here, the only kiss Michelle knows is on the cheek. She feels her cheek. Sahai corrects her, "Not in the cheek... in the lips". Michelle is surprised. She has never heard such a thing!
Later at home, Michelle expresses her fears to Sahai. She says she is afraid she will never get married and she will never be able to receive such a kiss because she knows no other male than Debraj Sahai. She gathers courage and asks him to kiss her in her lips. Sahai is stunned. He refuses. But later, he gives in and kisses her. He then leaves Michelle for good.
When Sahai kissed her, a guy in the audience yelled, "Lucky old man!". May be he wanted to have some fun. But understandably, he knew little about human emotions. No one in the audience was amused. But they (including me) kept quiet.

But an old woman in the audience got wild. "If you cant understand get out," she yelled back.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Amitabh and Ayesha in Black
Posted by Hello


“Life is like an ice cream…,” Debraj Sahai (Amitabh Bachchan) says. You almost miss the second part -- “…enjoy it while it lasts.” This is just one of the areas where Black is different. No character stands up and speaks to the camera like we see in other movies.
I went to the movie with apprehension — whether my kid will be able to sit through what I thought would be a ‘black’ movie. But surprisingly, she liked it, and enjoyed it too.
This is the difference with Black. The subject of the movie is dark. Michelle Mc Nally is deaf, blind and dumb. Her parents don’t know what to do with her. She grows up as a brat.
Then comes into her life an eccentric teacher (Amitabh). He takes up the ‘challenge’ and transforms her. Later, when the teacher suffers from Alzheimer's disease, (Alzheimer's or Alzheimers -- a progressive form of presenile dementia that is similar to senile dementia except that it usually starts in the 40s or 50s; first symptoms are impaired memory which is followed by impaired thought and speech and finally complete helplessness) Michelle uses the same methods to bring him back to normalcy.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali has managed to bring out the best from everyone, including Amitabh. But the surprise element is Ayesha, who comes as the young Michelle.
Bhansali has to be commended for his courage. The subject of the movie is dark. And the movie itself has no songs.
The movie has to be watched in a theatre. The visuals are breathtaking. You will certainly miss a lot if you watch the movie in your puny little TV.
Rush to the nearest theatre. The movie is already four weeks old. It is unlikely to withstand anymore. By watching the movie in a theater, you will encourage young filmmakers like Bhansali to make more films like Black.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Dalai Lama and Shiv Sena

The Pak tour was finalised.
The Dalai Lama was invited to inaugurate the match at Dharmashala.
The Pakistanis protested.
They said they had 'good' relations with China.
An didnt want the Dalai Lama to spoil it.
So, India agreed.
The Dalai Lama wont inaugurate the match.
No newpaper/channel highlighted this.
If the Sena guys dig the pitches, we say dont mix politics with sports.
Now what do we say?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Grey hair and women

I had written in another blog about my dilemma: Whether to dye or not may hair. It doesnt matter much to me. I am already 37 - and a male!
I feel sorry for women with grey hair. It is distressing to see men almost ridicule young women (even around 35 years) if they have grey hair.
Today in the train, two youths were commenting about a woman (in her 30s) who had a few strands of grey hair. "She looks good, but for her hair has started greying." It was sickening.
One of my relatives (this was some time back) came crying to her mother's home as her husband had accused her of hiding the fact that her hair had started greying.
No one is bothered (except the person itself) when a man's hair greys. But the society seems to have a different yardstick for women.
While men are supposed to be young even when 40, women are supposed to be old if they cross 30. Why this attitude?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Treading on landmine

I feel the Mata is stepping into alien territory (read news item below). She should be careful if and when she does this. Both the LTTE and their Singhlalese counterparts believe in violence. And anyone found acting contrary to their interests is just eliminated. Of course, they wont do this to Mata, but she should realise what will happen if something goes wrong.

Amritananda Mayi willing to initiate peace talks in Sri Lanka

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 20 2005

Spiritual leader Mata Amritananda Mayi today said she was willing to initiate peace talks in Sri Lanka, if the people of the island nation asked.
During her three-day visit to Sri Lanka, the members of the warring groups had expressed a desire to resolve their conflict, she told reporters at the airport here on her return from Sri Lanka after a visit to the tsunami-hit areas of that country.
''I am not interested in interfering in the internal affairs of another country, but if they ask, I will discuss,'' she said.
''Both the LTTE soldiers and members of a Tamil Special Task Force came to meet me when I visited a tsunami-relief camp in Ampara.'' ''Their hearts were open and they told me that they wanted to become united, but that they have a goal to achieve,'' she said.
Mata Amritananda Mayi had offered Rs three crore as rehabilitation aid for tsunami victims in Sri Lanka, which included construction of 300 houses.
Since Indian laws did not allow direct assistance, the help would be routed through the Amritananda Mayi Mutt's foreign units.
She met Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunge. She said the President had expressed her concern regarding the intense strife and trouble plaguing her country.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The other side of SSB

I don’t have a high opinion of Sathya Sai Baba (SSB), but I have acknowledged his organisation’s efforts in service to humanity. There are allegations that these too are tailored to benefit SSB and his organization, but we should not consider this due to lack of proper evidence.
One more positive thing about him is the direction he has been giving to the youth. When just one bad friend is enough for a youth to go astray, SSB has been doing yeomen service in guiding the youth to the correct path.
Though other organizations such as the Chinmaya Mission, the Ramakrishna Math and the RSS doing a great job of guiding the youth, I am writing about SSB’s organization because of the negative image he has acquired.
One example of how the youth are benefiting from SSB’s influence is a guy of around 25 years in my flat. Satish says he came into contact with SSB’s organization a decade ago. I haven’t seen a more dedicated follower of a religious organization.
When many of us regard Sunday (or our weekly off) as a day to relax, he wakes up early (at around 4 am) and joins a group chanting bhajans. Later on you can find him distributing rice. He comes home, may be by noon. In the evening, he is off for bhajans/prayers again.
One day, he was coming back home at around 7 am. He said he was coming back from a Veda class. I remind you, he is just around 25.
Now, what makes me wonder is, a guru so powerful, who is able to drive such a devotion into the youth, who has millions of followers all over the world, does nothing to refute/deny allegations against him? The allegations, including sexcapades, against SSB can run into pages. All you have to do is to search for “Sathya Sai Baba is a fraud” in google, you can get thousands of pages. One of the sites that dutifully collects ‘evidence’ against SSB is
But it is difficult to find any material from the SSB side which replies to these allegations. All you get are stories about miracles, how great he (SSB) is etc. There seems to be no attempt to counter these allegations.
The trouble with the followers (like Satish, for example) is that they regard their guru as God. And any troublesome question is dismissed with a report about some miracle(s) which ‘proves’ the Guru is God.
No attempt is made to logically explain why the allegations are wrong.
There is no point in saying “I am God. These allegations cannot do me anything”. SSB has a duty to explain. Because he is the guide to millions of innocent young devotees like Satish. And the guide HAS to be clean. So, he HAS to wash off the dirt on him.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Swamis and friends

Please dont read this if you dont like to read/discuss sex.
Once upon a time a guru and his disciple were about to cross a river. They saw a young woman who was struggling to cross the river. She had got totally drenched in her unsuccessful efforts.
The disciple felt scandalised. He quickly covered his eyes and swam across the river as fast as he could. But the enlightened guru went to the woman, lifted her and helped her cross the river. The woman thanked the guru and went away.
The disciple, who was watching this, was shell-shocked. After a lot of hesitation, he asked his guru. "How can you do this? We swamis are not supposed to even think about women. But you went to the extent of lifting the woman who was drenched. I never thought you would do such a thing!"
The guru said, "I left the woman on the river bank itself. Why are you still carrying her?"
The guru had helped her cross the river, and had forgotten about her immediately. But the disciple was still "carrying" her, i.e, thinking about the woman.
I dont know why male swamijis are not supposed to think about women and swaminis about men. I feel it is not wrong for them even if they think about sex. They must only ensure that they dont get carrried away by it.
Sex is a natural, biological feeling or need. If any person, including swamis and swaminis, try to suppress it, it will explode. Anything compressed/suppressed beyond a point is bound to burst.
If a particular mutt or ashram feels sex is likely to prevent God-realisation/enlightenment, it must devise ways to ensure this comes naturally to the person. If the person is told to repress sexual feelings, you will have Bhaktiswarups cropping up everywhere.
How do you feel when you get enlightened? Osho says it similar to what you feel when you reach the 'pinnacle' (orgasm) when having sex. You are totally oblivious to everything around you. You are in a totally different world.
I read an article in a magazine some years ago. It was about Raj Kapoor's films. The writer said one of the reasons for the success of his movies is that his heroines are not exposed fully. They are almost full clothed. Any exposure is only partial. And this exites the movie goer more. I dont know how far this is correct, but I agree with it.
Shobaa De, in her latest book, says men 'unashamedly' ogle at the Williams' sisters' knickers. What else are they supposed to do? Close their eyes and pray? It is time we accept sex and nudity, fully are partial. The more we try to supress or look the other way, the quicker is the road to the asylum.
The only thing we have to be careful, as the swami said in the story, dont carry things too far. Know where to put the full stop.
If you see a beautiful woman or a handome man, and if you close your eyes, there can be nothing more stupid.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Kabbalah

Many of you might have heard of this. But this is new to me.

The Kabbalah or Kaballah, predates Christ. After a quick dekho, I realised it had a lot common with our own Vedas.

We cannot read the Vedas. So, it is said it is enough if we read the Bhagavad Gita. And I think the Kabbalah is an excellent alternative. Instead of me explaining what the Kabbalah actually says, you can read from a couple of Web sites on the Kabbalah.

For starteres, I recommend It is a well-produced and beautifully designed site. You need macromedia flash in your computer for the site. And another thing you need is lots of time.

Another excellent site is This is more of a friendly neighbourhood site. Not much tech, and straight.

The text below has been lifted from the two sites.

From Suppose there was a universal wisdom, one singular seed that was the origin of all teachings — a body of knowledge that could reveal the spiritual and physical laws that govern the entire cosmos. What if it could account for and explain every emotion and desire that stirs within you? Suppose it could clarify and resolve all the problems that burden you at this very moment?
What if it could explain all the eruptions that occur in our universe the birth of a new star exploding into existence... to the explosive arguments that erupt in your life? What if it could shed a profound light on the mysteries surrounding the unknown whereabouts of our Creator? In other words, what if it could answer the age-old question, "Where's God?" What if it could blow the lid off of centuries of corruption and superstition, the trademark of religion throughout time?
What if it could offer you practical knowledge in this dizzying, mind-numbing age of endless information? What if it could show you a more effective way to pursue happiness? What if it could help you reclaim all the control you've surrendered to psychiatrists, doctors, consultants, and other people in your life? Perhaps most importantly, what if it could explain all those feelings and thoughts growing inside of you at this very moment, the ones telling you that these compelling claims are just too darn good to be true?
The purpose of Kabblah is now clear: to teach us how to receive Spiritual Light in our lives. That Light can be in the form of inner peace, pleasure, contentment, power, financial prosperity, creativity, freedom from chaos, well-being, or all of the above.

From Kabbalah can be translated from the Hebrew as "received tradition", and is a term applied to a vast and seemingly disparate body of esoteric knowledge and practice. It is used to describe Jewish mysticism in general, or more specifically the tradition which found its impetus in the Sefer ha-Zohar ("The Book of Splendor") of the thirteenth century. It is also applied to the Christian or Western Kabbalah which grew from German and Lurianic Kabbalism and found its expression and extension in western Mystery Orders, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
In its most complete form the Kabbalah can be considered as the "Yoga of the West", complementing the eastern chakra system and having counterparts to many of the forms of yogic practice. Indeed, the three main nadis (energy channels) in eastern philosophy, ida, sushumna and pingala; and the yin, Tao and yang of philosophy, find direct expression in the Kabbalistic pillars of severity, equilibrium and mercy on the Tree of Life.
The Kabbalah at its best is a system of esoteric philosophy, psychology and cosmology that allows any aspect of existence to be assimilated and related to any other on many levels, both rational and trans-rational. It may be used profitably by anyone, regardless of creed; and, for those who wish it, it is a key to the control of subtle forces and the attainment of true mystical union.