switching trouble

My two wheeler is giving me some switching trouble. Before I gave it for servicing it had a few problems, but not this one. The switch start was working perfectly. Now, those problems, that I mentioned to the customer care guy at the servicing station, have been taken care of. But, new problems have cropped up.

Of course,  I am yet to ascertain whether the same thing happens with my car.  But, car servicing being few and far between, it may take some time to ascertain it.

These are like the health problems I used to face during my childhood days. If I took medicine for loose motion, I got fever in lieu. If I took medicine for  running nose, the disease ran away but not before switching baton with dry cough. Things became slightly better when I practised yoga and used ayurveda along with allopathic treatments.

But it is surprising that in line with my body’s reaction to allopathic medicines my vehicle too should develop side effects. What is more surprising is that this phenomenon is immune to the type of servicing centre you go to: authorised, unauthorised, local, known, unknown, reputed, or notorious.

I noticed this phenomenon after shifting to Bangalore. While in Coimbatore, I had a friendly owner of an authorised service centre. I don’t remember ever paying beyond three figures any time for the periodic service. But every time the vehicle came back from the servicing centre, it felt like a new one.

One of the perils of living in a city like Bengaluru is that (if you are not a techie) there are guys who earn US salaries to be spent in India. In comparison to them you are doubly disadvantaged. Thus, when a Bengaluean of the good old days, his own finances now on shaky grounds,  is bitter  about the IT guys, his grumbling definitely is on solid grounds.

This is what happened when I first gave my old motorcycle for servicing for the first time after coming to Bengaluru.  It was an authorised service centre. Many vehicle were already in a long  queue. Back in Coimbatore I don’t remember ever waiting in a queue for such a thing.

To test my patience further when my turn came after forty five minutes the customer care girl took a break. Of course to my relief she came back after five minutes. She looked at my face quickly noted down ten serious problems of the vehicle.

Then she was gracious enough to ask me, “Tell me, Sir, what are the problems?”

I said, “Look. My problem is that I don’t understand what an intelligent girl like you is doing here. You should open a face reading and astrology consultancy centre for celebrities.”

Luckily she did not understand. Or, pretended not have heard anything and repeated the question more politely, “Tell me, Sir, what are the problems?”

I asked her,  “Can I see the list of problems you have noted down?”

“These are just routine things, Sir.” She was a little reluctant to show me the list.

I snatched the worksheet from her. After going through it, I said, “Change of rim and spokes.. anti rust coating… change of the .. you call these routine things? Anyway,  you strike out these and write what I say.”

Reluctantly and after showing her disgust at my audacity in not taking here advice, she noted down my requirements.

I was to get back my vehicle at six in the evening. I reached there on time. Again I had to stand in a long queue at the billing counter.

I noticed that the guy at the billing counter, in stead of a proper bill, was handing out hand written chits. Nobody was complaining. People were just handing over whatever amount was asked for and going away without pausing even to check. May be IT Guys who did not think in terms of Rs. 3500/- , but mere 50 dollars.

In the morning I had been given an estimate of Rs. 3500/- . So I was shocked to see a bill of Rs. 6500/-. When I asked for a break up, from his jumbled answers, the only thing I could could  make out was that the last item for the bill was for VAT and the penultimate item was labour charges. I had only one question. “How come you charge VAT on labour charges?”

As he fumbled for reply more customers came forward questioning the handwritten bill and demanding a detailed break up.

Things were turning out to be chaotic. The manager of the servicing centre stepped in and explained that there was a problem in the computer network and we were free to collect our vehicle the next day along with a proper bill. While some, with a little bit of grumbling, preferred to pay and take their vehicle immediately, I preferred to come the next day.

When I came next day morning to collect the vehicle I was pleasantly surprised to see that the printed out bill for me read Rs. 3790/-.

It was only later, after using my serviced vehicle for two to three days, that I realised I had got more side effects than I had bargained for. I went to the servicing centre ( to use Chetan Bhagat language) with six and a half problems and came back with eleven and a quarter.

 

 

(Sixteen Parenting Sutras will be available for free download till 12th March.)

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

 

 

 

 

love is the way

love is the way durga dashLate nineteen eighties. Just when we thought we were out of our teenage hangovers and stupidities, and the advent of TV and DVD players would sound the death knell for Bollywood, a spate of romantic films ruled the box office. These movies also launched the career of a lot of stars: the innocent looking Juhi Chawla, the dhak dhak girl Madhuri,  the chocolate boy Amir Khan, and romantic singer Udit Narayan  to name a few. We enjoyed listening to those great romantic songs without bothering much about their meanings or origins.

Now we don’t have to even wreck our brains to understand the lyrics of some of the popular songs.  We have to just google it. I found out this from a site:

Aye mere humsafar
Ek zara intezaar
Sunn sadayein de rahi hai
Manzil pyaar ki

O my companion
wait just a while
Listen to the calling
of love’s destination

Even after a little help from the Google, the song may not be fully understandable. I too write poems that friends say they don’t understand. But what I do understand from the above song is that it treats love as some kind of a goal to be achieved. And I have an objection there. Because I think love does not have any destination. Love is the way.

When your goal is to become a doctor, it means you are not a doctor now. Same way if love is your destination you are not in love now.

In those days, not having the advantage of Google to check out the exact lyrics and not being native Hindi speakers, the lines we sang sometimes went like this:

App jaise koi
Mere jindegi mein aai
To baap ban  jaye
…… to baap ban jaye

Duniya kaminooo.. ka mela
Mele mein yeh dil akela

Those days we never tried to understand the meaning of Hindi film songs. These days, even after trying my best I fail to understand the mystic connotations of the majority of Hindi film and pop songs.

 

In Bhakti Sutras (which some translate loosely as the Aphorism of Love), Narada says that love is the goal as well as the way. Of course he was talking of divine love. Similarly many of the songs written by Rumi and other Sufi saints are about divine love.  For the spiritually inclined love is the way to self realisation.

But, for the Bollywoood lyricists love is the way to make lots of money. Some highly paid lyricists have brought down many Sufi bhajans from their high pedestals to the level of teenage infatuations. They don’t even acknowledge that they have plagiarized the songs from Sufi and Bhakti writers. Don’t think it is only the script writers who plagiarize.

Of course our popular bhajan singers do not do a better job when they sing bhakti songs following the tune of Bollywood songs that reminds you of  semi clad heroines and item girls gyrating to the tunes in all their vulgar glory.

In my book Idle Hours, I have dealt at length about my ruminations on love at length in an article. I have also discussed about the origin of the Valentine’s Day.

According to one theory, this day is associated with the St. Valentine who performed secret marriages in the 3rdcentury Rome against the diktat of the emperor to debar young men from marrying so that they became better soldiers. However, St Valentine would hang his head in shame if he now learns that marketeers are exploiting his name to sell cards, roses, and chocolates to gold, diamond, and platinum. Moreover, we are not satisfied with marketing the ‘ways’ associated with love only for one day. We have invented so many curtain raisers (Rose Day etc.) before the Valentine’s Day.

On a serious note, St Valentine will also hang his head in shame when he learns that even though we are living in the twenty first century we are seducing girls so that it will add to the numbers of our community.

At the other extreme, we are killing the people who genuinely choose love in spite of differences in social status, religion, caste, or creed.

I was deeply touched by the way poet Rahat Indori has put it.

फूल इस सोच में गुम हैं, के कहाँ महकेंगे, 
तितलियों के लब ए इज़हार पे पाबंदी है..... 
क़त्ल करने की खुली छूट है अब भी लेकिन, 
प्यार मत करना, यहां प्यार पे पाबंदी है.....

one life is not enough – the philosophy

 

one life is not enough 2

Each role has been like a life.

The transition of roles have been

Smooth sometimes.

Sometimes as painful as

Death imagined.

 

A student’s life, a teacher’s life

A son’s life, a father’s life

A spoilt life, a disciplined life

A civilian’s life, a soldier’s life

A villager’s life, a small town life, a big city life

A hermit’s life, a yogi’s life, an indulgent life

An addicted’s life, a sober life

A reader’s life, a writer’s life

A famous life, a nobody’s life

From being a student celebrity

To being an anonymous soldier,

Worker, clerk, teacher, and leader.

An atheist’s life, a god fearing life

A believer’s life, a rationalist’s life.

 

 

I am so grateful that in this one life

I have experienced so many lives.

Still somewhere

Why does the mind harp on

That this life is not enough?

one life is not enough 1

(Next post: one life is not enough – the paradox)

Dear friend, what is the first thought you get when you come across the line – one life is not enough? Share your views in the comment.

 

What’s up, Doc?

durgadash1

Bugs Bunny’s casual inquiry – ‘What’s up, doc?’ – was not meant to elicit a detailed status update as Bunny himself (or, itself) hardly waited for the answer. But status update is very cool and hot these days in the era of smart phones. Whether you are interested or not, your phone is bombarded with status updates and messages of all kinds.

There are some friends who are just content with sending a good morning message to the group that we are members of. Some go a little far in sending the same message to my personal whatsapp number. Some go a little too far when, after sending the good morning message to our common whatsapp group and to my personal number, they send the same message to me through Facebook messenger.

Recently I read an interesting article titled – Whatsapp Freezes Because Indians Send Over 100 Crore Good Morning Messages It Just Can’t Handle.  It means this fad is not a global phenomenon and now there is one more thing I as an India should be proud of.

In a country where people love to bombard you with good wishes morning, mid morning, mid day, after noon, evening, and night, getting out of whatsapp groups, that you are not interested in, becomes a sensitive issue. If I had not been a little rude, till now I must have been a member of about one hundred such groups. When you leave a group some admins do not express their disapproval openly or immediately, while some are a little vocal demanding an explanation as to what made you to choose this disastrous path of your life. Some may go a little far as they add you back again and again ignoring all your humble efforts to exit the group.

Some admins use innovative methods to keep the flock together, like the one where every one was made an admin immediately after he or she joined the group. How can you show your back to a group where you are a caretaker now?

Messaging apps have created a lot of duplicate Nirmal Babas. Messages and photos come with a rider that you must forward the message to ten others so that kripa ani suru ho jayegi.. (blessings will flow to you).  But there are threatening messages too: ‘you must forward this to ten others or else..’

When social media arrived on the scene, people were already fed up with the biased attitude of the main stream media which has been considered as the fourth pillar of democracy. Some thought (and I think still they do) that social media would act as the fifth  pillar of democracy.

But the fact is social media is slowly turning into a filthy pillars of democracy as we are bombarded with propaganda and rumours in the form of ‘forwarded as received’ messages. Most of the ‘forwarded as received’ messages turn out to be fake. Some messages kill people while they are still alive. Some warn about imminent earthquakes or other disasters quoting from privileged sources. It is unfortunate that people react to such messages without bothering to verify the authenticity of such forwarded messages.

Long before Shashi Kapoor actually died I got a forwarded message about his death. I immediately checked on google news and there was no such news. Now a days when authentic information is available at the same finger tip that as that of the forwarded message through the app, I fail understand why people do not take a few seconds to verify such news before forwarding it blindly to others.

The one thing I sometimes like are the jokes. But it is not a joke when you receive the same joke a dozen times a day, or worse when a joke lands up in the wrong forum. I am  a member of a few spiritual groups and one day it was a shock of our life time when a lady member posted an adult joke in the forum. Of course later one one of her friends, in order to clear the embarrassment that hung around her, took pains to make us understand that it was one of her mischievous colleagues who did this.

What is far worse is when your well intentioned  amorous messages land in the inbox  of an unintended recipient. In my book – Idle Hours -I have discussed one such incident in humorous detail. However let me briefly state it here. Once I received a message on my whatsapp, ‘Janu I love you’. It was from a married lady who was not married to me. To make matters worse my wife saw the message first. Of course later it was confirmed that she had accidentally sent the message to me in stead of her husband and all parties were assured of it after necessary verification and certification. Everything ended well. But I leave the scenes of turbulence that must have happened in between to your generous imagination.

That’s all folks. Thanks for reading.

(In response to Indispire Edition 206 . Topic suggested by Dr. Anita Sabat)

 

Educating India (part-2): Specialisation

 

This week’s Indispire prompt suggested by blogger Neha Tambe is about Indian Education Scenario. The exact prompt is: ‘What kind of changes do you wish to see in the education system in India? Learning cannot work like an assembly line. Why can’t children choose in high school their focus subject and graduate with that? Share your ideas and vision about education.’

The prompt asks: why can’t children choose in high school their focus subject and graduate with that. Well, in my opinion high school is too early a time to go for specialisation.

In High School (upto class X) let the children taste all the different branches of knowledge. It will help them, first of all, to know for themselves where in lies their strength or weakness. It will also help them to discover their own inclination for particular fields of study.

Secondly, specialisation cannot happen in total isolation. It can happen only after a certain degree of generalistion. An engineer needs to express his thesis in proper language. All subjects are somewhere interconnected. A scientist should have a little background in humanities and ethics so that when she goes for scientific inventions she does not ignore the potential harmful effects of the inventions on the civilisation.  The scientist also lives in society hence must know the basics of social sciences to be aware of what does it mean to be a responsible citizen. And without history we would not know why a particular group of people behave today in response to different situations.

In ancient days, in the western civilization, all kinds of knowledge were bundled as philosophy which literally means love of knowledge. Of course now a days the word philospher indicates to someone who is devoid of all types of practical knowledge. There was no rigid partition. The greatest Greek philosophers wrote about science, poetry, drama and rolled out self help literature all at the same time. Pythagoras was not only a great mathematician, but also a great mystic. The works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others have stood the test of time.

In ancient India knowledge was divided into two broad categories: the para vidya and the apara vidya – the knowledge of the inner and the knowledge of the outer. While we need certain skills to make a living, we also need to learn certain skills to manage our own life, its ambitions and emotions. In the Gurukula both the branches of knowledge were taught to the children to make them complete human beings. Of course subsequently students moved onto their area of higher studies either on their own or under the guidance of specific masters. The universities at Taxila and Nalanda were famous for higher education.

Let me here clarify that para vidya is not religious knowledge which is all about a set of beliefs and rituals. Para vidya is more of kindling in the student a spirit of inquiry into the existential issues of life and giving them the tools to discover them.

In fact I would recommend that the curriculum of high school becomes more broad based to include subjects like elementary economics and accounting. It will also be good to introduce the students to alternate versions of History, rather than changing the history syllabus to suit the ideology of the party in power. 

Maybe, the time has come in India now to go for cross-specialisation. I come across the profile of US or European students with a diploma in Art History and graduation in electrical engineering. Of course In India also students also go for cross-specialisaton after Engineering or medical they go for an MBA degree in Finance or Marketing. It is still not a culturally acceptable thing in India that someone is pursuing a serious academic course in a University in aesthetics after a post-graduation in  in anesthetics.

Mad Charvak says cross-specialisation is the mother of all creativity. 

 

Let the Gregorian New Year make us more Gracious

As one of the blogger friends has mentioned in the comments of the previous post, this time around the wish was not a simple new year. Some wished a great English New Year, Some a great Christian New Year, and some a prosperous Gregorain New Year. In fact, in my previous post, I myself was wondering why we do not name it as the Christian New Year.

However, at this point of time, 2017 years After Christ,  I think we should not be so fussy. The Gregorian calendar has now become the international standard for dating (no pun intended). So be it.

In fact, unless we are specifically reminded that celebrating the Gregorain new year is endemic to our cultural values, we will not start thinking seriously that it has the potential to uproot us from our native culture and religion.

Now imagine what would happen if every country, every region, every religion, and every sect  rigorously started using its own version of calendar rejecting all other versions. In India itself we would have more than hundred types of calendars. If you boarded the train at Bareilly on 07.02. 2032, you would wake up in Bangalore after two days on 05.04.2130.

And imagine how difficult the life of the air traffic controllers and the pilots would be. Even Google and Microsoft will have a hard time to construct special algorithms to match your religious and cultural sensibilities and sense of time.

At the same time the same generosity should be extended to many other practices. Reservations have been expressed about the International Day of Yoga. A couple of years back clerics in Egypt issued edicts against yoga terming it as un-islamic. Even though yoga is more widely practiced in the Christain majority countries of the west than the country of its origin, Churches have expressed their disapproval.

Maybe, to avoid confrontation with the church, some yogic practitioners came up with a theory that yoga originated in the West. But I don’t think even such a theory will pacify the people who think yoga is a type of a subtle invasion to uproot people from their cultural and religious roots.

People who object to yoga on religious grounds should read the primary treatise on yoga: Patanjali’s yogasutras. To be a yogi you do not need first of all to believe in any particular concept of God, or heaven, or origin of the universe.

Mad Charvak says that this is the very reason religious leaders are afraid of yoga. Religions are driven by faith. When people follow reason and experimentation based on cause and effect there are chances that they will see through the various schemes they propagate in the name of religious faith.

Last year I did not want to wish my loved ones A Happy New Year. Let me assure you it was not for any religious reason. I was alarmed going through what some leading thinkers over the ages had said about happiness.

This year let me wish everyone to start the new year on a poetic note. To help your poetic journey, my anthology of poems – teach me to dream– will be available for free download from 3rd to 5th Jan 2018.

teachme to dream book cover

Educating India (Part-I): Secularism

“Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul.” – Walt Whitman

On one hand, we cry foul that our nation is becoming less secular and more polarised. On the other hand, we encourage religious institutions to expand their empires of education. So we want the patient to recover from fever and at the same time encourage him to take cold showers regularly.

The trend was started by the Christian Missionaries as part of their strategy to harvest overpopulated souls in developing and underdeveloped countries. Other strategies included opening hospitals and providing charity to the needy and underprivileged. These three strategies have something  in common. The sick, the needy, and the under-aged are at their vulnerable worst, thus making their mind ripe to be instilled with a new form of God.

Slowly, followers of other religions woke up to the potential. Of course, these schools and colleges did not have any covert agenda to harvest souls. Some educational evangelists discovered the potential of harvesting millions (in hard unaccounted cash) by running educational institutions under the banner of religious organisations or by stoking the religious pride.  Some of these institutes were established to counter the expansionist agenda of the Church.

You allow your children to study under the supervising eyes of a particular set of jealous Gods, who don’t see eye to eye with other sets of Gods (Or a God, Or the God) and expect them to emerge secular or religiously broadminded when they grow up.

For any such flaws of serious nature in our society, usually, the immediate response is to bring in new legislature. By the way there is no need for any special laws to be enacted now to cleanse our education system of things non-secular. The CBSE bylaws mandate that in order to get recognition schools must propagate secular mindset. Now the question is : who will bell the cat? (Mad Charvak says, ‘After all, dear brother, who would risk losing such a chunk of vote bank?’)

 Vested interests (that includes parents) want that people spend their early part of life in heavily conditioned religious setups that emphasize ‘ours’ is the only way,  so that they become protectors of their great cultures and religions when they grow up.

At the same time society should not go to the other extreme of banning all kinds of spiritual education. Let the students learn a little bit of history and essence of all faiths, including non-religious faiths like communism. That will prevent them from becoming chauvinists, and in the extreme case from becoming terrorists.

By the way, as 2017 is coming to a close a strange question is coming to my mind. Certain day is called a Hindu New Year, another as a Jain New Year, and so on. Why not call this one starting from tomorrow as the Christian New Year, which in fact is a Christian New Year?

Mad Charvak is warning me – Shsh…… a trade secret.

(In response to Indispire#202)

Monica Lewinsky and the Trolls of our Times

A couple of days back a woman of acquaintance committed suicide. The usual story : alleged extra marital affairs, a society that loves to take figments of weird imagination as the gospel truth, rumour, lack of emotional support from near ones, stress, depression, and fear of facing alone an antagonistic world. Remember, there were male parties to the whole issue. But, it was the woman who faced the majority of the insults and finally paid with her life.

Coincidentally, perhaps at the time when the woman was preparing to hang herself, in the comfortable surroundings of my home I was watching a series of TED talks, one of them being a talk by Monica Lewinsky about the trials and tribulations she faced after the news of her inappropriate actions in the White House became public. Well, those who were of news digestible age by 1998 need no introduction to her.

 

She recounts that it was an internet site that first broke the news. The president of the United States of the America had been caught pants down with a young intern in the white house. Within no time news spread like wild fire all over the world. The internet was full of nasty comments about her. All sorts of editors from the main stream media to the yellow press wanted to outdo one another in dishing out juicy details. And shaming her.

Bill Clinton was effected too. Of course, he was not as devastated as the lady. Nor was he trolled and shamed both offline and online, as vigorously as Monica was done. He was let off after the public was fed up with inventing banters about him. Ultimately, the US public did not want him to lose his job. His wife stood by his side and after a decade, she  was vying for the top post of the world.

Meanwhile, Monica was having a hard time reconciling with the nasty world. She recalls that at some point she too thought of committing suicide. Her mother stood by her. Her mother was so cautious, she insisted that Monica should keep the door open while taking her shower.

In India we have the idea that women are in the receiving end and the bearer of the bigger brunt only in orthodox countries like ours. We think women are better off in such matters in free, modern and progressive countries of the west.  But it seems whether it is in the west or in the east, society has been grossly unfair to the fairer sex.

Monica also recalls an incident of a girl committing suicide after someone filmed her intimate moments with  a boy friend and made it viral. These are some of the flip sides of the social media.

The talk also raises deeper issues of freedom and citizen responsibility. How can we demarcate a line when commercial interests (more visitors to the website/ more readers of the newspaper) override media ethics and an individual’s right to privacy?  Should freedom of expression push every humane consideration to the sideline?

Of course the main issue here is the way society treats women and men over similar mistakes. We know that in Ramayana, Sita did not go through the agniparikha (to pass through fire to prove her chastity) voluntarily. It was ordained by the keepers of morality. Same way, our historians who are now too obsessed with the Aryan Invasion theory, should do serious research to find out whether, during the Isalmic invasion and loot, women voluntarily went through the sati ritual or were coerced to do so.

heights of beauty

Manushi Chhillar.jpgCan’t one be lovely without being fair? Is beauty only skin deep?  The facts, of a CBSE topper becoming the miss world this year and the balanced mix of whites, blacks, and browns in top ten of the Miss World pageant, are more than enough to bust these myths.

But one disconcerting question remains. One of the eligibility conditions to participate in the contest (for an Indian) is that a candidate’s height should be at least 5 ft 5 in ( earlier it was 5 ft 6 in). Even though this is the minimum, the past winners of Miss India contests have been around 6 ft. Hence, low height is a disadvantage for any contestant even though she may qualify. I don’t understand why should height be a limiting factor when it comes to be an eligible participant in a  beauty pageant?

I don’t think, from India, there has been any Miss World or Miss Universe who can beat Rekha in grace, elegance or mental agility. Same goes for Vyjayanthi Mala, Jaya Bachchan, Vidya Balan, and many of the past and present Bollywood divas. It is worth noting that the average height of Indian women is 5 ft.

Even though at the international level contest skin colour has never been a disadvantage, it seems it is a disadvantage to win the contest in India. I would be happy to be proved wrong if someone can inform me of a case when a black beauty in India was a finalist in the Indian version of the pageant.

Well there are some other limiting conditions. In order not to give a miss, the girl  should be a miss – literally and biologically and she should not be between 18 and 25. There is an ambiguous condition too: The applicant by nature and habits should carry the traits of a female. Maybe to give a chance to those who missed the contest for not being a miss, they have started the Mrs. world contest.

Such conditions keep a vast majority of the beautiful and talented women of India out of the context. Thus, chosen from the minority sample size, someone winning the contest at the international level contest is a great achievement indeed;  that too in a beauty contest where every contestant’s ultimate dream is to become a Mother Teresa or a female version of a Mahatma Gandhi.

It is wonderful that an Indian girl has become a Miss World. It has happened after a gap of seventeen years. India has equaled the record of Venezuela in terms of most number of winners. However, given the talent that is available in India, if some of the discriminatory conditions are removed, India will not have to wait for another seventeen years to get the next crown. Moreover, it will be in line with the philanthropic ideals of the beauty contests.