One Episode, Two Realizations: an Emotional, a Funny

Every year on Rakhsha Bandhan, I remember the early morning gift (a Raakhi and a Coconut) from the priests of Jagannath temple at my hometown. (In this festival, this is also a ritual between temple priests and yajmaans (hosts); the yajamaans in turn gift them due dakshinas.) Being the only child, I used to much look forward to it because to celebrate the occasion, I neither had a brother nor I was/am a brother to someone. Actually, I more desired that someone tied a Raakhi to me ! Moreover, my near cousins were either too young or too old or resided in remote terrains or atheists.

Hence to fill all sorts of emotional gaps on this day, my sister-in-law has now made it a point to include a Raakhi for me too in her annual Raakhi parcels to Bangalore. I was indeed elated with her idea…

Last year, she sent a beautiful gem-studded Raakhi. But while it was in transit, thieves stole it 😦 !

So this year, she sent a ‘Jaga-aakhi’ Raakhi (based on Lord Jagannath’s eyes). As usual, thieves have torn the envelope but it seemed the ‘Jaga-aakhi’ deterred them !! My sister-in-law’s trick worked this time 🙂 .

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The other realization : chor adat se toh majboor hain hii… saath mein, police-ke-dandey aur divya-netron ke ” sirf ahesaas” se bhi majboor hain 🙂 ! (no doubt, thieves have a habitual compulsion… at the same time, they also have another compulsion owing to “mere realization” of police-batons and divine-eyes !)

An Arrant Illusion (Reflections: Part-IV)

Adapting to the utter rationality and fast-pace of the west is one thing. Imbibing a foreign culture in its truest terms is a second thing, may be even supplementary to the first. Respecting and carrying forward the refined tastes of one’s own culture is altogether a different aspect.

Let’s not mix up !

A simple “Hello” or a sincere “Good- Morning /Afternoon /Evening /Night” are customary ways of greeting in most of the western countries. While doing so, they neither exaggerate on emotions nor suppress it below minimum display. Its cordial.

But today in India, we are in a complete illusion somewhere ! It is very common nowadays to hear a “Hi” but it is usually deprived of sincerity; sometimes the person does not even look at you while greeting thus. Then there are instances of addresses like “Hi Aunty” or “Bye Uncle” in a tone of disrespect; kids here now speak to their friends or even to their seniors in unhesitating terms as “What’s up, dude ?” or “Hey baby !” or “Hang on, man !!” or “Ohh shit !!!”, etc. Labelled slang or not, I find all these extremely impolite, particularly while relating to any typical Indian culture.

I strongly believe that my thoughts here have nothing to do around adaptability or acceptance of our changing times. That is what I clearly noted right at the beginning of this article. Otherwise, the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” would have never existed. For it generally means that when you go as a visitor to a different place, you advantageously adapt its ways or politely abide by the customs of that society. It does not say that being a Roman and in Rome, you change your Roman ways, whatsoever be the reason- that’s not adaptability !! That would be either a political compulsion or a social blunder !!!

On similar grounds, I shall also not appreciate such greetings when as an Indian and on social occasions, I meet a fellow countryman or an NRI, whether in India or in a foreign country. Rather, I would yearn to see the original chords of cultural ties reverberate, wherever.

Issues as these sometimes awfully bother me; many a times, I experience some sort of disconnection with my own ‘modern’ society.

It therefore makes me wonder if we could possibly together go back to our customary ways ! For example, revert to greetings as Namaskar /Sasriyakar /Vanakkam /As-Salamu Alaykum /Adaab and the like. Are these not things to be valued ?… Let’s admire with due respect that many foreigners visiting India read and learn a lot about our customs and culture even before they actually land here; and as expected of them, almost everyone observes the rules maximally though they may opine otherwise. But what eludes us, the desi folks ?

The other trend is that many parents here communicate with children to such an extent in English (at home, on the playground, public places) that they forget to teach them the wonderful values of their own culture and sometimes, even their native language- call it mother-tongue or whatever. They are superficially proud of that seemingly big ‘English achievement’ (a mis-conceptualized ‘high status’ or ‘elite society’ by many desi folks), and absolutely indifferent about not been able to teach their kids about their own cultural aspects, let alone any sense of loss at it !!!

Unfortunately, the polished outlook, mannerisms and etiquette of a gora saheb (usually meaning an English gentleman) are rarely observed !! I much agree to the concerned views expressed by Jug Suraiya in his blog titled Mimic Man.

A very few parents /guardians observe and inculcate the young with Indianness in the real sense, even though they have rightly adapted the western philosophy (mostly as a wonderful means) on certain justifiable grounds. That is a good balance which must be well-recognized and highly appreciated.

Well… It is definitely good to learn different languages and cultures. Because apart from seeking answers to the scientific quests on man’s evolution, such respectful learning also shows our liberal spirits and progressive minds. But it should never be at the cost of one’s own cultural values !! How can someone be not excited about the timeless, good aspects of one’s culture or custom ?… Without due regard to it, I am afraid, that way certain cultures and languages of the world shall become obsolete down the line; our own scripts and lawful practices or customs would appear strange to us !!! That would be the dead-end of this arrant illusion which most of us now continue to ignore with vanity.

Wish a healthy balance is maintained…

Abhishekam and The Hungry Feeds

In olden days, Rajyabhishek used to be performed for royal coronation in some kingdoms.

But Abhishekam or Abhisheka is a custom still practised routinely in some religious institutions around the world, either as a ‘bathing ceremony and anointing of the deity being worshipped’ (sanctification) or as an ‘esoteric transmission’ (empowerment of the disciple).

Depending on the type of Abhishekam, the libations on deities could be holy-water, milk, yoghurt, ghee, panchaamrutam, honey, sesame oil, rosewater, sandalwood-paste, etc. Among all these items, it terribly hurts us to know and to see buckets of milk being poured on the deities. It ultimately goes down the drains, leaving both the calves and the children hungry on the pavements, some right in the temple’s premises !!

Moreover, this milk comes from cows that are considered as the most sacred of animals and even worshipped as ‘divine mothers’ (gow-mataa) as per certain beliefs and customs. By pouring all those milk for Abhishekam and keeping the calves and our children malnourished, aren’t we being dishonest, selfish and treating our gow-mataa disrespectfully ?

Many argue that the milk and other liquids are collected after the Abhishekam. Even if it is somehow done and converted into ‘Prasadam’, hygiene cannot be guaranteed ! And token amounts of such offerings by each one of us shall lead to a huge wasteful quantity at the end !!

Folks- is preserving such rituals meaningful than filling the empty stomachs of the calves and feeding the hungry mouths of teeming millions ?

As the human race holds big conferences to eradicate hunger and poverty from the whole world, why can’t we sensibly contribute by altogether doing away with offerings of milk (and its derivatives) and similar practices ? Like ‘money saved is money earned’, ‘food saved is also food generated’.

And with increasing or unresolved demographic, economic and environmental crisis, that is what Time also now demands of us…

Let us engage ourselves on a little introspection and thoughtfully hear our Conscience……perhaps the Lord’s answer lies within !!!

Aamjunta – what do you say ?

 

Is Universe the Ultimate Free Lunch: Cosmic Inflation to Intellectual Inflation ?

Last week, as I was browsing a news report, an advertisement of a car appeared on the right-hand column. Its caption read ‘space re-defined’ and then it instantly struck me – all the three kinds of news that I had come across by then related to inflation (or some sort of that) banged on my thoughts with a hint of some inter-connection.

Here is the list of those inflations:

Economics inflation.

Cosmic inflation.

And the mysteries of the human mind, its quest, its challenges  and expansion of our thoughts, which I refer here as Intellectual inflation.

Last year, President Barack Obama highlighted innovations as an important factor to boost the American economy and unveiled “the next great American project“- a $100 million enterprise to probe the mysteries of the human brain. At the august gathering of top scientific dignitaries of America, he also affirmed the power of philanthropic science.

I myself now borrowing, scaling up and transforming a few ideas from the above bit of news, hope to present in the forth-coming analysis how this Intellectual inflation, quite expectedly, acts like a window of perception with regard to the other two types.

The first one- I need not elaborate it as everyday, we either personally confront it or see it in the newspapers or hear it on the television. What I need to mention is that the third type, our ever-changing or expanding ideas can further influence those graphs that feature significantly in the internal world of business and commerce. Terms in economics like demand, supply, costs, profit, loss, etc. finally boil down to various human needs and achievements across demographies and are also changeable over time.

Now, let us focus on the second type of inflation which has been the workhorse of cosmology for 35 years. Before I relate this to the third type, let me first highlight the newly discovered spectacular findings or evidential proofs as a result of the undaunted perseverance of man.

Describing in very simple terms, Cosmic inflation means when the cosmos or the universe, just after the Big Bang, underwent an exponential gush in its first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second. According to British scientist Dr Jo Dunkley, it could be when “everything that is important, everything we see today – the galaxies, the stars, the planets – was imprinted at that moment”! Since then, space has continued to expand for nearly 14 billion years and will endlessly continue to blow up here and there (multiverse). Scientists opine that coupled with a few other factors, a phenomenon as this has perhaps also rendered an evenness to the sky.

Researchers from the American BICEP2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization) team believe they have detected the residual signal (B-mode polarisation) left in the sky by this super-rapid expansion of space or Cosmic inflation. To seek this “smoking gun”, they have been using a telescope (basically a giant superconducting thermometer) at the South Pole to make ideal observations of a small part of the thin, cold and dry sky. This residual signal was observed to have a distinctive twist pattern, now believed to have been caused by gravitational waves. The discovery of this particular polarization of the cosmic microwave radiation was thrilling because it means ‘the light waves had a slight preference to vibrate in one direction rather than another’. These patterned spirals were detected by measuring infinitesimally small differences in the temperature of the microwaves.

So far, so good.

The BICEP2 data does not talk about what this magical-sounding inflating energy is. Einstein’s concept of anti-gravity or dark energy was revived 15 years ago along lines that it is ‘giving a boost to the expansion of the universe, albeit far more gently than inflation did’.

Let us take a look at the four forces of Physics at work in the world today: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. But Physicists have long suspected that ‘those are simply different manifestations of a single unified force that ruled the universe in its earliest, hottest moments.’ Since men interpreted these forces, the laws of Physics have evolved and can definitely evolve further whenever or until the cosmos ‘super-cools’.

Though the BICEP2 group’s data is subject to intense peer review, there is an all-high possibility that this new observation may make certain existing theories or models indefensible and set up a completely new regime of Physics or even science.

In the exalted and equally humble words of Prof. Alan Guth, a leading pioneer of the theory of Cosmic inflation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to the BBC: “I have been completely astounded. I never believed when we started that anybody would ever measure the non-uniformities of the CMB, let alone the polarisation, which is now what we are seeing…I think it is absolutely amazing that it can be measured and also absolutely amazing that it can agree so well with inflation and also the simplest models of inflation – nature did not have to be so kind and the theory didn’t have to be right.”

Amazed at the enormity and ways of the Cosmic inflation, he further mentions: “It’s often said that there is no such thing as a free lunch,”…”but the universe might be the ultimate free lunch.” 🙂

But scientists do admit that ‘we might never know what happened before inflation, at the very beginning, because inflation erases everything that came before it. All the chaos and randomness of the primordial moment are swept away, forever out of our view.’

And this is perhaps where, in my opinion, the eternal and imperishable Bhagavad Gita would come in as a form of Intellectual inflation to bid defiance, in a way, to the boundaries set by Cosmic inflation.

An article in The New York Times bears this comment regarding the ever-changing state of the cosmos and consequently, the changes in laws of Physics: ‘As the universe cooled, according to this theory (a special break point in the evolution of the universe), there was a fall from grace, not unlike some old folk mythology of gods or brothers falling out with each other. The laws of Physics evolved, with one force after another “freezing out,” or splitting away.’

Now, recall the chapter in Bhagavad Gita in which Lord Krishna bestows the divine eyes to Arjuna and asks him to behold the countless manifestations of the entire cosmos in His majestic, inconceivable, indestructible, expansive, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, all-sustaining, all-pervading and transcendental Form. This Holy text extols – if the glory of thousands of suns were to blaze forth all at once in the sky, even that would not resemble the glory and prowess of that exalted Form – the Adhiyajn or ParBrahma or Ishvar (Super Being or Ultimate Consciousness) from which multifariously emanates the animate, the inanimate, the smaller than the smallest and the bigger than the biggest in these eternal cosmic phenomenon since time immemorial. In other words, it means that the entire cosmos is a manifestation of that Super Being.

Then there is a chapter which deals with the cyclic nature of creation and eternal transcendental existence. In the cyclic creation, one day and one night of the Brahma (Aadi Prakriti or primary material nature of Ishvar), each, lasts one thousand Yugas or one Kalp (4.32 billion years). At the beginning of such a day of the Brahma, all mortal beings are born again and again; and they are annihilated when such a night falls. These beings are said to be under the control of Gunas (Modes) of Prakriti or Maya (Nature). Interestingly, I wonder if these Gunas are those forces (comprehensible by the mortal being) that Physicists have so far deciphered and defined after years of perseverance !!

Only in the transcendental existence, can one rise above Prakriti and attain Param Dhaam or Vaikuntha (Supreme Abode); such beings do not take birth again. Only a steadfast Yogi who is aware of that splendid Form both in his inner psyche (contemplation) as well as in his Karma (actions) and devotionally meditates on the Ishvar, can seek Him and His endless cosmic vision. According to the philosophy of Bhagavad Gita (and even Vedas), seeking the Supreme Guru or Ishvar should be the ultimate aim of a true Seeker of knowledge. This knowledge is the most sacred and is in conformity with Dharma (Righteousness) and can be perceived by instinct gliding on the wings of Faith. Perhaps this Yogic manner of seeking the Ultimate Realization or Truth has been symbolically represented by Lord Krishna’s grant of divine eyes to Arjuna, who knelt in humility and in Faith, and prayed to the Lord to reveal His cosmic phenomenon !

Thus we, the human-beings, see how subtle yet how vast, how deep is the relation between the spiritual inner psyche and an outward urge for rationality. It is indeed amazing to realize how the Bhagavad Gita or the Vedas, composed thousands of years ago, contains so many golden mantras intensively relevant for the entire mankind, even today !!!

Whether metaphysics or science or spiritual beliefs, after all it begins with Faith and humbly continues with man’s unfathomable quest of knowledge. Whatever we do, we must surrender it in all good Faith, as an offering to the Lord who seems to pervade everything in this cosmos. Therein, we behold the beautiful balance of the intellectual and the spiritual worlds, and always a dramatically unfolding picture of the infinite Creation. The day either our Faith or our humility or our quest ends, we as human-beings, shall fall from grace.

Aamjunta – what do you say?

A Home-made Recipe of Cereals and Nuts

Since ages, we know that many cereals-and-nuts based food items are prepared in Indian villages and towns, and some are carried in containers for months together by native pilgrims.

Here’s one such recipe slightly modified (I would rather say upgraded) by my diligent mother-in-law, especially with the aim to control sugar-levels and check obesity. During her stays in the village, it also grants her good space and time from preparing a routine breakfast when she has to rather hurry for a special occasion of Pooja during the morning hours. 🙂

This recipe is designed to be easily stored and carried even during long-distance journeys. Having learnt the art from her, I now definitely prepare this food-pack for my husband on his tours abroad because it makes life easy for a hard-core vegetarian like him ! And of course, sometimes I manage to find a bearer to send these packs for both our families who prefer to reside at our respective native places, near the realm of Nature.

Here now, I bring to you this blissful recipe…

Ingredients:

For sake of convenience, I have referred the measure of cups. You can scale up the required quantity in the same proportion of these ingredients or adjust as you like it.

1.  Oats (replacing rice grains or puffed-rice or flattened-rice) – 2 cups
2.  Broken Wheat – 1 cup
3.  Soya Granules – 1 cup
4.  Cornflakes (normal variety) – as preferred
5.  Almonds – as preferred
6.  Raisins – as preferred
7.  Aniseed – as preferred
8.  Cardamom – as preferred
9.  Cloves – as preferred
10. Black Pepper – as preferred
11. Salt – a pinch

Method:

1. Take a deep non-stick pan; it should allow you enough room to stir properly. Dry-roast the Oats, Broken Wheat, Soya Granules and Almonds separately in the pan over low-heat. It must be adequately roasted (brownish) and emit the ‘dry-roasting’ flavour. Stir each ingredient continuously during this step so that all the grains or Almonds get a uniform heat and are not charred.

2. Allow the three dry-roasted cereals and Almonds to cool.

3. This step is attached only with the Wheat. Take small amounts of the roasted quantity and grind it to a slightly powdery texture such that it blends well when it is served with hot Milk or Water. This part of processing will require some further efforts –  each time you will need to extract the desired form from the grinder by using a hand-sieve, put back the coarse part in the grinder, add some more fresh Broken Wheat and then repeat the process. You need to do this till you obtain a consistent texture for all of this dry-roasted Wheat. At the end, you shall get the 1-2 tbsp coarse Wheat grains left; you may store it for making Wheat Porridge later on.

4. Mix this hand-sieved slightly powdery Wheat part with all the remaining ingredients. Aniseed (slightly fried or raw), Cardamom, Cloves and Black Pepper may be mixed as is or coarsely crushed. Add a pinch of salt to the mixture.

Its done.

Store it in an air-tight container. You can roughly estimate the expiry date of the whole mixture as the expiry date of its constituent ingredient that expires the earliest ! (So you should choose the ingredients such that they all have nearly the same expiry date.) Once you get it, do label the date on the container.

Serving:

Whenever you desire to eat, take hot Water or Milk in a bowl and mix the required amount of the mixture in it. Depending on your health conditions, you may have it simply that way or further season it with Fruits, dried-Dates, Sugar, Honey, Syrup, Jaggery, Sugar-free tablets, Ragi or Oats sugar-free biscuits, etc.

My father likes it as a snack with typical Indian Tea; so he sprinkles some crunchy salt items (like Haldiram‘s) in the mixture. 🙂

Aamjunta, do try this healthy recipe and let us know your feedback.

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