because they are so young …

dharmapada

There is a saying in Sanskrit:

“yuktiyuktam bacham grahayam baladapi shukadapi,

yuktihinam bacham tyajjyam balaldapi shukadapi”

It means – reasonable words or words of wisdom must be accepted even if those words come from a child or a parrot, Unreasonable talks or words devoid of wisdom must be shunned even if those words come from a child or a great sage like Shuka.

This is a great piece of wisdom. Usually we attach authenticity to authority. We take as gospel truth and accept the words spoken by an authority figure without any verification. An extreme example of this is what happened in the case of Hitler. During his time even the great intellectuals of Germany accepted his propaganda messages without verification and worked for him to further his evil designs.

On the other hand timely and helpful advice coming from a person without authority is ignored. This is quite common in organisational set ups. Sane and effective suggestions from junior employees are quite often sidelined. The seniors even go to the extent of deriding the hapless junior. They may say, “What are you in front of us? You are just a kid in the organsiation. Are you here to teach us who are like the headmaster of the school where you studied?”

Experience has its own advantages. But with experience comes the possibility of experience bias that clouds our ability to see things from a fresh and unbiased perspective.

I love to learn from young people. Children are quick learners and are not afraid to experiment. In understanding the working of a gazette or the latest technological upgrade, children can teach us better.

In certain areas they have distinct advantages. In matters of spoken English my children do correct me and I welcome that. My school and college teachers, though masters of written English, did not have exposure to proper spoken English.

Our history and mythology also have many instances of children coming to the rescue of adults. One such legend is associated with the construction of the sun temple at Konark.

Twelve years after the construction started, when the sun temple was nearing completion, the architects were faced with a crisis.  They were not able to figure out how to fix the kalasha at the top and mark the completion of the temple. The king became impatient with the inordinate delay at the final stage and gave an ultimatum to the architects that if they did not fix it before the next sunrise all their heads would be cut off.

Coincidentally, Dharamapada the twelve year old son of the Chief Architect Bishnu Maharana had come to meet his father. He came to know of the problem and went to examine it. He detected detect a minor fault in the construction. He corrected it and fixed the kalasha.

The legends goes on to state that subsequently he jumped to the sea to his death so as to remain anonymous in order to save the architects from beign disgraced for not being able to fix the problem themselves.

The acts of Abhimanyu of Mahabharat are also humbling. There is no way to underestimate the power of innocence.

(In response to Indispire #223)

(‘teach me to dream’ – my anthology of poems – will be available for free download from 01.06.2018 to 03.06.2018.)

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. 

 

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)

Mein nikla satya ke sandhan mein

मैं निकला सत्य के
संधान में |

दिन दहाड़े , डायोजिनिज के लालटेन ले के
राजधानी के राजपथ पर,
सत्ता के गलियों में,
कलाकारों के रंग मंच में,
मंदिर , मस्जिद और गिरिजाघरों में |
ढ़ूँढ़ता रहा
वो सच्च जो कबका खो गया है,
या सुलाया गया है,
राजनेताओं के सफाई , आरोप
और प्रत्यारोप में,
पत्रकारों के हल्ला में,
क्रांतिकारियों के हल्लाबोल में,
धर्म गुरूओं के शास्त्रार्थ में,
बाबूओं के फाइलों के नोटिंगस् में
विचारपत्तियों के लम्बी – लम्बी
आदेशों में |
सभी ने एक साथ बोला
सच्च का पता लगा तो
गजब हो जाएगा,
देश बरबाद हो जाएगा,
आखिर लोग भी तो अभी कच्चे हैं
सच्च को छूपाने में
है हमारी समझदारी
और हमारी जिम्म्दारी भी
फिर कोई एक मुझे चुपके से कहा
” आखिर दूकान भी तो चलाना है ” !!!

 

Mein nikla satya ke sandhan mein

Din dahade, Diogenes ke laltan leke

Rajdhani ke rajpath par

Satta ke galiyon mein

Kalakaron ke rangmanch mein

Mandir, Maszid aur Girja gharon mein

Dhundta raha

Who sach jo kabka kho gaya hai

Ya sulaya gaya hai

Rajnetaoon ke safai, aarop aur pratyarop  mein

Patrakaron ke halla mein

Krantikarion ke hallabol mein

Dharmaguruyon ke Sastraarth mein

Babuon ke filon ke notings mein

Bicharpatiyon ke lambi lambi adeshon mein

Sabhine ek saath bola

Sach ka pata laga to gazab ho jayega

Desh barbad ho jayega

Aakhir log bhi to abhi kache hai

Sach ko chhupane mein hai hamar samajhdari hai

Aur hamari jimmedari bhi

Phir koi ek mujhe chup ke se kaha

‘Akhir Dukaan bhi to chalana hai’

 

(The words came in Hindi. So I let them be. Thanks my friend Ms. Nilima  Kanth for helping me put it in Devnagari Script)

In response to Indispire #191

oh sister, my sister

 

(This time, in stead of I writing a blog post in response to the topic of Indisipre Edition #165, I asked my son Dipayan to write one. Being the beginning of the academic year, I saw him having too much fun and I wanted to curtail it. But I was proved wrong as he announced that writing the article was no less fun.)

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Adyasha & Dipayan

I love my sister. Though there’s 10 years of difference between us (ten years three days to be precise), there’s no gap of affection. She is now in Switzerland, but still we talk often. I do miss her, but I still get to talk to her, and that’s a good thing. Quarrels are rare, because the last time we quarreled must be around 8 years ago, when I was 6 and she 16 and we used to stay together (aah, those days…). But those quarrels used to end in a jiffy. None of them were too serious. I stayed with her till her twelfth class. After that she went for higher studies to NIT, Trichy where she stayed in a hostel. So, we met only during vacations.

Two years back, she went to Zurich to do M.S. Since then, we have been able to meet only online.

We used to play many small games together, and we had a lot of fun. I didn’t feel bored at all when I was with my sister.

Indian BloggersHaving a sister has many advantages. A sister is more caring and patient than a brother. My sister taught me many things. She taught me many good values, and of course, helped me a lot in my studies. Not only in studies, she helped me a lot in everything, and in return, I helped her. According to me, helping and caring is what makes a sibling relationship special.

She used to hug me tightly and kiss me everywhere on my face and call me many affectionate names like ‘cutie pie’, and I believe she would do the same when I meet her now. She says even if I grow, I would still remain a small child to her.

My sister motivates me not only by her words but also by her deeds and achievements. She was one of the CBSE All India toppers both in Class X and XII. She carried on her academic feat to NIT, Trichy,  where she was also much sought after for co-curricular activities like organizing and compering special events, creative writing and editing.

She tells me what to do and what not to. She is my inspiration and I am proud of her. When I miss her and cannot immediately contact her online, I watch the following video on youtube, which is a recording of her fun presentation on drones at Science Slam Zurich.

Alone in the World of Technology?

After their adaptability to the mobiles, social media apps like Facebook have become a rage. On these very social media platforms quite often we get ‘forwarded as received messages ‘ ringing alarm bells as to how real relationships have taken a back seat as people spend more and more time on Facebook, Whatsapp etc. .

This week’s Indispire topic too raises questions linked to the above propagated fears. It says, “In this world so connected with technology, we have actually lost our real connections. Technology has actually surpassed human interactions. Real time conversations became texting and feelings became status updates…. “.

I am reminded of an often repeated theme in twentieth century Bollywood films. The hero would go to a foreign country for studies. When he comes back after twelve years  no body is able to recognize him. Sometimes, the story would take a ‘comedy of error’ twist.  Now you cannot present such a story to the present skype generation. It is a great loss to the Bollywood script writers.

Barring the above notional loss, I do not think there is any real cause for alarm. Rather three are reasons enough to rejoice.

We can look at it this way. Now we leverage technology to save a lot of time.  No more do we travel 20 kms to a railway station and stand in queue for two hours to book that vacation ticket. We do not have to visit a post office to send money or a letter or a telegram.  Some even do not go to office to their official job. This in turn gives us more time for creativity, productivity or have real life fun.

Even though my wife is very active on social media, she does not miss her daily quota of enlightening and philosophical  face to face conversations with her neighbours. Now there are more topics for discussion. Like, why her dress from Amazon cost more than her neighbour’s.

Jokes apart, now she is able to connect with her daughter in Switzerland on a daily basis almost at no extra cost. Sometimes during the video chat my daughter closes in on the dinner plate and they both cry. In a way it has deepened the feelings. Imagine how we would have interacted ten years back. Maybe once or twice a month a phone call. Or, an international mail. Hardly can our daughter be out of sight, to be out of mind.

There has been no let up in my face to face interactions with my family members, my neighbours and  my colleagues, even though I use technology a lot.  Now, due to these latest developments in communication technology, I am able to make connection with those with whom I would not have been able to do so if these latest developments were not there. In fact technology has helped me to connect more with real people, far and near.

Thanks to their status updates, now I feel being connected on a daily basis to hundreds of my school/college mates and ex- colleagues.  Many long lost friends have been found. Those who are nearby still come physically to express their feelings whenever the occasion demands.

The fear that the virtual world created by  technology has taken over the real world is over exaggerated. Especially in the case of India. Or else, every year you would not be seeing larger crowds at public events and holiday places with their friends and families.

In fact technology is providing me less and less excuses to be alone. The virtual reality provided by technology is only a medium. The people I interact with through this medium are real. Does not matter if they are far or near. And sometimes even if I have never met with them.

What about our blogging activity and our real time interactions over so many bloggers from India and outside?

Before the era of computers and BPO did you hear of someone earning a salary in one year, the equivalent of his father’s life time earnings in a private or government service?

Or the senior citizens (and the non-IT guys) attributing all the ills of present Bengaluru, including cost of living and heavy traffic jam, to ‘those IT guys’.

Well, that could be a kind of loss to those attached to the idea of good old Bangalore.

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Indian Bloggers

Of self discovery and spirituality

May be somewhere at the age of twelve I started to have deep feelings of uselessness of life. The feelings continued off and on. Pressing responsibilities and needs, first of a student life, then of a professional and family life drowned out the inner call.

Of course, since childhood I had been interested in yoga and meditation. I used to do certain practices following the instructions in some books that I had come across. However, I was not having any deep  feeling or any significant progress as an amateur self taught pilgrim of the spiritual journey. But my self taught yogic practices continued from high school till the first year of college. Then, sometime in the second year I discontinued the yogic practices and my lifestyle took 180 degree spin off.

Indian BloggersIt is said in esoteric spirituality that every spiritual / non-spiritual  cycle lasts twelve years. It may be a matter of pure coincidence that after my third 12 year cycle,  I started again to search for answers to some of the existential questions that had bothered me every now and then: Who am I? What is the purpose of life? Is there any use in this thing called life? yeh jina bhi koi jeena hai yaro? These feelings of inner emptiness, uselessness, meaninglessness continued for quite some time. I turned my attention to a variety of spiritual literature. But nothing satisfied me.

One day while channel surfing on TV, I got stuck with an interview of Sri Sri Ravishankar taken by Pratibha Advani. I do not remember what exactly was the question or what was the answer, but I had a feeling that I  got a starting point for the answers to some of the disturbing questions in my mind. Then, one day out of curiosity I went to the Art of living center to inquire about their workshops. It was a Tuesday and I was told the next workshop known as the Art of Living Basic Course was to start in two hours.Without thinking much I enrolled my self. Then I was in Hyderabad.

The six day workshop, for me was sheer bliss. By the end of the course my journey of self discovery had begun on a serious note. After that I visited the Art of Living International Centre in Bengaluru and met with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I also did many advanced courses.

Of course till now I have not got the final answers to my ‘existential’ questions. The quest of self discovery is still on. But the difference is, now I have the feeling that  I am on the way. As I continue with the spiritual practices and knowledge, I experience many positive changes in my attitude towards life and society.

Different people may have different experiences and opinions about Art of living and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. But one thing I know is that the word bliss cannot remind me, first of all,  anything other than the Art of Living.

I have realised that one need not be a believer of anything to experience the bliss of meditation, yogic practices and mystic glimpses into the nature of truth.

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In addition to Sumelika Das, I must thank Cattie’s World  for being the inspiration for this post.