Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Adityahridayam - A classic in its own right

The sermon of Bhagavad Gita is largely considered to be a spiritual classic not only its esoteric contents, but also for the fact that it was enunciated on a battle field to a trepidus warrior . Its eighteen chapters are the crown jewel of the Mahabharata and looked upon as one of the most profound insights into the nature of Self.

Interestingly, the Ramayana also contains an intense spiritual discourse by Sage Agastya to none other than the God incarnate Rama. In thirty plithy aphorisms, the eminent sage wakes Rama from the stupor of battle fatigue and gives him a glimpse of his real self. The poem is called 'Adityahrydayam'. It is a prayer that is chanted everyday in a million Indian homes . Unfortunately, we dont regard it as a masterpiece of spiritual literature in the same breath as the Bhagavad Gita, for the simple reason that the battle in Lanka is not as dramatic a setting as Kurukshetra was; and secondly, here the Lord himself is in a state of self doubt and hence not very encouraging; and thirdly, Valmiki decided not to record this as a momentous sermon but merely as simple monologue clothed in the imagery of poetry. However,The deep purport of this majestic poem is to get Rama up on his feet again, shake of his illusory doubts about the sanctity of warfare and realize his destiny; and in that sense it plays the same role as the Gita does.

I was listening passively to "AdityaHridayam" in the morning as I sat eating my breakfast. I was suddenly hit by the enormous depth and beauty of its verses. There is no reasoning here, but a simple appeal to ones capacity to rise above circumstances. Listen to this :

''Raama Raama mahaabaaho shrnu guhyam sanaatanam yena sarvaanariinvatsa samare vijayishhyasi.
Aaditya hrudayam punyam sarva shatru vinaashanam Jayaavaham japennityam akshayyam paramam shivam. "

A free translation would read thus:

"Oh mighty-armed, listen to this eternal secret, which will help you destroy all your enemies in battle.This holy hymn dedicated to the realization of the Self will result in destroying all enemies and bring you victory and never ending supreme bliss.''

The rhythmic cadence of this chant in chaste Sanskrit lulls the effervescent mind and brings it to a state of reverential rest. There is no intellection here and the sheer simplicity of these verses touches the heart and brings about a transformation of consciousness. Thank God, we dont have to analyse and dissect this great poem. Its true beauty and gravity lies in its divine innocence...

God bless...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sachin - Personification of a destiny

While the nation debates the appropriateness of awarding the Highest civilian honor to Sachin Tendulkar; I, for one, would want to merely acknowledge that the honor was given to a man who skillfully played a sport with a great amount of decency and pride for many years without unduly succumbing to the perils of sycophancy and measureless wealth that came with it (a rarity in our age and times). I also believe that Sachin happened to be playing the right game at the right time. There is no doubt in the fact that the game of cricket has seen more talented sportsmen, playing under more adverse circumstances than him; and it also an equally true fact that the Dyan Chand’s, the Milka Singh’s, the Ramesh Krishnan’s, the Sunil Gavaskar’s, the Viswanathan Anand’s glimmer as bright stars in their own firmament; but Sachin is fortunate to have been living in India and played Cricket at a singular time, when historically, a couple of catastrophic changes affected the perceptions of common man in India. Let me explain…

The last couple of decades have opened the global media to general public. Firstly, the phenomenal advent of television paved a way for socially encrusted middle class Indians to participate in the glory, fame and adulation of sporting heroes in different parts of the Globe. The Pele’s, the Mohammad Ali’s, the Abdul Kareem Jabber’s, The Borg’s and the McEnroe’s – to name a few became household names , and the gnawing sense of a not having a sporting hero in our own country of over a billion people had them waiting with bated breath for somebody to shine in the global arena. Secondly, In the mid-eighties, the maverick Australian Kerry packer changed the way Cricket was played by introducing Glamour, color, flamboyancy and creating a glimmering stage for this hallowed game to be played. The picture perfect broadcast, the breath taking slow motions, the largess of Audi cars and American dollars catapulted the game for a Gentlemen’s weekend amusement to a radically competitive game that could propel a sportsman to dizzy heights of glory and power. Indians have been playing the game of Cricket for as long as anyone has cared to play it, and the country has produced some of the most gifted and artistic individuals the game has ever seen. So, in the world of Sports, the only hope for an Indian to get on to the Global platform had to be in cricket. The stage was perfectly set for this young Mumbaite: Gifted with prodigious talent, a mature mind and almost an exaggerated sense of humility, the young man lifted his game to sublime levels, and with each step, he became the heart throb of the nation. His achievements became a ‘Freudian” consummation of a nation’s unconscious desire and for twenty odd years, every time the Sachin held his bat and walked contemplatively to the batting crease, he held the heartbeat of a nation in his small hands. The country wanted a sporting hero, and Sachin gave them one; the nation wanted an unblemished personal life, and Sachin personified that role model; the game needed a man to rise beyond the Bradman’s ,Sober’ s and the Boycott’s, and Sachin phenomenal talent fructified into records that now seem virtually unbreakable. In all, the nation needed a Sachin Tendulkar and the forces of History produced one for us…

Hence, Ladies and gentlemen, the nation acknowledges this short man with the Bharat ratna, whose diminutive frame has become the vehicle for consummating the wide eyed dreams of a generation. But now, we must move on. There are other fields of Human endeavor that require our energies and focus. And let us derive our strength from the fact the Globe is now open for us to excel in all fields. Let’s have the grit, the talent and character to raise ourselves above the ordinary and not worry honor and recognition. Let us dig deep to tickle our own dreams, and probably like Sachin, each one of us are at the right place at the right time The law of civilization vindicates this………

God bless…..

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The science of inner investigation - a Story from the Upanishads

Philosophy is often criticized to be an esoteric affair of Men who have no active life to pursue. So much so, that the essence and meaning of religion as a study of truth about ourselves has lost its relevance in the mists of time. The matters of the spirit (so to speak) in this modern age are relegated to indulgent pastimes that are exercised only as a distraction from the daily business of living. This is a profound tragedy because religion is probably the most practical science ever practiced; and to not understand the value of this pursuit undermines the entire intellectual heritage of Mankind across ages and civilizations. By Religion, obviously, I do not refer to Institutionalized faiths , but a living, dynamic, intense inquiry into the reality of one self.

During my research the other day, I came across a wonderful story in the Vedas (the lore of Aryan tribes) that smacked of practical wisdom and investigative rigor. Here it goes :

A learned sage walks into a palace and demands to know from the King if he worships the Sun, the moon, the earth , the skies and all other natural phenomena to be the true divine principle of godhead (referred to as ’Atman’ or ‘Brahman’ in Advaita). The King politely acknowledges that he does indeed venerate all of them, but humbly points out to the sage that none of those external manifestations really points to the imperishable truth stated in the scriptures. The sage is annoyed and challenges the king to prove his point. Both of them walk to a nearby shade and find a shepherd sleeping. The king calls out his name, but the shepherd barely moved; and continued in his blissful state of sleep. The King then yells out to him, but again of no avail. He then leans forward and gently taps the shepherd on his shoulder, and the man wakes up with a start.

The king smiles pleasantly and asks the now awakened young man “is your name Jabali?’.

The Man answers in the affirmative. The king continues:” Where were you, Jabali, when I called you several times”.

The shepherd answers quite innocently “I was sleeping, my king”. And then comes the profound question and answer from the enlightened king to the sage:

“Which is the real “I” ? : is it the “I”, that was sleeping and not responding to the name Jabali, or the “I” which now attaches itself to the sound Jabali on being woken up. Tell me Oh! Great sage, which ‘I’ is the true ‘I’. This young man was cognizant of his blissful state of sleep, but was unattached to this name and form in it, and now when he wakes up, he still remains aware, but now only through the prism of identification to a particular personality. This subtle ” I’ness” that underlies the three states of his Waking, Dream and Deep sleep is truly the untainted, unmodified reality of Godhead that our scriptures refer to; all others are mere pointers to this sublime and self-evident truth, and I, Oh learned one; worship, acknowledge and dwell in that reality”…..

What an incisive, scientific and practical demonstration of a subtle intangible fact… True Mysticism begins and ends with an investigation into oneself. Sanity can only come when the mind is turned inward and faces the illusion of its separate existence. This is the true purpose of religion, not the verbiage and semantics that it has come to be…….

God Bless…..

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The book - Bhagavad Gita

The second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is in my opinion, the finest treatise on self confidence and the imperative need to get on with life, no matter what the consequences are. Arjuna is in a terrible state of psychological indecision. His whole life has been a preparation for this day of War. Every sinew in his body has been chiseled to wield the bow with an artistry that is unparalleled ; educated in the finest traditions of the age, under the most prolific masters available: this is his moment of truth; and lo!, the Gandiva slips from his fingers , his psyche is paralyzed and he stands before the lord completely bewildered. Then begins one of the greatest lectures ever delivered to a man in utter confusion : Sankya Yoga (the Book of doctrines), In Seventy two verses, Krishna summarizes the entire philosophy of existence clothed in a language and style that is poetic, deep, mellifluous and pregnant with practical wisdom.

The 37th verse is my personal favorite. After taking Arjuna through a labyrinth of explanations and clarifications, at one point, Krishna says:

"hato va prapsyasi svargam 
jitva va bhoksyase mahim
tasmad uttistha kaunteya 
yuddhaya krta-niscayah"

Freely translated , it means " hey Arjuna, why the heck do you worry. If you are killed in battle, you will achieve heavenly abode; or if you kill instead, the bounty of this beautiful earth is yours. Either way, you are covered. So just get up , and get on with the job that you came her to perform with joy and gay abandon".

What a wonderful message for a man in indecision. A fit prayer to begin our day, everyday. It is not the lack of skill or expertise that we normally suffer, but the terrible demon of justification and outcome that deludes the mind and cripples the body. The author of the Gita understands the tenuous state of the mind that is wallowing in self pity and misplaced ethics, and this verse offers the right dose to restore the equanimity and inner poise of Arjuna. Action is all that we have got. Emotions and false intellection takes us away from reality of performance..........

God bless.........

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The symbolism of a Superhero

As a young boy, I remember watching the classic fantasy movie “The clash of Titans” - a beautifully crafted Grecian mythological film : The Hero Perseus, a mortal battling all odds against demonic forces, aided in unexpected ways by forces unknown; eventually banishing Hades, the Lord of the underworld to his rightful place; and rescues pretty Andromeda from the jaws of death. A simple story, often told and repeated in cultures across the globe in flavors that are local to it (Ramayana is one such story). As a child we were reared with these immortal heroes at our bedsides. They dominated our dreams, and in a subconscious manner, we aspired the same glory as them. The Superman’s, Spiderman’s and the Batman’s are then externalizations and manifestations of this inner need to transcend and extend ourselves, beyond the limited little self, that we are. They are our modern day heroes. We relish the accomplishments, miracles and physical impossibilities of these 'larger than life' characters. Deep down, we want to be like them and live out of our skins, literally speaking…

Somehow as we grow older, we lose this awesome sense of wonder and the ability to dream without restraint. We are advised by society to be “grounded” in reality, to be practical; not realizing that doors of infinite possibilities only open up when the mind loses itself in the stratosphere of impossibilities. By the time we are adolescents, we are half dead to life, and the remaining half is spent “making a living” . The energy and imagination that we had a child is crushed, mutilated and relegated to some remote corner of our brain, which every now and then peeps out to remind us of what we have lost or forgone in this business of living.

Today afternoon, I was watching the remake of “The clash of Titans’, released in 2010; and I was riveted to the screen for two hours lost in the magical world of mythological heroism. In the very last scene, Perseus dismisses Hades from his presence by telling him “That gods are not needed in the world of Men”, the ultimate proclamation of Man’s heroism and his tremendous sense of self belief and courage to challenge the order of Universe and fiery resolve to chart his own destiny.

The Movie had a cathartic effect on me. I was washed in the imagery of myths and symbols; and for some time basked in my own immortality, before a cruel phone call woke me from my reverie. The Fragrance still lingers though…….

God bless……

Monday, October 14, 2013

The twice Born - a symbolic expression

The Upanishadic texts often refer to man of spiritual temper as a “Dvijotthama” (translated as “twice born”) and the Christian texts to the birth of Jesus as “Virgin birth”. It is interesting that across cultures the same metaphorical motifs point to the same meaning, though, their symbolism's tend to get distorted and misdirected within the narrow contexts when used in different institutionalized faiths. Let me explain:

All primitive mystical traditions speak of a physical birth through a mother’s womb and after a period of intellectual and cultural incubation within the social boundaries of the tribe, the young adult physically and psychologically is wrenched free from attachment to the mother and initiated into a larger role that he has to play in society, with new rules that are in consonance with observed laws of nature, procreation and the Universe as they knew it. A “Dvijotthama” then, is one who has shed his filial attachments ,puerile sense of individuality, and moved into a larger dimension of his inner self, where personal separation becomes blurred and his acts and words reflect the vibrations of a Cosmic tune. Like a butterfly breaking through the Chrysalis or a snake shedding its skin, the Twice-born is one who is begotten afresh, not physically this time, but inwardly with fresh intuitive wisdom and intelligence. The Christian metaphor of Christ being of “Virgin birth” points to the same meaning and interpretation. So, it does not undermine the spiritual significance of Jesus in any way to have been born of a physical mother, but his relinquishment of his narrow parochial, individual identity to embrace the cosmic self that makes him CHRIST : his ‘Virgin Birth’ into a newer, wider and deeper reality. In fact ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Babylonian civilizations in the near east as well as Aboriginal cultures in Africa and other parts had myths and rituals where this “subjective inner rebirth” was celebrated each time a young male reaches adolescence or a girl attains puberty. An interesting observation here would be that in a female: the physical change at the time of puberty brings along with it an inner maturity as a consequence; but not so with the male, who need to cleansed and molded anew through a ritualistic act of symbols to make up for lack of any great physical change in his appearance.

So these terms are universal symbols for physical birth and subsequent inner transformation. To lock them up in straight jacketed historical episodes and build theologies around it is a sure way of misinterpreting the deep inner significance of this ancient myths and motifs. My study gives me a great opportunity to look at these traditions with fresh eyes, and it amazes to me that these words and symbols have so much been twisted, turned and distorted in its symbolic relevance, that we have almost lost the virgin purity of these ancient motifs……

God bless…..

Monday, August 19, 2013

A collections of pieces written over the last month or so......

Shyam  -  a testimonial

It has been an honor and a deep pleasure to have known and seen Shyam grow, evolve, mature over the last decade. I remember meeting him for the first time in the office of NIIT Rajajinagar : a lean , unsure, friendly, gullible, genuinely brilliant young boy who was going through the motions of college rather effortlessly and had enough time to attend to pursue his varied interests in life. Between him and me: It was kind of bonding that happens naturally when two like minded individuals gravitate towards each other, and I have ever since counted him as a part of very close inner circle of friends. I still remember the difficult choice that he had to make after his graduation when he had two good offers in his hand, and then decided to join the electronics industry . He has not looked backed ever since, and that is his great quality; the ability to take life as it comes and give it every ounce of energy, attention and intellect that he can be given to it. It is a symbol of supreme confidence in oneself and a genuine need,urge to succeed.

Yes, it has been eight years shyam. Several milestones have been passed along the way and you have enjoyed every moment of it. Many more will be pass by before you are done.
Your wonderful nature will win more friends, spread more joy around and will lighten the company that you have happen be in. That is an even better quality to possess and cherish.

So my friend, keep moving. I am so proud of you. If my prayers and blessings count in any way, it shall be there for you at every step.

Cheers young man and keep spreading your charm around........

Written in Nashville, US on July 4th 2013

Franklin, Nashville has this really huge movie hall called the Carmike Thoroughbred, hosting about fifteen screens with decent amount of seating capacity in each of them. I was pleasantly surprised to find a South Indian Tamil Movie being screened there . The film is called "Singam II". The first part of this movie,released a couple of years ago, was one of the biggest commercial hits; that showcased the travails of an honest, upright Police officer in rural south India, who takes the corrupt mafia in the city. In fact , My North Indian Friends should note that this film was remade in Hindi as well with the Hunky Ajay devgan and the Sultry Sonakshi Sinha in it. However, This is a story that has been told a Zillion times on the Indian screen. But frankly, I enjoyed the first film. It is zippy, well paced, entertaining, sensual and a good way to spend a rainy evening with some popcorn in hand. I knew that the producers were filming part 2 of his movie and I was really happy to find that I had an opportunity to see it here in Nashville, of all places.

So, on a really rainy July 4th, I hired a limousine (the hotel had organized it, thankfully:)) and drove through lashing rains, with nobody on the roads, to this Mall, where this theater complex is situated. I asked the cab to wait for a few minutes while I went inside to get a ticket. What transpired next came as a rude and surprsing shock to me. The Movie "Singam II" had been sold out for the next one week. Phew!!. For a minute, I thought I heard the young lady at the counter wrong. She answered me politely by turning around the monitor to show me the status of the tickets for all upcoming coming shows, only to assuage the look of disbelief on my face. Here in Nashville, a south Indian movie was sold out, and other movies like "man of steel","The lone ranger", "despicable Me 2", "World war Z" had tickets available, and plenty of them at that...

I walked out to the waiting car with a dazed look and and requested the driver to take me to a nearby Indian restaurant called "the Bombay Bistro". The food was alright. I came back to my hotel suite and did some research into the Demographics of Nashville. I looked at their latest census to find that there were approximately twenty thousand Indian living in this small county of five hundred odd square miles. I may be fair in assuming that at three fourths of this number would be from the southern part of India working in IT as software engineers. No wonder, the Movie was a sell out.

Well, at the end of it, I didn't regret or feel bad about my wasteful trip. It set me thinking. The number of Indians who have emigrated to this country over the last fifty years is quite a staggering number . From 56,000 thousand Indians in 1970, the number has grown to 1.6 Million by 2010, making Indians the third largest immigrant group in the United states. The forecast is that we shall quickly overshadow the Chinese. However, One interesting Study pointed out that Indians prefer to have a small nuclear family with a couple of children at the most, in contrast to the Latinos who believe in big family sizes. But what will distinguish the Indian community is the strong educational base, well formed family values, and a tendency to adopt native customs very quickly and effectively. Interesting.......

Thanks to Singam II, I dug into some good research.

God bless...............

Written on a rain drenched morning in Ravinia, Atlanta (July 21st 2013)

I took a walk along the thickly wooded landscape behind the Crowne, Ravinia. Followed a little stream that gathered speed and intensity as it wound its way down the rocks and trees that crowded the moist earth. The Chinese called it the "The Watercourse way". The mesmerizing beauty of the rivulet gathering itself , gracefully eluding the stubborn boulders, caressing the green moss that waits for that intimate touch of wetness, the gurgling sounds of water rising and ebbing in rich,steady cadences, its majestic and dignified drop over a small precipices ; gathering speed and fluidity as it flows : finally merging into a pond of absolute stillness . Not a ripple there whatsoever. The dancing and ebullient journey that began a gentle rush of water has found its consummation. Sitting on a stone bench observing , one is led into a state of pure sensory perception. It is a stillness that is not an absence of noise. It includes it, yet out of it. There is no sense of fragmentary alienation. The human organism is engulfed in its totality and there is affirmation of oneness :amidst the green, lively, wet foliage, that is authentic and real. The cleansing is complete.......

God bless...

A reunion with my friends and Students -  August 8th 2013

Time becomes a burden only when the mind stops to think about it, otherwise its an evanescent, swift ,pauseless flow that cannot be divided. The last week has been one such movement for me. I was able to achieve all that I had planned without a veil of stress or strain.

I had dinner with my very close friends and their families yesterday at the Orion mall .They are doing pretty good now and seeing them with their lovely wives and kids convinced me that life has bestowed upon her choicest blessings. Personally,It was a wonderful experience for me. I know these boys as youngsters when they were students at NIIT Rajajinagar, and then moved on to work there as Teachers and Administrators for some time, before they set foot into the professional world of IT. Also, In a way, I knew they them at very personal level. Almost Each day , they would congregate in my small rented place near the office to discuss technology, books, music ,their aspirations and dreams. The future held a lot of promise, but there was always the underlying fear that things may not go as planned. Yet, during those dialogues,I would try and give them a perspective that life is a beautiful experience. no matter how it treats us. There have been nights when I have lost my temper , chided them, embarrassed them, verbally abused them as well . But our bonding so was deep and close that those moments would dissolve into a new understanding and all of us would be able to laugh about it later.

In many ways, these boys have enriched my life in more ways than they can conceive. My evolution as a teacher, a human being owes a great deal to the way they have accommodated me, despite my idiosyncrasies ,and helped me retain a psychological balance.

I am sure that their journey is just beginning and there is a lot to be done along the way. I will only pray and wish, that no matter what they do or where they reach, the closeness of their friendship between themselves and me ,will remain undiminished and ever expanding.

Keep rocking gentlemen and ladies. I am proud of all of you.

God Bless.........

Written on August 10th 2013  -  The landing in Minneapolis

During the immigration check at Minneapolis, the officer asked me a very pertinent question " What is that you have come here to do, that we cannot accomplish". I could have answered this in many different ways, and I did, but deep down I felt that the question had its modicum of validity and each country must ask this of every individual entering its borders. A country must be protective of its territorial integrity, not as means of discrimination, but to make sure that society harbored within it does not suffer from predatory economic and political influences. I like the way the US Homeland security works. They may come across as brusque, rude and arrogant sometimes ; but that according to me is a measure of their pride in their country and their concern for who chooses to enter it.

I was also very pleasantly surprised to see Indian immigration officers in Bangalore questioning people on the purpose of their departure. I was overjoyed. That is the kind of professionalism that we should have. In the queue behind me, there were young travelers (obviously IT ), who were making fun of the process of immigration check and the officers doing the questioning. I merely chuckled and wondered if these gentlemen would muster the courage to pass or even whisper such comments in US airports.

I have checked into Double tree again. Across the street, there is this Italian place called "Russo". They make excellent eggplant Parmesan. The last decent meal I had was in the afternoon just before disembarking in the US; and so the Tomato bisque, Parmesan and a slice of cheesecake went into my tummy in a real hurry.

During the nineteen and odd hours of flight time, I managed to read two books. The first one is a work of Historical fiction named "New York" by Edward Rutherford. I have previously enjoyed Rutherford's "London","Sarum" and "Ruskka", but this book was not of that caliber. It recreates the history of Manhattan. but I felt that the narrative style and the characterization were a bit weak and seems rather contrived in many parts of the novel. The second volume is that of the celebrated mythologist Joseph Campbell : "Myths to Live by". This a condensation and selection of his masterly lectures delivered at the Cooper Union forum for nearly twenty years. Campbell was a gifted speaker and an equally wonderful essayist. In this work, he discusses the primordial function of myth and its relevance to modern society. This is a kind of book like Alan watts' "The taboo", that one can slip to an youngster to face life with sanity and equilibrium.

Its nearly 12:00 A.M here and there is sense of utter quietness. The sound of my fingers rattling away on the laptop seems rather sharp against this noiseless background. Time to lie down, I guess...

A Sunday in Dallas, Texas (at Half-price books) - August 11th 2013

Its a bright and warm day in Richardson, Texas. My room is on the 8th floor and I get a panoramic view of the Highway and beyond. The sumptuous breakfast in the morning has left me slightly groggy and I am curled up in bed with a heavy tome of documentation on one side and Vivaldi's "four seasons" playing in the background. I am planning to walk down to "half price books" to spend the rest of the morning. I need to pick up some disks of Chopin, Schubert and Bach. I had identified them last time when I was here and reserved it as well . The store also has an amazing collection of LP's. They had the 1972 edition of the "the doors". The sheer nostalgia of the gramophone records thrills me : the fact that finely orchestrated musical notes gets engraved as invisible spiral grooves on Vinyl plates and magically transform them into mellifluous notes when the needle circles through them in measured speed to produce different tonal sounds - is one of the crowning achievements of the eighteenth century and more specifically of prodigious scientific acumen of Thomas Alva Edison (though the first Gramophone was patented by a french bookseller, Leon Scott in 1857 with no scientific education whatsoever). So much for Historical recognition, veracity and acclaim 

Time to get dressed and walk out in the beautiful sun. Until then....

God bless....

A Post from Houston (Aug 15th 2013)

The class in Houston was an enriching experience. Personally, for me, to be able to sit down and understand from a master professional, the nuances of a product and its underlying technology; is an experience that I will never deny myself.

Over the last two days, I had the good fortune to have had a lot of fruitful discussions with one such seasoned architect , who happened to be consulting here for the last three weeks. His deep insights on the the complex subject of software virtualization has illumined many a dark corner in me. More importantly, he was passionate about what he was talking, and it was infectious. He must be around 60 years of age and has worked in IT for nearly thirty years, which showed in his intuitive understanding of the broader picture ; and to hear him talk and discuss with such intensity and energy , is something I would cherish for a long time. Suffice it to say that he has raised the bar for me,broadened my vision and deepened my knowledge of the product.

I am back in my room now. As I was coming back in the cab, I spotted a "Sweet Tomatoes" close to this place. Its been quite a while since I have dined there. It is considered one of the more healthier options in this country. The weather outside is beautiful and it is time to take a solitary walk with my headphones on. Lately, I have listening to the works of "Joseph Brahms", a German composer . His symphonies have that feeling of melancholia that fills the interstices of spasmodic bursts of ecstasy. A Single flute or a harp at the very edge of an acoustical boundary disappears ever so slowly, only to emerge with a full and heady passion of effervescent violins rising to a crescendo; only to drop an infinitesimal note to join the gentle key strokes of a Piano. Extraordinary beauty.......

I have an early morning flight to catch. So until tomorrow.......

God bless......

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Stephen Jay Gould - A perspective on Darwinism

It is a cloudy and windy evening here in Salt Lake City. I returned from work at 5.30, took a swim, ordered in a Pizza from a local Pizzeria called the "Big Daddy", pulled up a couple of pillows behind me and continued my reading of a wonderful book of essays by Stephen Jay Gould - an evolutionary biologist. Dr Gould is arguably the best known and widely read scientist of our generation. A Paleontologist by profession, but is widely recognized for his path breaking views on Darwinian theory of evolution and the articulate essays that he regularly wrote for the "The Natural History" magazine for a period of thirty odd years till his death in 2002. All his known essays have been collected in individual volumes edited by and prefaced by Gould himself.

Since the time Darwin published his seminal work “Origin of species" in 1850, scientific thinking, buttressed by religious authority has been vociferously advocating, establishing and pontificating on an anthropocentric view of evolution. That Man is the pinnacle of creation, born to rule the word; and the entire march and purpose of evolution has been an unremitting journey to produce an organism called man ; has become the refrain of the scientific community in every sphere of Human life, and taught in every biology class throughout the world. It is curious though that Darwin himself never mentions any such need for human supremacy in the pages of his epochal book. Nonetheless, his theory of Natural selection suited our vain human needs. To break the stronghold of this theory, the world needed a brain of the finest quality and it produces a Stephen Jay Gould.

Dr Gould repudiated the theory that evolution has any purpose at all. His study of Microorganisms in the Burgess shale , where unicellular organism still thrive alongside genetically complex organisms, led him to postulate a radically different view of evolution. He called it the state of "punctuated equilibrium". In simple terms, it means that it wrong to think of evolution as ladder that needs to be climbed, but rather as a chance necessity. The traditional diagram on textbooks that depict the transformation of Man from ape is a biased view not tenable with facts.
In Gould's words, in his wonderfully readable account of his findings on the Burgess shale, he writes :
"if we could somehow "rewind the tape" of evolution and let it play again, chance would favor a different selection of that original multitude, and the world would be a very different place from the one we see around us. There is nothing "preordained" about the appearance of humanity or the human level of awareness"
, or in his wonderful collection of essays called "the eight little piggies”, he passionately advocates:
“we talk about the march from monad to man’ (old-style language again) as though evolution followed continuous pathways to progress along unbroken lineages. Nothing could be further from reality. I do not deny that, through time, the most ‘advanced’ organism has tended to increase in complexity. But the sequence [allocated in most texts] from jellyfish to trilobite to nautiloid to armored fish to dinosaur to monkey to human is no lineage at all, but a chronological set of termini on unrelated evolutionary trunks. Moreover life shows no trend to complexity in the usual sense — only an asymmetrical expansion of diversity around a starting point constrained to be simple.”

Increased complexity need not mean growth. This is the point of divergence from the Darwinian Theory. It is not my intention in this essay to get into more detail, but only to point out the findings of Dr Gould has led scientists to think differently about Man's place in this universe.

I have read most essays of Stephen Jay Gould not only for his incisive thinking, but also for the beauty of his language. Not many in the scientific world can write with such aplomb and grace. I can only think of the renowned Astrophysicist Carl Sagan and writer Isaac Asimov, who could bring intricate scientific knowledge within the realms of non-specialist, as well Dr Gould did.

I am currently reading his book "Rock of ages", perhaps, one of his last collection of essays, where he writes about religion and science. Nothing gives more pleasure than to spend time with these great minds, in their hallowed company, where they lead me into exciting news labyrinths of thought.

God bless..........


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Will and Ariel Durant - A personal tribute and remembrance

Will and Ariel Durant - A personal tribute and remembrance

Mel Gibson’s great and controversial movie “Apocalyptic”, released in 2006, fictionalized the decline and fall of the famed Mayan civilization: it begins with the following graphical quote:

‘A great civilization is not conquered from without, until it has destroyed itself within’.

These are the words of Will Durant, written nearly fifty years ago in the hallowed pages of his epic work “The story of civilization” in eleven volumes. In nearly thirteen thousand pages of immaculate writing, poetic audacity, delectable idioms and sweeping generalizations; both Will and his wife Ariel Durant spans the lifetime of human civilization in all its principal aspects with a finesse, grace and erudition that has never before been attempted , and In my opinion , can never be bettered in its execution. The work took them fifty years to plan and complete, and during that period, the husband and wife traveled the globe a dozen times, saw and read every classic in its source, met and interacted with some of the finest minds of the generation, taught innumerable students the appreciation of History as a holistic study of Human endeavor, popularized Philosophy as the greatest refinement of the mind and character possible, Parented a beautiful and intelligent girl and loved each other so deeply that they died two weeks after each other. Such lives are truly blessed. The result of their passionate labor has and will continue to educate and enthrall generations to come on the progress of Man in his episodic march of cultural, social and political advancement.

The first book of this series (Our Oriental Heritage) was published in the year 1935 and remaining ten volumes came out every five years, culminating their mammoth effort in the year 1975, with the final masterpiece “the age of Napoleon”. This was no easy task, considering that every book condensed nearly five hundred to thousand years of recorded history in all its manifestations. The compelling rationale behind this entire work was the need to present history comprehensively, not broken up into pieces. The authors had to embrace, synthesize and tie together numerous strands of knowledge, without losing the central theme of the book and equally holding the reader’s interest. These volumes were intended for the general educated reader and no background or qualification was required to approach them. That makes the task even more arduous and overwhelming, because complex ideas need to presented in a language, style and metaphor that should be easily accessible, without taxing the reader and letting interest dwindle. In some of the most breath taking passages in the work, the Durant’s would summarize a life time within a single paragraph or sometimes even a single line. Consider this brilliant synopsis of the fate of Rome:

‘Rome remained great as long as she had enemies who forced her to unity, vision, and heroism. When she had overcome them all she flourished for a moment and then began to die.’ (Caesar and Christ, 3rd volume).

To me, personally, these eleven volumes have been nourishment that has forever transformed the way I look at the march of Man through the ages. The calm wisdom and penetrative insights of the Durants have taken me on journey that I would have never willingly walked, if not, for the gentle assistance and the painstaking patience of Will and Ariel Durant. For nearly a year, I have read pages of these volumes every night before I went to bed. Each volume has produced new insights and perspectives and has helped me sharpen my capacity to cut through the inessentials and head straight to the center of a thought process, and the art of articulating it in a succinct and meaningful fashion.

I finished the last volume yesterday night, and as I closed my Kindle, I was flushed with emotion. A friend has left me, leaving behind a perfume, a trace that will forever be with me as long as I am intellectually alive.

God Bless…..

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Irving stone , the novelist - a Tribute from a lover of Literature

One of the authors that I have loved and grown up reading is Irving Stone, the author of several wonderfully researched and exquisitely written Biographical novels that have helped bring to life the complex, tortured inner lives of many a genius. Books like "Lust for life"; that chronicles the maniacal and suicidal creativity of the great impressionist Painter Vincent van gough, or "The agony and the ecstasy" - again the life and work of arguably that most complete artist Michelangelo, or the "The president's lady" - which unveils the complex relationship between President Andrew Jackson and his controversial wife Rachel, or "The passions of the mind", an intimate novel that delves into the mind of Sigmund Freud as he postulates the principles of Psychoanalysis , or "the Origins" - the superb chronicle of the astute and dedicated brain of Charles Darwin as he travels and observes aboard the ship "The beagle" to formulate the theory of evolution: all his books have educated and entertained the minds of millions of readers between the 1940's -1980's. The most riveting part of Stone's work was his ability to recreate the period in which his tales were set and a magical ability to intersperse fact with fiction. As one reads his novels, it would be quite difficult to distinguish between what is believably true and truly unbelievable. Without losing focus on the biographical details of his subject, Stone manages to convince his readers that while chronicling geniuses , it is not important to get all the factual details in order; but rather be able to convey the sense of inner contradictions and possibilities ,that could have produced such men and women in a particular age and time.

Stone nearly worked for eight to ten years on every novel that he wrote; very much like his contemporary- James michener, investing enormous amount of his time researching the subject that he wished to write upon. His Novel "Lust for life" was primarily based upon the letters exchanged between Vincent and theo (his brother), and for book on Michelangelo, Stone spent many years in Italy, trying to understand the life of the tormented genius in his natural habitat. Fortunately, Stone was not against lending his story lines to films as well. In fact, Some of the movies that were based on his novels were phenomenal successes. Who can forget the majestic performance of Charleton Heston as Michelangelo, or the heartbreaking portrayal of Vincent van gough by Kirk Douglas in their respective film adaptions. Stone co-wrote the screen play for these films and hence was able to preserve the purity of the tale.

I penned this article today only because I am currently reading one of Stones's lesser known and much criticized work "Love is eternal", where he unfolds the strange relationship between Abraham Lincoln and his paranoid, yet tenacious wife, Mary Todd. They were an unusual couple, unsuitable for each other is every way, but their opposing characters complimented and propelled the political career of Lincoln. History may vindicate Lincoln to be a self made man, but Stone raises the important question of Mary's role in channeling Lincoln's indomitable energy and strength of purpose towards a desired goal. The weakness of this book is that it is mostly fictional and less factual, and that is because ,both Lincoln and Mary were intensely private individuals, united only in their cause of political emancipation of America. Mary ardently believed to the point of insanity that her husband was the only possible choice to become the President of the United states of America, when there were stalwarts like Chase, Bates or even Seward in the fray, whose pedigree and education put them way above Lincoln for that hallowed position. None could reason with Mary on this conviction of hers. Their private lives were so wrought with petty arguments, disputes and outbursts; but in public they presented an unified face, where their differences dissolve and all that is left is the single thread of determination to win against all odds.

This is the story the Stone etched in the pages of his book "Love is eternal". Not surprisingly, the book is not in print anymore and so are many of Stone's other works. If we are fortunate, we could find one in a dusty corner of a library or a second hand book store for a throw away price. Nonetheless, Stones enduring contribution to literature is his revival of biography in form of Fiction accessible to educated public. I would not be far from the truth when I write that he made Michelangelo's painting of Sistine chapel or Van gough radical interpretation of the "flower vase" more appreciable for a non specialist. That to me is a great achievement.........

God bless............

Monday, June 24, 2013

One and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

America prepares to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg and also remember with pride and choking emotion the prophetic, poignant and arguably one of the greatest speeches delivered by President Abraham Lincoln upon conclusion of the battle. There are few moments in History when the words of a single inspired individual raises the collective consciousness of an entire nation to a new level of awareness and action. Nehru's - "tryst with Destiny";Marin Luther king's - "I have a dream", JFK's "Ask not what the country can do for you...." - all of them were spoken with a passion and conviction that comes with a deep sense of understand and power. The very same words spoken by lesser individuals may not have had the same impact or resonance amongst people; but uttered from the mouths of these stalwarts, the words pierces through the stultified intellect of the masses and nonchalantly touches a chord that lies deeply buried and lost within us; and would have remained so for eternity, if not for the sheer strength of the emotion of those spoken words that startles and awakens the mind with its belligerent and audacious push to break loose from the cocoon,and dream and aspire for a condition that is a million times more uplifting and honorable than the present.

In a speech that purportedly lasted two minutes, Lincoln used the word "We" ten times and referred to Gettysburg - the place, eight times, thereby connecting every individual assembled there to the cause of freedom and the heavy price that had to be paid at Gettysburg to hold it together. Repetition is an essential aspect of public speaking, but the trick is to know "when" , "what" and "how" to repeat. Every word in that brief speech is pregnant with meaning. Generations to come may lose sight of the lives lost at Gettysburg, but the words of Lincoln will remain for forever etched in the genetic composition of all mankind.

Let us then, on this occasion, read the speech once again, and also read it aloud to our children, that these words may take root in their supple and innocent minds and grow into a firm conviction, to preserve and value the dignity of every individual blessed to live on this glorious earth, without being ostracized either for their birth or upbringing. That would be a fitting tribute on this 150th year of remembering Gettysburg.

God bless.............

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"The Revolutionary road" – An insight into the American Dream

"The Revolutionary road" – An insight into the American Dream
- A work of literary fiction by Richard Yates
- A sensitive film by Sam Mendes

The “American Dream” is both a gift and a curse. A gift: primarily because it propels individuals to tenaciously pursue their vocation and keep striving for more without the restraints of tradition, education, creed or opportunities; a Curse: because it leaves men and women in a perpetual state of discontent, an inner void that defies fulfillment and a perpetual need for change, more often than not leading their lives to shambles. It is this friction in American society that lubricates its material growth,and ironically fuels its quest for that elusive state of Psychological balance (Intentionally, I avoid using the phrase “spiritual balance”) and creates the aura and myth that entices the entire world to partake of the American Dream.

Richard Yates, the author of “The Revolutionary road”, is in many ways an unlucky writer. He lived and wrote in age of American fiction where style, intellectual snobbism, high browed media hype was the norm, and he, with his non pretentious style, without posing to be modernistic, gently spoke about the mediocrity and sadness that is prevalent in the hearts of majority of suburban American homes. His works were well received critically, but hardly ever sold enough to become a best seller. He chronicled the emotionally turbulent years between the 30’s and 60’s as one else did. He was able to capture the mundane emotions of a middle class family living in a quiet town , going about their routine mechanical jobs, pretending to be nice to each other, secretly aspiring to be someone else , and above all, nursing within their bosoms the “the American dream” of untapped potential and the need to “move on” in life. What is distinctive about Yates in “Revolutionary Road”–and throughout his work–is not merely the bleakness of his vision, but how that vision adheres not to war or some other horror but to the aspirations of everyday Americans, and that is scary. In his portrayal of the ‘Wheelers’, Yates unravels the slow erosion of the marriage and the dreams of Frank and April Wheeler, a suburban couple who believe themselves to be better than their banal surroundings, and get carried away by the glitz and glamour of the free world. Their relationship which begins with endless fascination for each other slowly degenerates into a farcical relationship , based upon what they believe to be the true way of living – in other words: to be successful.

In my opinion, one of the lasting contributions of Yates is his insistence on the blunt reality of failure in life. It is a common fact that failure was and is much more common than success, and endurance, the best that could be hoped for. In this world, not everyone one is saved by luck or bailed out by coincidence; no understanding lovers or friends or parents or children, made the unbearable suddenly pleasant. Fortunes don’t change overnight for everybody; they just followed a track into a dead end and left one there. This will remain the lasting legacy of Richard Yates.

During my stay in New Hampshire three weeks back, I had an opportunity to see an adaption of this book for the silver screen. The picture starred Kate Winslet and Leonardo diCaprio. I had read the book earlier, and so was so completely mesmerized by the brilliant enactment of the wheeler family by these two glorious actors. The film was directed by Sam Mendes (Kate Winslet’s ex-husband), whose works include the likes of “The American beauty” and “The road to perdition” - each a classic in its own right. Every frame captured the masterful stokes of Yates pen. Kate winslet played the role of an unfulfilled wife to perfection. Every movement bespoke of a total mastery of the underlying theme of the book - the inevitability of mediocrity. I would like to conclude this essay by quoting one of the finest examples of yates assessment of Modern American life: “No one forgets the truth; they just get better at lying.”. And you will feel these words pierce through your souls as Kate winslet passionately, yet with all the desperation possible, voices these words to her Husband – egging him to live the dream, An American Dream. Ironically, it is one of those seminal moments in the book and the movie when their family falls apart. In the end, was the dream worth it? Yates leaves us with that conundrum.

Read the book and then watch the film. It’s a rare kind of education in this frenzied world that we live in.

God bless…..

Monday, June 3, 2013

Listening to the “The doors” on my flight from Atlanta

Miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence – The doors of perception:
Listening to the “The doors” on my flight from Atlanta

Aldous Huxley experimented with mescaline, a psychedelic drug in May 0f Nineteen fifty three to gain an insight into what he called as ‘expanded consciousness’. He wrote about the transformation in sensory perceptions during the few hours following the intake of the drug, in his wonderful and controversial book titled “The doors of perception”. I remember reading this short book (probably the shortest among Huxley’s literary works), in college, at a time, when I was first beginning to experience the light heartedness and an instinctual surety, that a single glass of Beer could bring. Huxley’s immaculate and flowery prose bought to life a certain cantankerous sense of adventure in living dangerously. He talked about the lowering of habitual intellectual defenses, a wholesomeness of living that went beyond the dictates of reason and an absolute certainty that cannot be dimmed by Moral and ethical codes of action. It was exhilarating stuff. I loved the very name of the book – “the doors of perception”: it evoked in me images of thin slices of membranous skin quivering under the onslaught of sensory input; stretched to its utmost elasticity, and then giving way, all of a sudden to the gushing inputs of perception, lifting the human brain to a higher level of consciousness where the myriad colors of touch, sight, hearing and tasting comingle to present an unbroken timelessness in every single moment of time. In other words: a cleansing and opening of the doors of perception.

During my flight from Paris to Bangalore, I plugged into the “The doors” - an apostatic, rock & soul music band of the seventies, whose Male lead singer Jim Morrison, still resonates in the cultural landscape of the new world as a man consumed by all that is devilish and repugnant in a straight jacketed society. A handsome lanky young man, with deep piercing, misty eyes , crooning to the metallic vibrations of the electric guitar, churning out words that speak of a unfathomable depth and misery in mundane life, compelling and urging his listeners to wake up from the somnambulistic dream world and dip into the freshness of Death. In his “Light my Fire”, the song that still sends an involuntary jitter through us, Morrison touches news peaks of ecstasy. It is almost as if the music draws our souls away into flight to the unknown, the dangerous, and the forbidden.

Not surprisingly, the band took their name from a line in Aldous Huxley's book “The Doors of Perception”; where he writes... "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite". And this line,incidentally or coincidentally, comes originally from the mystic poet William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”. I listened through both the collections of the “the doors” that were available in the in-flight entertainment. I could not help enjoying the passion of the band, that played this music to an audience in the late sixties steeped in family values, blaspheming every known rule of decency and manners in the book. Morrison died at an young age of twenty seven. Too young to die, one would say. But if one has the patience and the right bent of mind to listen to his work for over two hours, it wouldn’t some as a surprise that Jim Morrison really courted death as much as he loved an unfettered life.

What Huxley essayed on paper, Jim Morrison painted in his music. One is more magisterial, the other was clothed in profanity. The difference is only the art of expression. Both of them lived life on the very edge of the precipice. That requires raw guts. I salute them for it.

God bless……

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A walk downtown in Portsmouth, New hampshire

I took a walk around downtown today. Portsmouth is a dainty township of hardly thirty thousand people. A historic place that traces its history way back to the sixteenth century. Its inhabitants even today proudly call it the " jewel of New England". Within a couple of square miles, there were about hundred odd eating establishments (not the Franchisee's that we see all around the United states), but original family owned restaurants and pubs that have been around for a long time. It has an astonishingly high density of pubs and a large number of microbreweries for a small city. The people of Portsmouth obviously love their alcohol. As i walked along the frosted pavements of Downtown, literally every pub was brimming with activity and sounds of garrulous merry making echoed and ricocheted off the ancient brick walls : a lasting testament to the antiquity of the place . I believe, there is an University close by, and one could see young ,confident boys and girls, walking with trepidation into pubs (probably for the first time) to get used to the taste of finely brewed beer.

The "River Run" Bookstore in downtown is a wonderful place for book lovers. I walked into it at seven in the evening to find that there was a book reading session gong on inside. J.A Hitchcock , a renowned educator was speaking on the ill effects of unrestricted social media, and was reading and answering questions about her new book on Cyber crime. I listened to her some time and quietly slipped in between the racks to bury myself in the tome of books. The store did have a wonderful collection of rare books. In fact, I found a hard bound edition of "The satanic verses" by Salman Rushdie and a collection of critical essays by John Updike for a good price. I could not resist the temptation.

I landed up in an old restaurant called the "Press room", suggested by a co worker to grab to a Garden burger. The place had a live band playing country music on the saxophone. It seemed as though that most of folks who came there are regulars. There was good camaraderie all around. The burger was also surprisingly good. Probably, I was famished after all the walking that I had done.

Need to catch up on some study now....... the night is still young...............

Musings on Graduation day In America

This is Graduation day in New Hampshire, and I guess in most parts of the country. The city of Portsmouth is flooded with parents visiting to witness a momentous day in the lives of their children. There is almost a deep sense of fulfillment and pride in their eyes. That is the beauty of this country. They tend to commemorate every significant milestone in their families.

Contrary to popular opinion, it is not very easy for most young boys or girls in America to go through School or college with an intensity and dedication required to complete it. There are a lot of distractions and oppurtunities that could sway them from a formal academic rigor. For middle class parents , working their way through mortgages, loans and the compulsive need to maintain a decent lifestyle; it becomes very difficult to support children's education in a sustained manner, more so, if the kid develops other interests in life. Single parents or dysfunctional families find it even more difficult. In a cocooned society, it is easy for parents to exercise control over their children, but not so in America, where boys and girls develop a sense of intellectual maturity and character rather quickly, and tend to take control of their lives far earlier than usual.

I was sitting in a restaurant yesterday evening; which essentially, I learnt later was student hang-out place ; reading Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" and sipping a glass of raspberry lemonade. All around me were young men and women of different nationalities, confident in the exuberance of youth, dressed with liberal ease, gesticulating to each other and laughing with gay abandon;talking over subjects that range from Boyfriends, to books, to movies, to Obama's stand on the IRS fiasco, to the recently ended war in Afghanistan . They exuded a raw and unadulterated aura of a young human species in the prime of their flowering. The sheer atmosphere was exhilarating. Tocqueville's words still ring true after two hundred odd years that" Life should be entered upon with Courage...";. and courage was evident in the gaiety of these vibrant youngsters.

As i sat there reading and ruminating, I was all of sudden woken from my reverie by a young blonde waitress. She wanted to know if I needed anything else. I ordered a Margarita Pizza with less cheese and looked into her eyes. They were bright, blue and deep and she was looking at the book I was reading. There was a sense of elation in her eyes. I asked her is she had read this wonderful book that defined the American way of life. She nodded her head and said .." Yap, I did a thesis on Tocqueville's vision of America in my last semester in Buffalo. I completed my masters in Political science last year and came down to Portsmouth to be with my Parents. I have a couple of months more, before I could start work on my Doctoral work in the University of New Hampshire. The money that I made here should be good for some time to help me with my studies". She then rushed to the kitchen and came back a little while later with my food. As as she left the table she made a remarkable statement. She said " You know what, Tocqueville was a political exile from France, hence he found America liberating and commented on it, but let me tell you, I believe that no commentaries can do justice to the pristine words of the Declaration of Independence " and she quoted verbatim: ' We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness', we try and live up to this."

I quietly ate my Pizza and walked back to my Hotel thinking how wonderful would it be if every democracy can produce such a breed of such vibrant, thoughtful and alive people.

My best wishes to all the graduates across the country. May your aspirations, dreams and its realization make this universe a better place to inhabit.

God Bless...........

A note penned late in the night after Sahima's Graduation party

A note penned late in the night after Sahima's Graduation party :

Sergei Bubka, arguably the finest Pole vaulter the sport has ever seen, Once said " The art of Pole vaulting lies not in the lift, but knowing precisely when to let go of the pole in mid air". I guess, the same could said about parenting as well. As a parent, it is absolutely imperative to know when to gracefully grant the psychological and intellectual independence to one's child; to let go of the hand that was so carefully held and nurtured for many long years. That is the ultimate gift that could be presented by a parent to a teenager.

I have just come back to my hotel from the Graduation party of Sahima (daughter of my good friend and colleague - Sandeep Godhkindi). Time has this unique capacity to flow past us without leaving a ripple. I find it hard to believe that this small chubby girl, with sparking eyes, a warm smile has now graduated from high school and now ready to embark on a study of journalism at Georgia University. She has grown into a confident young girl with a firm grip on what she wants to do. The way she talked, moved , behaved throughout the four hour function bespoke of the quality of her upbringing by both Sandeep and Ritu. They have left no stone unturned in making sure that Sahima gets a well rounded education, and have instilled an abiding interest and thirst for Knowledge in her. Now, the bird is ready to break out of the chrysalis to touch the horizon albeit with the roots firmly in place. The joy, pride and surging emotion on the face of both the parents to see so many of Sahima's young friends and classmates from diverse nationalities speaking well about their daughter , is undoubtedly the well deserved satisfaction of good parenting.

My heart was filled with joy to be a part of this warm occasion. In a way, I represented many others out there in Bangalore who were part of Sandeep's team and have seen Sahima grow up as a kid. I am sure their blessings, remembrances and prayers will definitely be there with this young girl for a wonderful future ahead.

I remember reading somewhere a wonderful message for young graduates , which I would like to quote here for Sahima... 'The important thing is this: to be able to give up in any given moment all that we are for what we can become.' Our Parents have given the environment to make us what we are, and now it is up to us to explore the possibilities of what we could become.

So Sahima - If there is no door to Knock, build the door. I am sure you are made of that kind of mettle.

Sandeep and Ritu - My heartfelt congratulations to both of you on the graduation of Sahima and your wonderful parenting.

God Bless.......

Musings in the airport at Dallas

As is sat waiting for my flight in Dallas airport last week, a very curious thought emerged within me. I was in the airport by three in the morning to board a flight four hours later, and it gave ample time to get into one those mellow moods of observation, which grips our senses every now and then, when we are not particularly stressed or worried about anything in particular. There is a strange sense of dispossession. Slowly, the airport was coming to life with travelers pushing their trollies, parents herding their children, youngsters with headphones jammed tight on their ears : as they walk around hunting for a cozy seat to put up their legs and relax. An airport is a strange place. It is a no man’s land. Thousands of people congregate, chat, socialize in bars and restaurants, making inane conversations with strangers; sometimes audacious enough to reveal their long buried secrets. All that one needs is a sympathetic ear.
Beside me was seated a good looking lady, probably in her late twenties. Well groomed, dressed in maroon coloured short sleeves shirt and a tight fitting jeans, sporting a silvery Karl Lagerfeld watch, nails immaculately groomed , sipping a cup of Star bucks coffee. Very soon, both of us started conversing with each other. Apparently, she was on the same flight as me to Atlanta. Before long, she was talking to me about her estranged husband and tragedies at home. She went on to say that she does multiple jobs, and that she would be heading to New York, after spending a few days with her childhood friend in Atlanta. During this entire conversation, never once did I ask her what is that she did for a living. I merely sat listening to her pensively, replying at appropriate times with a generous “yes”, “Hmmmm” etc. It was as though she wanted to speak her heart out to somebody and I happened to the sympathetic ear that she found. After nearly hour and a half of conversation, she turned towards me and said “Hey, you know what; I used to work at the gentlemen’s club in Portland, Oregon.” For some strange reason, I wasn’t surprised in the least. She was definitely good looking, seductively dressed and curvaceous as well. She went on ...” I studied to be a public administrator, but then, that is the time the economy was slowing down and jobs were hard to come by. I had just gotten through a messy relationship with my ex-husband and my parents had other priorities in life. I got a job in a local bar in Portland and then slowly realized that there was more money to be made, if I could dance a little. Eventually, it became a full time profession. It’s been two years now. I still hope to get an administrative job someday. Hopefully, it will come sooner than later…” All this while, I was looking at her intently, without for a moment judging her by what she said. She now visibly seemed relaxed after having regurgitated her thoughts. All that I could say to her was “All the very best to you”. I am not sure what I meant by those words. It seemed rather insensitive in retrospect, but really, I was in one of those moods where everything seemed alright with the world. She gave a benign smile and said “Thanks for hearing me out patiently. I am not sure why I told you this “.

The Boarding call was announced and we parted ways. For those couple of brief hours, two strangers had met and touched a spot within ourselves that was not judgmental. It was the flowering of natural empathy that exists between human being everywhere. It was after I had gotten out of flight in Atlanta did I realize that both of us had not even exchanged names. All that remained was a memory of a conversation between two human beings, who met in transit, and talked to each other without any motives or purpose.

Such is the reality stuff of life………………..

God bless

Sunday, May 5, 2013

“Flight” – A Movie review of a Remarkable film by Robert Zemeckis

 “Flight” – A Movie review of a Remarkable film by Robert Zemeckis

The movie begins with a Pilot lying in bed naked with a flight attendant, intoxicated with alcohol, and fatigued after a riotous night of unfettered physical intimacy. That defines Captain Whip, a chronic drug abuser, an ace pilot, a charismatic and debonair seducer called in to command a domestic flight that develops a mechanical failure , and is doomed to perish along with hundred and odd passengers on board. By a miraculous professional instinct that comes from deep seated talent, the pilot steers the flight out of trouble and lands on an empty field. The trouble though is that the Captain was drunk during the flight. The fact the aircraft was grounded with minimal number of causalities does not abdicate the irresponsible behavior of the pilot, and he is made answerable to a commission, battling his alcohol problem all along. The Movie captures the helpless condition of a talented man under the grip of drug abuse and his stubborn reluctance to face the fact that he is an alcoholic, who cannot find courage to let go of the bottle.  The movie ends with his realization that this endless craving is a self-deceiving madness, and the moment he faces the truth, he is free of it.

One of the greatest challenges of alcoholism is the ability to confront it head long : Especially so, if the person involved is intelligent, talented, morally sound and has the ability to ratiocinate the deep seated addiction to be a minor problem that can be easily overcome. No amount of suggestions, advice or admonitions can bring such person to face the psychological illness that is eating away at his soul and body. It needs a miracle to bring about the transformation. To sublimate the trauma of self-imprisonment and break the through the shackles of layered lies, there needs to be a moment when the morality and integrity of the person comes into question and is pushed to the limits of one's intellectual tether. A singular catastrophic situation, when the realization dawns that his entire life has been one meaningless roller coaster ride of drug intoxication, and to completely snap out of it: as though one is awakened out of dream, with no trace whatsoever of the former self.  That is a glorious and timeless moment of freedom for an addict that forever transforms him from the confines of tortuous craving. This is the underlying message of “Flight”.

I have always had great admiration for Denzel Washington. His brilliant portrayal of Captain Whip is perhaps, one of his finest performances in his long and illustrious career:  The inner torment of an alcoholic; the emotional burdens of broken relationships; the false confidence of insecurity – find fitting expressions in the fluidity of the Denzel’s facial dynamics. In the final moments of the movie; the moment of truth for Captain Whip, when he acknowledges himself to be an alcoholic : Denzel Washington presents  a great virtuoso piece of acting to bring to a consummation that unresolved pangs of addiction, moral wreckage and pain caused to himself and all those all around him. One could see the inner cleansing in those deep eyes of Denzel as each tear drop oozes out of it. Never before in my study of movies have I found so much intellectual depth infused into the role of alcoholic; and none better than Denzel Washington to have played this marvelous role with a rare sensitivity and feel.

A truly remarkable film. Pls do watch it……