A blast of freshness

A blast of freshness

Saturday, December 6, 2008



Not that I am wise enough to write about a topic as vast ,as sacred , and as deep as Hinduism ,but hey it s an era where the democratic India has offered me with the liberty of freedom of speech. So ,I will write to content my crazy , petty heart . Hinduism …mmm it s one of the most talked about and revered religions ,partly because of it s ancient aura and mystic ways and to an extent thanks to the publicity created by a few political groups!! Whatever it be , it is one religion that has a high position in my heart and I believe that it is one of the most grossly misunderstood and misinterpreted religions. Having said this I have created enough credibility and space for myself to deal with the subject and yet create leeway for any mistakes I make in dealing with it.:-) .

To begin ,it is necessary to create an understanding on what is this religion ? Where did it s need arise ? Not that I am an atheist ( I am a strong believer ) ,but on some primitive research , there is enough evidence to show that all religions are but manifestations of the Nature ,The Sun (Supreme source of energy ) in particular and all the rites and rituals involve around astronomical observations. No wonder then that all the contemporary religions have so much in common .So can we say that religion is ,but a set of rules that was set forth by our very wise ancestors, based on astronomical observations ,which bring about a cultivated lifestyle ? Maybe yes , maybe No .. What is explainable through science is but just a drop in the Ocean ..There still exists so much of darkness that we need a bacon of torch to lead us through ,and this comes in the form of religion – in the form of faith in a religion.

Now coming back to our favorite topic , Hinduism – It pains me sometimes to listen to people who proudly acclaim to have understood Hinduism and abuse it citing their ostensibly superior reasoning capabilities. For instance I recently heard a person I admire say that our religion is not very apt because the great epics of Mahabharat portrays lot of guise , and tricks and cheating that Lord Krishna does in the name of Dharma ! I am unable to comprehend the inferiority in these great epics ,the illusion lies in us- not the epic . What we fail to understand is that –HINDUISM is a way of life , It is Sanathana Dharma – A set of rules by which if the whole world lives , there would be bliss and happiness .

The epics are not absolute truth – they are just means of educating people on ways to lead life . The main theme of Mahabharat is of Good triumphing over the evil inspite of all odds against them. Krishna is a symbol , a symbol of our purity and conscience ,which when followed undeterred will lead us to success . The Gita or the Vedas describe the existence of four genres of human beings – One “ Passively good- like the pandavas” , other”Actively good like Lord Krishna” and ones who are “actively Bad- like the Kauravas” . Now one might argue as to why Kauravas are actively bad when they too possessed positive traits like compassion and generosity ( Karna and Dhuryodhan s story) .. This is where the symbolism comes into place – It teaches us that the avarice , and anger are so strongly negative that they are single handedly capable of ruining the empire inspite of some humane traits . It teaches us to stay away from greed , anger and bad company .

Coming to the part where the ever righteous King Yudhistra gambles away his kigdom and wife- Many might argue that how could a king who was considered so righteous do such a thing ? Here again is the lapse in understanding – the lesson actually that is to be sought that no matter how good you are ,if you indulge in gambling and bad habits,you will have to suffer the consequence as the pandavas had to do .Here lies the beauty of the great epic s symbolism- that the laws of Nature are equally poised .

But one of the best part in the Mahabharat I believe is the Bhagvad Gita.One of the non subscribers argued that it was but rubbish as it denied individuality –It made arjuna the slave of Krishna .. Lamely seeing , maybe this would be the impression one gets , but again ,on deeper inspection into the symbolism- Lord Krishna is the charioteer who controls the horses and reins them –He is the symbol of our mind ,and the horses our body – the body does what the mind wants it to do . This is where Krishna (our mind) shows the “Vishva Roopam” and portrays that our Mind is all powerful and that when we have a controlled and clever mind , we can win every battle in life .And the deaths of the mighty warriors of the kauravas is nothing but the triumph of virtues over vices .(the kaurav army is a symbol of Adharma – the vices in all of us)

The epics are full of teachings if we are ready to follow them – They are full of examples on how to lead our lives in unison with ourselves. It shows to respect women( Draupadi vastra haran) ,but again the paradox is that some people see it as ill treating women ,which they proudly proclaim has been coming along since eons ,deftly misunderstanding the actual meaning of the episode! This is the lameness to which we can go !

The strength of symbolism in Hinduism is amazing .. The Shiv Ling symbolizes the confluence of the two sexes.. Our very famous and favorite God –Lord Ganesha is a confluence of all the virtues that one must possess to attain heights – His large ears symbolize that one must listen more and talk less .. His one side broken tusk ,and snake belted to the stomach symbolize control over desires and emotions. Hanuman symbolizes how in spite of being strong and powerful one needs to be faithful and humble..

The PETA sympathizers would be pleased to know that Hinduism ,by assigning several animals as mascots of the 3600000 gods talks about the protection of the varied wild life.

Right from snakes to cows are all considered sacred .. even trees are protected ..such is the fabric of this religion.

It is insane to talk about this indisputably great way of life without properly understanding it .

I would like to narrate a small story that happened when Swami Vivekananda went to Chicago to the Congress of religions , where he took the whole world by storm .

In the hall filled with the top heads from all religions , there were peole who came ,who spoke about their religions and went – finally came the chance of our torch bearer ,Swami Vivekananda was called upon the stage to deliver his speech. When he reached the stage to collect the Gita (the religious text) , there was a roar of sneer ,looking at the small text ,that was placed somewhere below all the other fat, thick religious texts .. But Swami Vivekananda was undeterred – He carefully removed the GITA from the bottom of the pile and addressed the crowd thus: “Dear brothers and sisters of America- True that this text is small , but did you realize that all this while it was in the bottom , it was carrying the load of all the other religions? Do you realize that this was the Base (literally) for all the other books—such is the greatness of our religion that it can tolerate the rest of the religions-in tolerance lies the greatness of Hinduism” .. the overwhelmed crowd gave him a standing ovation and rest is history .

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

meri pehli tankhwa


October 30th 2006

Soest, Germany.

It was yet another of those cold bitter windy starts to the day. The nasty music of my 5 euro sagem , which I had started to cultivate a strong irritation against started shrieking , desperately trying to wake me up. After two or three snoozez I finally groped out of the bed . It was 5:00 A.M as the dull display of the Sagem showed . damn it ! I was so happy at my Engineering college , lavishly waking up at 9 and then skipping breakfast , and royally entering the class at 9:30 .. and now here I was getting my butts kicked around in some God forsaken land at 5 in the morning ( or do I call it night as there was still no evidence that the solar ball that was shining in other parts of the eastern world even wanted to look towards this village in Germany) . Still , pulling myself up, in all desperation and curses( this is how my day started every day of the first month in Deutschland- how inspiring !!) I quicky pulled on my shoes ( I sleep with the socks on!) Heights of untidiness it may occur to you , but when your arse is on fire like this and the pollution free Europe thankfully doesn’t add to your woes of making the socks stinky, I guess it was a good idea to take the liberty to sleep with the socks on. I would then hurry to the washroom, brush and rush to the kitchen to make my breakfast . ha ha .. what a breakfast it was!!..I would empty into a bowl some flavoured cornflakes and add the ready milk from the fridge to it – no sugar! I shudder even now when I contemplate on how I managed to eat that in such a disgustingly freezing weather , but as they say .. when you are pushed to the deapths of the ocean and you know nothing about swimming , even a small blade of grass will seem like a god sent rescue!.

I finally rushed out of my apartment ( it was a well furnished three room flat , with wonderful facilities for a poor student from India , but sad that I had little time to experience thy luxury) .While rushing down at jet speed I performed the usual ritual , ring the bell of the neighbour , for this was his alarm to signal that he should get going too .He had to leave to office at 6.15 , a leisure half an hour more than what I had.

So I rushed to the basement , dragged up the cycle ( geared cycle with front disk brakes-another luxury which the ordeal made un lucrative ) and punched open the front door , brr.. it was as cold as it could get .. Some degrees below freezing ,accentuated by cold dry breeze . It was ghastly , with not a soul in sight , dark as the gallows and silent as a lake .. I mustered all the courage ( actually I had little time to think about anything apart from surviving the onslaught!),and now was the most difficult part .. I had to remove my gloves for an instant and fix the light in my cycle .. it was not fuctioning properly , so I had to do this every time I started it . The moment I removed the glove, my hands would become numb and it felt like one hard tap , and it would break like a brittle metal.I carefully rubbed my palms , fixed the light and desperately pulled on the gloves . Now was the part I enjoyed to an extent , The cycling I had to do till the Bahnhoff (the railway station) It would be aloof and calm , at 5.30 in the morning .if you are from a country like India , where be it at 2 in the morning or 12 mid night , there would always be people around the roads ,mendicants,steet urchins , party goers ,sluts .. someone ,somewhere would always reassure you that you are not the last person living on this planet! But life here in this small village called Soest in Western Germany was totally alien to something called crowd .Never the less , the silence and beauty of the lonesome roads and the still trees impressed me and inspired me to keep on pedaling till the small lights of the bahnhoff in the distance would slowly start appearing nearer and finally I would be there.

Here after disembarking my bike(cycle) and securing it to one of the poles there , I ceremoniously entered the small bakery attached to the station . It was here that I could finally see homo sapiens .. the girl behind the counter , Petra , a lady in her early thirties I reckon , was so professionally sweet .. She would sharply , crisply , yet with one of the biggest smiles wish me “gutten Morgan ..Wei gehts heute” (good morning , how are you today) . No , not that I was one of her core customers and saved her business or something , it s like in this land , these basic courtesies of wishing are followed quite faithfully , though the “How are you” was on a personal recognition front.I smiled back , wished her (though it used to feel strange initially to wish strangers , I gathered or rather mastered the cold wishes quite quickly) and said “Ein schokoladen brodchen,keine fleich , keine gross , Bitte” in the amateur german that I had picked up.Now this was going to be my lunch , Except for Thursdays and Tuesdays when I had the liberty of ordering pizzas from the office(just one flavour- tomato mit olive), this is what I had to devour for my lunch! A chocolate bun , without meat ,medium sized, everyday!! Only when one comes out of his comfort zone does he realize the cosiness of the comforts. In India ,when there was abundant food for breakfast , tasty dosas and pooris, I skipped them and here I was hopelssly struggling to survive starvation and eating buns on a daily basis for breakfast !. this is also the time when your character and ideals are tested , I was so temped to start eating Non Vegetarian , I even reasoned to myself that this would be my survival strategy ,after all what are ethics for when the body perishes, but somehow , I managed to hang on to my traditional principles and ethics and decided to live on some stupid chocolate chip bun and pepsi.

Once at the railway station , It was an experience of sorts , everyone whom I would see, old man , young man , kid , pretty girl , old lady , hot teenager ,would wish me ! again coming from India , where if you wish a person once , you strike a conversation theron and sometimes develop to become best pals!! It was very tough to see that girls whom I would have craved to talk to just say a “gutten Morgan” smile and leave as though we were strangers again . Damn this land .. In India, especially the place from where I hailed (Tamil Nadu) girls never gave hope ,never even looked at men!! But here all these sexy bitches were like making me build huge wonderful castles and then wham firing canons at them!! Ridiculous but some experience I confess.

The next hour would go in traveling , I had to change two trains and then finally make to the finish line by a bus . Now this was another very interesting part of the journey, because here was the driver who became one of my closest friends.. he even bent the German law for me . I was allowed on most days to travel without tickets. Kruger was one of those Germans who had traveled a lot , outside Germany . He was a sailor , and had a Portuguese wife . He was also the only person in my whole day, apart from Mr.Koffman,my boss and Anaika , his secretary who spoke English.. so the easy bonding. He would tell me stories of his times as a sailor and of how beautiful Norway and Portuguese were and how he detested the winters in Germany and the conversation would always come to his favourite topic- Indian women . I showered praise on Indian women quite abundantly and the conversation would go on until I had to get down at my office and say “tschuss!! Gutten tag”(bye .Good Day) .

Once into the office , there were horrendous tasks that I was asked to do . As an intern from a respectable college in India I never imagined myself doing the kind of things that I had to do here . I was assigned to a man called Mucke (his nickname) . He was a thourough man . A man with whom anyone would love working . He was the typical German built .. sturdy and energetic ..tough from the outside but soft from within. He liked the idea of an Indian student coming all the way to Germany for internship , so he treated me like his younger brother , but still the task in hand was far from pleasing . I was to assist him in packing and sticking shipping lists . Man o Man .. And did he work like a dog. If there is one person I respect even today as the most faithful and efficient worker I ve seen , it s him . He seemed to be in his late forties and his job was to pack the thermocouples and heat sensors in a cardboard box ,weigh them , stick appropriate documents on them and dispatch them to the entrance , all of which he used to manage single handedly before I was asked to help. I still wonder whether I was of more help or trouble , because initially , the language barrier made us do crazy things like acting out every word, sometimes hilarious but sometimes desperate!! ,but the two months in the dispatch and warehouse department , now when I look back seem like the most valuable lessons of my life.So though I was initially overwhelmed with grief that ..here I was ..doing something that blue collared workers would do in India when I came with a dream of working with the auto majors (the likes of Audi , VW!!) . But life is a wonderful teacher, stern at times ,but very valuable teachings these were. Here I learnt dignity of labour, I learnt how to clean the workspace after I am done , and here is again where I learnt to respect hard work.

So after a backbreaking work of a day , I was all exhausted by body and drained of enthusiasm . I once again started feeling low for having come all the way to this cold ,alien land and doing what I had to do in the shopfloor when I dreamt of working in plush offices!

Just then the most incredible thing of my life happened. Clara, the Office personal assistant came towards me , smiled and handed me a paper to sign into . I was curious, but pretty much done for the day with zilch energy to strike a conversation , so I took up the paper , which looked like some official document . The only thing that was in English was my name .The Deutsch in it made me feel dizzy ,all I could read was that it had some amount written on it and some other high fi official stuff in german. I turned and asked clara what it was with the most questioning gesture I could make so that she understood my German. She gave a huge glaring smile and said in English “ Mr. Pavan – congrats this is your pay slip:” . I read it over again and it made sense this time surprisingly . The nebula of language barrier vanished ,I felt like hugging someone . I thanked God for my first Salary slip –which read “Mr.S.G.S.Pavan,son of Mr.R.Swaminathan, an intern from Sastra university ,India … ….. 500/ -Euros per monat. I felt at the top of the world , for a moment I just couldn’t hear the fan, the trawler, the machines. everything was shut out .It was a really accomplishing feeling , after all the ass whipping I had to go through , felt like I had been more than compensated .

That night I called home and told my dad “Dad –your son earned his first income today(though it was more of wages)” and I could literally feel the happiness in his voice.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Love is a Chemical Reaction


A very meaningful quote says “ Life is like tennis , U first serve and it all begins with love all !!”.The truth in the adage can make sense only when you experience the “butterfly effect”!! The word love can refer to a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes, ranging from generic pleasure(I loved that meal") to intense interpersonal attraction ("I love my girlfriend"). This diversity of meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define.

Never the less as the latter definition of the emotion seems more apt from a college magazine s point of view , we shall dwell with it in more refinement.

The moment we hear the word love, a touch of romanticism is expected in dealing with the subject ; like Shah rukh khan s dialogues or Richard geres moves flood our thoughts . But hey .. hold on ..apply brakes to your imaginations ,because this article deals with the tough fact of life- the fact that in Quantum Physical terms , we are just Energy and in Biological terms, our emotions are but mere chemicals and ions getting transmitted through the synapse of nerves.

So what actually happens when Cupid shoots his arrow on you ? When you see that one amazing person with whom you instantly fall in love ( love at first sight ..huh ..whatever that means!) How is it then that butterfly s roam in your stomach s and poems flow through your mouths ?

This is what happens !!

Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain consistently releases a certain set of chemicals, including pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which act in a manner similar to amphetamines, stimulating the brain's pleasure center and leading to side effects such as increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement.So when we see that person whom we are attracted to , the naughty chemicals start working and we feel a sense of pleasure ,and if we are lucky enough , we can sing a duet in Switzerland (in our dreams of course..hey we are mere MBA students, it s recession time .. Switzerland for a song is what Bollywood people do , not us!)

Anyway , here s the most amusing part :

Research has also indicated that this stage generally lasts from one and a half to three years. So no wonder ,if love is an arrest warrant , marriage is the death sentence because by the time one loves and marries, the body grows immune to the chemicals and brushes them aside !!So love and build a relationship within three years lest it fade away !! Yeah , truth is bitter at times! , but here s when it gets more bitter :

In 2005, Italian scientists at Pavia University found that a protein molecule known as the nerve growth factor (NGF) has high levels when people first fall in love, but these return to previous levels after one year. Ha ha .. So it s finally just One year if you are lucky enough .

Now before the sentimental and emotional people follow up and make a mess of me , it s time to say that “hey , these are what researchers say , I don’t subscribe to them , cause even if it is just for a year or half.. It s worth having that feeling !! after all .. all good things come to an end , and so do the chemicals that romanticize us and turn us into the characters of a Mills and boon”.