Friday, 26 December 2014

Blog Picks~ Top Seven Of 2014

As the year speeds by and nears its end, time for a recap and pick of the Top Blogs in various Categories. Versatility tests a writer fully and I keep expanding my range.  2014 has been a year during which I have noticeably evolved as a person. The Blogs possibly reflect this..Here's a sample from each category.

A) Humour~ why not tee off with a dash of humour? Even serious topics when narrated in a lighter vein make for interesting reading.

God, my Robot Anita and I

Anita, my personal robot keeps arguing with me on just about anything our minds can grasp. This time it was about whether God exists or not.

'Look, I am a child of science', she said with pride. 'Made in a sophisticated laboratory and powered by the wonders of technology. I believe what I see, what science can prove. My master is the one who created me. I don't believe your God exists' (See Blog Link for more)

B) Storytelling

1) If There Was Ever A Braveheart, He Was One
Thirty seven years ago, on Oct. 22, 1976, the small town of Vasai was for the first time privy to the joy of a modern cinematic experience. The Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna starrer Hera Pheri was the popular film with which Sapna Cinema was thrown open to the eager audience of Vasai.
The Cinema theatre was leagues ahead of any other in this far flung Western satellite town of Mumbai (then Bombay)

2) Tip Toeing Her Way To Success
The sun had not yet risen, the skies were mellow. The golden sands of the beach were inviting..she hesitated for a moment. How pristine, undisturbed is the beach, unburdened by any feet on it. Swept clean by the change of tides the night before and unsullied by tourists who would come in later in the day. How dare I be the intruder, thought she?
She then gingerly tip toed with her arms swaying to maintain her balance.

C) Linkedin Posts

1) 3 Key Elements Of Personal Branding
It is well known that a strong presence across Social Media platforms is vital in building one's Personal Brand. What and how we communicate gives a sharp focus to the way we are seen by the world. In my view there are three key elements that are integral to each person's brand. 

 Ahh! The Joy Of Telling A StoryAs I let loose my creative flair
Weaving a plot out of thin air.
And the words, they keep flowing
Wrapping me in their magic. 
Wonder which brings me more joy..
The story or the joy of creating it?

D) Spirituality

1) My Spiritual Journey Answered All My Questions
'We are spirits, in a material world' ~ Rock Band, The Police
We are born into this material world where our perceptions of our surroundings are ruled by the senses, what can be seen, felt, heard and smelt occupy our minds the most. As a natural consequence, we spend a majority of our lives pursuing objects and pastimes that please our senses. As our desires get fulfilled, new ones give birth in this unquenchable cycle.

E) Poetry

1) In Nothingness Is Everything
I am
I am this
I am that...

In order to read each Blog, click on it's title. 

Wishing all of my readers the best of this Season and in the New Year!

Why not Connect on other Social Media Platforms?
Let us discover common interests.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

When It's Party Time

Yes, the drive was pleasant, along Marine Drive, and the evening was young. The skies were a riot of colours painted by a sun which had just set. My mood was sinking too. Oh God! Only if I could have somehow avoided attending this party.

Dare not invite the wrath of wifey! (the party was hosted by my brother-in-law). What was the occasion? Well, do the months of December and January require reasons to party? Besides, this was the big Party night of the year~ New Year's Eve. No, don't get me wrong~ am not a spoilsport at all. I do not grudge others having the time of their lives or drinking themselves silly either.

It is just that I happen to be on the other (the right?) side of fifty which has reset my preferences. Also, I have been a teetotaler for half of those fifty years now, yes, twenty five years. So hanging around forever holding a 'mocktail', as it is referred to, in my hand does not exactly thrill me. While the clock whizzes by for guzzlers it c r a w ls when I am not the one laughing out loud without reason. (Hey, if you like your drink, don't give me a dirty look. I enjoyed mine in my youth too.)

I kept myself in circulation and said Hi to the people that I had to. Aha! Why didn't I think of this before? The door to the balcony was so inviting. I quietly made my way past the action. The music sounded less threatening here. Below me, Mumbai was at my feet. Marine Drive (or The Queen's Necklace) facing the Arabian Sea offers one of the most majestic views of the city at any time of the day. At night, the necklace sparkles.

After a while I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see a familiar face. "Hi! Have I seen you before?" I asked her. She smiled and said 'Think, think..we have met not once but twice. You are the Writer, right? No wonder, this party must be suffocating for you!'

I immediately reassured her.'Hey, that's not the case. Just came out for a breather.'

'Not to worry', she giggled 'I am bored to death too. By the way, I am Shania. If I recall, you are Vijay, right? We met at Sunil Uncle's wedding and then here at the house warming do.'

'Wow! You amaze me. Let me guess~ you must be my Bro-in-law's cousin's wife's third cousin's niece's closest friend.'

'I like this. Even I am terrible at remembering just  how am I related to whom!' Shania laughed. 'Where's your poison? Oh, so we are both aliens here! SOS~ Suffering Outcast Souls. Lemme think...look, these guys are barely into their second or third drinks. This is going to be one long haul. Many hours till midnight too. So, why not sneak out for some fresh air?'

I was hesitant 'If these guys figure out, they'll be annoyed.'

'You think they'd notice. Even if World War III were to break out, they'd be the last to know!'

She held my hand and led me to the entrance. We had to jostle our way through. The thump of the music was deafening.

As we emerged from the building, she waved her outstretched arms in the air. 'Ahh! to get away from that claustrophobic scene'

The entire road was abuzz with cars and youngsters turning it into their party zone.

I sighed and said 'It's only slightly better here.'

Shania hailed a Taxi and gave him directions. 'Just watch'

We alighted at a stretch where the action had thinned out. We sat on the parapet overlooking the sea and the waves crashing into the huge tetrapots. I could smell the salt in the air. Shania began shivering in the pleasant chill. I gave her my warm jacket. 
She swung around to sit facing the sea and I followed suit.

I watched her face, the glint of 
the bright city lights in her eyes.Leaning back, her hair being tossed around by the breeze, she admired the sky 'What a lovely, clear night. I love watching the stars. The moon's also so,so beautiful!'

I thought to myself that the bonding between us happened so quickly. She was less than half my age but that hardly mattered. We got along so well! I smiled.

She waved to a hawker and we feasted on salted peanuts.
'Care for some coffee?'

'Look, I'm not in a mood to go over to a coffee shop'

She waved to another street vendor 'Try this~ delicious South Indian Coffee!'

That it certainly was.

We sat there quietly just watching the city go crazy. All of a sudden things quietened down, many well lit rooms in the tall skyscrapers went dark..only to be followed by the blast of firecrackers, hoots, shouting and whistles. Oh yeah, it was midnight.

She shook my hand and wished me 'Happy New Year!!'

Wishing her in return, I ran my hand through her hair and said 'You are such a simple chirpy kid. That's a rare breed. Stay that way.'

Walking on the pavement, the city  on one side and the sea to the left, we headed back to frenzy.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Happy Days Are Here Again

(Picture Courtesy the PM's website)
The extraordinary sweep at the National polls and the initial euphoria has quietened down. It has been six months of the NDA Government in power under PM Narendra ModiFew leaders had raised the expectations of a resurgence as he has done in his short stint at the helm (and even before it began).

A couple of my friends, whose intellect and knowledge I deeply respect, had questioned me on Facebook recently. It is all right that Modi is drawing in huge crowds at his meetings in India and abroad, but is he delivering at the ground level or are these just photo ops? Is the common man actually benefiting from all this? I promised them that I would reply via a blog post and here it is.

Let us first highlight his achievements (I say Modi's achievements because it is more or less acknowledged that his is a one man show, no doubt backed by a able team). So much dependence on an individual presents its own risk is another matter.

When the Union Budget was presented there was a lot of criticism that there was no big bang reform announced therein. The Budget happened to be just an exercise in consolidation. As the Finance Minister has reiterated, reform does not necessarily have to be big ticket reform: small changes on the ground well implemented are equally effective. The long overdue Diesel price deregulation allowed the Oil marketing industry (state owned companies) to breathe easier. They had been saddled with thousands of crores of red in their balance sheets on account of under-recoveries due Government dictated pricing.

Simplification of licencing for industry is rapidly taking shape as is the much awaited GST (Goods and Services Tax) that will usher in a uniform and stable tax environment in country. Land reforms, another key area is also being looked into with urgency. Most importantly the domestic and foreign investors have got the message that it will make life for businesses easier- industrial growth had choked in the last few years.

Focus is also on reviving the SME and MSE's- a badly neglected area which is so critical for boosting employment among the semi skilled. Emphasis on good infrastructure should provide the right support too. One indicator of this is Modi's ambitious vision of Smart Cities (from scratch up) alongside newly built national highways and a mind numbing target for scaling up of solar energy. Modi also knows what technology can do for rural India- thus internet connectivity is on top of the agenda.

The development focus is not just an elitist plan. The Swach Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India) envisages a toilet in every Indian home. A bank account for every citizen scheme has been a massive success- millions of accounts have been opened and this touches the underprivileged section of society- banking for all also aims at shifting from a cash economy.

Many of these are proposals- what are the signs that the tide is indeed turning?
Firstly and importantly, the FII's (Foreign Institutional Investors) have come back in droves. The massive monthly inflows from FII's have been the biggest proof that they are buying Modi's vision. The Equity markets have rallied to an all time high (BSE Sensex @28,000 ) up from 20,900 a year ago. And if the analysts are to be believed Indian markets are in a structural bull run and are likely to go further up. This has whetted the appetite of domestic investors too (individual as well as institutional). The (AUM's) Assets Under Management of Equity Mutual Funds have scaled record peaks. Corporate heads too have expressed confidence in the the policies and are eager to get back into expansion mode.

This has had a curious side effect too: investors have shifted their attention from safer assets such as gold and property and have placed bets on equity. The result is that the property market has cooled down and erstwhile stratospheric prices are at last headed downwards. Fund raising for Start-Ups has never been so easy- a slew of e-retailers have fetched big ticket funds for expansion.

At the Government level, Modi's no nonsense functioning style has earned him many admirers ( a few from the opposition benches too, much to the ire of their respective parties). His non corrupt image and impeccable work ethic has set the tone for his ministry and officials. He has personally assured them that they need not be afraid of 'reputations', if they faced an obstacle from anybody, however influential, they could approach him. This kind of openness was unheard of in New Delhi. His presence and effective communication on social media has raised his already immense popularity by a few notches more.

There will always be critics and skeptics.

There is, of course, a time lag between investment, expansion and results to show up- especially on employment opportunities. What one must understand is that he took charge at a time when the country was reeling under years of misrule and was ridden with one damaging scam after another. All this set back the image, the business environment and finances of the country by a decade. Modi, therefore, did not begin on a plateau: the climb has been all uphill and to his credit he has not harped on the past but energetically focused on exciting possibilities.

'But the corruption and ineptitude at the ground level is the same. I still have to pay the same bribes, the attitude is still unfriendly."

Just as a corrupt PM us not a justification for me to compromise on my principles and ethics, a honest PM cannot ensure that all his countrymen take his cue either. The hard part is this that some might belong to his own party.

History is not created in a day. Shouldn't we allow our visionary PM some space and time for his grand dream to unfold? Transforming a nation as complex, diverse and vast as India poses a mind-boggling challenge. Modi seems to have an appetite for such a challenge.

"Ache Din Kaise Aayenge?"
The NDA's campaign revolved around 'Achche Din Aane Waale Hain" (Good Days Are Around The Corner)
The above presentation by Puneet Bhatnagar and his Creativity Mission India, asks the pertinent question~ How could we bring about good days?

I think this should answer those who still have doubts..
As far as I am concerned, Happy Days Are Here Again!!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Life Is...

Life is...

...the pitter-patter of the rain on window panes

...the rustle of leaves as the trees sway

...the feeling when a child smiles back at you

...walking amid the bustle of the city streets

...birds flying in tandem into the sunset

...the trail of a jet as it fades faraway in the blue sky

...the smell of the soil after the first rain

...the chirping of birds at dawn

...a long drive on a country road

...the view from a mountain at dusk

...that feeling when what you were thinking of actually happens!

...a dark blue night sky sprinkled with twinkling stars and a crescent moon

...sitting on a beach wishing the sun would never dip into the ocean

...a woman's warm, beautiful smile

...the thrill of achievement against all odds

...the fluffy white cloud in a light blue sky

...the warmth that kindness brings to the heart

...a riot of colours on a dynamic canvas

...hearing your favourite song at a cafe, ever growing love

...quietening of the mind to hear the soul sing

...priceless, every reason to live it fully

...the thrill of these words pouring out on my screen

Friday, 26 September 2014

Tip Toeing Her Way To Success

The sun had not yet risen, the skies were mellow. The golden sands of the beach were inviting..she hesitated for a moment. How pristine, undisturbed is the beach, unburdened by any feet on it. Swept clean by the change of tides the night before and unsullied by tourists who would come in later in the day. How dare I be the intruder, thought she?

She then gingerly tip toed with her arms swaying to maintain her balance.

One, two, three.....
step number twenty three...
twenty nine, thirty, thirty one, thirty two, thirty three,
few more, that will be fifty, I'll be free! said she

Forty six, forty seven...screaming she swiveled on her heels
A mean black German Shepherd was hot on her heels

The leash had by now restrained the dog, barking
Our lady not knowing this, kept running

The barking pierced the quiet, there was disarray
Footprints were now here, there, everywhere

She rushed straight into his arms panting
He embraced her, burst out laughing

How can you laugh at me, demanded she
Don't you know what this meant to me?

Hey, come on cheer up, said he
There's always a way, trust me.

They sat down on the beach. He kept his camera aside. She was wistfully throwing pebbles into the waves.

Turning to him she said, the rising sun glowing in her eyes, "I fell short by just three steps!" she ruefully turned around to see the messed up sand."You would have shot the perfect image for my story~ how expressive a visual metaphor it would have been! Footprints on sand have been done to death. Just the imprints of me tip toeing..Wow! Wouldn't it have been so symbolic and memorable for my own success story? I had even thought of a central theme that went perfectly with it~
"A woman quietly tip toes her way to success."

He put his arm around her.
"Nothing has been lost. We could try this out once again tomorrow. And not on this side of the beach where your doggy friend has a taken a liking to you!"

Then he looked straight into her eyes and said, "I have a better idea. Look, you are a renowned storyteller. You could always come up with a new, better theme for your success story!"

Friday, 19 September 2014

Like Father Like Daughter?

Yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, that is an understatement~ I was overjoyed by my 9 year old daughter Diti's storytelling skills. She has always been creative and has a vivid imagination. (In the picture above she's seen painting the pot that she had crafted with help of a skilled potter).

However, the story that she had written yesterday surpassed any of her creative endeavours. It had been written as practice for her School exams and she was limited by the first few lines provided in her worksheet, which she had to develop further into a full story, that too within twenty minutes. Without bragging any further about it, I'll share her handiwork~ it's entirely her creation.

The Magical Sword

Once there was a merchant named Rasham. He lived in the hills of Himachal Pradesh and had gone to Jaipur in Rajasthan for business. After finishing his work he was riding back home. He had a bag which had a large sum of money. Suddenly there was a storm and it started raining heavily. The merchant thought " this cotton bag is full of money which will get wet in the rain. If I don't find a safe place I'll loose all my money!" He was searching for shelter but he could not find any such place. He thought God was cruel. But he did not lose hope and tried again to find shelter.

At last he found a hut and maybe he could stay there until the storm ended. A crying man opened the door of the hut and let him in.

'Why are you crying', asked Rasham.

"Yesterday some robbers came here and told me to give them one lakh rupees. If I did not do as they said, they said they would kill me. I am very poor. Where will I get the money to pay them?" cried the poor man.

The merchant felt bad for the poor man . He asked him where did the robbers live.

"Two kilometers from away from my hut"

The merchant went as he was told and saw the hut. From the hut people looking like robbers came out. The robbers told the merchant to give them the bag of money. The merchant tried to escape as he got scared. The robbers fired at him but because of the rain the pistol had got wet and did not go off!

Then the merchant saw a sword and with it he killed all the robbers! On his way back home, he went to the poor man's hut who thanks him for saving his life. Then he reached his home safe.

As soon as he enters his house he sees a wonderful sight~ he sees the same poor man as God! He then realises the truth and thanks God for saving his life.

God tells him, "The sword with which you killed the robbers was a magical sword"

The merchant replies, "Despite me calling you cruel, you saved my life"

"No, it was you who saved a poor man's life and with all your might you bravely fought with the robbers".

The merchant bowed before God.
~Diti Nallawala

It is not only Diti's imagination that impressed me nor her story writing skills alone. Does she also have that spiritual streak in her~ Like Father Like Daughter?

A story I had written with an uncannily similar ending (which she hasn't read)~
The Three Priests And Their Guru

Monday, 8 September 2014

Walking On A Beach

It's early morning
alone on the beach am walking

No one around me
as far as the eye can see

Except for the birds, charming
and the music of their chirping

And the stray dog, the vagabond
sniffing, rummaging in the sand

The swaying palm trees 
and their 
rustling leaves 

The crashing of the waves
and rhythmic exchange of crests

The swirling wind embraces me
scared, a crab darts away from me

The smell of the salt in the air
the sheer freshness of the air

Just the vast blue skies above me
bare foot, feel the cool wet sands below me

Eyes devour all the glory
even as each moment is a new story.

The gentle morning sun rises
paints the skies in riotous hues

The horizon rapidly changes colours
dispelling dawn, a new day arrives

Retracing my footprints, reluctantly
 walk back into the day, slowly

Monday, 4 August 2014

Travelling with my Eyes Closed

It is a typical morning. Seated in my room, my eyes shut. The darkness is familiar and comforting. At first the thoughts stream in. Without resisting I allow them to float about in my mind, knowing that resisting them won't drive them away.

Gradually the thoughts quieten and my mind is relaxed just like dust in stirred up water slowly settles down. I now begin my visualisation exercise, allowing my mind to embark on journeys which are invigorating. As my mind becomes quieter, my ability to create my own exotic reality expands ~ soon I can sense my physical being reach out beyond the dimensions of my body. Yes, this actually happens and experts say that is my Aura expanding. Practice of many years has strengthened my Aura.

It begins with my head (mind?) as I feel a bubble of sorts extending on all sides except that this bubble isn't filled with air, it is my consciousness that powers it. I first establish my whereabouts..feeling my feet which are in contact with the floor, the floor extends into the apartment building, the foundation of which runs deep into the ground ~ a graphic exercise in Mindfulness. In contrast to this I sense me being distinct from my physical self. I begin to rise above where I am seated, gradually at first, then completely breaking free, at first rising above the vast urban landscape, now soaring among the clouds.

I am actually seated on a fluffy white cloud, levitating, the soothing blue sky enveloping me. Unlike skydivers who are in a free fall, I rise above in a yogic cross-legged asana! The view is as panoramic as that from a an observer of my imaginary body many miles below me. Far below me, I 'watch myself in my normal world', I experience the joy of detachment, of watching myself from afar, devoid of emotional involvement. The bliss is for real and is exhilarating!

After having spent a good half hour thus, I find myself (and my consciousness) back to where it began. Having enjoyed the ride thoroughly, my mind is primed to let go of thoughts entirely for a few moments. Those few moments of utter thoughtlessness energize me beyond description. Reluctantly I allow myself to be drawn back to reality. Before I gently open my eyes, His image invariably forms in my mind and I say my prayer without words, a prayer of gratitude for the magnificent time I had.

My journeys explore many glorious vistas, enjoys many revelations each morning, rarely revisiting a previous experience.

So why not join me in my journey tomorrow? 

Friday, 27 June 2014

A Refreshing Walk Among Nature

Yes, like everything else, research now tells us walking among natural surroundings boosts creativity and reduces stress. Must the last of our pastimes be validated too?

'All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking'
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Any case, there I was on one late afternoon, enjoying a walk among the greens.The weather was just right: a light breeze blowing, rustling of tree leaves, the peculiar scent of the reddish-brown mud, bright butterflies flitting by and the chirping of birds was the only sound I could hear. I was all by myself. Idyllic setting! 

Enjoying these surroundings, drinking in all the sights, smells and sounds is a great experience: it helps me become one with nature and immerse myself in God's creation.

I must have walked for half an hour, lost in my own world when the noises began piercing the silence. A group of tumultuous young boys was running in toward me from the opposite direction. Laughter, shouting and the buzz of activity interrupted the tranquil landscape. I chose to continue waking on, knowing that they would walk past me in a short while, and let me enjoy my reverie once again.

One of the boys stopped and pointed at a large tree. He picked up a stone and hurled it at the tree. 
All hell broke lose then. He had stirred up a bee hive and the angered bees set after the boys. The terrified boys scampered away as fast as they could. I don't know whether they managed to outrun the bees or the the bees got to them first. I chose not to panic. I remained still. 

After a few minutes, things were back to normal and I walked on. I came across a small stream and sat on a large boulder watching the gurgling water. Couldn't help thinking of the incident. Of course, boys will be boys, I smiled to myself. Aren't we all often guilty of the same in our ways?

I realised that this incident was an excellent metaphor for the way our minds work. The walk among nature symbolises mindfulness, the ability to enjoy our immediate surroundings, take in the small joys, live in the now. One can excuse the small boys' misdemeanor to childish mischievousness.

Think about what we do to our minds. Do I need to be walking among the greens to be relaxed, fully enjoying the moment?

Thoughts are the honeybees that we ourselves stir up to destroy our tranquility.
Think we must, undoubtedly. However, is there any point in stirring up thoughts that rake up negative emotions, painful memories: that too without any provocation? Aren't we sometimes 'predisposed' to falling into this trap? Of trading away the peace of mind for an army of thoughts which will take us nowhere.

Sitting there, as I watched the stream flowing by , I said to myself: why don't we allow our past to go by us? Water which once passes downstream does not return, does it? Why do we choose to hold on to our past, refuse to let go of it?

Why then, do we this to ourselves almost everyday of our lives? If it is not the past or negative emotions, our next pastime is worrying about the future. I am guilty of this as any of you might be. To a certain extent, Meditation has helped me detach myself from such 'toxic thoughts' even when I am not meditating.

The reset button brings my serenity back.
A virtual walk in the woods, with or without the bees.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Father's Day Makes Me Feel So Special!

Two moments of life have been extra special. The first one was when the nurse handed over the bundle of joy to me at an unearthly hour: we were at the Hospital, my mind was in a stage beyond nervousness..around predawn, my baby was born.

'It's a girl' the nurse informed us. It was an anti climax of sorts. Mom and I were fervently wishing that Khyati would give birth to a baby girl. Sis and Khyati wanted a boy. Now here I was holding the little baby in my arms, I had prayed to God it be a girl and girl it was. She had been born without a fuss, just as we would have wanted. Maybe it was all the adrenalin in my system that had now drained me of all emotion. Happy? Yes. Delirious? No. Too benumbed for that.

About the second moment:The baby was less than a month old when I used to wrap her tightly

in a cotton cloth as many Indians do. It was evening time and I was pacing about in the room, holding her, the baby's head nestled against my shoulder. It was an exquisite feeling: realising that I was actually a father, she was my child, our child! That I had fathered a child at an advanced age (I had crossed forty at that time, Khyati thirty nine) made me value it more. For some reason, my connection to Diti was its most intense at that moment. I felt blissful holding the beautiful baby.

Life was never the same again after Diti's birth. I sensed I had to be more responsible, caring and sensitive to the family's needs.

Meanwhile, how swiftly the nine years have flown by is simply amazing! Watching her grow has been a source of joy and pride. Her first step, first words, her eagerly trying to form sentences....and my waiting for when she could have a meaningful conversation with me..

Vacations and activities have become centered around Diti. As I have been working from home since a number of years and my work hours are flexible, we get a lot of time to spend with each other. Being a Bipolar, I sometimes wonder if the child misses the life she would have otherwise spent with a 'normal' father? I comfort myself by reassuring myself that at least I am trying my very best to be a good father. She is not a demanding child, though. We have a playful, fun filled relationship. If I'm separated from her for even a few days, it's tough to bear.

I am sharing what I had posted on Facebook when Diti was on a long vacation last month and work pressures meant I could not join them. These words sum up my bonding with her.

Missing you Diti.
You and Khyati have been away just for a week,
yet the week seems stretched like a year
Have never been separated from you beyond a few days
Can't wait till you come back next week
Although I know you are having the time of your life,
Playing with snow which you have never set your eyes upon!
Away from the summer heat, surrounded by icy peaks
Your sweet voice on the phone is no solace
Craving to hear stories of excitement and fun!
Just can't wait for you, darling
those few days till I can hug you to my heart's content.
Until then, play on with the snow...

Thank you Khyati for a gift I'll ever cherish, thank you Diti, you made me a father.

Happy Father's Day!!

Friday, 6 June 2014

God, my Robot Anita and I

Anita, my personal robot keeps arguing with me on just about anything our minds can grasp. This time it was about whether God exists or not.

'Look, I am a child of science', she said with pride. 'Made in a sophisticated laboratory and powered by the wonders of technology. I believe what I see, what science can prove. My master is the one who created me. I don't believe your God exists'

I swiveled in my chair and pointing to a painting, asked Anita.
Do you see this? Describe what you see.

'It's just a portrait of a lady. Let me see..' She walked across the room to have a closer look.
'What's the big deal? It's just a piece of canvas mounted on a wooden frame.
Any case, weren't you trying to prove God's existence? Why are you side tracking the issue now?'

Be patient. What's on the canvas?

'There's oil paint: many hues, many layers of it'

Go on.

'Well, the subject is a semi clad woman: if she had  known that a man like you is ogling her, she's have had the sense to be dressed up! She's got two eyes, a face, two arms, two legs and what should have been covered if she had been half decent, two ------.'

That'll suffice, you see, we are a family blog.
Would you agree the lady is exquisitely beautiful?

Now this made see Anita see red. A woman is a woman even if she is a robot. Her vanity had been challenged~ 
she was a finely crafted, graceful piece of work herself.

'What's so beautiful about her? You men find almost every woman beautiful!'

I turned to my pretty vivacious, Sheilla, who had been listening to our banter in amusement while 
sitting by my side.  

Isn't the lady in the painting stunning? The artist's fine use of light and shadow, the infinitesimally delicate brush strokes.. Just look at her eyes, her half smile..she takes me to another world..sublime!
I smiled.

Our experience of God is similar. A bit like appreciating a fine piece of art.
Excessive analysis and logical thinking drowns the voice of the soul and distances us from God. The soul sees the picture in its entirety. The whole magnificence of it. The whole naked truth, as truth always is. The sheer natural beauty of it that it drinks in with love and awe.

We can experience God's beauty only through the eyes of our souls.

So, Anita, show me where is your soul. Did your creator gift you with one?

Saturday, 17 May 2014

A Momentous Day In The History Of Independent India

Narendra-Modi.  Pic courtesy

May 16, 2014 will go down as a day that could well change the fortunes of modern India forever: for the better. The General Elections have voted the BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) under the dynamic leadership of Narendra Modi, to power with a resounding majority.

Whereas the BJP needed 272 seats (out of the Lok Sabha's 543) for a clear majority, it won a stunning 282 on its own! As a pre-poll alliance, NDA (National Democratic Alliance), of which the BJP contributed a lion's share, tallied 334. The Congress suffered the ignominy of not even troubling three digits: it plunged to a historic low of 44 seats.

To put things in a perspective, in Uttar Pradesh alone the BJP beat the Congress' National tally by winning 71! Some of the big names bit the dust in this process.
This comprehensive infographic is a good guide to Ellections2014 Results

The stand outs of this win are:
  • Narendra Modi is set to be the first Prime Minister to have been born in independent India
  • Modi has led his party, the BJP, to its highest ever LS tally.
  • For the first time in 30 years since the 1984 elections, a single party has managed to secure an absolute majority.
  • His charismatic, focused leadership has been the key to the NDA's spectacular victory.
  • Modi cleverly leveraged the power of Social Media and the Internet on a scale unprecedented in the annals of election campaigning in India: this extended his reach to the youth who in turn became willing campaigners on his behalf. The build-up began more than six months before D-Day!
  • The results are a crushing blow to the ruling Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
  • While there were clean sweeps by BJP in Gujarat and Rajasthan, their traditional strongholds, the totally unexpected 71 seats in Uttar Pradesh have been a crucial swing in favour of the BJP.

Stats apart, what do the results signify?

After decades India has a stable government at the helm, unfettered by destructive coalition politics. The outgoing UPA govt. often lamented about how 'compulsions of a coalition' hampered their decision making and stalled progressive reforms.

One can accuse Modi of anything but indecision. His three terms as Chief Minister of Gujarat have been marked by a strong administration that has facilitated rapid growth of infrastructure and industrialisation of the state: a development model that has been the envy of its neighboring states.

Modi's inspiring story of a meteoric rise from a tea vendor to successful CM of Gujarat and now finally, Prime Minister of India is the stuff that could fire the imagination of fiction writers. This has also endeared him to the populace as him being 'one of us'.

Most importantly though, it is his spotless, corruption free image that makes Modi stand apart and has possibly been the single biggest factor in his landslide win (I say 'his' win because without his charismatic leadership, brilliant track record to support his agenda, administrative skills, the BJP stood little chance of scoring this big.) The UPA-2's rule was marked by one corruption scandal after another. The fiasco of the Commonwealth Games, the 2G auctions to 'coal-gate': all of these scams ran into tens of thousands of crores: a colossal drain on National resources.

Added to this, poor governance under the UPA, callousness toward the needs of the country, sky rocketing prices and economic policies (or rather the lack of them) that crippled growth had alienated the electorate to a point of no return. Therefore in addition to being a 'Pro-Modi' mandate, which it undoubtedly is, it is also a resounding 'No' to the Congress led UPA. All the scams and non-performance made the path to New Delhi easier for Modi.

As a people, what should we expect and demand from our to be Prime Minister?

  • Firstly, secularism has been the foundation of India: every effort needs to be made to make the minorities feel secure, give them a reassurance that they are wanted in India.
    The radical elements within the alliance as well as those who lend the NDA critical support from outside it are a concern. 
  • Often in the past, brilliant opportunities have been frittered away by Governments who have abused their majorities in the LS. Under the leadership of a visionary like Modi, India is at the cusp of an incredibly exciting time. His biggest advantage is not having to depend on any coalition partner to get important legislation cleared. Also, his undisputed leadership of his own party is a big plus.
  • Long overdue economics reforms need to be addressed at the earliest:those pertaining to Insurance and Pension sectors, Labour laws, Land reforms, boosts to FDI, Power sector reforms. Transparent, fair and stable policies will stimulate growth.
  • For long, entrepreneurs and industry have been crushed under vexed taxation laws, land acquisition issues and most importantly, poor infrastructure. Massive investments neede in Power, Ports, Roads and Highways and Airport areas.
  • The bugbear of India which has haunted the common man the most at every level has been corruption. Although it is virtually impossible to weed out this malaise from a people who have been brought up on giving and receiving bribes to make things easier, the least that could be done is that the people at the helm are seen to be honest.
After the dust has settled, Modi will first have to ensure that the egos within party are suitably dealt with while forming the cabinet. The next step would be to undertake a massive repair job: undoing the extensive damage wreaked on the country under UPA's misrule.

A challenge of mammoth proportions. If any single person could take India to the next level of progress, leapfrog over the quagmire it finds itself in, Modi is that man.

Mr. Modi, over a billion people's hopes, including mine, are now pinned on you.
As a people, we too have a responsibility~ having given you such a stunning mandate, we need to rise above partisanship and divisive interests and support you in the immense task ahead of you.

This time around, I have a feeling you will rise to the occasion. Looking forward to a resurgent India!

Jai Hind!

Friday, 9 May 2014

A Fine Day To Express Gratitude

My sister and I share almost the same values yet manage to contest just about anything the other says! 

'Why does one have to express gratitude is beyond my understanding'
She challenged me. 'gratitude felt from the heart is good enough'

As usual, our thoughts differ on this one too! 
To me, Gratitude, one of the most powerful enablers, has three stages.

  • Acknowledging a person's contribution, however small it is in your life
  • Feeling it from deep within.
  • Expressing it: how else do we communicate to the recipients?
    Imagine deeply respecting and loving your parents but never thanking them for what they have done for you!
" If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough” ~ Meister Eckhart
What makes this a special day to be grateful? Actually, everyday is just about perfect for expressing gratitude. Have been wanting to get down to this on my Blog for a long time, decided there has been enough of the procrastination. (Grateful for my ability to act now!)

1) Grateful for the abundance in my life, that I do not have to scrounge for food, have a roof above my head and in a country where the quality of life of the majority is abysmal, our family has at least the basic material comforts we would need.

2) Grateful for all the wonderful teachers in my life. Some in a formal role at school (one in particular who towered about the rest of them, Brother Murphy) and in college (Principal Kodolikar), others who taught me great lessons of life without being assigned any role.

3) Grateful for my uniqueness. 
That I am the only one of my kind in this universe. With all my imperfections, my skills, my strengths: I am me, would not trade myself for any body else. 

4) Grateful, eternally, to my late uncle: (do read the tribute to this great man in the linked tribute!) for taking care of us when we needed you the most. Not a night passes by without you blessing me in my dreams.

5) Grateful for my challenges. They made me humble and compassionate, outward looking from the self centered me which I originally was.

6) Grateful to my wonderful immediate and extended family including my cousins, aunts and uncles.. all of you have supported me through thick and thin, the very reason I have not turned completely altruistic: your love and my responsibility to all of you make me pragmatic and a realist. Mom, Sis, my wife and daughter: love you all!

7) Grateful to all the Doctors who have kept me alive, helped me live a life as full as I am now

8) Grateful to my selfless Mentors and Gurus: special mention here to magnanimous souls who are shaping my life: 
  • Jennifer Sertl, "may your story be fire and we'll wish for wind . . ."                    Grateful for your encouragement and inspirational mentoring!
  • Dr.Amit Nagpal, Personal Branding Guru, more power to you!
  • Puneet Bhatnagar , we did start the fire!! (apologies to Billy Joel).

9) Grateful for my ability to embrace the 'big' in life, to rise above issues and problems that could have bogged me down, to instead dream big, bigger beyond my own dreams!

10) Grateful to all my colleagues and associates of my previous careers, who are still very much a part of my life. You gave me the belief that I could compete with the best, your expectations of me raised the bar.

11) Grateful for the one skill that has liberated me more than any other: writing and of course, you readers: your feedback and support has helped me chisel out any doubts about my ability.

12) Grateful to Social Media! The thousands of friends and connections on various platforms, the groups and communities: you have enriched my intellect, made me wiser, expanded my universe manifold.

13) Grateful for the ability to be of service to a community that desperately needs it what with an estimated eighteen million Indians afflicted with the disabling Bipolar Disorder. Having recovered from it, I am now in a position to share my insights and leverage support for this cause: of course, it does not at the borders of this country. The vision is global

14) Grateful for my ability to take risks, huge risks at times. Have switched careers, taken life changing decisions, seemingly impulsively but more often than not, my gut instinct was borne out by the outcome.

15) Grateful for my ability to smile, be empathetic, find calmness through meditation and reflection.

16) Grateful for all the resources that shaped my thinking: all those inspiring books, movies, conversations, comic books, places...

17) Grateful for my ability to forgive and move on. It so happened that in my childhood, I had expended the bulk of anger and grudges on my late father whom we were separated from.
Maybe, there was no more anger or resentment left in me. Without being forgiving how can one be grateful?

18) Grateful, finally, to you God. You lifted me up during all crises, send me guardian angels who I only now recognise as Your messengers. You led me on the path of spiritual cleansing, a path that made me rise above the entrapment of this material world, made me realise what was truly worth cherishing.
You enlightened me about my purpose in life, a purpose that I have embraced with relish.

 After having completed this Blog post, 
I turned to Sis.
'Before I forget, am grateful to you.' I said 'You stood by me like a Rock of Gibraltar through thick and thin and continue to guide me. Without your prompt intervention, I doubt I would have survived my health crises on so many occasions. Your selflessness, wisdom and sensitivity inspire me. Thank you!'

Friday, 25 April 2014

My Spiritual Journey Answered All My Questions

'We are spirits, in a material world' ~ Rock Band, The Police

We are born into this material world where our perceptions of our surroundings are ruled by the senses, what can be seen, felt, heard and smelt occupy our minds the most. As a natural consequence, we spend a majority of our lives pursuing objects and pastimes that please our senses. As our desires get fulfilled, new ones give birth in this unquenchable cycle.

Inner satisfaction is elusive. Despite of our best attempts to please our senses they are insatiable because they are dependent on external stimuli. Wisdom dawns on us more often when we are guided by a spiritual master, rarely by introspection. 
Was I any different? Although I have been a devotee of God for the most part of my life, the questions 'who was I praying to', 'why was I praying' were unimportant to me.My belief in God was so total that I did not care to dig deeply within myself.

However, 'Who am I', 'What is the purpose of my life' and 'What happens to me at death' were facets of life that puzzled me. 
Serendipity brought enlightenment. I was at my in-laws and had heard a few sentences being read out from the Gita to bring peace to the soul of my mother-in-law who had recently passed away. As most of the other religious sermons I normally had been hearing were in a language unknown to me, Sanskrit, my mind used to drift away.  However these words being read out in my mother tongue made so much sense that I began listening with rapt attention. As it happened, they had a spare copy of the Gita, which I readily accepted.

Around the same time, my sister was hospitalised for a week on account of her dengue illness. I volunteered to be by her side for the week that she was there. An excellent opportunity to read the Gita without being disturbed. That week changed my life: no, this is not an exaggeration. Introspection can get one only this far, a spiritual master throws light in the darkest recesses of the mind. 
Bhagavad Gita As It Is was and is my spiritual master. It made me understand life, myself and my relationship with God with great clarity. Not only were all my Whys, Whos and Hows answered but I was blessed with fundamental insights that shaped my life.

Can a Book do this?
'In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmological philosophy of Bhagavad-Gita, in comparison to which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial'  ~ Henry David Thoreau
So what did I learn from the Gita?
Yes, we are indeed spirits in a material world. Trapped, seeking to break free.
Karmayoga is the first rung on the path to spiritual advancement. For survival, man has to work in order to satisfy his own and his family's basic needs. Karmayoga in its truest sense means doing one's work as duty without expectation of any fruit from one's labour. It does not mean one should give up all familial ties and responsibilities or live the life of a monk. In fact, fulfilling one's duties is a Karmayogi's way of life. The core of Karmayoga is detachment from the fruits of all work. Even while engaging in work, we thus free ourselves from material bondage

Yoga is
 perceived by the majority as Ashtanga Yoga: physical exercises (asanas) that are
practiced for well being. Actually, Yoga is a way of life."Yoga is balance – in body, in social relations, in thinking, in emotion, in understanding, and in the very being itself."
This is not to suggest that the conventionally practiced Yoga is of little use: in fact it is immensely beneficial. I am alive because of my eighteen years of Yoga practice. Understanding Yoga as a way of life changes the way one approaches it.

Meditation is another much misunderstood process. Some tell me it is focusing on one's breath. Concentration on just thing (candle light for instance) is someone else's conception.
These are just the steps to prime your mind.So what really is meditation?
A state of thoughtless awareness. It is only when the mind has been emptied of relentless thoughts that you can experience a tranquility unlike any other. This connects you to your Soul. A divine experience.

I had posted a thought on a Facebook Spirituality Group. The moderator gently reminded me that this Group was about Spirituality not God. I promptly deleted my post. I could not fathom this disconnect between 'spirituality' in this sense and God. Obviously the term spirituality has to imply that we are spirits, not material bodies. Our bodies are mere vehicles of the Souls. The body goes through the same life cycle routine for everybody: Birth, growth, old age, death? What then? Is that all there is to it? 
We take birth again and in new vehicles(bodies) for the soul, birth after birth.Our souls are immortal, unborn and indestructible. If that sounds incredible, who is the Creator of our Souls? Evolution can account only for our material bodies. Thus what is spirituality if not our connection to God? Spirituality without acknowledging God is similar to breathing without inhaling air.

The Supreme Soul, God is not only my Creator but of the Universe, too.
Dr.Brian Weiss, a Psychiatrist, in his seminal work, Many Masters Many Lives has documented research in past lives and reincarnation, revealing how his patients recalled lives with minute details from as early as the stone ages! There was a distinct thread between past and present lives of his patients ( the karmic cycle). The NDE (Near Death Experiences) recorded by him also narrate an uncannily similar experience by all his patients: all of them being welcomed by God. His findings resonate a lot with the teachings of the Gita. Since I had read the Gita much earlier (now am onto my fifth reading), this research validated all my beliefs (not that I needed any!).

('bhaktiyoga is devotional service) the most powerful of them all. The Gita
itself says that in the stressful lives we live, it is virtually impossible to read all the scriptures, follow every prescribed ritual. By devoting all my energies to Him, by accepting Him as my Supreme Master, the reason of my very existence, I detach myself from all wordly attachments, while still fulfilling all my duties to family and society.

The Bhagavad Gita offered me a simple, easy to follow path:

  1. Karmayoga: work without being attached o the fruits of my work ( I learnt that I was a mere custodian of all my possessions, therefore, it was futile coveting them)
  2. AshtangaYoga and Meditation: were tools to conquer my wandering mind. The mind is the biggest barrier between me and bliss. It is thus said, 'conquer your mind, conquer the world'
  3. Bhaktiyoga:  By focusing all my attention on Him, thinking of Him as often as I can and by being grateful to Him, I have discovered the easiest way of surrendering to Him.
As for God. The Creator of the wondrous universe, who ensures its smooth functioning with clock-work precision, the Supreme Soul who sits in my soul and yours too.
How do I describe You, God?

Just wish to bask in Your Glory, just wish to surrender to You.

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