Friday, August 16, 2019

Independence


Independence: The dictionary meaning of this word would be “the fact or state of being independent”. And the word independent would mean “not influenced or controlled in any way by other people, events or things".

Yesterday 15th Aug 2019, India and Indians all over the world celebrated our 73rd Independence Day. Our tricolour flags were hoisted, patriotic hymns were recited, even tiranga sweets/pulaos were relished, march pasts and salutes done. For some it was a welcome break from routine, for some an extended weekend possibility promising a small holiday. And then life goes on as usual.

In 1947 it heralded our nation freeing itself from the British Empire. A momentous event in our timeline. One which held and continues to hold, a lot of promise for our future as a free nation and as free Indians.

But for the common Indian person in today’s age, one who did not directly witness our freedom struggle first hand, what should every 15th August remind us of and in what way should each of us leverage this reminder? What is true INDEPENDENCE?
  • Independence to do what one thinks is right or the steadfast willingness to abide by the laws of the land?
  • Independence to cross a red light when there is no traffic or the patience to wait for the green light?
  • Independence to throw trash around in public or the discipline to seek and find a trash can and use it?
  • Independence to give and take bribes & transact under the radar or the determination to say NO to corruption and black money?
  • Independence to just witness a crime or accident and be blind to it or the conviction to stop, assist and help?
  • Independence to care for me-mine-myself or the willingness to broaden our inclusion beyond bloodlines?
  • Independence to yield to compulsions or the awareness to lead our lives more consciously?

It may seem that genuine independence may be far more restrictive and demanding....... and far less liberating!  And therein lies the choice of doing the right thing and being truly independent of short term pains and discomfort for the larger good!

To accelerate our nation’s progress on its path towards a glorious future, let us be genuinely independent in every moment of our lives.  Jai Hind !!

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Suicide: an abuse of the gift of Life?

On July 31 2019 the news that hit headlines in India was that of the finding of Cafe Coffee Day's V G Siddhartha's body. 


Circumstances may overpower a person's interiority and compel them to take their own lives.


Be it a young student depressed over grades or a business-person submerged under presumably unsurmountable challenges.. taking one's own life is an extreme step..defeats the gift of life!


Life....the duration between the first breath and the last breath....is just a play ......and we should not blow the close-out whistle ourselves. Keep the ball in play....and have the ability to manage our own interiority irrespective of external circumstances. Live Life to the Maximum.


Only when big names do this to themselves, the media splashes this in our faces. There must be many more lesser known humans who commit this drastic crime on themselves and this goes largely unnoticed by the general population barring immediate family and friends.


Am told that self realized beings know when their time has come...and go into a kind of samadhi and leave their corporeal body...and allow life to ebb out. Likewise have heard that animals and birds too know when their end is nigh...and depart to a place to shed their bodies.


But I don't think animals and birds commit suicide ahead of their time. This frailty is a human speciality I guess. One which we can do without. 


Friday, May 24, 2019

We as Indians have chosen our next PM...What next?


Most of the exit polls on Monday 20th May indicated a comfortable BJP + NDA majority. And the results of the 23rd May are very much in line with the exit polls. Congratulations to all the successful candidates of all parties and my best wishes to all those who contested but could not emerge as a victor.

Kudos to the entire Election Commission team and their machinery for having planned and executed such a mammoth democratic exercise. And to the security forces and paramilitary that guarded the booths and the ever popular EVMs and VVPATs. A massive accomplishment indeed that often goes unrecognised. Yes there have been a few acts of misconduct by various parties during the campaign, even some lives lost, property damaged, some codes of conduct breached, all of which need serious countermeasures. 

My salutes to every eligible voter within the country and outside, for exercising their franchise and helping determine the future course for the country. For those who could not or did not vote for any reason, I urge them to please do so in future opportunities. It is not just one’s right, privilege or authority....it is one’s clear responsibility as a citizen of India.

In many instances, parties and personalities, big and small, those in power and those out of power, all of them stooped very low and used unnecessary negative rhetoric that has inflicted wounds on other parties, personalities and even brought some disrespect to the Defence Forces, the EC and the Judiciary. Even the Mahatma was not spared!! As India fights to regain its rightful eminent position in the global order, such toxic mudslinging does a huge damage to the image and stature of India as a nation. After the elections, politicians may shrug these off as minor misdemeanours in the "heat of the campaign", but they should introspect on the scars that these will surely leave on the impressionable minds of the younger generation of Indian citizen voters and politicians and also on global opinion leaders. Our friendly neighbourhood countries too would manipulate these to India's disadvantage. Is it too much to ask and expect that future Indian elections be conducted in a more civil and dignified manner? 

There is a lot of talk about the "maturing of the Indian voter". That is a very good trend indeed. Can we as citizens also expect a "maturing of the politicians". The only time that most politicians fold their hands, bend their backs a little and appear to supplicate is in the few weeks before an election. They talk of the janata being the "maalik". But once the ballot is cast and counting is done, the hapless voter is forgotten and most of the promises made disappear into thin air. The elected candidates feel that their position and power is an entitlement and not a responsibility!!!  Can we Indians even dare to expect our politicians and national leadership to act more responsibly? How do we make them more accountable? How will our politicians realise that the "dharma" of a politician is to serve. How do we ensure that the power and trappings of an elected candidate does not go to their heads and corrupt them? 

How can we ensure that there is a clear demarcation between the Defence Forces and the Government? Unlike our neighbouring country where probably the Defence still has a major hand in the way their Government is run. How can we ensure that the Defence is not politicized and manipulated for election wins by any party? 

Today most Indians live and work in cities that are not their home town, not where their names are listed on the electoral rolls. And they cannot always travel back to vote. We live in the times of internet banking, e-commerce and demat trades. Huge sums of money are transacted digitally without physical paperwork, signatures or face to face meets & handshakes. Can we look forward to a time when every eligible Indian voter can exercise one's franchise from wherever one is, based on verification of biometrics and ones Aadhaar identity?

The results of the 17th Lok Sabha elections in 2019 hold a lot of promise and hope for the Indian economy, for an all-inclusive progress, for further strengthening India's standing on the global stage. Prime Minister Modi and his chief architect Amit Shah have strategized and executed their game plan, leading to a handsome majority and their party's number growth, even in hitherto uncharted territories. What do I as a citizen want from my PM, in his repeat five year term? 

Am sure that our PM and his cabinet are very focussed on all our national priorities and will deliver on their various promises. Apart from that I look forward to a few more aspects:

What I am looking forward to is that while the BJP leverages its absolute majority in a sensible manner, they have to have the humility to still carry their NDA allies along respectfully.

How will the PM allow the elected Governments in all the States and the UTs, whether it is a BJP government or not, to function well? And not destabilize them for the spread of the saffron colour? 

Today there is only one truly national party and that is the BJP.  It appears that the Congress has clearly lost it's compass. All others are smaller regional parties. How will the PM and the BJP maintain a healthy respect for national parties and regional parties? 

Talking of the Congress, which is the only other possible national party, how will they address their clearly lacking leadership issue? And their poor organisation structure?  Will they survive another 5 years or get lost in oblivion? 

We also know that there is no credible opposition inside the parliament. The situation that the Congress finds itself in is pathetic. For the institution of Democracy to function well, it is important that there be a very powerful but constructive Opposition to maintain a check and balance. How can the BJP generate a solid opposition for itself to function effectively? 

How can the PM ensure that each Central agency functions independently and efficiently, in clear alignment with national priorities and always keeping the Indian Constitution paramount? 

How can the actual data and reality of the country’s growth be measured and communicated clearly to one and all so there is no debate on the vital statistics of the nation?

Picking from the PM's own words of last evening, how can the Government focus and help the only two "castes" of relevance.....one is the impoverished and the other is those that can do / want to do something positive for the up-lift of the impoverished? 

For India and its 130 crore humanity, these next five years are very crucial. Almost of all us fall in that exclusive minority which is clearly and comfortably out of the poverty level. But many of our fellow Indians are way below the poverty levels. The real dance or “thaandav” of democracy is to be seen from their weary eyes. The Indian Government is tasked with bringing a huge mass of humanity out of poverty with no more time to waste.

I look forward with a lot of hope for another five years under our PM Modi. Whether I or anyone else voted for him, for BJP or for some other party is irrelevant. Today he is my country’s elected PM and I wish him well.

Jai Hind! 


Monday, December 26, 2016

Living LIFE to its fullest !!! Happy New Year 2017

As we step into the last week of 2016 and get ready to usher in the new year 2017, this is my last blog post for 2016. I had a tremendous urge today to pen this down and I succumbed to that urge. I swept every thing else aside and focussed on getting this done... Here it is.... 


-          All life forms continuously seek EXPANSION. A seed, an embryo, a child, a sapling, a plant. The correct metrics for this “expansion” is surely not weight, size, monetary wealth, real-estate property etc etc. These may be the means to help us in our “expansion” but they are not “expansion” itself !! EXPANSION not just in size and shape, but a ‘seeking for more’ .... a seeking for a larger slice of LIFE itself. In this context the ad jingle for a soft drink...“ Dil Maange More” is very apt  !!  So “expansion” in the context of “Life maange aur zyaada life” ...Life seeks much more out of life !! Living life to its fullest possible potential.

-          All life forms have been gifted a set of faculties to experience LIFE. The combined set of these faculties that a particular life form has can be loosely called its internal “life intelligence” ....its unique DNA code... its unique software program.  

-          This “life intelligence” or software is dormant until activated. For it to get activated it needs hardware!! Where is this available? This “hardware”,  the life-form seeks out from its environment. Just like a seed is dormant and remains as a potent seed, till it finds itself in the right soil condition / moisture etc for it to kick-start its own unique LIFE journey and then slowly starts to sprout and morph from a small seed to a mighty tree that will spawn a gazillion seeds in its lifetime. This “hardware” can be seen as different types of resources or “experiences”  : could be sunlight, moisture, soil nutrients, pressure, time, heat.... that is,  many varied types of “experiences” that the dormant life-form has to witness, for it to start its own journey of expansion.

-          Apart from the “hardware”, for a life-form to kills its dormant inertia and kick-start its life process, it also needs some form of energy, some form of the “juice of life”. Metaphorically speaking let us take the case of a computing system. If the Software (the computer programs) and the Hardware (the computing device itself) are powered up suitably by the right form of electric current, it will start functioning. The “juice of life” has to be of the right form and nature: AC or DC, 110 V or 240 V etc etc...  If the juice of life is not of the right form and nature, it may result in the malfunctioning of the hardware and the software or it can even destroy both the hardware and the software.  

-          So for the true expansion of a life-form to happen, these three essential building blocks are essential viz
o   the “life intelligence”
o   the “experiences”
o   the “juice of life”

-          If we can focus on each of these three elemental building blocks in our own lives, we could really make our individual “expansion” happen to its fullest and thereby LIVE LIFE TO ITS FULLEST POTENTIAL. It is vital that these three elemental building blocks within us are all compatible with each other and have to be in synergy with each other for LIFE to happen to its fullest. That is when the fullest “potential energy” within us gets utilised and converted to energy of actions... “kinetic energy” !!

-          While being huge in potential, individually each of us are nothing but tiny specks of life within the unfathomable cosmos and the cosmic intelligence. We are it and it is us. Aham brahmasmi ! Ultimately each of us as these tiny specks of life, “seek” to be one with the cosmos and seek “expansion” to be one with the unfathomable cosmos. We may be doing this “seeking” consciously and with awareness OR we may be doing this seeking in a wayward, drifting, slumbering manner. “Being” one with the cosmos or better still, “realizing” that we are already one with the cosmos is what Yoga is all about. The etymology of the word YOGA itself means to unite. In Vedic Sanskrit, yoga (from the root yuj) means "to add", "to join", "to unite", or "to attach" in its most common literal sense, designating the "practical" aspects of the philosophy, i.e. the "union with the supreme" due to performance of duties in everyday life.

-          Roga, Bhoga, Yoga .... and ......Rogi, Bhogi and Yogi:  I refer to an interesting piece I saw on the internet a few weeks ago that is quite relevant to quote here: https://trueayurveda.wordpress.com/2013/.../difference-between-yogi-bhogi-and-rogi/.  If we live a life of roga / disease,  as a rogi then it prevents us from the possibility of experiencing life to its fullest. So being free from roga of the mind and body is an essential precondition. As a generation, we are experiencing life in its most comfortable form. No other generation in the past has ever experienced the degree of comfort and material conveniences that our generation is witnessing. The modern world as we see it now is a tremendous excess of bhoga !! As each of us goes through each of the “experiences”, we are “bhogis”. A yogi is someone who realizes that all the actions of a bhogi are ultimately fruitless, that cravings and indulgences are only temporarily satisfying. Then the desire for something more real arises. Like in everything else, we could explain this as a spectrum....... with 100% Bhogi at one end and 100% Yogi at the other end. All of us are somewhere within this spectrum. All over the world one is witnessing a gradual shift in the aspect of “consciousness”.  A gradual shift from being more of bhogis to becoming more aware of our true nature of yogis !!

-       Each of us sees things from our own perspectives. Each of our unique perspectives are at different levels of perception. Enhancing ones perceptions itself, is a journey that each of us have to take wilfully and with awareness. Here our own free will comes into play and thereby one gets to write his/her destiny by our own free will. 

-          In Hindu traditions, moksha is a central concept and included as one of the four aspects and goals of human life; the other three goals are dharma (virtuous, proper, moral life), artha (material prosperity, income security, means of life), and kama (pleasure, sensuality, emotional fulfilment). Together, these four aims of life are called Puruṣārtha in Hinduism. The goal of YOGA is MOKSHA or MUKTI..... freedom from ignorance: self-realization and self-knowledge. All of us are seeking expansion. So essentially all of us are practitioners of YOGA, we are all yogis... now we may be yogis with awareness and consciousness or we may be yogis without awareness of this fact that we are yogis !!

-          In my own life’s journey ahead, whatever little time that I have remaining in this mortal life, I will consciously focus on these three aspects with total awareness:

o   the “life intelligence”: enhancing my receptiveness and try and access faculties beyond the five physical senses. I realise that while these five physical senses will be powerful allies in my daily material life, I have to be more sensitive to faculties beyond these 5 senses to accelerate my journey to live LIFE to its fullest.....
o   the “experiences”:  enhancing my awareness and consciousness to enable me to see things as they truly are. Developing my “insight”. Without colouring each moment with my own individual prejudices and biases which have been developed over the past lives and in this life itself. Thereby “responding” to each moment rather than “reacting” to each moment.....
o   the “juice of life”: making my life energies more potent with the intake of right food and right thought, with right sadhana and practices....

-          By doing this, I would hopefully gradually cleanse the balance sheet of my life!! Stop accumulating bad karma, slowly dissolve the past accumulated karma. Be receptive to HIS grace. And let that grace do its magic on me.


-          With tremendous gratitude to the LIFE that I have experienced thus far, I look forward to the new year 2017, striving to continuously enhance my awareness and consciousness of “being” a yogi.  Wishing everyone a very happy new year ahead!!

Jesus said “the kingdom of god is within you”... Yoga is about experiencing it. .... Sadhguru

Saturday, December 17, 2016

another trip with Eicher G80... to Myanmar & Cambodia..

Quite rare nowadays to have a group of workplace friends staying connected almost 20 years after they left the company that they worked at.

They say..... once an Eicherite always an Eicherite. That is something that I cherish, as Eicher was my first workplace after IIT-M.

We call ourselves the G 80 group ....group of guys who were with Eicher in the '80s. As a group, we continue to take time out and head out on national or international holidays together as Eicherites.

We just completed another wonderful holiday together to Myanmar and Cambodia. From 30 Nov till 11 Dec 2016. Visited Inle, Bagan, Mandalay and Yangon in Myanmar and Siem Reap (Angkor Wat) in Cambodia.....

These countries are amazing!! Despite troubled legacies and a lot of turmoil in the past, the people are so simple, humble and very welcoming. The infrastructure is amazing and even puts India to shame.

They do depend on tourism heavily (especially Siem Reap in Cambodia) and we saw a huge amount of western tourists. In Myanmar it was largely western tourists, but in Siem Reap Cambodia we saw a fair bit of Asian tourists too. The Angkor Wat monuments showcase the ancient (9th – 12th century) influence from Hindu kings from India and the gradual shift to Buddhism.

Both these countries are easily accessible from Indian cities via flights transiting through Bangkok. Wide variety of hotel accommodations and very professional guide / tour agents. Largely non vegetarian local cuisine but vegetarians will not be inconvenienced at all as they have a fair bit of veg options. Their willingness to flex and provide veg options is very welcoming. Their palate tends to favour non spicy food lightly broiled / steamed. Lightly salted and spiced.

Very economical places to stay in and can be visited even on a thin budget. A wide spectrum of options from typical backpacking to luxury resorts.  We used the services of Myanmar Golden Images (in Myanmar) and Makara Travels (in Siem Reap, Cambodia)

In Mynamar we stayed in plush resorts like Pristine Lotus Spa Resort at Inle ( http://pristinelotus.com/)  , Aureum Palace hotel , Bagan ( http://www.aureumpalacehotel.com/bagan.html) , Sedona hotels in Mandalay and Yangon (http://www.sedonahotels.com.sg/mandalay/)    & (http://www.sedonahotels.com.sg/yangon/) . We used airconditioned buses to commute to the various sites and air travel between Yangon-Heho(Inle) , Heho(Inle)-Bagan, Bagan–Mandalay and Mandalay-Yangon. Our stay at Inle and bagan were more refreshing and we got to experience the Myanmar lifestyle. Mandalay and Yangon were more of pagoda hopping ... pagodas and more pagodas !!!  Myanmar truly is a country with a zillion pagodas!!!

At Siem Reap, Cambodia, we ventured off the beaten track and avoided the big Hotels, to stay with The Rose Apple Boutique Bed&Breakfast, a wonderful quaint setup owned and managed by Tim Blondeel and Sophearit and efficiently managed by young Dara.  (http://www.theroseapple.com/html/bedandbreakfast.php?p_lang=en) Truly a piece of paradise!!! Very close to the Pub Street and Night Market... happening places as the sun goes down. 

We also ventured to travel locally in a series of tuk tuks... a wonderful contraption of a locally fabricated four seater hitched to a two wheeler. Very safe,comfortable and airy. See images of tuk tuks here :: (http://www.angkortuktuk.net/tuktukservices.htm)

Our guide in Siem Reap Ms Ara of Makara Travels is a very special person and she took extra care of our very large group of 24 from India.

Have posted pictures in two albums on Flickr and on Facebook ... one for Myanmar and the other for Siem Reap (Angkor Wat), Cambodia. Enjoy the trip virtually through these pictures.

Would be delighted to help anyone considering travel to these destinations and wanting any inputs. 










Sunday, November 13, 2016

My India…. I live with hope!!

Let me state upfront that I support any and every move to address the twin inter-connected evils that act as major dead-weight throttling India’s march to greatness:  Corruption and the Parallel Economy (black money).  

The country gives us an environment and enables one to generate wealth and therefore I am all for a reasonable taxation regime where a portion of the wealth generated by all individuals and entities, goes back to the Government machinery towards propelling the country forward.
It is now 70 years since our independence from a foreign regime and since then, many political parties have come and gone in the states and at the center. Many five year plans have gone by. India is surely making progress in many areas slowly and steadily. India too is chugging along slowly and promises to be a powerful economy in the coming decade. India hopefully will soon regain its erstwhile position of having been a very powerful economy. I live with a lot of hope and the coming generations in India should see far more glorious times ahead. India is also becoming a more prominent global player both politically and economically. In addition, many Indians have been groomed by this country and add their professional expertise to power the engines of many overseas economies.

However the things that disturb me are as follows:

·             Is there fairness in the taxation regime in the country? Many professions generate a lot of wealth but escape the tax regime either partially or fully. Some are exempt by the taxation system itself while some avoid / escape the tax net willfully. What needs to be done to ensure that the taxation system is fair and reasonable?

·         Is the collected tax used by the government efficiently? The reality on the ground is that as genuine and willing tax payers, we get very little from the local and central Governments in terms of infrastructure, social security etc. Is there proper efficiency in the system of tax collection as well as the way in which the collected taxes are efficiently deployed for the benefit of the country’s tax payers? Only when we see the benefits of our tax money directly benefiting the common man will there be a sense of fairness.

·         Is the system of cascading benefits downward to the needy population efficiently managed?  How much of the various benefits really trickle down and reach the real targeted population? Why does 100% not reach the genuinely deserving person? Why does the government machinery tolerate and enjoy the seepage of the downward trickle?

·         Are Indians motivated to drive India?  Why should the overseas economies still continue to be a magnet for many talented Indians? Why is that our own country not have the ability to retain all the talent that is groomed in this country? More of the talent muscle powering the Indian economy will surely manifest in a far higher velocity and acceleration of our young and promising economy

·         Why don’t we think and behave like Indians first? Why do we allow state boundaries, religious affiliations, language and caste divides etc to split our country for things as vital to life as water resources? How does the fact that water flows through a particular state entitle a state to deny the usage of the same water, a gift from nature, to the states that live downstream? Even political parties operate on the basis of their own identity and do not want to support genuine attempts and ideas originating and being implemented by other parties. Why is it that a good idea is not supported genuinely and whole heartedly by all parties irrespective of which party is driving the initiative? Why does gender, caste, creed, sexual orientation, language, state citizenship etc divide us into separate silos and why does everyone not get the same treatment as a worthy Indian? Likewise on many other aspects we still resort to thinking on the basis of our narrower identities and not thrive on the larger perspective of being Indians first!!

·         Why is the Judicial system, Policing system, Political system etc so inefficient? For fairness and justice to prevail, the judicial system has to be super efficient. Likewise the Police system should be liked and admired rather than feared and avoided. Many of us dread approaching the Police and the Judiciary for remedies to any injustice. Why is it that the Judiciary and the Police system are not the friends of the common man? Why do many of us think that Might is Right has to be endured and tolerated? Why do we enable people with dubious pasts and criminal records to become politicians? Does wearing starched white clothes after getting elected absolve them of their past and make them clean people? Why do politicians bend, grovel and behave like public servants for the few days just before getting elected and after being elected, become power hungry and depraved monsters lording over the very same public that voted them to power. Why is it, that power is not seen as a responsibility but as a privilege?  

On 26th May 2014 Narendra Modi became our 15th Prime Minister. Many of the above aspects are on his agenda and slowly progress is being made on many of these aspects. He is also driving a clear strategy to network with the global community and place India in its rightful position in the world. I personally sense that the country is moving forward much faster and more confidently ahead, under his leadership.

We are 1.25 billion strong today. One in every six beings on the planet is an Indian. If not all, if at least a majority of the 1.25 billion align ourselves and commit to a clear path ahead, we will make a huge difference to India and to the world at large.  We owe it to ourselves and to our next generation!!


I live with hope….. Jai Hind!!

Friday, October 07, 2016

Preparing for your senior years !!

We work and toil to make a living, provide for our progeny and see them grow into young aspiring adults. Oftentimes the focus on making a living is so intense that we forget to live a life!! Suddenly as you turn into your late fifties and step into the senior years, we tend to feel neglected and lonely. But is that the way it should be? Can we plan and make our senior years very enriching? 

The senior years is actually a rerun and a reversal back to childhood. The urge to seek attention is equally pronounced. Only difference being that the elders / seniors do not manifest their urges as easily as a young infant would. They often tend to leave their feelings and desires for others to interpret!

Over the last 50 odd years, India has seen the slow disintegration from the solid joint family system to nuclear families. There are also a few cases of single parent families. A time may even come when, if a husband and wife were together, it would be referred to as a joint family!!! A couple of generations ago, the support of the joint family system, saw our grandparents through their old age. This is no longer a reality.

Modern conveniences of transportation & communication, industrialisation, urbanisation, willingness to move across borders etc have made this a global economy. With the younger generation becoming global citizens, the ability of the children to be with and take care of their parents is seeming more improbable, even if they had the desire. Parents too realize that children aspiring to pursue their career ambitions in locations other than their home location in India or even globally, is a reality. The younger generation also realizes that when they themselves would get into their own senior years, their children too are going to be global citizens and it is therefore imperative that they too plan for their own senior years!   

This is where I see a huge opportunity in Senior Citizens Gated Communities where the seniors can lead a very high quality life and explore their abilities to the fullest. Coimbatore has been a pioneer in this industry and I am associated with a few of them. Additionally, it is a retirement for the senior woman from the chores of cooking and kitchen work!! Mind you, these are not the "old age homes ' or "vriddhashrams"!! These are very sophisticated & enriching communities, and is a very practical and viable option. Should be actively considered by those approaching their senior years and also by youngsters for their parents & themselves !!

Coimbatore offers properties in Senior Citizens Gated Communities suiting many budgets. Either a small one bedroom / two bedroom apartment,  or row-houses, and even standalone ground level or ground plus one level Villas. With centralised maintenance and concierge facilities, entertainments and special events, health care facilities, centralised kitchen and dining facility etc, these communities offer an enriching lifestyle to seniors. Being a common kitchen facility, the food and type of cuisine is generally the primary consideration. Food is typical of the location of the project and the cusine caters to the project's majority target population.  For eg most of the projects in Coimbatore offer traditional South Indian vegetarian food typical of an Iyer/Iyengar cuisine. 

Coimbatore as a city meets all the criterion for such projects : proximity to specialty hosiptals of all kinds, access to rail and air travels, excellent climate all year around, availability of part-time and full-time caregivers. 
  
Many youngsters are investing in these and encouraging their parents to relocate to such communities. With the newer concept of ownership property (instead of the earlier concept of leased property), investing in such projects is also a wise capital investment strategy.

The ability to “Pause” :::::

All of us encounter numerous situations during our living day. It is how we behave in these situations, that makes our day a good day or a bad day!!

More often than not we always REACT to a situation. This REACTION comes from our own individual biases / prejudices / mindsets all of which are nothing but an assimilation from situations in the past that one has been a witness to. So each of us would REACT differently because each of us has an unique bias / prejudice / mindset as each of us have traversed a different and unique journey in our respective lives!! This predetermined “unique program” determines our behaviour.

So all our REACTIONS are based on our PAST and therefore our PAST continues to dictate our present and thereby our future too!! We tend to live a life driven by our compulsion. The REACTIONS are therefore part of our compulsive behaviour. It is not based on our CONSCIOUS and AWARE behaviour. Would we not like to break free from our past and thereby craft our present and our future on an entirely new format? Is there a way to do this?

I guess yes, we could craft and engineer our own present and thereby, also our futures. If we could handle every situation with a Response and not a Reaction. We should RESPOND and not REACT. But how? By not allowing our compulsive behaviour to come to the fore. Inserting a deliberate PAUSE between the situation and our response to it. If we were to cultivate the PAUSE, we could develop the ability to RESPOND and not REACT.

Our breathing itself is a big metaphorical example. A simple act of breathing, which in itself is a sign of our being alive, is not well understood. If we cease to breathe, we are considered dead!  More often than not if you ask people to explain what is breathing you may get a response like “ a process with alternate inhalations and exhalations”. But is that really so? If we carefully observe this most precious of life processes, it is in four steps and not two. An Inhalation, a pause, an exhalation, another pause..... and then the whole sequence is repeated... till our last moment in life when we breath our last breath.  In Sanskrit it is explained as [1] Inhalation (Puraka), [2] Pause with fullness of breath (Kumbhaka),  [3] Exhalation (Rechaka), [4] Pause with emptiness of breath ( Shoonyaka). The pause with fullness of breath and emptiness of breath are vital for we cannot always keep inhaling OR always keep exhaling. It is by virtue of the pause that we are able to exhale and inhale alternately, thereby keeping us alive!!

So the pause is almost always ignored and not recognised. But if we were to do it with the fullest of awareness, maybe we would be able to cultivate the ability to PAUSE in our response to the many situations that we find ourselves in, during our daily life. 


Without the pause our tendency is to react. With a pause, we can respond instead of react. The pause helps us consciously free ourselves from our compulsions. During the pause, we should exercise our pure intellect untouched by our biases and try and look at things as they truly are. And then respond with the awareness that what we give out in terms of thoughts, words and actions will surely come back to us in like measure. This way, we would free ourselves of our karmic baggage slowly. At least we would not pile up even more karmic baggage!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Photography....

Just completed the 9 day weekend course (Basic DSLR) on Sunday 22 Nov 2015. I thoroughly enjoyed each of the 8 sessions that I was able to attend. This was at Srini Institute of Photography at Coimbatore ( located @ PERKS Campus)

Overall Srini has designed the content very comprehensively and spaced it out very well. There is just enough basic coverage of the science / technicalities of photography but a very deep and intense exploration of the art of photography. This way the course lights up a passion in the student for the evocative art that photography is. To me, the course kindled / re-kindled my serious interest in photography and converted it into more of a passion. Moreover I also had the following takeaways for which I express my sincere gratitude to Srini..

# Still Photography enables you to capture a moment in your LIFE. What is LIFE but a series of moments strung together on the dimension of time.As I intensely view the subject and the scene and try and connect with it , in a way I can sense the inter-connectedness of all things and also force myself to be "in the moment". Not burdened by the memories of the past or the imaginations of the future.

# In many ways photography is a meditative process. You have to "still the mind" and see the moment as it is !!

# A great medium to narrate a story and communicate to a larger audience. By moving away from "taking a snapshot" towards "making an image", I can taste the joy of this creative medium and expressing my views and thoughts to a larger audience

# Appreciating the connect between painting and photography and the painstaking effort of great painters to transfer their mental images on a medium like a canvas. Can learn lots from observing great paintings!!

# What IS and What IS NOT are equally relevant.. Light and Shadow(absence of light).. recognizing and capturing the interplay of these two is what photography is all about !!

# What you give off and exude is what your nature is !!. A thing is RED because it reflects red and absorbs every other wavelength. Likewise as an individual, we are what we exude. When we operate from a platform of constant and unequivocal love, we are truly loving.

# As you COMPOSE each of your shots, you also have a responsibility to COMPOSE your LIFE and each moment in your life.. recognize all the finer details and weave it into a wonderful tapestry when the breath is still in you. That image will remain after your time is up!!!

# Photography is all about LIGHT and SHADE (absence of light, darkness). Gu(darkness)Ru(one who dispels) : as a guru, Srini has been able to move me from darkness to light.. tamaso ma jyotir gamaya...


Srini is therefore not just a great photographer but also a great human being. am privileged to have connected with him by means of this course and hope to stay connected. This note is a small but genuine guru dakshina.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Civilization?????


I often wonder if in the last 100 years, humanity has progressed or regressed ? 

If we look back at just the last 100 years, and the massive changes that we have brought on to human life and all other forms of life and to the planet in general... destructive technologies to annihilate others during WWI and WWII, exploding human population ( we were just 2 billion in 1926 and at that time the growth rate was such that we would have added a billion every 123 years.... and in 1999 we were 6 billion and a growth rate that we would add a billion just every 12 years !!!) , decimation of many species, polarization of economies and classification based on haves and have-nots (a.k.a developed world , developing world , third world etc!!), new phrases like "globalization"... (we were always one globe !!!) , ridiculous life-styles where we have adopted all the modern conveniences in our lives thanks to technology but at a ridiculous cost to our health and the health of the planet, religion forming a base for terrorism, creating destabilizations in many parts of the world to enrich those manufacturing arms and ammunition, and the list goes on.. where are we headed as a human race.... at lightning speed towards a disaster? 

We have refused to really look at MOTHER NATURE and seek her signals and warnings... how long can we suckle and seek nourishment from MOTHER NATURE without respecting and nurturing her in return? Till she withers away as a drained corpse? 

Like the Masaai tribe there are numerous Adivasi (literally translated as the first inhabitants) tribes in India and all parts of the world, that have survived and flourished with a very close bonding with Mother Nature. Us so called "civilised" folks in our dapper suits, numerous educational degrees and fuel guzzling vehicles and modern conveniences continue to rape Mother Nature.


We can all theorize and preach...but change begins with me, with us, with each one of us. If we earnestly decide that from this moment on at least, we will be consciously aware of the planet and the eco-system that supports us, be aware of the inter-connectedness between all forms of existence and take decisions and make choices conscious of these facts, when we breathe our last we will leave the planet and its inhabitants a little better than what we inherited...is that not the real purpose of life? 

To enrich all around us and leave the planet a far better place than when you were born? Is that not a life well lived? Is that not YOGA or the union with everything that is around us in the cosmos?

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

on Parenting ....

Namaskarams

Heard this today from Sadhguru on PARENTING : Raise Yourself before You Raise Your Kids !!

http://www.ishafoundation.org/blog/video/parenting-raise-yourself-before-you-raise-your-kids/

Sadhguru looks at how a child needs a friend, not a boss. If we enforce our ideas upon a child, he will lose his sense of independence, and this could result in rebelliousness later on. Once you become a parent, the most important thing is that you have to be 100% straight. You just have to protect them from the wrong influences, the rest let them free, he says. At the same time, they should remain free from your influence, he points out.

Children do not belong to us, they are not our property. Our roles as Mother and Father ended when the biological process of birth happened. The child came "through" us . We were just the medium. The child is also a piece of creation , created by a source outside us. We succumbed to our biological / physiological compulsions and lo and behold we have a child !! At best we lent our sperm/egg and our womb for hosting the child in the prenatal stage. 

What the child needs is a friend, not a parent!!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Towards light.... Tamaso maa jyotir gamaya..

Without the Sun's energy, life on planet earth would cease in minutes!!

All natural light that the human eye sees is the light of the Sun. The objects that we see through our eyes are merely an impression of the light reflected off these objects falling on the retina,  conveyed by electric signals to our brain via the optic nerve. So for a photographer the Sun is the real GURU !!  Tamaso maa jyotir gamaya.....So for me, Photography is another way of paying homage to the Sun, our life sustenance source!!

Am delighted that I got an opportunity to enrol in a 9 day weekend course at Srini Institute of Photography in Coimbatore. Srini is an amzing human being : a great photographer , a humble human being and a passionate teacher !! Am looking forward to learning a lot from him about light and life !!  www.sriniinstitute.org/

Some realizations of the first day : 

Photography is the art and science of capturing a three dimensional visual reality on a two dimensional medium by creating illusions of a third dimension

The CAMERA is just a man made device to try and replicate the eyes function of recording light that bounces off objects / subjects. 

Train the eye to see the play of light and also the shade ( the non light!!!) . What is and What is not. 

The Power of Observation is the greatest asset for a photographer

Photography is a direct derivative of the state of mind of the Photographer. The images that one captures are the true reflections of your state of Mind.

When, thanks to Srini, I realized these aspects yesterday I could see a lot of similarities between Photography and Spirituality. And photography as a medium to deepen one's spiritual pursuit. 

The fact that each weekend session is on a Sunday from 0930 to 1730, and the first session yesterday fell on my dear wife's birthday keeping me away from home on the entire day is something that I had not bargained for !! 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Moments...towards mukti......

LIFE is just the set of discrete moments between one's Birth and one's Death. 

Metaphorically speaking, LIFE is akin to our school / college / academic pursuits. With one major and subtle difference though.... We actually choose our school / college / academic course willfully in this very life. But that is not clearly and consciously so in the case of  LIFE. LIFE's moments come to us unannounced, possibly triggered by moments that we may have experienced earlier in this life or even in earlier lives !! Each moment in our life has been drawn in by our own past actions in this life or in our past lives. Hence  "this moment is truly inevitable" . 

Back to the metaphor : In each academic pursuit we may choose / prefer some subjects , some part of the syllabus etc. Do exceedingly well in a few things scrape through a few not-so-liked subjects. We may pass each year or excel with distinction or even fail. If we fail, we repeat a subject or even repeat a term/year!! It is only when the learning is "complete" as decided by the examination board, that we graduate / complete the course and get certified... And move on to our next course...and theoretically speaking, if all our learning is 100% complete then we do not need any further schooling / college / academic pursuits !! If we do manage such a fantastic level of learning, then we would be a true full-fledged scholar!!

Likewise if our learnings form the experience of each moment in our life is not complete then we have to repeat the moment again !! Each moment that we witness in our lives comes to us for specific learning opportunities. We can either leverage it to its optimum for our own mukti.....or let it drift past un-utilized...... or worse still do something completely retrograde that needs even more learning / unlearning !!!

Our experience of each moment is entirely dependent on our own individual response in that situation.  We have a zillion choices to select from as our final response in any given moment. Some choices may be determined by our compulsions ( vaasanaas / tendencies) eg fears  from our past memories or fears / imaginations of our yet-to-come future !!  Some choices may be determined by our pure consciousness if we react in the "right" way and see each moment as it truly "is" and not as we fear it to be / imagine it to be. Hence "our ability to respond is limitless". 

If we operate from within our complete consciousness and awareness, our response is likely to be not compulsive. Then and only then do we have a tremendous possibility to experience each moment without compulsiveness and thereby reduce our karmic baggage. And march towards mukti!!

I guess the entire effort in one's LIFE is to utilize our allotted, definite amount of Time (kala), Energy and Information to experience each moment as it truly is.... and complete our learning. 

As parents, we tend to forgive / forget and still operate from a plane of our total unconditional love. But we chose this level of response only to a select few whom we consider as our own : possibly a select set of family / firiends.  But if we consider ourselves as a parent to all the beings (sentient or nonsentient) in the universe, then it is possible that our response would be from a level of total consciousness / awareness !!  Hence "strive to be a parent to the universe". 


As Sadhguru puts it  : When a human being is born, a certain software is set within him, which is a combination of time, energy and the information that he carries with him. These three together will determine various aspects of life.  These three components together is the making of life. These three components together is what you are right now. If one grasps these three dimensions within, that you are a combination of time, energies and information, if you can conduct all these three things consciously, you are free in every way – 100% free. That’s liberation. That’s mukti.  http://www.ishafoundation.org/blog/yoga-meditation/demystifying-yoga/life-death-time-energy-information/



Friday, September 11, 2015

a few tips for future yatris to Kailash & Manasarovar ....

Some learnings as tips for future yatris..

In earlier times the yatra was full of hardship and there was no focus on comfort. So that helped open up a person completely by the time one reached Mt Kailash. But in todays times, comfort is given more significance. The journey itself is becoming more and more comfortable with the excellent roads that China has built right upto Manasarovar. It is almost a comfortable holiday nowadays !!

One can look at the yatra as a shift / change and just go with the flow and endure some of the hardships... stay focussed as a devotee and ignore the body / mind for at least the duration of the yatra... or make some small adjustments in what you pack for the yatra if you want to have some comfort !!

Some tips based on my experience :

Castor Oil :  We were told to pack and carry castor oil. As there was no clear instructions as to why castor oils is recommended, many did not pack and carry and neither did I . Only on reaching Lhasa were we told that castor oil when applied to the nostril, keeps the nostrils lubricated, making the breathing effortless !! Luckily many of the other yatris had brought sufficient castor oil and we were all able to use it and it really helped.

Pranayama and deep breathing exercises: Strongly recommended  at least a few months before the trip. The body's pulmonary capacity is challenged on account of the ovygen-lean air that you breathe at high altitudes...

At high altitudes, make sure that you move slow and steady as the body would become breathless more sooner. And do not bend and get up with a jerk. Blood may drain away from the head. Slow movements recommended.

Layers of clothes : We were told that at least 5 layers of clothing are needed to stay warm. At least in the month of Aug when we trekked, these 5 layer guidance is a total overkill !! It actually made the trek more uncomfortable. And since we had already donned 5 layers, one was stuck with it as we could not strip and remove layers in between the trek !!

I would recommend that one good full sleeve thermals on top and likewise at the bottom, an outer layer of comfortable clothes, a woolen sweater and a woolen muffler + monkeycap would suffice. Apart from this a down jacket with hood is really useful. An outer layer would be just a rain proof jacket + trousers.

Rain proof / water proof shoes : Not really essential unless you are sure that you would have  to walk in deep layers of snow. In Aug the trek was on firm ground and the waterproof shoes were not really useful, but added weight to the trek!!

Rain Proof jacket and trousers : this is relevant as you have rain / hail and clothes may tend to get wet if you do not have rain proof wear.

Packing a set of swimwear / swimming trunks / quick drying nylon shorts is recommended if you are keen to take a dip at Lake Manasarovar. Dries up faster after a dip !!

Sun protection cream (SPF 50) for your face and lip balms are required. Do not avoid these !!

Flask : This was redundant for the trek in August. Normal bottled water itself was sufficient. Did not have to carry hot / warm water. Possibly if the yatra is done during deeper winter months, the flask may make sense. One trick I used was put two bottles of water inside my inner jacket ( instead of in the backpack / trouser pockets) so the body warmth kept the chill out of the water.

Food at the midway halt : Getting pure veg noodles in the local tibetan tents at the mid way halt is a challenge. May be adviseable to carry your own instant cooking veg noodle cups, which can be consumed with the hot water that can be purchased at these local tents.  Also even energy bars, protein bars, dry fruits and dates should easily suffice. One another tip is to carry lime flavored / orange flavored Glucose powder which can be mixed into the bottle of water and drunk instead of plain water. Note : ORS / Electral is not advised by the doctors.

Food in general : dependence is on the Nepali sherpas cooking abilities and the limited repertoire of masalas that they carry. So if you are a die hard south Indian, you may carry some of the readymade rice mix pastes for the tangy meals that you would long for.

The tongue longs for the saltier tangier food.. so apart from sweets and dryfruits, you may like to pack salted snacks : bhujias , moong dals etc.

The yatra can be a surefire method to lose a few kilos !!   So if you can control the urge to snack / nibble, one can easily lose a few kilos in these two weeks !!

Squatting :  As we are not used to squatting in the loos and are more used to the western style of commodes, a few of us whose bodies are not as nimble, struggled in the "natural wide open spaces toilets with great scenery" . Recommend that a few weeks before the yatra, people try squatting exercises...It is pretty easy and the lower limbs get used to it very soon.  This will help you relieve yourself better and also enjoy the scenery of the wide open toilets better :-). By the way, it is said that the human body is designed for best evacuation in the squatting position  : See link   http://www.squattypotty.com/

Bathing : Don't expect to bathe after Lhasa  till you return to Lhasa. One is that water is a luxury in Tibet despite many major rivers having their source in this region of Tibet. Hot water is another luxury !!!   Secondly we were told that the thermal shock of the bath would affect our breathing / oxygen demand. So no bathing... Anyways the body does not sweat much and one can manage a few days without a shower. Pack under arm deos if needed !!

Connectivity : Locally purchased sim cards in Tibet do not enable dialling India numbers !! So one can use it only for sending sms to India. Option is to use the wifi connectivity at most accomodations and connect using whatsapp messages and calls. So whatsapp is a major savior and yatris should activate whatsapp dialling on their smartphones prior to the yatra.

Also be aware that Facebook, Google search, Gmail etc are on the censored / restricted / banned list of sites in China/Tibet. So dependence shifts to hotmail etc for email connectivity. Mobiles that have international roaming activated on their Indian mobile service providers like Vodafone / Airtel would have good connectivity all through.


Sunday, September 06, 2015

Travelling to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (T.A.R) in China

Every year many private groups from India organize the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra for Indian yatris. This year however apart from the Min of Ext Affairs (MEA) , the only other private operator who was able to arrange the Kailash Manasarovar yatra was the Isha Sacred Walks team from Coimbatore. 

Permits to travel to this area is very rigidly controlled by Chinese authorities. See excerpt below for the reasoning for the same. 

This year a new route via sikkim (the Nathu la pass route ) has been opened up solely for MEA , which organises trips by an annual lottery system. This new route will take people directly to Shigatse in T.A R from where the well built roads can connect the yatris easily by bus to Manasarovar and Kailash. The alternate arduous trekking routes via Uttarakhand & Nepal make travel to Kailash Manasarovar very difficult. 

The Chinese Govt has to issue Tibet Travel permit and an Alien travel Permit ,  apart from a China Visa . 

The Tibet Travel Permit is issued by Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB). It is also called Tibet visa, for the purpose of entering Tibet.Travelers need to have Tibet Travel Permit to enter into Lhasa or any other parts of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. It is obtained through tour operators for most tourists. When you take a flight or train to Lhasa, you will be asked to show this permit during check-in. Furthermore, the permit is also needed by groups traveling by road. But this will be arranged by the travel agency organizing the trip. Even if you have the Tibet Travel Permit, you are not allowed to travel anywhere outside of Lhasa city. If you want to get out of Lhasa, you have to apply for another permit, Aliens' Travel Permit.While traveling in TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region), only a Tibet Travel Permit (TTP) is not enough for a foreign tourist. If you're going to visit the 'unopened areas' outside of Lhasa (surroundings), you must further apply for anAlien Travel Permit (PSB), which is issued by the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) of Tibet’s different prefectures. 

Thankfully, the Alien Travel Permit is very easy to be applied, and you can pretty much rest assured that as long as you’ve got a Tibet Travel Permit from your travel agency, you would definitely get an Alien Travel Permit. It normally takes several hours and costs CNY50 per person to get one.

The List of 'Unopened' Areas of Tibet that an Alien Travel Permit Required:
At present, you have to apply for a Alien’s Travel permit if you are planning to visit the following places:

Tsedang: Samye Monastery, Tomb of Tibetan King, Trundruk Monastery, Yumbulakhang
Shigatse: Sakya Monastery, Mt. Everest, Rongbuk Monastery
Gyangtse: Pelkor Chode Monastery & Kubum Stupa
Ngari Region: Mt. Kailash, Lake Manasarovar, Tsaparang, Years, etc.
Nyingchi Region: Basum-tso, Pomi, Rawo-tso, etc.
Chamdo Region: Chamdo, Riwoche, Tengchen, etc.



For those who want more information on Tibet and China , I found this four part  series of articles quite informative .  

http://bobzermop.hubpages.com/hub/The-Tibet-China-Conflict-Part-1 

The first part has links to the subsequent three parts in the series. 

Starting with the 1914 Simla Convention which China refused to ratify, the 1950 invasion and occupation of Tibet by China, the 17 point agreement of 1951, the Tibetan national Uprising in 1959 with the 14th Dalai Lama (then only 24 yrs of age) fleeing to Dharamsala in India, this geography of Tibet has been extremely controversial. It is of strategic importance on account of (1)  its military position being located on a high plateau region overlooking India, Bhutan, Myanmar, and China, (2) vast mineral resources and (3) source of water not just for China but also for India , Myanmar and Bangladesh



China is visibly pumping in a lot of infrastructural investments : electric power , roads, railroads etc into Tibet from 1959 onwards. This will continue to change the T A R area dramatically in years to come. 

Whilst in the T.A.R, one would not have access to Facebook, Gmail, Google etc as these are all part of the more than 2701 websites that are blocked in Mainland China under the country's policy of Internet Censorship.