What my niece and Kungfu Panda taught me

Dear Guyyi Gubbi,

A by-product of my present context and circumstance is that I am simply unable to spend enough time with you, as I would have ideally wanted to (which is to be there everyday to see the marvel which is your every word and every action). Distance, air tickets, visa, passports and other excuses notwithstanding, the primarily reason for this inability is simply the absence of will and ingenuity, both of which I hope to have one day in abundance.

 

But between long intervals, when you and I meet, I am astounded and amazed at who you are. There are many kinds of intelligence ranging from the spelling bee winners to prepubescent kids with Phds. They constitute the spectrum of human intelligence that we all know and recognise. You may or may not fall within that spectrum and that only time will tell. But there is one part of your wit that I have seen in the two days you are here and that is what I wish to discuss, lest the absence of this thought and this author later in your life, deprive you of validation that you have earnt and deserve.

 

The drive to our home from the airport at an unholy hour when I am typically in slumber (as most adults are, all the time in fact), I was kept awake by your animated narration of the Kungfu Panda brand of movies and animated series. Your attention to detail in that story was no doubt impressive. But later in the day when you pretended to be tied down like Tylon only to break free, I felt goosebumps. When you perceived the world within that film and brought it to the outside world, adapted it to meet your requirements for intellectual engagement and introduced all of us into it, it is a sign of intelligence I wish I had.

 

In you, I saw what lies at the foundation of the success of visionaries, imagination. I suspect that when Einstein arrived at E=MC2, he could visualise it in a many that he could contemplate but could never fully articulate. At the foundation of Tesla’s incredible ideas, lied his ability to imagine what is possible and through sheer effort, he validated the hypothesis that was introduced by imagination. Similarly, I am certain that the greatest of musicians could see the music that they moved the world with. Apple as successful a brand it is today, is the product of a man who never lost his imagination, Steve Jobs.

 

Human knowledge is the perception of a fact. Its evolution is made possible through two means- contemplation and articulation. Imagination is the means for contemplation. In many ways imagination is the friction between the two pursuits of the human mind- understanding of what is and understanding of what can be. The result like most other kinds of friction, is intellectual growth. That growth allows you to grasp subjects that can often be impossible to grasp through just learning processes. You, like many of your peers, have the gift of imagination and I am already seeing its many manifestations.

 

A key facet of imagination is empathy. The ability to put oneself in another person’s shoes requires imagination of what the shoe wearer’s world and reality is like. To you, it appears to come naturally. I was myself incapable of this at your age. Your reluctance to barge into chipakka’s cabin while he is in a meeting, reflects that empathy. Your decision to wait patiently instead of leaving to the pool without chipakka who was in that meeting, revealed your concern for me missing out that experience you felt is joyful. Finally, your contempt for the story of Tenali Rama feeding hot milk to the mischevious cat, demonstrated your disdain for inflicting hurt on anyone. These little things- adults are quite adept at taking for granted. But trust me when I say this, your imagination, the means to your contemplation and its manifestation, your empathy, will enable you to acquire knowledge in a manner that my lack of evolution will not allow me to grasp.

 

Make no mistake, each child is special. Every one of your peer is an extraordinary being in ways that they may or may not grasp. Your talent, at least for the moment, is your imagination and your empathy. Your inclination to make us grasp what you grasp, is special and I hope that you hold on to it for the rest of your life. Should you somehow manage to retain this trait, you will have what this world and its many problems badly need, imagination and empathy.

-Ashok G.V.

 

 

Advertisements

A Tale of two Institutions

Governments- you love them or you hate them, but you can’t live without them testing your patience. In many ways an individual’s relationship with the state is preparation for marriage, because you realise that the person on the other side, as annoying as he or she maybe, is also inevitable.

 

In the span of the last two years, I have had the good fortune of lecturing at both private and government institutions and in both instances, the faculties I have met and the students I have interacted with have astounded me and left me feeling inspired by what is possible for the future of this nation. But I can’t help but wonder, if these wonderful students and lecturers in private institutions enjoy certain perks that the ones in government establishments don’t.

 

This question emerged after a little bit of a exchange of some pleasant conversation around a not so pleasant topic- providing a travel allowance bill for expenses that I wasn’t even claiming. It so happens that the Government in its infinite wisdom has mandated that copies of the individual’s boarding pass is to be secured as proof of the journey having been made. However, like always I had destroyed the boarding pass and therefore I offered to provide an undertaking that I had in fact completed the journey for which the boarding pass was sought. The news didn’t inspire appreciation from the faculty at the government institution. She seemed a little flummoxed and while pleading her position as a government employee asked the question, “I don’t know what prompted you to destroy the boarding pass….”. Perhaps she was inquisitive or perhaps she was being rhetorical. The naïve individual I am, I decided to answer her question.

 

The boarding pass contains sensitive personal information in a code. In the right hands or the wrong ones, it could yield rich data that can be misused for all kinds of things. Therefore, out of concern for my own privacy, I always shred the boarding pass many many times as soon as I have completed my journey. In the digital age, one can’t be prudent enough after all. In other words- I was prompted by my awareness and understanding to shred the boarding pass, a necessity our own government which is paranoid of national security is unaware of, from the looks of it.

 

However, I also wanted to ensure that I didn’t put the faculty in a difficult position and looked up government regulations on the subject. Turns out, that my faculty friend didn’t have much to worry about. The Government circular of 2014 actually says that where original boarding pass is not available, the concerned individual can submit the Travel Allowance bill with a written undertaking. Having represented the government of India and government institutions, I would like to believe that our government is not that anal. Governments can’t be anal, only its people can be so. What can I say? once a lawyer, always a lawyer. Couldn’t help but provide some legal advise.

 

My research into the shredding of the boarding pass for an expense of Rs. 5,000/- was driven by empathy for the faculty in question as well as a certain anxiety that I might have unwittingly painted a legitimate transaction as an illegitimate one, by not having a paper to fortify my physical arrival and departure at the institution’s campus. Witnesses to my presence and absence be damned, the boarding pass seemed to be the only credible testimony of my existence on those fateful days at the fateful place. In hindsight, anxiety for what? If folks in the bureaucracy realised I was anxious about a 5000 ruppee transaction, they might have enrolled me into a group support program authored by the Suresh Kalmadis and A Raja’s of the world.

 

Contrast this with a similar journey I had undertaken for a private institution- far from being required to explain the perils of boarding passes in today’s world, I was treated like royalty, hosted well and sent off even better. Make no mistake, the people, the faculties and the students in both places touched my heart and left me with a life time of good memories. But while the good faculties were allowed to be good, friendly and hospitable in the private institution, the good faculties in the government institution were working in an atmosphere of irrational red tape, misplaced sense of accountability and therefore had their hospitality and warmth trumped by the coldness of government’s paranoia…over Rs. 5,000/-. Why curtail them in this manner?

 

Indian’s excel at cons, no doubt about it. I am sure travel allowances have been used for a little unjust enrichment on the side. Even Amazon and Flipkarts fell for refund scams. Yet, the difference is that Amazon and Flipkart are willing to perceive the erring individual as an aberration, government institution’s policy outlook is driven by the assumption that aberrations are worth more focus than the honest common man. The result is that the government’s ability to forge good long partnerships with interested, keen and self respecting individuals is constricted.

 

A fundamental rethink is needed on such trivial issues. The excellent men and women who drive our government institutions must be allowed to work in an enabling atmosphere where they represent the government establishment, as a friendly and an easy partner. Instead today, the government is painted as an ever suspicious spouse doubting the moral and financial fidelity and integrity of its partner, that too over a paltry sum of Rs. 5,000/-. For the good and women in these institutions to truly make an impact which we all know they are capable of, they need to be trusted so that in turn they can make outsiders feel trusted. Perhaps then, our public institutions will truly come of age.

 

Fighting a Battle Gandhi Style

As a tradition, every October 2 nd , I would always write a little about Gandhi and all
that the man represented to me. I found myself lacking the inspiration this year.
Perhaps it was my work schedule or perhaps it was simply the controversies
emerging around Gandhi, be it his celibacy experiments, endorsement of the caste
system or his view of the original inhabitants of Africa. Heroes tend to disappoint and
therefore make heroes of no one, said a social media commentator on some of
these controversies.

 

In many ways, Gandhi is a testament to the Buddhist saying, “Emptiness is form and
form is emptiness”. His reputation and perception and his very identity has remained
flexible and fluid and I therefore find the defence of Gandhi or the offence against his
actions and words, premised on him being a fixed being. He was anything but that. A
deeply flawed man and yet his perfection lay in his acknowledgement of his
imperfectness. After all and be advised, he did not christen himself a Mahatma, we
did.

 

But I cannot also deny that this imperfect man, through his life, ideas and legacy has
left us with many worthwhile arts of battles and wars. In response to Winston
Churchil referring to him as a half-naked Fakir, Gandhi responded stating that he
was unworthy of being called a fakir, let alone a naked one which is a more difficult
task. In one swift sentence, Gandhi had made caricature of the leader of Britain
which acted as the hallmark of European resistance against Hitler’s Blitzkrieg. In
many such anectdotes from Gandhi’s life- I find useful strategies to combat day to
day situations.

 

While I will not share the specific illustrations of my applications of Gandhi’s
principles successfully to the many small and trivial battles within my family and
profession, both for reasons of privacy and to maintain the pretence of humility, I will
summarise the lesson for my readers.

 

When faced with an insult, a challenge or invitation to a fight, one has two options- a)
operate at the level of the insulter, the challenger or the fighter or b) change the
theatre of war/battle and engage at a level the insulter or the challenger or the fighter
is either unaware of or incapable of becoming aware of. The result often is a victory.
Gandhi’s Dandi march or the little exchange of words with Churchil is a classic
example. A racist bully like Churchill, could not comprehend a man who would not
get angry at his remark and instead responded with satire. Churchill was a bull
fighter. Gandhi refused to be the bull. Thus, no cow slaughter. My understanding of
Gandhian methods for day to day application can be broadly categorised into three
headings, a) Defining the desired result or victory, b) Defining one’s intentions and
motives and c) Defining strategy and approach.

 

But for this the term “victory” itself needs to be redefined in the mind of the Gandhian
fighter. When two people fight for stakes, there are three possibilities around victory
a) Securing of the stakes itself, b) Subduing the opponent even if it means losing the
stakes (a milder version of scorched earth policy) and c) securing the stakes while
subduing the opponent. If victory is understood either as b) or c), then Gandhian
strategy is not for you. But if victory is understood as option a), then Gandhian
strategy is one to consider. In other words, a Gandhian fighter is more a pragmatist
than a romantic at heart. He/She fights for a result and not to indulge the primal
instinct to beat down someone else for the purpose of feeling better.

 

That being said, Gandhian methods also requires careful introspection of motives
and intentions. If one employs passive resistance or peaceful protest, the intention or
motive cannot be that of avoidance. Even avoidance must be strategic. Retreat
today to fight tomorrow. One’s refusal to be the bull cannot be premised on the fear
of being slaughtered. Fear of being slaughtered is akin to fear of the bull fighter and
that fear itself is defeat, even if the slaughter is avoided 1 . Thus, employing a
Gandhian method where the real intention is to avoid confrontation or hardship defeats the purpose of Gandhian strategy. It might aid the cause of self preservation,
but it deals a death blow to the spirit underlining the need to engage in battle.
Gandhian method believes in triumph and not survival alone.

 

Lastly, the strategy and approach employed to pursue victory with courage is equally
important. Today’s protests, be it against Gowri Lankesh’s murder or the numerous
other instances, are spontaneous uprisings, peaceful and well intentioned no doubt,
but lacking in originality and independent thought. Many of them are results of
plagiarism, borrowing without shame, Gandhi’s own means of protest without the
need to improvise or adapt. But while challenges have evolved and character of
injustices has changed, we are still employing methods of Satyagraha employed
approximately half a century ago. Peaceful resistance must evolve to the situation it
confronts. Anything short of it fails.

 

 

When faced with an insult or challenge, always reflect on whether the response you
formulate is instinctive and spontaneous or whether it is rational, well thought and
logical. Delay the response by just a little bit to give yourself the luxury of honing
your response. I often find that the first three or response I initially conceive are
useless, but what follows can be effective. Delaying the response, reflecting on
strategy and evolving the responses fluidly helps. Sometimes, faced with an
unprecedented situation, the best thing to do is to do nothing at all.

 

 

As times change, Gandhian methods must evolve retaining essential values, but
assuming different forms and methods. Emptiness is Form and Form is emptiness
after all. Fasting may not work today, but satire and humour might. Marching through
the streets may not work today, but an onslaught of a hundred thousand letters to
the address of the erring person might just prove to be the wake up call (as the
methods Dr. Ravindranath Shanbhag from Udupi has shown). Gandhian methods,
premised on intellectual laziness and poverty of planning is doomed. The success of
Gandhian method is premised on Intellectual humility. In fact, the word “method” is
wrong, because a method is rigid. Gandhian experiments is more appropriate
because as the assumptions and variables change, the parameters of the
experiment also change. Always remind oneself that one’s approach is a hypothesis
and that hypothesis, by its very nature, is prone to and warrants improvisation.

 

We hear on every 2 nd of October, the cliched question of whether Gandhi and his
values remain relevant in today’s world. As a staunch lover of Gandhian
experiments, I feel lacking integrity when I say that Gandhi and his methods, in their
form and manifestation as documented in history may be irrelevant. Maybe Gandhi,
even as a historical role model has outlived his utility. So call the Gandhian
experiments in battle as something else.

 

But the usefulness of fundamentally altering the theatre of war, acknowledging the
unintelligence inherent in violence, resorting to unconventional strategies to throw
the enemy of their game and to win results without losing the good relations of
people cannot be disputed. To me Gandhi is relevant, but I will not fight to defend his
honour for as a pragmatist and a non romantic, my true allegiance is to his art of
battle and not to him. For through the former, I find myself honouring the latter.

1 The phobias of the world, fear of Muslims, Fear of homosexuals, fear of transgenders, etc., represent the
perpetrator’s fear of who they hate. The refugee haters don’t hate as much as they fear. Its ironical that civilised
nations with armies of might and weaponry find themselves unnerved and rattled by immigrant refugees fleeing
persecution at home.

Decision making

What a week it has been for decision making in India. The Indian Supreme Court struck down the instant triple talaq and also upheld the fundamental right to privacy. While doing the latter, it also vindicated one of Indian judiciary’s foremost tragic heroes, Justice H.R. Khanna whose dissenting note in the ADM Jabalpur v. Shukla, case is the stuff of legends within the bar and the bench.

 

Just about 12 years back, I made a decision to defy the herd mentality and take up the profession of law. Honestly, it was not an altogether uninformed decision. I liked debating, I loved writing and I enjoyed conversations. Seemed like the natural choice. Still does feel like a natural choice I admit, although my heart flutters a little more when I take up lecturing assignments.

 

But I did not fully appreciate the social consequences of this choice. In a society obsessed with science and mathematics and in more recent times Business Management, the choice of taking up the law was okay, no doubt. But as a lawyer, one is not a software engineer or a product manager in a high and fancy place. It is more a perception than it is a fact of course.

 

Exactly three years back, I decided to apply for a LLM at Harvard and Berkley. I didn’t get through to Harvard, got through to Berkley’s professional track LLM program and didnt end up going. I was an idiot, firstly for trying and secondly for turning down the LLM. But in hindsight I realise that choice was driven more by the need to live someone else’s expectation and someone else’s dream. It certainly wasn’t my dream then and if it was, it certainly was hazy and lacked clarity.

 

Decision making is inherently tough. Decisions have consequences, that are more often than not, difficult to foresee. Under these circumstances, it is important that one gets rid of irritants like societal expectations, family perceptions and just the general need to satisfy someone else’s expectations. I say so not just to improve one’s decision making, but also to prevent someone else from wasting time on the exercise I find myself indulging in every once in a while viz., wanting the approval of others.

 

As I write this post, I feel compelled to blow my own trumpet by describing the many good things I did following the decision to practice law. But that is a product of an insecurity and the desire to convince others of a choice I made or a decision I took. I should not do that, now should I 🙂

 

You can see what the other writers of the LBC have to say in their respective blogs.  MariaPravin and Shackman, Ramana

 

 

 

Future Shock

Colour television was a marvel, cable television was magic and cordless telephone was sorcery. As a child born in the 80s and growing up in the 90’s, I saw the onset of the future. Be it the aforesaid or email, pager or the mobile phone, the pace and the sheer possibilities emerging technologies left me feeling like I grew up in a world similar to Hogwarts and Harry Potter.

 

On the other hand- I find myself feeling as irrelevant as my parents and grandparents felt in my world. I can hardly relate to today’s music, lyrics or even cinema and literature for that matter. After having enjoyed the works of Fredrick Forsyth, his retirement from espionage thrillers has left a void in my world that even the best of espionage writers of today haven’t been able to fill. Having found myself moved to tears by the actor of yesteryear, Dr. Rajkumar, I am now offended when some critics remark that he was a little too dramatic for their liking.

 

I find myself battling irrelevance. It is scary and I feel more conscious of it than I should. As much as I tell myself that I must turn with the world, my sensibilities have been conditioned and stimulated in a certain manner for so long, I am finding it difficult to retune them to accommodate the Justin Lins and Justin Biebers of todays world.

 

And yet, the future did not bring many of the bounties it was supposed to. Solutions and spirit of inquiry was to substitute prejudices. Boundaries were to disappear to make room for more people to people interaction. Yet today the information age has turned us into zombies and prejudices are becoming more entrenched than they were ever before. Boundaries, far from disappearing, are now emboldened in the hyper nationalist narrative which is stuck on correcting history instead of correcting the present and the future.

 

I have now made peace with the miniscule and irrelevant nature of my individual existence. I cannot affect what is not mine and that’s just what the future is. I am a victim of the future shock already. All I can now hope to do is to ensure my future generations accept the future and mould it appropriately instead of being shocked by it. I fear its now their battle more than mine.

 

You can see what the other writers of the LBC have to say in their respective blogs.  MariaPravin and Shackman, Ramana

The Resident Indian son

The antonym of the non resident Indian son is the resident Indian son. He is also known as the black sheep, the other guy or simply the guy who lives in his parents’ home (not unlike the stereotype of the man living in his mother’s basement).

 

At the outset, if you are the resident Indian son, you are many things. But it is easier to describe what you are not, which is anyone or all of the following,

  • Not a software engineer
  • Most likely not a science degree holder
  • Couldn’t make it beyond a bachelor’s degree without wanting to kill yourself.
  • Not talked about in family functions or gatherings.
  • Not the favourite child in the family functions and gatherings.
  • Not rich (enough and never can be)
  • Talented but not talented enough
  • Not marriageable material
  • Not cool
  • Not the role model

What experts can say that a resident Indian son is, that too with a reasonable degree of certainty, is as follows- he is the guy who everyone has to speak to about how awesome his non resident indian counter part is. Make no mistake, he is no underachiever. He is just the disappointment by omission. In other words- they don’t have bad things to say about the resident indian son. They just don’t have good words to offer either. After all he isn’t slaving away for one of those big companies that steal your data and profit from it.

 

But the resident Indian son has a lot going for him. One, he doesn’t patronize the country or its governance, even though the situation merits such patronizing. Of course his non resident counter part would argue that this is because the resident indian son is merely ignorant. That is unfortunately true. Unlike the conservative leanings of his non resident counter part, the resident Indian son likely endorses liberal causes like equal rights for gay people, mostly because like gay people, resident Indian sons are not particularly admired in our society (And lets face it given a choice, the resident indian son would also be declared illegal).

 

He is probably philosophically inclined. He views material pleasures like fancy cars and big mansions with detachment, primarily because unlike his non resident counter part, enlightenment is a compulsion and not a choice. He prides himself as the man who sold his non existent Ferrari before the big life changing heart attack, because lets face it, he can’t afford treatment for a heart attack. He isn’t impressed easily by wealth, especially the wealth of his non resident counterpart. Experts have a term for this skepticism- insecurity or envy, as the case may be.

 

The resident Indian son and his non resident counterpart share one thing in common- a love for Donald Trump, albeit for different reasons. While the non resident Indian loves Trump for his unabashed loathing of all things cultural, intelligent and Islamic; the resident Indian loves trump for highlighting the stupidity of his non resident counter part. Trump also made the resident Indian son feel good about his otherwise bad decision of not wanting to go to the U.S. to study and work. Trump, in other words, did what the resident Indian sons’ parents never could do- made him feel proud of his choice (non existent one) of staying back in India.

 

To the parents who view the resident son as the less accomplished version of the non resident counter part, remember this- the resident indian son is the watchman, the driver, the nurse and the caretaker. In other words the resident indian son is all your non resident indian’s son’s employees put into one multi talented individual and you guys get him for free. In other words, when there is something wrong in your neighbourhood, who do you call? The resident Indian son (for free). Treasure him, adore him and if you can bring yourself to, tell him you are proud of him (even though both of you know that ain’t true).

Eastern and Western Culture

I am not nearly not as well travelled as I ought to be to speak intelligently on this subject. The sights and sounds of many eastern cultures in countries like Indonesia, China, Korea, Laos, Mongolia,Japan, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have eluded me or I have eluded them. While I often promise myself that I will make up for these experiences, my travel to the west has been confined to barcelona and tuscanny on the west and Singapore on the east. In fact, when I think about it I haven’t even seem the eastern part of India itself.

 

With whatever limited exposure I have had to the cultures on both sides of the vertical hemisphere, I like to focus on the positives while being acutely aware of the many negatives. With a lot of eastern cultures, such as the japanese and the koreans, the discipline and sensitivity to people around them never cease to amaze me. With the many Japanese I have had the pleasure to interact with, their humility and just the sense of respect they afford to the other end of the conversation is unbelievable. In Singapore, I saw the opposite of Chaos, a uniquely Indian trade mark. The sense of respect for a pedestrian right of way and for a line at the metro, never ceased to impress. Not a single vendor frowned at me for not giving change.

 

My travels to the west yielded rich experiences too. In Spain and Italy, I discovered hospitality, which until then I was told was exclusively an Indian forte. Their understanding and appreciation of our own culture, history and legacy contrasted our own lack of self respect and understanding of who we are and where we come from. I discovered courtesy, not just as a rare occurrence, but as a way of life. I discovered an appreciation for the concept of family which I think India has completely lost sight of. In more ways than one, Europe showed me what Indian culture was famous for.

 

In short, I have discovered that good people are the same everywhere. I have discovered the best in humanity everywhere. And while we are different in our own ways, we are also far more similar than we care to acknowledge. The boundaries that are drawn on maps and separate us seem so superficial. If only mankind could abandon the culture of selfishness and embraced his migratory instincts, I suspect that the many divides that we now have would disappear, not easily perhaps and with some struggle, but it eventually would.

 

You can see what the other writers of the LBC have to say in their respective blogs.  MariaPravin and Shackman, Ramana

Advice to a child who has just started dating

At 28, I am lucky that I don’t have the responsibility of a child in my life. At 28, I am also lucky to have relatives and friends with children whose character, maturity and sense of independence never ceases to inspire optimism in the next generation. Just a few days back I received word from one such friend that her daughter has some important news to share. As I got on to skype to talk to my niece, the increasingly red hues her face was assuming along with the sight of the young man seated next to her gave away the obvious, that she was dating for the very first time.

 

The lawyer within had just one thought ringing in my head, “background check”. But after what seemed like an eternal tussle between the lawyer and the uncle inside my mind, lasting an entire two seconds, I could only formulate one response, “Awwww, how adorable!”. However, I instead articulated another response which only a Banglorean can, “I am stuck in traffic right now. Can I speak to you guys later?”. So my longer and more layered response is as under.

 

Approval- one of the most highly overrated words in such situations. How can I on one hand preach the importance of recognising the autonomy and freedom of girls and on the other hand still emphasise that a daughter needs the approval of her father and her uncle to date a man she legitimately chose? So no question of approval here young lady.  Au contraire, my only hope remains that you share the happiness that you feel from this relationship with all of us, your family. I pray that you call upon us when you feel exhausted or in trouble from this relationship, so that we can create and hold your space as you find your way back up again. I don’t think you need approval, but allow me to ask your approval to remain available as and when you need us.

 

Every good relationship, especially the first one, follows a pattern- attraction, mutual awareness and the chaos called love. Nothing represents the utility of being alive than being in love. Your mind’s resolute focus and uncapped happiness at the mere concept of your boyfriend and the consequential understanding of how real he is, will remain the most thrilling of all the joys in your life. On the other hand that which you grow so close to, will also annoy and question your judgement like nothing else ever will. But so long as the integrity of your body and mind is recognised, respected and worshipped- enjoy this madness, for nothing makes a person grow as romance and love does.

 

Now we get to the part, where man excels best- hypocrisy. The fathers of this world have felt the joys of holding their partner’s hands, hearing the sound of their breathing and savouring the joys that come with physical intimacy. Awkward, therapeutic, hilarious and pleasurable are among the many words that can be used to describe those simple gestures such as cuddling or kissing. Yet, it is these very experienced men and women who dread the prospects of their child feeling these very emotions and experiences. Between my role as your uncle and as a brother to your mother, I have a thin line to walk on. So I will simply say this- You have a gifted intellect, an almost extraordinary level of emotional intelligence and intuition that has come from the efforts at self growth and mentoring that your own parents have provided you. I trust you to take care of yourself and to live life in a manner that makes you happy, contented and at peace. But if your parents ever ask, I spoke strongly about the merits of abstinence…..

 

So, to conclude- ignore the boring uncle who can’t stop speaking, craft your lies well (you never hugged your boyfriend, you simply shook hands with your man), have plenty of those experiences, the memories of which, will make you smile every single time and just celebrate the fact of having grown up and found someone special for the first time in your life.

 

And if ever, the man who is supposed to celebrate you ends up doing the opposite, let it be known to him, that the wrath of the law shall bring hell upon his very existence and that he shall cry like a little child at the end of it….. On that note, allow me to once again say, “aww” and wish you kids the very best of happiness.

 

Melting Pot

A contentious issue raging in my family as I am sure it does in many other families, is the subject of migration. During my travels in Europe recently, I recognised noticeable number of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin men and women. A significant number of retail shops in Barcelona were run by asian origin families. In many ways its a melting pot of cultures. India too is no different. Having been invaded and visited by mongols, huns, arabs and Europeans, our ethnic origins are hardly indigenous anymore.

The question remains how good or bad is this? All seriousness apart, I am a strong believer in migration. India is a classic example of a melting pot. But history apart, today the sheer variety of wonderful food that one can find between one city and the other is a testament to the utility of the “melting pot”. Between the south indian bisibele bath and the kashmiri wazwan and the luchi and koshohari mangsho in bengal and the khichdi in gujrat, nothing illustrates the importance of national integrity like all the flavours that treat the senses.

Hard to also forget all the good looking people that emerge from a melting pot. Barcelona a city that I absolutely fell in love with, stood out for the sheer concentration of beautiful women. As I was telling a friend recently, it isn’t a city of men and women . Rather, it is a city of gods and goddesses. I am given to understand that because Barcelona has had people from so many different parts of the world living there, the resulting glow and radiance among its people is inevitable. India is no different. Women from every part of India have distinct features and few other places in the world allow for the opportunity to celebrate diverse feminine beauty as India does.

One must however caution oneself against celebrating migration so quickly. Migration also leads to a dangerous infection called exchange of ideas and history shows that nothing good can come out of it. Christopher Colombus introduced sexual violence and ethnic cleansing in the Americas. Christian influx into India successfully convinced us to hate our bodies, body shame women especially and introduced guilt into an act our sages had branded as natural and even divine.

Another manifestation of a melting pot is the internet. Having spent a fair amount of time in this melting pot, I grew up embracing strange ideas like liberal human rights. A lot of stereotypes that had been drilled into my head went away. I made friends with people from religious backgrounds that were supposedly out to eliminate me. To my horror I discovered they would rather spend their time more usefully than being concerned with an idol worshipper in India. As my extended family will now testify, a melting pot does nothing good except to create rifts between family members and alienate older generations from the newer ones.

So speaking as a victim of the melting pot, beware of the probability of sin. But speaking as a sinner, I can say how totally worthwhile it is 😛

You can see what the other writers of the LBC have to say in their respective blogs.  MariaPravin and Shackman, Ramana

Angels and Demons

Angels and Demons? Uniquely christian concepts I suppose. Reflecting on Hindu Mythology, the concept of devas (gods) and asuras (lesser of the demigods) are so much less black and white. In fact, some of the so called rakshasas were ardent devotees of various gods and earned many favours for their faith and penance. Devas, besides being mighty and noble and all that had their weaknesses and often ended up doing vain things. Perhaps Hindu mythology understood that the dichotomy of good and bad, while academically sound just won’t work in reality. Greek Gods too were similar in their character. Between Aries and Zeus, they indulged in their share of hanky panky. Don’t believe me? Ask how Hercules was born.

 

Basavanna, perhaps one of the greatest philosophers to have walked this earth, was a 12th century poet who understood the essence of vedic philosophy and founded an egalitarian movement. His poetry condemned all kinds of discrimination and urged people to find their soul through reflection, instead of seeking out god in the temples of the land. His poetry in Kannada remains true for generations. He and many other kannada poets like Sarvagna, constantly reminded people that heaven and hell are within and it is for one to find them with good conduct and behavior. But what is the right thing to do?

 

That then brings me to Angels and Demons. To me the first exposure to angels and demons occurred through the cartoon, Tom and Jerry. Often times, when faced with a crisis of conscience, the characters would have a demon and an angel appear on either side of their shoulder and offer advice both good and bad. But in hindsight, I admit that the bad advice could have led to more fun whereas the good advice would probably deprive good old tom of some much needed rewards. Its yet another thing that no matter what advice Tom took, Jerry always got the better of him because the script said so.

 

There lies, ladies and gentlemen, the lesson for us all? Angels and Demons are not the all powerful influences in our life. Their boss, like the script writer, just so happens to be “karma”. You listened to the angel and worked hard for a reward and yet it escaped you and instead the reward was in favour of someone less deserving? Lo, behold, Karma. On the other hand you decided to listen to the demon and indulged a nefarious inclination? Immediate gratification notwithstanding, live the remainder of your life wondering what fate awaits around the corner. Either Karma delivers or Karma inspires fear. Karma, come to think of it, is like batman. Angels and demons on the other hand are like your beat cop and criminal henchmen respectively. Ultimately, they both have their egos and bodies handed to them by the Bat.

 

But if you are looking for a shorter more crisp answer as to how to distinguish between angels and demons, I leave you to reflect on the photo taken of the pope and a certain orange man together…..

 

You can see what the other writers of the LBC have to say in their respective blogs.  MariaPravin and Shackman, Ramana