A Brief Note on Stephen Hawking

Saddened to hear the news of the death of one of the greatest minds of our times. I had written a post about him a couple of years back. I am sharing it as my tribute to him. May his soul rest in peace.

Durga Dash Blog

stephen hawking

Here is a brief introduction to Stephen Hawking from his official website: 

Stephen Hawking is the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which was an international bestseller. Now the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge, his other books for the general reader include A Briefer History of Time, the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universe and The Universe in a Nutshell.

In 1963, Hawking contracted motor neurone disease and was given two years to live. Yet he went on to Cambridge to become a brilliant researcher and Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. From 1979 to 2009 he held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton…

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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.)

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behind the grease paint

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Life and death are conjoined twins. Nothing makes us ruminate more on life than the news of death.

During those demonetization days if everyone became an economist, on the demise of  Sridevi everyone seems to have become a philosopher. This was evident from the first tweet and the first whatsapp message that I came across.

The conscience keepers of the nation too had their grudges vented. Some lamented that while the nation and her pressmen were obsessed with a matinee idol, the death of soldiers in the boarders got only passing mention.

Some moralists even cried foul to see her body wrapped in the tri-colour. Actually, these moralists should protest when an artist is given any national honour  like the Padma Awards. If we don’t have any objection to someone being given a national honour while living, why should we protest when, out of protocol,  the same person is given a national honour when dead.

Ironically, these so called gatekeepers of Indian morality must have, at some point of life, indulged themselves in one of her movies to escape from the mundane affairs of everyday life.

Ram Gopal Verma, in a blog post, has shed light on some of the harsh realities of Sridevi’s life. He says that the only moments when Sridevi seemed comfortable with life were those when she was in front of the camera. If cinema has been an escape for the Indian public from the harsh realities of life, so was the case with her, from a different angle though.

During those days when she was gaining her foothold in the movies, high payments to filmi people were in black money to avoid tax. Her father entrusted the money to different relatives. When he died the relatives refused to give back the money.

Subsequently, her mother took charge to manages her financial and other professional affairs. She made a lot of bad investment decisions. By the time Sridevi and Boney Kapoor met both were in deep financial trouble.

I am not much of a Sridevi fan, though she came to rule Bollywood with a spate of super-hits with Jitendra when I was a late teenager. For casual fights and arguments, in our college hostel, we had two major Bollywood groups: one was the Jeetu-Sridevi group, another was Amitabh Bachchan group. I belonged to the later. My one-to-one combat  used to be with Subrat Satpathy, who also had been my high school classmate. When I came in contact with him after a long gap (thanks to facebook) the first thing we relished was about our fights over Jitendra-Sridevi and Bachchan.

Nevertheless, we can definitely draw inspiration from the struggle and the achievements of persons like Sridevi. An artist’s contribution to the society as well can never be undermined in spite of the foul cry of the moralists.

We know that it is only a minuscule percentage of prospective artists who make it to the top of the celebrity charts and stay there for some time. The road to stardom is paved with thorns of sacrifice and struggle.

Still then, we fail to see the struggle, the pain, and the tears behind the grease paint applied to give us the picture perfect.

 

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 paradox

One life is not enough, yet for now, this moment is full in itself.

One life is not enough, yet for now this moment is enough unto itself. The statement may  seem to be a paradox, self contradictory, and outright goobledygook. However, it is not when you see different parts of the statement from different perspectives.

When you are playing the role of an experiencer, when you are drowned in sense pleasures, you crave to experience the pleasures again and again. The lustful man wants to have sex with all the women in the world, the greedy wants to own all the wealth of the world. Same way one can be greedy for experiences and achievements. Alexander wanted to leave no corner of the earth unconquered.

But, you can switch your role from being an experiencer to being the observer, or  a witness. Then you have a glimpse of the depth of the moment.

Baffled by the myriads of the creations, I have often made the petition to the maker  that one life is not enough to experience His limitless creations. At the same time, to experience the depth of His creation, one must learn to dive into the depths of the present. One who is bothered too much by the past or concerned too much about the future, loses the opportunity to utilize the fare of the creation on offer right now. Same way, being grateful gives out a message to the universe that you deserve to be an active part of His creation for ages to come.

Time is fleeting. It is a continuum. The moment one tries to catch hold of it, it is already gone. So where is this moment and how to catch hold of it? One can experience the relative dimensions of time depending upon one’s state of mind. In deep meditation one can experience time stop and a stage comes when is established in the witness consciousness. In doing 100%, one is not bothered by past or future.

It may not be possible to play the role of the observer or be in a state of samadhi through out your life. Same way it is tiring to hanker, non stop, experience after experience. Deep real rest and an attitude of letting go helps a lot in recharging one self from time to time.

Life in its myriads of colours, shades, flavours and tastes

There are six basic tastes, according to Ayurveda. Depending upon the person, some tastes are pleasant some are unpleasant and some may be outright atrocious. However, to have a balanced diet and thus a balanced body and mind, one should include a bit of all the tastes.

Same way according to Bharata’s Natya Sastra, the artistic expressions involve nava rasas or nine falvours- some positive some negative. Contrasting flavours makes any story interesting.

So also in life. There are positive as well as negative feelings and  emotions.

If one has experienced only the height of joy and not the depths of depression and sorrow, if one’s journey of life has been a smooth road without any ups and downs, any twists and turns, one has missed to live life in its totality.

Life is such an enigma

This is my translation of a favourite Hindi film song from Anand – a  popular movie of yesteryears.

 

Life is such an enigma

Sometimes it makes you laugh

sometimes it makes you cry.

The mind never wakes up.

It continues chasing after dreams

Sometimes it so happens

The traveler on the path of the dream

leaves behind the dreams

and goes away somewhere

never to be found again.

Those who came together

to set up the ‘mela’ of life

together struggle and are

partners in happiness and sorrow.

Suddenly one of them chooses silence,

and goes away somewhere

never to be found again.

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.

 

Educating India (Part-III): Hear it from Sir Ken Robinson

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Education is one of the boring subjects to discuss when you are in a party. Everyone needs it, everyone is concerned about it, but how many are willing to go in for an in depth discussion about it?

When it comes to educating our children most of the parents usually go with the wind of the times, subject to their economic limitations. And immediate economic considerations always takes precedence over anything else like the actual talent or inclination of the child.

In depth discussion about educational issues may be boring. But, you will be surprised to know that a TED talk given by British Educationist Sir Ken Robinson is one of the most watched videos on TED website and Youtube.

Here in India the perception is created that much of the rot in the education system can be traced to Macauley. But, after hearing Ken Robinson I realised that it is a global phenomenon. Education was taken seriously by the governments in the nineteenth century to meet the growing need of the industrial revolution. Thus, while some aspects of education (maths, science etc) are overemphasised, other aspects like arts, music, dance etc., are never given the importance these subjects deserve in our school curriculum.

These talks are sprinkled with generous doses of humour. So whether you are an educationist, a parent, or a lover of British sense of humour, do not miss these videos.

 https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity

https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution

https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley

(My book Sixteen Parenting Sutras is live now on amazon. It is also available on #KindleUnlimited)

Part 1: Educating India

Part 2 : Educating India

 

sixteen parenting sutras

parenting sutrasI am not a great believer in tips, tricks, shortcuts, and patchworks (or what they fashionably call ‘hacks’ these days) when it comes fundamental issues of life and relationships. In fact such superficial measures cannot have any meaningful impact when it comes to deeper issues of life. I believe that if one’s basic attitude or philosophy is based on sound understanding of the issues, these will be in the right direction and a few mistakes on the way will not have much  impact in the long run. After all no one is perfect. But one can have the right attitude and adopt a philosophy that is based on the reality of the times.

Each of the sixteen ‘sutras’ or principles that I have phrased and enunciated in this book has an underlying philosophy. Each is an attitude to adopt. These are not tips and tricks to be used in response to  particular situations.

These principles have taken a long time to come to sixteen. In 2008 I was invited to give a talk to the parents of a gated community. For the talk, I developed a write up that I called five parenting points. That time I was regularly conducting Art of Living classes for adults and children. I was also doing my meditation regularly. This write up was a product of my receiving divine revelations from up above.

Just joking. Actually this write up was a product of my interest in eastern philosophy, my own experience as a parent for fifteen years by then (What is so unique about it?), and my interaction with a large number of children and parents by virtue of my workshops where in both the parties voiced many of their concerns.

The write up about five parenting points was published in ‘Lighthouse’ where I have been a co-editor.  Subsequently, a magazine about Positive Life took an interest in the article. The editor was so positive about the interest this article would generate among the readers that she wanted me to expand the article so as to be serialised over a number of issues. I expanded the principles to ten. Subsequently, I don’t know why her enthusiasm turned negative. Was it because I had cited a Samskrit sloka that did not go down well with her? Well, I would never know.

The manuscript gathered dust till last October when I wanted to revive it. Meanwhile, I have also become a little wiser so as to make the total number of principles to sixteen.

So, if you are looking for shortcuts or any quick fixes, this book is not for you. But, if you would like to explore beneath the surface and ponder over the common fallacies that many parents fall prey to, read the book and chew on. It is a small book. But the impact may not be so.

 

What’s up, Doc?

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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)