A Birthday Celebration in Chennai

We celebrated our grandson’s first birthday last week in Chennai. The religious function is called AYUSH HOMAM meaning a Homam (fire ritual)performed for longevity, health and prosperity of the child. Among several religious functions celebrated in South India, this one can, perhaps, be rated as the shortest & the sweetest!  It’s sweet for more than one reason. For one thing, it takes hardly an hour and a half to complete the ritual. Secondly, the atmosphere is completely informal and light. Also, there is no time pressure for anyone – neither for the direct participants nor for the guests. Once started, everyone knows that events will move smoothly on autopilot mode which means all of us can completely relax.

Physicists theorize about several parallel universes. Here, under one roof, one can actually experience many worlds.

The world of priests chanting away enchanting Samaveda is complete by itself. A rare breed of six priests, well versed in Samaveda, went about their task of singing the musical Vedic mantras gloriously, unconcerned about the audience. The mantras are derived from Rik Veda and one can actually describe Samaveda as Rigveda set to a certain musical tune. Samaveda, according to one interpretation, was sung by our Rishis, when they were in a trance experiencing Brahman (Brahm-ananda). Sama, by the way, is considered the foremost among the four Vedas. That’s why Lord Krishna declares in Gita – “Among Vedas, I’m Samaveda”.

While almost none from the audience was following or listening to the musical mantras being chanted, there was one knowledgeable octogenarian who was listening intently. He pointed out later that one important section of the Veda was not chanted by the priests!

Men & women belonging to generation X formed their own groups and were seen chatting away in clusters.

The middle-aged and somewhat older adults got together in separate groups.They were also completely relaxed pulling each other’s leg and  engaged in hot political debates. Yes, if you’re debating GST or DeMo, it has got to be hot.

The chef and his team formed yet another world who were busy serving hot beverages, special delicacies and lunch. This group is perhaps next only to the priests in importance in the successful celebration of the function.

Amidst all this, children were having fun all by themselves running around.

And last but not the least, it’s the  world of the infant all by himself in whose name everyone gathered. He was the cynosure of all eyes.The little one seemed to be completely confused and was perhaps wondering what the fuss was all about. With so many strangers trying to hold him or cajole or coax him, making all kinds of noisy gestures, humour him, feed him, kiss him, he was looking completely nonplussed. When he smiled by default, everyone laughed in chorus. He was, however, unusually calm and well-behaved in spite of  the fact that his privacy was being invaded right, left and centre. Here are a few pics of the little hero:

 

And finally, what does the little fellow say about the celebration? Here’s a beautiful video shot which captures his reaction. Isn’t he saying: Please…Please….. leave me alone….Enough is enough?

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Published in: on October 1, 2017 at 9:21 pm  Comments (1)  
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Riddles in Vedanta(Upanishads)

Zen masters are well-known to use riddles (or Koans) as a preferred method of teaching. However, the origin of riddles dates back to Vedanta or Upanishads much before Zen koans came into existence. In this post I will try to present one such riddle straight from Keenopanishad. Here the riddles are presented in the form of seemingly contradictory statements. The resolution of the contradictions leads to understanding.

The Upanishad starts with a question from a student: Willed by whom or prompted by whose presence, do the sense organs perform their functions such as seeing, hearing, speaking, thinking or breathing?

The teacher says: “It’s the self (Atman or Brahman) which is indeed the ear of the ear, eye of the eye, speech of the speech” etc. The implication is that the ear, eyes, mind, organs of speech etc perform their functions merely by virtue of the invariable presence of the self, the Atman. He elaborates further saying that eyes, ears, organs of speech or the mind cannot objectify the Self or Atman. The student is confused. He wants to know if nothing can objectify the self, how does one arrive at this knowledge? The teacher says in exasperation: We do not know how to impart this knowledge except to say that Brahman is different from anything known or unknown! The teacher elaborates further: Brahman(Atman) is that which is not revealed by speech, eyes, ears or the mind but it’s that because of which all these organs function.

Just as some clarity seemed to be emerging, the teacher bowls yet another googly: “If you think you know Brahman very well, then you know very little of Brahman’s nature”. The implication of this statement is that Brahman is not an object to be known.

Now it’s the turn of one smart student to respond. He says: “I consider It known to me”. The teacher was taken aback by this bold statement. Therefore, the student explains himself: “I do not consider that I know Brahman well – Nor do I not know.  I know and also do not know”. Then the student makes a final remark: Whoever understands my statement above also understands Brahman.

As the dialogue between the student and the teacher ends, the Upanishad, picking  up the thread, sums up thus: Brahman is known to him who does not consider it an object of knowledge. He who considers it as yet another object of knowledge will never ever come to know Brahman. For those who really know, it’s not known (as an object of knowledge) and for those who do not know really, it’s known (as an object of knowledge).

This entire dialogue and even the summary of the last paragraph will surely drive anyone mad if it’s not taught by a competent teacher. The student surely needs a teacher who has himself studied under a tradition-bound teacher. It’s the way in which the words of the Sruti are handled by a teacher that makes these mantras meaningful.

Finally, the  Upanishad gives clarity in the mantra 4 of chapter 2. In this famous mantra, the mystery is finally unravelled. It declares: PRATI BODHA VIDITAM MATAM.

The Upanishad says in this mantra:Brahman manifests in every cognition and every experience. One does not have to go after a special experience to experience Brahman. He is present in and through every experience! Indeed it’s the invariable presence of Brahman which makes the Jagat what it is.

This mantra, if properly understood, will dismiss all schools of philosophies which say that Brahman is beyond all thoughts and hence one has to dive deep within and wait for that special experience. On the contrary, this Upanishad highlights that with proper understanding, one can experience Him in every thought and cognitive experience. If one probes this statement further, it will lead to Advaita philosophy(non-dualism)

Towards the end of the Upanishad, an interesting story is presented to drive home the message.

 

 

 

Published in: on September 16, 2017 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Our Innate Gender Categorization

Here’s a confession that a good friend of mine made to me recently when our city went under water:

“As you are aware Mumbai is swimming in the floods of the Monsoon. This left my young grandson alone in his flat in CBD Belapur. His mother is in Jaipur, and his father is incarcerated by the deluge in his Prabhadevi Office. We have all been concerned, and have been in contact with Omkar constantly, more so his grand mother, my Lady Wife, through Phone, Messaging, WhatsAp and other devices.
Omkar and I use the German language for communication, to improve that of both of us . Omkar WhatsApped me just now saying, in German, which I translate “Don’t worry about my food, Grand dad. Lalitha Bai has just come in”.
My friend continued: “Frankly Doktor, I do not know this Lalitha Bai, but I guess from her name that this must be a woman. My first relief on hearing this information was great. Soon I bit my tongue in remorse and shame. Why do I assume that a woman MUST be competent enough to take care of such situations, in fact it is her duty? Would I have been equally relieved if somebody called Salman Khan ( the very name oozes masculinity!) had arrived at the Flat? In fact in my sympathy I would have said that makes two starving fellows! Omkar too is guilty of the usual Indian foible. He implies, Lalitha Bai is here, so she will cook me some food. He does not say she is here, so I do not have to be alone. Mea Culpa, Hr. geehrter Doktor!”

I wrote back to him saying: “Yes, this categorization of genders is deeply ingrained in the Indian psyche. Not many would even realize they are guilty of this. I added further:  I would have responded exactly like you under similar circumstances. I must also confess to you as I would have failed the test too. Thanks for making me conscious of this. As J Krishnamurthy says being attentive and aware itself can be a transformative experience”.

Later, I put myself a question – what accounts for this innate tendency of men in India to  categorize gender in terms of stereotyped roles? The answer came a few days later in the form of a Whatsup Post from my daughter. In her post she shared a lesson my granddaughter was taught in her preschool. Here are the questions and the dictated answers:

Q. Who takes care of the family? Ans:Mother

Q. Who earns money for the family? Ans:Father

Q. Who tells you stories at home? Ans: Grandma and grandpa

My daughter was furious. She wanted to know whether the female teachers teaching this lesson are working for free. Are they not being paid their salaries? She says rightly that even in India the society is changing fast and the roles of men and women are far more flexible today. Are the teachers living in 1980s?

It’s ironical that the very female teachers who are earning teach children a lesson which is completely out of line with the present day realities.

It’s perhaps this kind of teaching early in our childhood and our upbringing that makes us think in terms of stereotypical roles for men and women. Brainwashing children at an impressionable age goes in the name of teaching in India.

 

 

Published in: on September 9, 2017 at 10:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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An Inspiring Parable of a Songbird

It’s said that the hardest thing in one’s life is to figure out what one ought to do. Doing is relatively easier once we have clarity on what  to do. As the 19th century philosopher Nietzsche said:  No one can build the bridge on which You and you alone must cross the river of life.

Here’s a sweet tale of a songbird in a book titled The Blue Songbird by Kousky which beautifully highlights this insight:

It’s spring time and a blue songbird in a golden island admiringly listens to the sweet singing of her siblings each morning. She desperately longs to be part of the singing group and makes repeated efforts. However, she could never get the tune right. This frustrates and depresses the songbird. She concludes pathetically that there is no song in this world which she could sing. So she goes to her wise mother and asks her : “Is there any song in the world which I alone could sing”. Her mother counsels her lovingly: Get out of the comfort of the nest, go and find that special song which you alone can sing.

Encouraged and inspired by her mother, she decides to fly across the great seas in search of her special song. Crossing oceans over several days, the bird finds a long-necked crane and seeks her advice and help to find the unique song which she alone could sing. The crane has no answer. However, she points towards a far off mountain on the horizon which is the abode of the wisest bird and tells her : Go and ask the wisest and the oldest bird.

With courage and determination, the songbird goes flying again in the direction pointed by the crane. She flies deep into the forest and finds an old owl who simply hoots and frightens her away. The bird continues her search once again. She flies far and wide crossing several mountains and oceans only to get nothing specific in answer to her question. No one could suggest what she may sing as her unique song. Eventually she meets a scary crow in a strange land unknown to her and begs her not to eat her off. As the crow turns friendly, the bird asks whether she has any clue about what special song she and she alone could sing. The friendly crow tells her to fly far into the west where she might find one.

Not giving up, the songbird takes off once again crossing several strange lands and oceans. Finally, she sees a glow of lights and an island. She could also hear soft beautiful music and thinks she has at last reached the right destination. Elated,  she swoops down…. only to realize she is, after all, back home!

Completely frustrated and in tears, she goes to her mother. Overwhelmed by emotion, she feels a great urge to tell her story of where all she traveled, her meetings with the crane, the unfriendly owl, the scary crow and numerous other birds. But as she opens her beak to tell her story, what pours out was a song – a special  song of her own!

This simple story is an inspiration to all – young and old alike – searching desperately to find answers to who they are or what they are.

 

 

Published in: on August 26, 2017 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

That mysterious extra ingredient —

What is it that made the soft Drink Gold Spot very popular for more than 3 decades? It is the ‘zzing thing’ as the advertisers say.
There are Colas and Colas in the soft drinks market. But what is so special about Coco Cola? It is the presence of something exotic in the concoction which remains a trade secret to this day.
What is the secret behind the runaway success of Fevicol? It is again the special formulation containing a few additives. One can go on and on with several examples including my wife’s idlis which are unbelievably soft because it is blended with a special ingredient – Flattened rice flakes known as Aval in Tamil or Poha in Hindi.
Food additives is a multimillion dollar business. An ice cream will not taste like one without the presence of that small amount of additive called emulsifier which gives it a smooth texture. Likewise cakes and several other delicious bakery products derive their taste and texture mainly due to the specialty chemical additive called GMS.
Even industrial chemicals and their processes critically depend the magical additives. One can not make phosphoric acid without a few drops of defoamer which suppresses foaming in Rock phosphate. Similar additives play a role in metal extraction industry.

Cosmetic industry affords a great opportunity for additives. Sunbathers could soon tell when to move out of sunlight and take shelter in the shade thanks to an early warning sunburn indicator. Researchers have developed a strip of plastic, containing ‘smart’ ink, which turns colourless from an initial blue colour just before exposure to too much ultraviolet light from the sun, prompting you to move into the shade before you burn. Obviously it contains a specialty chemical additive.

Even in music, the artist, who comes up with off-beat and unpredictable variations bringing in that additional punch, makes a mark. In all spheres of human endeavour, it is always that additional something that stands out and contributes to success.

On one occasion, my brother added a new twist and an interesting dimension to this during our family get-together. As my sister made her specialty item ‘Baigan bartha’ and served the same, he said it is exceptionally good and went on to have several rounds of servings of the same. Then,while appreciating the special dish, he wisecracked saying that it sure contains a very special extra ingredient which accounts for its exceptional taste. When we inquired as to what he meant by that, he quietly said: It is Affection(‘anbu’ in tamil) in abundance.
Perhaps, this is the most fundamental and somewhat mysterious ingredient which is missing in many things that we experience today.

Published in: on August 13, 2017 at 12:16 am  Comments (2)  
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Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers – An Interesting Book

Visualize a scene where a zebra is being chased by its predator, say, a lion. That is the moment of do or die for the zebra. Aided by its evolutionary instinct for survival, it will run like hell for its life. In a few minutes after the chase begins, it’s all over for the zebra – either it is chased down and killed by the lion or it manages to escape. Either way, it’s all over. During the chase, its blood pressure could peak to 180. However, once the chase is over and it saves itself, it’s back to its normal self within a few minutes. How does it get back to its normal state of health so fast? The zebra does not brood over the past nor does it get anxious worrying about another possible chase by yet another predator in the future. It won’t ask questions like – why did it happen to me? If it happens again, how will I face it? Will I survive another attack? etc. It knows only one thing, that is, to keep running if a predator chases. That’s because it doesn’t have a well-developed brain which is, in a way, a great blessing. This is the major difference between we humans and all the other primates. Unlike a zebra, the human mind would not rest after a traumatic experience. It will keep brooding for ever on the same episode. Add to this our anxiety about insecure future and you have a deadly combination causing chronic & continuous stress. It’s this chronic stress, according to the author, that makes human beings susceptible to a variety of diseases such as diabetes or hypertension.

This book reminded me of a story I read long time back in a scripture called Yoga Vasishta. The story goes like this:

Long time ago there lived three princes in a city which did not exist. Of the three two were not born and the third one was not even conceived. The princes having lost all their relatives started wandering.They arrived at the banks of three rivers out of which two were dry and the third one had no water. The princes had a refreshing bath and quenched their thirst in them. Then they arrived into a huge city which was going to be built. Entering the city they found three exceedingly beautiful palaces. Of the three, two were not built at all and the third one had no walls. They entered the palace and invited 3 holy men to be their guests of which two had no body and the third had no mouth. After the 3 men had taken food the princes ate the left over. They felt happy and happily lived ever after in that city….

What does one make of the story? One is likely to dismiss it as ridiculous and non-sense. However, tell me how is it different, for instance, from a typical Indian parent worrying about the marriage of their son or  daughter? Here’s an example of a parent agonizing over the delay in fixing his son’s marriage:  What will happen if his marriage is delayed — what if he doesn’t get a suitable bride.. he will end up marrying a girl who is not educated .. not belonging to our caste…or worse still, he may remain unmarried… in which case he will have no one taking care of him.. . when my son reaches old age he will have none to support him… so on so forth.

To my mind this is no different from the story from Yogavasishta.

I have an over-simplified explanation (a mere speculation) of how a complex mind functions. It is as if we have a circuit for creating misery and one for unnecessary excitement.  What is common to both the circuits is endless analysis of ifs and buts of any given situation. So the subject lives in a non-existent future feeling either elated or miserable. The story from Yogavasishta falls in the second category of an excitement-seeking mind.
Human mind thrives on problems and worries. If there are no real problems to solve, it will create imaginary ones to worry over.

Let me narrate one more story from YOGA VASISHTA which depicts the same phenomenon of mind inflicting misery upon the body. Here is a very short version of the story:

There lived in a dark forest a man with thousand hands. Terrified with the darkness all around in the thick forest, he was roaming about restlessly in the jungle. He was beating himself with all the thousand hands. Seeing this, a sane person meets him, tries to bring him to senses and gets him out of the dark jungle . But then he feels uncomfortable in the daylight, having lived in darkness of the jungle all his life. He runs back to the forest blaming and cursing the sensible man for all his problems.
The story again may seem ridiculous. It’s just symbolic. The thousand hands represent his miserable mind filled with negative thoughts inflicting injury on himself. Troubled by his mind, he can neither help himself nor be helped by others.

Business Ethics & Lessons from Ramayana

Yes, Ramayana has a few episodes which may have relevance to business ethics.

First let me narrate the relevant parts of the story from Ramayana which relate to business ethics.

Ravana, in Valmiki Ramayana, received several solicited and unsolicited advice from his kith and kin. Let us see who all dared to advise him on what is morally right:

It was the turn of Maricha to advise Ravana first. When Maricha was ordered to take the form of a golden deer to entice Sita,
he told Ravana in no uncertain terms that the power of Rama is unparallelled and therefore Ravana should simply patch up with the lord to save himself and his race. This advice was given in the background of the severe blows he received from Rama on a different occasion. However, when Ravana gave him an ultimatum, Maricha decided to go ahead and obey his command which ended his life.

However, not all Rakshasas gave him good counsel. Several Rakshasas including Mahodara(a renowned counselor of Ravana), readily supported Ravana glorifying his strength and giving him extraordinary confidence to face and defeat Rama. Vibhishana , on the other hand, had a totally different advice to offer. He talked at length about dharma and Rama’s divinely stature and advised what was the right thing to do for his own sake and for the sake of his race. As Ravana refused to budge and on the contrary rebuked Vibhishana for moralising, the latter had no hesitation in switching sides, though surreptitiously. Vibhishana, in fact, gave away valuable state secrets to the enemy camp!
Kumbhakarna’s response was markedly different and somewhat interesting. When Kumbhakarna woke up from his sleep lasting over months, Ravana explained the background to the situation leading up to Rama’s invasion of Lanka along with Sugriva’s army of monkeys. Kumbhakarna did not mince words and his immediate response was that Ravana ought to have consulted his ministers and close relatives before he abducted Sita, which is an immoral act. Curiously, though, after pointing out his immoral act, he threw in his lot with his elder brother and vowed to defeat Rama.
Clearly one can see a widely diverging viewpoints and advice being offered here.

I am tempted to draw parallels to business ethics in our corporates and the moral dilemma faced by senior executives. I am sure several of us, as senior managers, might have faced such ethical dilemmas wherein the organizations go astray and indulge in unethical and sometimes downright fraudulant methods to make money. Faced with such a situation,the moral dilemma is whether one should conduct oneself like Maricha & Kumbhakarna or like Vibhishana or like Mahodara? One might think the obvious answer is Vibhishana. But I am not too sure. One can readily dismiss Mahodara type of conduct. But it is difficult to support Vibhishana type of behaviour or that of Kumbhkarna or for that matter Mareecha. Vibhishana’s conduct is not above-board because of his secret dealings with Ravana’s enemies. Kumbhakarna condemned Ravana’s unrighteous act but decided to go with him for war against Rama because of a feeling of unquestionable allegiance to Ravana. I think Ramayana does not offer an ideal solution to such a problem. It would have been nice to see someone like Vibhishana with guts to cross over to the enemy camp openly. Perhaps the other great epic Mahabharata with its several intricate plots & counter plots would provide satisfactory answers.

The real dilemma in business arises because of the times we live in. In the present day context, it is hard to believe that any business can be run without resorting to unethical conduct in some degree. If a company deliberately chooses to conduct business unethically (like in the case of Satyam), it is obvious that one should desert the ship if one’s good counsel goes unheeded. On the other hand, in most situations, it would be difficult to apply absolute standards of morality and ethics, given the kind of business compulsions. To take one well-known fact about manufacturing companies, even when a company complies with all regulatory requirements, corrupt factory inspectors have to be bribed to get a clean chit.

Published in: on July 29, 2017 at 11:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Euphemism Treadmill

It’s said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. This is especially true in the context of words and the meanings they convey. Words convey our thoughts. However, very often our thoughts also influence our words and expressions. Euphemism is a great example of how thoughts influence our choice of words. This leads to the so-called euphemism treadmill. On a treadmill, we seem to be making progress as we keep walking but we are indeed staying at the same place without making an inch of progress. So too, words & expressions describing people or events may change without altering the underlying reality.

Here are a few examples:

Last week I attended a conference in Delhi……No, sorry, it was a conclave. Isn’t it something special? One may wonder how a conclave differs from a conference. Conclave, according to dictionary, is a private meeting of a limited number of  people of similar backgrounds. I have attended seminars, workshops, conferences and now a conclave too. I do not see any big difference in any of them. They are all mainly meant for networking besides having a nice time with special lunches and so on. It helps to rejuvenate or recharge yourself as you get away from your daily grind. If conference, conclave, meeting, seminar or workshop mean the same  why do we have so many words? I guess it’s a human tendency to keep inventing new names for the same activity to differentiate oneself from others or other groups.

Our obsession with words and the concepts they convey gets too ridiculous at times. Take, for instance, the word toilet. It became a bathroom to start with, then turned into a wash room and finally a rest room. The expression rest room is even more ridiculous since it’s the last place one would think of for rest or relaxation! It’s our desire to appear sophisticated that makes us come up with an euphemism. But soon the new word gets tainted by what it refers to. Hence the search for yet another euphemism to replace the old one continues. This is an endless process with no net progress.

To take another example, a handicapped person became a disabled person and since this was also not acceptable, it changed to ‘ differently-abled’. This is perhaps well-intentioned. However, I wonder whether it has made any difference to our attitude to the disabled.

Look at the renaming spree of streets by obsessive politicians. It’s laughable. In Chennai, long time back, the government of the day decided to change the names of streets which had caste connotations. For instance, Dr Ranga Chary Road became Dr Ranga Road. But what about Dr Nair Road? Logically, it should become Dr Road, right? Well, mercifully it did not happen and the original name was retained. But I believe Brahmin Street was renamed as Street. I wonder if  it’s a fact. All the efforts at renaming streets has not made any difference to the caste realities and the associated politics.

What was a slum at one time turned into a ghetto which in turn became a more respectable Inner City. Has the reality of people living under subhuman conditions changed? No chance.

A negro has turned into Black American as if to bring parity with white American status. But soon this also became offensive and today they are referred to as African-Americans.

Another euphemism which falls in the same category is the acronym CRY. Originally, the acronym meant Child Rehabilitation & You. It was renamed aptly as Child Rights & You to reflect the sacred rights enshrined in our Constitution.

Politicians, the world over, use euphemisms, to exploit the emotions & sentiments of gullible masses. We are all familiar with George Bush’s infamous descriptions of Saddam Hussein’s stockpile of arms as Weapons of Mass Destruction. Using just one euphemism over and over, he got himself the moral authority to invade Iraq.

In India, as the word Hindutva got tainted, the Hindutva brigade now call themselves nationalists or patriots.

Communism became socialism and then democratic socialism for more respectability. Capitalism, likewise,  became Capitalism with a human face, whatever that meant. This is a clever jargon from Capitalists to give an impression that they are not cornering wealth and exploiting the poor.

Hitler’s genocide of the Jews got a respectable name – Ethnic Cleansing.

Military jargon also keeps changing to dilute truth. For instance what is Friendly fire? What’s so friendly about firing? This expression is used when you want to convey the news of a soldier being killed by his own men. Collateral damage is a nice expression to say that a lot of innocent civilians died when a military action was undertaken.

Is this euphemism Treadmill leading to real change in our cultural & moral attitudes? No chance. It’s a form of self-deception, as evolutionary psychologists say. That’s why the treadmill metaphor is used. On a treadmill, we keep walking briskly without going anywhere.

 

 

 

Published in: on July 22, 2017 at 11:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tales From An Infant

Here’s  our little Shyam(my grandson) telling his tales with pictures:

It’s time to wake up, I guess.

Hey guys, I’m just out of my bed. Give me sometime to start my day.

 

I’m certainly enjoying this cradle, but you cannot tie me down here for too long. There’s a world out there demanding my attention and waiting to be explored.

.

 

Ready, Steady, Go…….

Steady

Go…….

Here I go to explore a largely unexplored world – that’s my mom’s kitchen? Yes, this seems like the most privileged space where they do not allow me. Who are they? They are the vigilantes, the moral brigade. I tried to reach that place several times but each time the vigilantes got active and dragged me back to where I started. But I’m perseverant and on one occasion,  I almost made it. I got hold of the broom lying at the door and started to feel its bristles and even affectionately caressing the dirt adhering to it. Just as I was exploring and before I could put it in my mouth, the moral police noticed it, came running and took me away again to my utter disappointment. This was accompanied by loud laughter and what seemed like some fun at my expense. I didn’t understand why they made so much fuss. And in any case what is so hilarious about stopping me and taking me away from a place I love so much? Don’t I have the right to eat what I love to eat? Killjoys, aren’t they? I made yet another attempt to invade the kitchen and this time I managed to get close to a waste bin. Before I could examine its contents, the vigilantes came running and in one swoop lifted me up and dumped me on a mattress with pillows all around to prevent me from making further attempts.

 

Here’s my Glorious Moment which I cherish. It’s a sweet revenge against the moral brigade led by my grandfather.

For some strange reason, I was allowed to get on top of the dining table on all fours. Do you know what happened next. I had to answer the call of nature and did it right there and then not knowing that will provoke a lot of hullagulla. Having done the job to my heart’s content, I felt relieved. My big sister was the one to notice first and promptly complained to others. There was such a commotion all around that I simply kept gazing at each one of them by turn.

 

Here’s my big Sister all dressed up. Her happy smile shows she must be going out to some interesting place, for sure. I go close to her and look at her in awe and admiration as she walks out of the door in her cute dress:

 

 

Here I’m in a tearing hurry. In case you wonder what is my business, let me tell you it’s an important mission. I was in a hurry to tear away the newspapers which were lying within my reach. I love it so much. I like the sound the newspapers make when I hold in hand and wave in the air. As I hold the paper in both hands and keep waving, the paper first gets crumpled and I love that crumpled look so much. As I get more violent with the paper it gets torn making a noise which is musical to my ears. But then, do you think they would allow me to continue to do this? No way, the brigade got active again. They snatched the paper away from my hands and made hand gestures at me as if to tell: don’t you dare do it again.

Well, that’s disappointing as you can see me in the picture below with a grumpy face:

 

 

I completely relished this –  my replay of DANGAl with my sister as the victim:

Can you see my triumphant, celebratory smile?

 

I love my train ride, don’t I? Here’s the proof.

 

 

Published in: on July 1, 2017 at 11:41 pm  Comments (2)  
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On My Recent Trip to Europe

I was in Germany and Italy last week on a business trip. Was it hectic? No, far from it. We had just one meeting per day and the rest of the day was spent on travel, finding the hotel we were booked in and exploring for right places to eat for survival. All this, of course, takes a physical and mental toll.

Between the two countries Germany & Italy – the latter is easily the more likeable. In Italy, Indians would certainly feel at home. They are warm, friendly, chatty, and very lively people. In general, one finds lots of similarities between Indians and Italians. At times they are so noisy chatting, joking, laughing, giggling like school kids that it becomes difficult to conduct meetings. At one point of time,  the convener of our technical meeting had to intervene to bring them back to sanity. He said jokingly: “Our organization has a guideline for conducting meetings. Do not ever attempt to conduct a meeting if you find two Italians sitting side by side”. They got the message and it seemed to work at least for that session!

In Italy I travelled to Rome, Naples and Milan on business. I did not have the luxury of time to do any sight-seeing. However, only in Rome, we found time one evening to visit the famous Coliseum(pronounced as collaseo in Italian)which is part of ancient Roman ruins. This was constructed by Roman Engineers in the 1st century AD and is famous for its intricate engineering structure . It’s basically an amphitheatre built for the purpose of entertainment to Roman emperors and the public. Here are some pics of the place:

 

 

 

 

 

Can you see in the 4th picture above how wonderfully the stones are stabilized below the roof? The stones were set without mortar. They were held together and stabilized by an interesting interlocking mechanism.

The coliseum had a huge arena where the gladiators would play dangerous sports with wild animals like elephants, baby lions, leopards, rhinoceros etc. Battles & hunts were staged on the arena. The arena covered the elaborate underground structures where the animals were caged. The animals and the gladiators would get on to the arena from the tunnels underground before the show began. Criminals condemned to death were also thrown into the arena naked and without arms as the wild animals would literally tear them to pieces. The theatre had a capacity to seat  close to 80,000 spectators. (The coliseum, today, is a major tourist attraction in Rome. The last two pictures above are not part of coliseum. They are part of ancient ruins surrounding Coliseum).

On the last day of my trip, we went to Naples to meet a customer. We finished our business meeting in the morning and had plenty of time for lunch. In Naples do as the local Neapolitans do, right? What do they do? Eat pizzas – Neapolitan Pizzas, as they are called in Naples, are perhaps the most authentic. We managed to find one of the top 10 pizza places in Naples – Sorbillo Pizzeria. Pizza making is no ordinary art, as you would know. I believe the pizza making dough is prepared a day before to make sure the yeast does its job of making it fluffy overnight. This ensures the pizza is soft and light when cooked in special wood burning oven. For sure that place stood up to its reputation. That was easily the best Pizza experience I had. The soft Pizza base with the melted & mouth-watering mozzarella cheese on top and the special toppings of green peppers, onions, black olives – all made it a special experience. It was smooth, tasty and quite sumptuous. If you take one such pizza for lunch, you don’t need any other meal for the rest of the day. Sure, it packs a lot of calories. But who cares, especially when you are hungry and you know the place is famous for pizzas.

I must make a special mention of Italian coffee too. The coffee I got in Italy was far superior to that in Germany or the famous filter coffee we get back in India. Everything about the coffee was perfect. The aroma, the taste, the appearance of smooth, thick & shiny foam added up to one of the finest  experiences with coffee. Note that there should be no visible bubbles as one sees in a typical south indian coffee. It’s a combination of technique and coffee formulation, I suppose. I would rank Italian coffee among the best in the world. So, coffee lovers, if ever you get an opportunity to taste Italian coffee, do not miss it.

My idea of a perfect day would be a traditional South Indian breakfast with Italian coffee and for lunch a super sized Neapolitan pizza . One can then skip dinner or have some simple soup and go to bed.

Published in: on June 25, 2017 at 10:56 pm  Comments (2)