Sunday, April 3, 2016

Some Movies


God, in some next life I want to look like him. :) Though I don't want to do crime like him, nor do I want long hair; I won't mind playing a guitar! I would also like to have a name like him. Gosh - Antonio Banderas! Can this be the name of a man? It sounds like the name of a novel! I would also like to have his voice and accent! But once you make me him, I won't like to grow old! Because all old people look the same!!! So, deal?

Gone Girl

I watched 'Gone Girl' (2014) recently. Performance wise I don't think this was anywhere actor Ben Affleck's best movies, though Rosamund Pike did a fair job. Its screenplay is based on was based on Gillian Flynn's 2012 novel of the same name.  The story is really interesting.

While experts catagorize this movie as a psychological thriller, I particularly notice its version of 'feminism'. Amy is shown as a psychopath killer, but if we take note of why she kills, it is not completely bad. Thousands of wives all over the world choose to live with criminal or double faced husbands - so why not a few husbands too end up living under the roof with a serial murderer? I am not justifying it at all, but this is just a point to note. If a woman does infidelty, she is considered evil and readily punished in harshest way; but when men do the same, they are seldom punished in the same manner. Ben Affleck's character Nick Dunne does it in the movie but does not appear like a "villian" at any moment. So the manner in which the movie turned up and ended was pretty surprising but understood. 

Nights in Rodanthe

A man's wife dies during operation although not due to the fault of the surgen. The surgen does not talk to him after the operation but asks the nurse to explain to him. He files a law suit against the doctor for negligience. The doctor goes to meet the man who is mourning. The man asks the doc, "do you know what color my wife's eyes were?" The doc does not rememeber. For the doctor, the patient was just a sick body; not a human being.

Monte Carlo

In this movie, there is a scene where the actress while moving around Paris always finds Eiffel Tower visible as she looked up. This scene was very similar to the one in Bollywood movie "Queen". Another resemblance was how one of the girl's lover kept searching for her throughout the length of the movie. 

Little Manhattan

After watching so much TV and movies; having read so many books and stories; it had to take this long to reach here? That is incredible! Can’t describe totally but I never expected this movie to be so great and heart touching… Little Manhattan! When they say “I hate you” to each other and then as soon as he puts the phone down – surge of emotions had to burst into tears! And when he sees her face and with every expression tries to make it “she loves me” or “she hates me” alternately – that was epic! And when she asked for a dance and he puts his head on her shoulder – that was as if the world stopped! That when he sums it up into “all we get are memories” – that is so heart touching… He keeps a plain face but every time he smiles and how his face lits up – that is the magic of pure happiness! They smile looking at each other – that is love… And this is the most romantic movie I have ever watched! 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Conversation about Religion, Cults and God

Friend: The more I see of organised religion and the devotional channels (all faiths), the emptier they appear. Faith is something between the man and his maker and what is the need of third party intervention (read religious leaders) in this?

Me: They guide those who need help and do not feel confident enough. Just like teachers help students learn mathematics which theoretically they could have learnt by reading books. I don't think they are doing any harm. If you don't need them, avoid them. That is all. But a lot of people need them, so let us not ridicule their needs.

Friend: U r very right. But when teachers motives r pure greed & false teachings .saints r really very few, others r katha watchk only

Me: Then let us take them as katha-wachaks only. I mean no one is forcing us to believe they are true saints. What I do is to listen and learn their "teachings" and I do not focus on the "teachers" in person... It helps most of the time. I don't have to become a follower in true sense or to start loving the speaker - I just enjoy their teachings which are mostly very good...

Friend: Rahul, have you ever watched these devotional channels seriously over a length of time?

Me: Whenever I watch a new channel for the first time, I love it for 2 days and then tire out. If I keep watching, I grow to hate them, so having learnt my pattern I discontinue and watch them only once or twice for 15 minutes in a week - then they sound fine. But I know that if I get bored the problem is not with them but with me.

Friend: As a rule, religious men and women are decent God fearing people. Men of religion, on the other hand, from times immemorial are the most conceited, corrupt and dishonest individuals.

Me: It is because "power corrupts". And it is so for all men with power and authority. We can't single out only godmen or godwomen. So let us realize the true cause of their corruption and let us accept that god or religion has nothing to do with it.

Friend: Agreed Rahul. I am a devout but strongly feel that religion is a deeply personal matter and not for display.

Me: But I don't agree that it is "so simply" between god and man - every man without training and initiation can't speak to God unless he is such an extraordinary soul - like the child prodigies. And not everyone is a child prodigy. So what we do need is religion and some initiation. Without it, when we are talking to God, what we are doing is just unburdening our emotional baggage. We may feel relief temporarily but it does not "really" help us rise spiritually. So I do need religious teachings and teachers only share. If I do not read or hear them, how do I learn new things? Books are fine but then there is so much in explanations! Half knowledge is worse than no knowledge some times.

Friend: If a literate person needs a medium -a guru- to seek the path to righteousness, he is not literate. Only a lesser learnt needs a medium. In our country nobody knows how many such persons thrive.

Me: Not so simple. Tell me, without going to school or without any teachers, how would I learn English to be able to read you? I would remain a baby and unless I learn a language I don't get its knowledge. Now the language in which scriptures are written are so deep. I thought I knew all but I read one explanation of a verse of Ramcharitmanas from a writer in a magazine from Ramakrishna mission - and then a whole new perspective, a whole new world opens for me. I would never know it no matter how much I talk to God or with my wife about Lord Ram because both of us are the same level spiritually. We need to talk to those who are better than us, in order to learn from them.

In religious books what I have read is that when one gets wisdom and some spiritual achievement, still his "ego" is his greatest enemy. So many great sages and learned people in history fell for this. They are so wise and enlightened but then ego makes them do weird stuff. Ego and power corrupts them. But we should not focus on their "corruption". We should focus on how much knowledgeable they were (and learn from them). Lord Ram sent Lakshmana to meet dying Ravana and to learn from him. Can we imagine this doing ourselves? Ram sending Lakshmana to learn from Ravana who was dying! If it were all "in the books" and if we were not to learn from wise men, why would he do that?

And btw, scary cults are coming even to India. Weird leaders of these cults being worshiped by their members as "God" himself; forget about "saints" and "gurus" which appear thing of the past. These cults are exclusive groups of brainwashed believers and their theories are illogical unscientific ones built upon existing religions' theories but giving it a twist. So I think antidote for fake religion is original religion. Like Dayananda said - return to the vedas. Otherwise India will also become like the world we see in Batman movies.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Do Not Photograph Bird Nests

Came across this petition against photographing bird nests. Found it educating, so thought to share: National Geographic Channel, please delete nest photo

Today (30th March 2016), the Facebook page of National Geographic Channel shared a picture of a bird nest containing four newly hatched birds.

Photographing bird nests is a big no-no in the community guidelines. This is because a nest is a delicate nascent stage in the bird family. We don't want to disturb the parents into getting stressed and abandoning the babies. Also, we don't want to point out the nest to other predators. Thirdly, using bright flashes into those baby eyes can blind them for life.

While we can be sure that the photographer at National Geographic captured this picture 'ethically', they have made an irresponsible choice by sharing this picture publicly. The comments section already shows many other enthusiasts sharing nest pictures in their innocent ignorance.  National Geographic are world leaders in wildlife content, and are in a position to create awareness about conservation. This act has undermined their position of responsibility.

A friend shared his views on this below:

  • This is pretty much wrong. First, birds do NOT abandon nests with hatchlings just because we came near it.
  • Second, predators are not going to locate nests depending on humans photographing them – birds do not possess an elaborate brain like we do, and cannot guess that because a photographer is pointing his lens towards a tree, there must be a nest there.
  • Third, because a few photographers use flash cannot be a reason for protesting all bird photography. It would be like opposing all two vehicles because a few drivers ride rash.

I shared his points to the bird photographer friend from whom I had reached this petition. He replies below:

  • Birds get much stressed if humans/ predators approach near the nest and that in itself is a strong enough reason for us to leave them alone.
  • Birds have been known to abandon nest/ eggs due to too much human interference. So drawing a line somewhere makes sense to me.
  • And we do not oppose Bird photography. We just draw a line at venturing too near and photographing nest building, eggs and hatchlings.
  • Using Flash for all kind of wildlife photography is another No.

Another of his bird photographer friend says:

  • I have my own experience, most of the birds abandon their nest and even chicks , in fact some birds throw their eggs if someone come close to them, so I am not agree with what he has said... I think there should be some line for photographers as petitioner has said.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

[History] Tipu Sultan and His Failed International Alliances

Our mind looks for simplicity in this complex world and sometimes it gets it in the form of simple rules. "Enemy of an enemy is a friend" is one such phrase which need not be always true. Should a mouse think that since snake is a cat's enemy, it could be its friend? Since we know that Tipu Sultan fought and died fighting the British, who were our enemy, so Tipu must be our friend. Does not look like; and here is why.

In those days, so many European predators (btw, all are held examples of great 'culture' today) were looking for preys in unexploited and rich lands like India. Apart from the British, the French were in India, so were the Dutch, the Portuguese, the Spanish, and even the Denmark-Norwegians. Today, we think of only "the British" as our colonizers but the fact remains that when it all started, no one knew which one or ones of these would win over other rivals and establish strong and everlasting colony over dead bodies of our ancestors. From European pack of wolves, Tipu Sultan chose a wrong ally in the French and wrong enemy in the British and that is what made all the difference in our history. But even though he relied in Hindu astrology, he could know it for sure at that time.

Tipu Sultan was an ally of France in its fight against the British. The French trained Tipu's army in India which went on wars against other Indian kingdoms like Marathas, Malabar and Travancore. The French Revolution broke out during that period and hence France could not further its military expeditions. Tipu also tried to woo Napoleon Bonaparte to create a grand international alliance to defeat the British.

Apart from the French, Tipu also sent letters to Zaman Shah Durrani of Afghanistan to help him defeat the British and the Marathas. But Afghans had received an attack from the Persians at that time and could not help. In 1787, Tipu Sultan sent an embassy to the Ottoman Turkey's capital Istanbul, requesting an alliance and asking for troops and military experts. The Ottomans were already in crisis and could not help apart from sending gifts to Tipu. Tipu kept writing to them until he died in 1799. Tipu made several contacts with Mohammad Ali Khan, ruler of the Zand Dynasty in Persia. Tipu Sultan also maintained correspondence with Hamad bin Said, the ruler of the Sultanate of Oman. If Tipu was calling on these foreign states, it was on the basis of his common cause of establishing an "Islamic state" in India.

Tipu Sultan wanted it all - and all only for himself. He wanted to establish an Islamic State of India. His forced religious conversions in Kerala and other South Indian places is legendary and brought him the title of "Aurangzeb of South India" by many. It was only because he did not get all the international alliances he desperately sought for; and because the Marathas and the British were already great forces by then; that he could not fulfill his dreams. But I am sure about one thing - if he got his way we would be much worse off today.

You may also like to read more on Tipu Sultan:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

[History] Tipu Sultan’s Religious Intolerance And Forced Conversions

All kings have to fight wars in defense and sometimes have to make attacks on others due to valid reasons. Sometimes they even have to kill people to “send a message” or to “make an example”. As a novelist said, “all is fair in war”. But what makes Tipu Sultan gain a monster like reputation is not his mass murders but his religious fanaticism and acts which can very well be compared with what today’s IS is doing in Iraq and Syria:

- Malabar: Captivity of Hindu Nairs: In his repeated attacks on Malabar, Tipu devastated the warrior Nairs with his atrocities and religious intolerance. During Hyder Ali's rule, the Hindu Nairs who strongly adhered to martial tradition were prohibited from carrying arms and privileges were given to anybody who converted to Islam. But Tipu approved of forced conversions. Nairs, men women and children, were captivated and forcefully converted; their men were forcefully circumcised. The captivity of Nairs ended when Nair troops from Travancore, with the help of the East India Company defeated Tipu in the Third Anglo-Mysore War. It is estimated that out of the 30,000 Nairs put to captivity only a few hundred returned to Malabar alive.

- Coorg: Captivity of Kodava Hindus / Coorgis at Seringapatam: Tipu seized men, women and children and carried them captive to Seringapatam. Actual number varies from 70000 to 80000 in historical accounts. Prisoners were forcefully converted to Islam and styled Ahmadis. The young men were all forcibly circumcised and incorporated into the Ahmedy Corps - to be trained to make a regiment of army.

- Mangalore: After Tipu's Mangalore campaign, over 60,000 Syrian Christians were taken captive, coerced to convert and brutalized. Young women were forcibly made wives of the Muslims. According to a historical account from a survivor of the captivity, if a person who had escaped from Seringapatam was found, the punishment under the orders of Tipu was the cutting off of the ears, nose, the feet and one hand.

- Calicut (Kozhikode): In 1788, Tipu ordered his governor in Calicut Sher Khan to begin the process of converting Hindus to Islam, and in July of that year, 200 Brahmins were forcibly converted.

On the handle of the sword presented by Tipu to Marquess Wellesley was the following inscription: Oh Lord, make him victorious, who promoteth the faith of Muhammad. Confound him, who refuseth the faith of Muhammad; and withhold us from those who are so inclined from the true faith.

Tipu’s own letters demonstrate this zeal. For instance:

- Tipu wrote to Burduz Zamaun Khan on 19 January 1790: “Don’t you know I have achieved a great victory recently in Malabar and over four lakh Hindus were converted to Islam?”

- Tipu wrote to Syed Abdul Dulai on 18 January 1790: “With the grace of Prophet Muhammad and Allah, almost all Hindus in Calicut are now converted to Islam. Only a few are still not converted on the borders of Cochin State. I am determined to convert them also very soon. I consider this as Jehad to achieve that object.”

Tipu is still hated in many parts of Kerala, Coorg and Mangalore, where many remember his bigotry.

You may also like to read more on Tipu Sultan:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

[History] How Tipu Sultan Treated The Royal Family of Wodeyars in Mysore

A few years back I visited Mysore. As anyone would, I loved the Mysore Palace – It is indeed the most beautiful one I have ever seen - and also saw the museum. Got to know about the royal Wodeyar family for the first time. Now I just happened to find an article about how Tipu Sultan dealt with them. It is disturbing:


Tipu, a bundle of contradictions, is an enigma and a modern historian’s biggest puzzle. His ascent to power was accidental. Tipu's father Haidar Ali was bought as a slave by the Maharaja of Mysore. But in a series of fascinating events where the Machiavellian Haidar ran with the hare and hunted with the hounds, he ended up overthrowing his own benefactor and usurping the throne of Mysore from the Wodeyars in 1761. Haidar was shrewd enough not to dispense with the Wodeyars who had been ruling Hindu-majority Mysore since 1399.

So the Maharaja became a titular puppet—orders would go in his name, trophies of war were submitted to his feet, yet everyone knew where the real power rested. Tipu, though, had no reason for such diplomacy and dispensed with this appendage. He assumed complete sovereignty over Mysore, which became Sultanat-e-Khudadad, or the Kingdom of God (Khuda), and he, its Sultan. The members of the erstwhile royal family, led by the matriarch Rani Lakshmi Ammanni, who was carrying on low-intensity conspiracies against the usurpers, were put under house arrest. Tipu’s insecurities are evident in his actions, as also his writings, assiduously jotted down in his own hand in a diary. The names of places were Islamized, new coins minted, Persian replaced Kannada as the court language, old palaces, forts and bridges were destroyed and reconstructed in the same place—all in an obvious attempt to obliterate every trace of Wodeyar rule and stamp his own.

When Tipu was unable to capture the pradhans of Rani Lakshmi Ammanni, who were carrying on negotiations on her behalf with the British, he ordered the public hanging of around 700 members of the Pradhan community, the Mandyam Iyengars—men, women and children—in broad daylight, and that too on Diwali. So much so that to this day some Mandyam Iyengars observe Diwali as a day of mourning.

You may also like to read more on Tipu Sultan:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

[Politics] Why I Support Jat Reservations Demand

My personal thinking on the trending issue of Jat Reservations. To begin with, I support the demand of quota for Jats. Here is why:

I think it was unfair for the Supreme Court to deny only Jat Reservations while other castes in the listed categories are allowed to enjoy it. There are rich and poor in all castes and if caste-based reservations help the poor members of other castes, the poor among the Jat community deserve a shot at it too. When it comes to the assertion that Jats were never socially discriminated against - the fact of the matter is that so many other castes enjoy reservations too who were never generally discriminated against historically. Just go through the list of castes in OBC list, to begin with. So why have we been so insensitive against only Jats? I think it is due to the general "perception" created by media. Jats are always shown in the media, e.g. in TV serials, movies, or the press as a "strong", powerful community which forces its way over things. Jats are seldom displayed as "vulnerable" or "weak" even when those shown are "poor" - and hence it has frozen in our perception that Jats are always "rich" - since we associate "power" with material "wealth".

From my own understanding, a lot from the Jat community lack modern and English education and hence face a glass ceiling. The enterprising community lacks adequate representation in white collar jobs and are often in "dominating" condition only where their numerical population is in majority. A caste based reservation, which our governments have always vowed to keep going, if extended to the community would do more benefit than harm to our country.

Coming to the point of use of violence by the Jat protesters, I think use of violence during protests is always unfortunate and need to be condemned. But the fact of the matter is that there is nothing specific and personal in the protests by Jats this time around. To put things in perspective, anti-Reservation protests were most violent in the 1990s where the protesters burnt down railway stations and public properties all over the country and so many youth died during the protests. Recently, protests by other communities like the Patels in Gujarat and Gujjars in Rajasthan have also used violent means and Jat protests have in no way been different in their methods and context than these other protests. And hence only Jats cannot be blamed for the manner in which they are protesting.

Most political parties have always supported and protected the "holy" caste based reservation system. Before every election they promise new communities with inclusion into the favorable system and after winning the elections they put the matter in the back burner. Therefore, it is natural for the concerned communities to feel frustration and take up the path of protests. This exactly has happened in the case of Jat reservations where the BJP had promised them the same but did not move fast enough after coming to power. Hopefully the BJP will realize the urgency to put the legislation in place to allow caste based reservation for Jats also. Although the task is risky given Supreme Court's decision last time, but the situation is grave and need genuine action as per BJP's promise.

In general I am against caste based reservation system since I see it as the "new caste system". Some time in history some castes enjoyed certain privileges or disadvantages just because of their birth in their respective communities and after India attained freedom we were expected to completely stop such discriminatory practices. But what we did was to just reverse the list - with some new castes made to enjoy undue advantages and some other castes punished for being born in their respective castes. This discriminatory "casteism" starts from our childhood in school admissions and goes on until we are dead. This madness must stop some day and we should allow "equality" in education and job opportunities. Without it, our freedom is hypocritical and our democracy is ineffective. But until we get that status, all castes should get equal opportunity in demanding reservations and denying it only for Jats and certain communities without valid reasons is discriminatory and unfair.

Therefore I demand the BJP led state government to fulfill its pre-election promise as soon as possible and allow Jat community to enjoy caste based reservation in education and jobs. I also request our countrymen to give Jats a fair deal and let us not blame them for doing something which every other community has done in the past. Until we have this discriminatory and unfair caste based quota system, we shall see such demands and we would have no other option than to grant them their demands.

- Rahul (Views expressed are personal). 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

[Fashion] Trending: Men With Beards!

Here, I take a self-assigned avatar of a fashion commentator and observer and comment on the latest trend :)

If you observe, 'beard' is in trend recently. In ads, media, sports, and in real life, more men are seen keeping beards of different shapes and sizes. Except that too long a beard is still avoided since it generates 'religious' vibes; although no hygiene concerns yet which I think it genuinely possesses. French beard which was fashionable earlier is now seen as the "same old rut" - i.e. limited in creativity and variations. An interesting trend is a medium size one complemented with a 'proper' mustache - as Pierce Brosnan is seen sporting in the picture. That is revival of an old style. Another observation is that an increase in length of a beard has resulted in hair on the head to remain short - which otherwise some men used to grow longer a few years ago.

Beard has always been recommended to some men; as it makes them appear 'better groomed'. Especially for men with too thin faces, e.g. actor Aditya Roy Kapoor, or too small faces, e.g. Virat Kohli, or too regular a face, e.g. Abhishek Bachchan and Arjun Kapoor. A beard has not always been seen as a tool to hide or improvise over a regular face into one which can be taken more seriously by others. Handsome men in all ages have given beard an air of dignity and gravity which I think it truly deserves.

Traditionally a beard symbolizes 'wisdom' which comes with 'seniority' - since boys can't have it and only grown up men have it. Young men are always sensitive about their facial hair as they see it as a symbol of 'masculinity'. Bigger the better - denser, the mightier. Boys will be boys - and there is nothing you can do about it if you don't have it in you yet despite reaching the right age. So while historically, beard has been seen as connected with masculinity, what does the current 'trend' - return of the beard - indicate?

I think the current popular trend of keeping beard and its slight increase in length is connected to diminishing role of men and their masculinity in society. Men are feeling slightly marginalized, with women achieving greater than ever power both in the work place and in the matters of the home - thanks to the trend which is now a norm of so called 'working women'. Increasingly men are feeling less empowered in taking decisions independently. And hence, in the popular trend, have started 'exerting' their masculinity in the form of a 'symbolism' of beard!

So where does this symbolism and gesturing lead us to? Will it result in men 'resisting' the flow or direction in which society is heading? Only time can tell, but I believe this trend is a kind of balancing act and it can help men 'settle down' with the situation better. A beard, after all, if it makes men feel more confident, then unless they start feeling 'too confident' about themselves, is a harmless 'sport' after all.

Let men grow beard if they like to. It is good for FMCG business anyway :)

- Written by Rahul Tiwary (All personal opinion - let me know your 'reactions' :)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

[Hinduism] Shri Ramakrishna on Types of People

This is so wonderfully explained by Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa Himself:

जीव चार प्रकार के कहे गए हैं - बद्ध, मुमुक्षु, मुक्त और नित्य। संसार मानो जाल है और जीव मछली। ईश्वर, यह संसार जिनकी माया है, मछुए हैं। जब मछुए के जाल में मछलियाँ पड़ती हैं, तब कुछ मछलियाँ जाल चीरकर भागने की अर्थात मुक्त होने की कोशिश करती हैं। उन्हें मुमुक्षु जीव कहना चाहिए। जो भागने की चेष्टा करती हैं, उनमे से सभी नहीं भाग सकतीं। दो-चार मछलियाँ ही धड़ाम से कूदकर भाग जाती हैं। तब लोग कहते हैं, बड़ी मछली निकल गई। ऐसे ही दो-चार मनुष्य मुक्त जीव हैं। कुछ मछलियाँ स्वभावतः ऐसे सावधानी से रहती हैं कि वे कभी जाल में नहीं फंसतीं। ऐसी मछलियां नित्य जीव के समान हैं। लेकिन अधिकांश मछलियाँ जाल में फँसी रहती हैं और उन्हें पता भी नहीं रहता कि वे जाल में फँसी हैं और उसमें उनका अंत होना है। कभी जाल सहित इधर से उधर भागती हैं, और सीधे कीच में घुस कर देह छिपाना चाहती हैं। भागने की कोई चेष्टा नहीं बल्कि कीच में और गड जाती हैं। ये ही बद्ध जीव हैं। बद्ध जीव संसार में अर्थात कामिनी कांचन में फँसे हुए हैं, कलंक सागर में मग्न हैं, पर सोचते हैं कि बड़े आनंद में हैं! जो मुमुक्षु या मुक्त हैं, संसार उन्हें कूप जान पड़ता है, अच्छा नहीं लगता। इसीलिए कोई-कोई ज्ञान-लाभ, ईश्वर-लाभ हो जाने पर शरीर छोड़ देते हैं, परन्तु इस तरह का शरीरत्याग बड़ी दूर की बात है। 

बद्ध जीवों - संसारी जीवों को किसी तरह होश नहीं होता। कितना दुःख पाते हैं, कितना धोखा खाते हैं, कितनी विपदाएँ झेलते हैं, फिरभी बुद्धि ठिकाने नहीं आती। ऊँट कँटीली घास को बहुत चाव से खाता है। परन्तु जितना ही खाता है उतना ही मुँह से धर-धर खून निकलता है, फिर भी कँटीली घास को खाना नहीं छोड़ता! संसारी मनुष्यों को इतना शोकताप मिलता है, किन्तु कुछ दिन बीते कि सब भूल गए।

- श्री रामकृष्ण परमहंस

Translation taken from [Link]:

Four classes of human beings have been stated ­ the Bound Souls, the Seekers after liberation, the Liberated and the Ever Free. The world is like the fishing net, the jiva (individual soul) is like the fish and the Lord (whose maya constitutes the world) is the fisherman. When fishes fall into the fisherman's net many of those try to tear the net to escape, i.e. they try to free themselves. They are like Seekers - the men seeking liberation. However, all those who try to escape cannot run away. Only a few fishes slip out with a splash. Then people call out, 'There goes the big fish.' Such two or four beings are the Liberated ones. Some fish are so cautious by nature that they never fall into the net. Narada and such other saints are Ever Free; they never fall in the net of the world. However, most of the fish keep lying in the net unaware of the fact that they have fallen into a net and will die. Remaining in the net, they dart straight ahead taking the net along and try to hide their body into the mud. They make no attempt to escape, rather they fall deeper into the mud. They are like the Bound souls. They live in the net and think, 'We are quite happy here.' The bound jivas remain attached to the world that is to 'woman and gold'. They remain sunk in the sea of evil and think that they are very happy there. Those who seek for liberation and those who are liberated look upon the world as a death well; they don't like it. So, some of them having attained jnana and the vision of Bhagavan give up their bodies. However, giving up body in this way is a far cry.

The bound creatures, the worldly men, don't get awareness by any means. They suffer so much misery, so many trials, and so many sorrows; even then they don't get awakening.

The camel likes thorny bushes but the more it eats, the more it bleeds from its face. Even so, it continues to eat the same thorny bush and does not leave it. The worldly man suffers so much agony, so much sorrow, yet he reverts back to his old self quite soon.

- Shri Ramakrishna Paramhansa 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

[Reflections] Our Life, Our Goals and Our Relationships

For the last 5 years Rohit wanted to go to an onsite assignment from his company. Today when he got an opportunity, he does not want to go anymore. He does not feel the need any more to go. Why? Because, whenever he thinks about going, face of his newly born son comes to his mind – and he does not want to miss being together with him. It is a classic case of changing priorities. And I think there is nothing wrong in it. What appears important today, may not appear important enough tomorrow. So what do we do with this learning? Let us not be rigid about anything – this can be a good lesson.

One of the truths of life is that no goal is permanent. We all are taught in the childhood and younger days to be ‘focused’ towards our ‘goals’. But most of those ‘goals’ are not ‘our’ goals to begin with – those are the goals which our parents, family members and society have decided for us. When we are young, no one cares about what we want – because they don’t trust our instincts – and hence they write prescriptions for us based on what they think is best for us. But sometimes we get so much used-to with this prescriptive mode of decision making, that we waste a large part of our life in fulfilling others’ dreams rather than our own. Some of us even forget that we could have our own dreams.

Relationships are the most difficult stuff in this world. Because it is one area where you don’t have individual control over it – you depend on the other person or persons for doing anything. Sometimes I feel that to find someone who goes on nicely with you – is such a rare thing in this world! The other person need not be like you, or think like you, or do things the manner in which you would do it too, but that person’s thinking, way of doing things and being makes you ‘complete’ and ‘content’ – and that I think is the ultimate test of compatibility.

Even in the matters of relationships, I think our society has taken the easier path. They tend to find ‘equality’ most of the time – which may not be the same as ‘compatibility’. Most of the social conventions and norms are made with ‘simplicity’ and ‘practicality’ in mind, not specifically efficiency and effectiveness. This can be understood because it would not be possible for society to determine and guess things are a micro level. And hence they made rules at a macro level. It is up to us to remind us of these limitations while imitating what society has framed for us without customizing it according to our needs or situations.

The most unfortunate thing in life would be to lead a long life lived on others’ terms. For life is often judged by its outcomes and not on its insides or content – which again is due to limitations in social control. I think we ourselves are the best judges on our lives. There is no one else who knows us and our situations better than us; and hence it would not be possible for others to judge us and our life.

This is one subject where thinking and talking does not help. Everyone is constrained by a numerous things and hence for us to expect the other person to act or react in a particular fashion would be a wrong thing to do. But where does this leave us in the matter of relationships where we are forced to depend on the other person for its success? A lot of people either go into a shell or end up breaking the cord when faced with an intolerable prospect. It would be harsh to judge them – a principle we made and must follow. So where does it lead us to – can we conclude anything on relationships?

I think where it leads me to is the realization that it is a matter of great luck that we come across the ‘right’ person or persons. Having once found such persons, it is our responsibility to tread cautiously and ‘protect’ the relationship. But here again, it gets tricky. As someone said – relationships are like holding sand in our fist – if we put pressure, it escapes from the gaps of our fingers and if we hold on it too softly – it again is lost. So all that is in our control is to try and hope for the best.

So does Lord Krishna’s teaching on Karma comes best to our rescue? To do best that is in our hand and to leave the results to the Supreme? Well, it may be unexpected but it indeed seems so…

- Rahul Tiwary 

Friday, February 5, 2016

[Reflections] Innocence Can Move Mountains

Happened to watch a movie ‘Flipped’ on TV which is about teenage love or crushes. In the last scene, after having disappointed the girl a lot and since long, the boy decides to plant a tree in her garden, a kind of tree which she loved and one such was cut down in the neighborhood. It was truly a lovely gesture and heart touching. Apart from other things, what is clearly seen in this case is ‘innocence’ of both the kids.

I remembered my own childhood when I planted plants and trees; though in our own garden and not in some girl’s! I remembered how I decorated our home; though not to impress anyone else but to feel good myself. That pure innocence with which we built miniature clay houses, forest, pond – a whole world – with our own little hands! How we tried to make ourselves as ‘ideal’ human beings, not doing anything wrong and doing all things right. Oh, that innocence I doubt if I possess anymore!

That is how life is – the same person keeps evolving. I remember in childhood I had thought over how I would look like or what I would do when I grow old. I imagined myself till school days; even stretched my imagination to imagine how I would be when I join the college – perhaps taking inspirations from some others older guys I came across – but I had not been able to imagine how I would be after I take up a job or get married. My little world in my head could not stretch to imagine myself into things beyond a limit. I still remember that day when I concluded this. I asked myself if I agreed that I couldn’t imagine myself beyond that stage – and answered that I could not indeed. And see, here I am and I can look back into those days of childhood. While looking into future, we can’t go beyond a limit; but while looking into the past we can go as we please. But that limitation in my head – which made me say that I did not know beyond that limit – had to do something with innocence.

It occurred to me some time back that being all wise and all was not really an asset. When you know that something would not work; would you give your 100% to it? You won’t even try properly! May be if you did not know that it would not work you could have tried better and may be it could have turned out well, just for a change! So knowing too well has its negative side too!

One problem with life is that we can’t go back to some past stage of evolution. I remember what someone said once – if I tell you a fact, I can’t again tell you something which could negate the first learning you made. It is an irreversible process. So where does that leave us?

Having lost innocence once, we can’t go back to be innocent again. And that is some real precious loss I feel bad about…

- Rahul 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

[Society] Who Takes Care of Fathers?

Sometime back I watched a movie where children of a rude father got really annoyed with the hard-headed manner in which they were treated. They complained that their father did not play with them, did not do anything to impress them; but just gave them orders and found faults in them. They said, “Our father is not nice”. One of their neighbors was listening to their complains and he decided to intervene. He said something like, “Have you ever realized that may be your father needs your help?” Children did not get it and asked “how”? The man went on to explain.

“As you know, you have your mother who takes care of you. Your mother has servants who take care of her. Everybody has someone or the other who takes care of them. But have you ever wondered who takes care of your father?”

The children were speechless.

“So if your father had a bad day at office, who can he complain to? If he is tired and exhausted or worried – it did not occur to you that he has no one who would take care of him! May be he needs help – did you ever try to help him out?”, the man continued.

The children were still speechless. But their faces told that they had got the point and they did not have something with them in protest.

Well, I am a young father and I do not claim to be experienced enough to have gained the wisdom, but I do remember the day my babies were born and I was alone in hospital with my wife and kids. It was their first night and mother was not strong enough to take care of them. My daughter would cry and I would try to make her calm down. After a while baby would do potty or susu and again cry. Then it would become hungry. At times the nurse would be too busy in other work and I would have to wait. I would hold the crying baby and try to make her stop crying. Once she stopped and starred into my eyes for a long time – as if trying to say something. Then as if her wait was over, she started crying all over again. I felt a sheer sense of helplessness for not being able to make her stop crying. She would cry and cry until I broke down. Silently I cried too – pained by my helplessness! People may say they are proud to be parents and all, but I know that more than anything, fatherhood has been the most ‘humbling’ experience I ever had…

Our society expects the man to be strong enough to face all problems. Women are labeled weak and any act of courage and achievement from them is seen as an exception and rewarded accordingly. But the poor man – he can’t make mistakes – he has no right to be emotional – he has to carry whole burden on his own shoulders and not even flinch his eyes. I don’t know if we ever stop and think what goes inside a man’s heart. May be we don’t realize that a man has a heart too. It is the same story in literature, art and movies.

I think it is time when we do a bit of re-balancing of the manner in which we judge men. Why re-balancing? Because times have changed. Today's world is no longer a "man's world". Today, a man is expected to do a lot of things earlier he was not. Today, things do not work like they worked before - where men could settle down matters in their "manly" ways. Today, almost every job that men do expects them to be "unlike" a typical male a hundred years ago. Men by design find it difficult to change. And they have in fact changed a lot, keeping with the time. But at times I think our over-expectations can create friction. 

I think we have been too harsh on men while judging them. We have been too unforgiving. We have taken their virtues for granted and punished them severely when they make mistakes. We set very high standards for them and expect them to act right every single time. At some point of time we forget that they have to climb a learning curve too. Most of the time, we forget, in the words of the man from the movie - that men often do not have anyone to take care of them. I think it is time we look at men with some "empathy" too. 

- Rahul [Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.]

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

[Television] Was Comedy Nights the Most Perverted Mass Show in India Ever?

Recently, one of India’s most popular TV shows ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’ which aired on ‘Colors’ has come to a closure. While reason behind its abrupt demise is controversial enough in itself; the show, in my opinion, was no less either. That this ‘perverted’ show (as the title of this article asserts) ran so long, is disturbingly surprising. I shall now try to express my opinion on different aspects of this show in the following paragraphs.

I remember how I came across this show for the first time. Kapil and his pet gesture ‘Baba Ji Ka Thullu’ had already gained mass popularity by the time I got to hear about them. And I did hear about them so many times – it was almost as if I was the only person not watching it. So I went ahead and watched the show. What was my reaction? I found it as horrifying as it was entertaining. Why horrifying? Let me ask you a question to begin with – do you know what Kapil’s almost patented phrase “Baba ji ka thullu” mean?

What Does ‘Baba Ji Ka Thullu’ Mean? Warning: This phrase is slang or a cuss word. You may skip following two paragraphs if you want to avoid its details.

You might have come across a phrase called ‘Baba Ji ka Ghanta’. In exact terms, it means ‘testicles of a Sadhu (sage)’. Since long there have been Sadhus or sages who do not wear any clothes, due to spiritual reasons (e.g. to discard materialism). Many times such Sadhus depended on common population to survive – they wandered and did not care about the hassles of cooking, so the common people fed them with regular meals to the extent possible. Some mischievous kind from the common masses cooked up this slang or cuss word – ‘baba ji ka ghanta’ where ‘ghanta’ meant the ‘hanging’ (like a bell) testicles of a Sadhu. When was this term used? It was used to discard or discount something. Just like a monk’s testicles are futile (since Sadhus practiced celibacy, their testicles were of no practical use), anything which is worthless or futile could deserve this slang. Kapil’s ‘Babaji ka Thullu’ improvised over it and it meant, well, ‘penis of a Sadhu (sage)’!

In the phrase ‘Baba ji ka thullu’, the relevance of ‘Baba ji’ is already explained above. What does ‘Thullu’ mean? Some of you may recall that ‘Tullu’ was a popular brand of ‘water pump’. Thullu is ‘Tullu’ in the general term that it stands for a ‘pump’. I hope I don’t need to explain why a ‘penis’ could be called ‘pump’ in slang? So the overall meaning of ‘Baba Ji Ka Thullu’ remains the same. Since a Sadhu practices celibacy, his penis is of no practical use when it comes to sex and hence it means “nothing”. How savage! Do you remember what Kapil said whenever anyone asked him what did “Baba ji ka thullu” mean? He said – “It means ‘nothing’”. Indeed, it means “nothing”. The devil is in the details.

If Kapil is responsible for doing mass corruption by bringing a sexual slang to everyday usage, other members of his ‘on-screen family’ were no saints either.

Daadi: There are few relations as pure as the one between children and grand parents. We could hold grudges against our parents for any reasons, but the love and affection our grandparents give to us is always so pure and so divine. When I first saw the kind of ‘daadi’ which was being played by a male Ali Asgar in the female costumes, I was disturbed merely at the sight of it. The grandmother ‘daadi’ drinks alcohol, openly salivates and jumps on male guests who come on the set and does other disgusting things like farting and smooching. I know that you would say – it was all for fun! Agreed, this is how I also saw it and survived without getting heart attacks watching Comedy Nights every weekend. But, in the end, no one can deny it that the character of ‘daadi’ was sexually perverted. And this show was supposed to be so called ‘family show’. Every time ‘daadi’ jumped and painted the cheeks of her male guests in red lipstick, the show became a cheap perverted comedy. There was no subtlety, no grace, but only crass fun. I think in the history of Indian television industry there has not been a grandmother as vulgar and disgusting as the one played by Ali Asgar.

Bua: The way society was at one time, unwed daughters were looked down at. I don’t need to be a feminist to see the role of unwed ‘Bua’ of ripen age being a blot on the face of all feminists. In almost every episode some ridicule was passed on her only because she was still unmarried. I know the same justification – “it was all for fun”. But you can’t deny that deep rooted behind all such “fun” was still the gross sexist ridicule which is heaped on the girls who don’t marry at the ‘right age’.

Wife-Bashing: There has been some constant themes on which Comedy Nights with Kapil was based. One such was "wife-bashing". The manner in which Kapil abused his on-screen wife at the stage was disgusting. He made fun of her in front of the guests on stage. His repetitive taunt was for her "lips" - again showing sexist side of the man. I have never seen such a "popular" male-chauvinist as Kapil. 

In my opinion, Comedy Nights with Kapil raised a very important question – why should we be forced to watch sick perverted comedy in the name of humor? I don’t agree if anyone says that ‘comedy’ is not possible without being expletive or sexist. Many people have done that – there have been wonderful writers and poets who produce so hilarious literature. But then, they fail to be a ‘mass product’ like Kapil. Why? Extreme popularity of Kapil’s show is a proof that our society is not exactly going the right way. We are just running behind whatever is served to us in attractive labels.

I think the mass popularity of Kapil’s show was one of the best marketing gimmicks of our time. I know of several people in personal life who have no humor whatsoever in them; but every time the discussion goes around Comedy Nights, they repeat, like a parrot, “Kapil is the best; there is no one like Kapil”. How this vulgar TV show of a “poker faced” man-next-door gained mass popularity is not a proof of his talent but also speaks poorly about our society which looks for social approval and lacks individualism in all fields. I am not a sociologist to understand it totally – but I do feel that lack of criticism for perverted shows like Comedy Nights speaks poorly about our society.

[Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.]

Sunday, December 20, 2015

[India] Modi Govt’s LED Bulbs

Collected 10 LED bulbs @ Rs 100 each from electricity office in Pune, which Govt is distributing for all. Sometime back I had bought some LED bulbs at a higher market price. Those were from Eveready which is an Indian company; but to my surprise the bulbs were "Made in China". So I looked for the make of government's LED bulbs and to my relief those are manufactured at Noida in UP. The contract manufacturer which makes them is a JV between an Indian company and a foreign firm.

Btw, below is a news item which tells about the benefit Modi Govt’s focus on LED bulbs is doing to our nation:

- Rahul 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

[Smiley] Respect!

Today as soon as I took a turn in our lane on my bike, I found a small boy on his small bicycle talking to two little girls in their little frocks at the middle of the road. Now, as the small boy saw me approaching, he immediately paused his conversation, got off his bicycle, dragged it to the side of the lane and then raised his face to look at me so sincerely, as if expecting some reaction on my face.

I don't know if he did so because of good education given by his parents, or if he had learnt its importance after having a bad experience with some dare-devil speeding bikers. Whatever be the reason behind his gesture, it was so heart-warming!

I mean, honestly I have not received such kind of 'respect' in ages!

- Rahul 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Peshwa Bajirao I and the Movie 'Bajirao Mastani'

Full name of Peshwa Bajirao I is - Bajirao Ballal (Balaji) Bhat. He is also known as Thorale (Marathi for 'elder') Bajirao and with the nickname 'Rau' in Marathi. He lived from 18 August 1700 to 28 April 1740 and changed India's history forever. 

Sanjay Leela Bhansali's movie 'Bajirao Mastani' is based on a Marathi Novel "Rau" authored by N.S. Inamdar which is a fictional story of love and relationship between Bajirao and his second wife Mastani. I shall watch this movie in a few days but in general I don't like fictitious stories written about historical figures.

Writers would pick a historical character for their fictitious novels because of many reasons. E.g. because of laziness (re-using historical setting saves lot of time), lack of courage (why take risk to create a new character when you can pick a popular one from the past), due to ego (writers feel like Lord Brahma, the Creator, when they write a book), or due to personal and mischievous reasons (we all have personal likes, dislikes and infatuations with historical figures). Above all, writing about a historical figure gives a bright chance to become part of history too. Any article written about the figure would include at least one line about the writer or filmmaker - "XYZ is a Hindi Bollywood film based on...". I think this must be most tempting to the seekers of fame.

On the other hand, even if they distort history (a fact every viewer knows these days except kids perhaps) they bring back historical figures into 'relevance'. Otherwise I or you won't be remembering Bajirao Peshwa these days. Due to this fact alone, I support even fictitious adaptations of historical figures or events. But as a society, we should care for real facts too. E.g. if one does not try to read anything from recorded history about a historical figure but only watches a fictitious epic movie, one is going to be misled.

When you read the real life story of Bajiwao and Mastani, you would realize that it is an epic in itself. I am not going to reveal it here but at the click of a button you can read about it on the net.

Btw, do you know that Peshwa Bajirao I - who is subject of soon-to-launch movie Bajirao Mastani, lived only for less than 40 years?

Young Bajirao was very popular among soldiers and his name was always taken with great honor. Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj (grandson of Chhatrapati Shivaji) appointed him as a Peshwa at a young age of only 20 years! Bajirwao fought over 41 major battles in his life and lost none! When Bajirao plundered Mughal controlled Delhi, the Mughal emperor had to hide to save himself.

Bajirao Peshwa was en route to Delhi with one lakh troops under his command near the city of Indore when he suffered from a sudden very high fever. I think in those days there were limited medical facilities. Bajirao Peshwa died on 28 April 1740, at an age of only 39. Still, for his immense contribution he is considered one of the chief architects of the great Maratha Empire!

One of the signature landmarks of Pune is Shaniwar Wada. Pune was the Capital City of the great Maratha Empire which ruled most of India for long. This fort was the seat of the Peshwa rulers. It was built by Peshwa Bajirao I. Most people visiting Pune for first time do make it a point to visit it. Today mainly the walls of the fort are remaining and the foundation of the palace inside it. The main palace and several buildings inside it were made of teak wood and got destroyed by a massive fire in year 1828 (legends tell that the British burned it).

Just in front of Shaniwar Wada stands a statue of Shrimant Bajirao Peshwa. It seems as if the Great Peshwa is still protecting his fort!

- Rahul