Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Right Side of the Brain: Finally Activated ….

I have always enjoyed drawing. However, drawing and Sports were two things I was never good at in School. I had a Drawing teacher who always insisted on having a black border line for all drawings. Weaither it was made using water colours, poster colours or sketch pens. The medium never mattered. She always insisted on the black lines which would define (or should I say spoil) the features of the drawing. I don’t think I need to say most of my paintings had a poor remark on them. Sports … I was never interested (I am not interested in it even now).

But when in my eighth grade I joined a special class in my school where in a new teacher trained me for a particular government exam (Elementary Drawing Exam). We called him Nadkarni sir (I don’t know his first name), and he was very good with the pencil. I remember he used to ask us to draw a line, any kind of line on the black board and name an animal. Within minutes he would convert the line into the animal we named. I still hold immense respect for him. He was the first guy who actually taught me how to draw and paint. For the first time in my life I got good grades in drawing under him. Not only was it a huge boost to my confidence with regards to drawing, it also inspired me to experiment with unconventional methods of drawing. I could not draw very well after the 3 month training session but my drawing had certainly improved. The examination itself consisted of three papers, Nature drawing (where they would give a flower and ask us to draw it on our drawing sheets), Still life and Scenery. I cleared the exams; Not exactly with flying colours. I got a C Grade overall, but I did manage to pass.

I took those classes for a reason I can’t seem to remember. I guess I just wanted to draw a little better than what I was doing then. Clearing those exams were a bonus. My interest in drawing did not wane away after that, but I never took the next step to learn and draw better after that. Nor did I have teachers like Nadkarni sir teaching me drawing. But the passion to learn and do better was always there.

After completing my engineering, I started to try and build on the base my teacher provided me with. It was not all that easy, although I could draw line diagrams, shadows and shadings were a nightmare. I tried every approach to do better and failed. Until I came across a book called “Drawing from the Right Side of your Brain”. It was literally drawing demystified for me. Many of the things actually came as a revelation to me. I could understand clearly why I could draw profiles better than foreshortened views before I began learning from the book. The author also spends some time building your confidence and convincing that drawing is not all that difficult. I bought the book a year ago. And started building my skills one step at a time or should I say one chapter at a time. I am almost at the fag end of the book where I am actually supposed to draw my own portrait.

I must say I was very skeptical when bought the book. But by now, I feel I can draw much better. The techniques mentioned in the book did work. As I mentioned above, Drawing is de-mystified for me thanks to Dr Betty Edwards. I have still not drawn my portrait, but I tried my hand at drawing my role model and I think I was pretty successful at it. I do not think that I have actually learnt all the techniques mentioned in the book. The Negative spaces concept is still beyond my reach. There is also an exercise wherein you actually draw with a eraser !!!! .

I still have miles to go and a lot more to master. But the journey seems to be much easier now. Drawing from memory will be a totally different ball game and I need to perfect that if I want to improve. I am still using my picture frames to complete my drawings. I hope that by the next year, I will be able to post a much more detailed and precise colour picture of Albert Einstein.
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Of Religious Leaders and Directed Democracies.

My first tryst with voting and democracy was when I was in the 5th Grade. We used to have elections for the for the Student Council members. As a fifth grader I was eligible to vote only for the head boy and the head girl. One week in advance, all the probable candidates would queueup and speak about themselves and explain to us why they felt that they were the best candidates. The whole process was pretty boring. Everyone used the same phrases in their speach and invariably ended it with “Elect and select the best, but do not forget so-n-so”. It was, but a good experience. I somehow felt important on the day of the elections. I felt as if was a part of some important process.

My first brush with democracy was “ideal” if I could put it that way. We never had any candidates who were in the bad books of the teachers, standing for elections. The students who were selected were always “Scholars” (It was a term for studious children in my school). Even the Sports captain was someone who scored marks and did well in sports. Everything about the election was in one word “Perfect”.

And I wondered as to why we had such “Clean” Candidates coming up and occupying top positions in the Student Council of my school, while we have criminals occupying prominent positions in the Indian Parliament. The reason was simple; the system in my school could not be termed just as “Democracy”. “Directed Democracy” was a more appropriate term; something similar to the kind of “Theocracy” that is practiced in Iran. The candidates were handpicked by the Principal, vice Principle and the supervisor. There were always two candidates fighting for a given post in the student council. There were hardly any real issues to be spoken about during these elections let alone debated about. It was as if one candidate was a mirror reflection of the other. And I wondered a bit more…. Is this system better than democracy?

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Freedom is not worth having, If it does not include the freedom to make mistakes”. Iran’s concept of democracy would never allow its people to make “Mistakes” or in others words allow them to have an opinion which differs from the opinion of their Supreme Leader. Whatever the Supreme Religious council says is more like Law and if major issues are to be sacrificed for petty religious matters, it is acceptable. The system could be better termed as “Pseudo Democracy”. The people are given a false sense that they are in control of the government, when the truth simply is that the supreme leaders could change or influence the election results anytime they want too. As a student, I was repulsed by this kind fake show of democracy in my school. In fact it would not be wrong to say I was in very angry with the very fact that my teachers did not trust my judgment in choosing the right candidates for the student council. I started believing that socialism and communism were better alternatives to democracy. I fail to understand what good the common people of Iran see in the system that they have.

What has happened in Iran now has only reinforces my belief. Any protests against the new regime have been struck down with brutal force using militias like the basij. For now, drunk with power, the Iranian leaders believe they have brought down the protests and have started trading charges with the west stating they have instigated and financed it.

For now a dumb tyrant who can do no more than a little lip service to the people of Iran is occupying the top civilian post in Iran. His concept of nationalism is very similar to the hundreds of tyrants who have come before him. His sensational comments and rigid concept of Islam will do no good for the People of Iran.

But I am sure his fate going be similar to that of the previous tyrants. He just needs to pick up the history books of Iran to understand this.
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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mumbai’s Lifeline:

Well, If you ask Euclid what will be the shortest distance between any two points, He would say it will be a straight line, Put the same question to Einstein and he might say, not necessarily a straight line as Space can be bent! Put the same question to a Mumbai commuter and you will get only one answer, “It’s by train”.

Trains have always been the lifelines of Mumbai. They are analogous to the Farcasters in Dan Simmons’s Hyperion trilogy; cheap as hell, amazingly efficient, almost always on time and carrying at least 200 thousand people every day to various destinations. Mumbai would certainly not have been the economic capital of India without them. It’s also a place of sorts for people of different faiths, ideologies, and political convictions to come together to discuss and deliberate upon issues. These discussions are generally more intelligent, smart and to the point than the debates we have in the Indian Parliament. In fact I have got to hear many interesting points of views and opinions without being a part of these discussions.

However, the most interesting people I have met in trains are the hawkers who get on trains to sell their wares. These range from Pens, chocolates, Wallets to books, fruits and even electric shavers. They can come up with the most interesting pitches and could put the sales representatives of the most reputed companies to shame. I suspect they also have a proper time sharing mechanism in place. Till date I have not seen two guys hawking the same product in the same train.

I was traveling to Church-gate yesterday. As usual, the hawkers were all around selling things like wallets and Folders. But what did catch my attention was a sales pitch given by a guy who was trying to sell perfumes. He started off with explaining the science of Perfumes and how alcoholic perfumers loose their “flavor” within a couple of hours. The perfume he was selling was supposedly non alcoholic, so it could retain its “flavor” for the entire day. He went on to explain how we spend our hard earned money away on expensive perfumes when his product costs just 10 bucks and gives them much more. And to add to it, the perfumes were supposed to be of Denim, Charlie and Havoc.

By far the most interesting sales pitch I ever heard, was from a guy who started off by saying, that the world was full of cribbers; Right from our bosses to co workers to friends and relatives. But as per him the worst cribbers were wives. And for cribbing wives he had the best solution.

I was attending college back then. But even I was drawn to this pitch. Almost everyone in the compartment was looking towards him. He looked like a Godman who was going reveal some divine secret . He put his hand inside his bag and pulled out needles, threads and buttons. For a moment I thought he was going to say, “Stitch their mouths with these”. But the guy was a progressive thinker. He recommended to all the husbands in the train that they do they own stitching. The Kit he was selling had everything in it, including a device which could help them put the thread through the needle. By doing that he said; they could prove to their wives that they were loving and caring husbands. I am sure that would be giving the exact opposite pitch in the ladies compartment.

The second category of non commuting people in trains are the Performers (or more aptly beggars). They would come in with their harmonium or flute or sometimes with just two slices of Rock and start singing and playing their instruments. Most of them would just irritate you into paying them some money so that they would leave. But some are particularly gifted. I particularly enjoyed listing to a blind musician who used to play old Bollywood songs on his flute when I used to travel to national college. The music was always soothing to hear.

The railways would always be there in Mumbai. And No matter how rich we become, or how many new flyovers are built, and how many Nano’s we buy. Trains would still be the preferred way to travel in this city. When the trains were targeted on 11th of July serial bombings, this lifeline got affected for a mere 2 hours. Something which even the London civic atrocities could not accomplish when their subway faced a similar threat.

Nothing can stop a Mumbai train on its tracks (except of course for the rains). And with the Mumbai metro all set to open next year, I can’t help wondering what lies ahead for this lifeline of Mumbai.
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Finally !!!! Indian Democracy comes off age.

The signs of change was always there. But every one looked in the wrong direction.
The Indian electorate was waking up from a long and deep slumber. People were getting more restless and impatient. Everyone ignored this "people resurgence" in 2004. But After the 2009 elections every one will have to take notice.

Caste, Religion and Regionality were hugely influencing the electorate in India. People were always taken for granted. Fake and unconstitutional promises were always made and forgotten. Secularism was seen as a tool to get votes rather than as a fundamental tenet of Indian democracy. Spreading hatred and inciting fear were key elements to gathering votes.

It was all true till the 2009 General elections.
I have been watching election coverage’s since the 1996 general elections. And my mood after every election has always been that of despair; People discussing about horse trading and corruption within the Indian political establishment; Criminals winning by huge margins; Open and shameless negotiations by parties which held as low as 3 Lok Sabha seats and Unworthy people grabbing top jobs in the parliament.
But this time my mood was positive and upbeat.

In fact when Kalyan Singh swore in 95 members of his coalition as ministers in the UP government, it was seen as a necessary evil for stability in UP. Not long ago in the 2007 Assembly elections both the SP and BSP boasted of along list of convicted criminals who contested elections under their banner and won.

But, it all changes in 2009. Most of the criminals were either denied contesting elections by the supreme court or lost them. Mayawati’s Caste politics took a huge beating. The Shiv Senas communal agendas got a thumps down and MNS’s rationalistic politics hardly got them a single seat. Even the Tamil Ultra nationalist Leader Vaiko, failed in the elections miserably.
All of them had failed to interpret the signs of change.

There was but only one mantra to win these elections; “Development”. The BJP’s manifesto did contain a lot of positives, but was highlighted very poorly by the Party leadership. The only message which was delivered to the common man was, “We will build a Ram Temple”, “We will not allow the setu samudram project to take off”. On the other hand the Congress manifesto highlighted the schemes such as NREGS which they implemented during their rule and promised economic reforms after the elections. This time, Probably the BJP lost the elections even before the votes were cast.

Of course Narendra Modi won more seats than the 2004elections. But the BJP will be totally wrong if they attribute this to the hard line Hindutva policy he follows. He won solely on a development platform. Even the muslims were keen on seeing him in Gujrat. The BJP got more seats in Bihar, where Nitish Kumar was the face of the party, and he spoke only of Infrastructure Development, elimination of criminals from his state and a more responsible and transparent government. Yes !!! Varun Gandhi won in Philibit , But that was based on his mothers reputation. The price for supporting Varun Gandhi was paid for by the BJP at the state level. The BJP did win the kandhamal seat, but lost face and partners in Orissa and were demolished. The Left paid the price for not supporting the Nuclear deal and for all the atrocities they committed on the people of Bengal.

In the coming elections, every party will have to keep development high in their agenda. They will have to put religion and region on the back burner. Even the Congress will have to stop harping about “Secularism”. Their strategy as far as projecting a secular image to gain votes failed miserably in Gujarat, Orissa and Bihar. They will have to focus on delivering their promises to the people of India now that they are in the center. If they tread on the path of minority appeasement and Vote bank politics the will meet the fate of the BJP in the next elections.

Today as the counting winded up and the process of government formation started, I wonder; Where do we go from here. Will the VHP start a new campaign in Mathura or Kasi for creating a situation similar to Ayodhya? Will the congress attribute their success to Vote bank politics and intensify their efforts in that direction. As Always, I can think of only one thing. “Time will tell”.
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Sunday, March 22, 2009

In the company of strangers:

I recently read Ramanujan’s biography (The man who knew infinity). The book was very well written and focused on Ramanujan as mush as it focused on others with whom Ramanujan interacted with. The book speaks about his isolation in Brittan and his tragic death in India. It has also in a way compared the two cultures in which he lived (Indian and British that is).

It started the comparison, describing how a Hindu temple would have a gopuram (the Temple Gate) which would be the tallest structure of the entire complex, then came the temple building it self which would be a moderate structure full of ornate pillars and beautifully carved statues and finally the main praying area where the deity was kept, would be a small room where only a single individual (or probably two) could stand at a time; Whereas the Churches of Britain were completely different. The gate would be quit normal; the church building itself majestic and the altar with its dome spell binding.

But the section which did catch my fascination was how he described Ramanujan’s isolation in Britain. Indians the author believes are more open and welcoming then the British who keep a stiff upper lip and are very reserved when it came to interacting with others. And to add to it Ramanujan himself was a reclusive individual. He seldom made the effort to familiarize himself even with Hardy who was his mentor. Indians the author says are so communicative that if you chat with them for even half an hour, you could know everything about them. Whether they were married or not? What work they did. What kind of dreams they had? What was their town or village of origin? Practically every thing there is to know about him.

And I wondered……. How true was that in the present day? I myself am an introvert. The only people I can communicate easily and with trust are my parents and my sister. But how about the others? Well just like the Joker (From the Dark Knight), I decided to carry out a small “Social Experiment” of my own and try to communicate with as many unknown Indians as I possibly could. And I had the perfect place for it. I was flying back to India soon and I had a 6 hour stopover at Ataturk Airport.

My first challenge was to understand how to begin a conversation with a complete stranger. I assumed smiling at someone was the easiest way. Of course I did not anticipate much success by this method. But none the less, I had no other Ideas.

My “Experiment” almost immediately began, when I was standing in the queue for getting my boarding pass, I tired smiling at the Indian who was standing ahead of me and it worked. He asked if I was an Indian and was traveling to Bombay. When I answered in the affirmative his instant reaction was “Great… Now we are four of us. We can certainly kill time at Istanbul”. I was a bit surprised by how easily assumed that I be willing to spend time chatting with him. After I got my boarding pass, he introduced me to the others he knew. One of them was his colleague from IBM; the other guy was a fruit exporter from Pune. We all proceeded to the main terminal. We still had 2 hours before boarding and the topic they were discussing was what to shop for in the duty free stores. I already had a list of Dead Sea “Beauty Products” which my friend had asked me to buy. As they went to the Electronics stores, I quietly slipped into the cosmetics store making a small excuse. I wasn’t sure if they would take any kind of offense because of it; but anyway, I proceeded to buy those “beauty” products. Once done I went back to the electronic store, not to meet my new found friends but to actually check out if some new electronic gizmo was available. A one terabyte external hard drive caught my attention. But it was prized at 150$ which I thought was a bit expensive. I moved on and in sometime spotted two of the guys I had met sitting near a coffee shop. They started to wave their hands the moment they saw me. They even pulled out a chair for me to sit and started inquiring as to what I had bought. I showed them the Avaha products I had got for my friend, the fruit exporter (Well sorry, I do not remember any of their names.) was visibly disappointed that he did not know what his wife wanted and the other was analyzing if it would be worth spending so much on his girlfriend, but soon the topic changed to about what they had seen around the airport duty free, and then the IBM guy started discussing the policies in IBM as far as foreign travel was concerned. Next they discussed how the taxi drivers in Israel are constantly taking on speaker phones, when the other IBM guy arrived and suddenly they were back to the discussing the duty free shops. The IBM guy was lamenting about how much he wanted to buy a diamond ring that he saw in one of the stores for his wife, but could not buy as it was priced at around 12000$. At this point something surprising happened. The exporter waved his hand towards someone. And a minute later someone new joined us, pulling one more chair towards the table. I was amused to know that he was actually a diamond merchant, who was in Tel Aviv to buy raw diamonds. And now the topic was diamonds. The new guy actually described in detail how diamonds were valued. He also advised the guy to buy diamonds from India itself as they were much cheaper. I couldn’t help but notice that he was clinging to his hand bag very tightly when discussing. He probably had a few in his bag. I could have made a fortune running away with it, I guess. We all just did not realize how time flew by and the boarding announced for the Istanbul flight.

I did not have much of a conversation in the flight itself. The flight to Istanbul was just about three hours. After alighting from the plane, I made a conscious effort to avoid my new friends for sometime. I had planned to read a book on my precious Iliad. I quietly started reading my book away from them for another 4 hours or so. But I soon joined them again to spend my remaining time. They had already discussed a plethora of subjects by the time I joined in. But the moment I arrived the IBM guy who had joined us a little later at the coffee table immediately started inquiring about the Avaha products I had bought. His wife and mother were suffering from joint pains and wanted to know if some product would be useful to them.

However now they possibly realized that I was not very comfortable around them. They asked me as to what I did and the company I worked for. The moment said I was a telecomm engineer; they started discussing mobile phones and other related stuff. Probably, just to involve me in their discussion. When I mentioned about the 1 terabyte Hard disk which I liked, the exporter offered to help me buy it in India at much lower price through his son, who knew a few shops in Delhi which sold them.

A little later the exporter started explaining how fruits were exported from India to Europe and Israel. He spoke of the different packaging systems used in it. He even spoke of how exports of exotic fruits like Pomegranates were increasing and how recent awareness in health foods, had driven the sales in Europe. He also joked how lazy the Europeans were as they had to literally export only peeled pomegranates. Unpeeled pomegranates had no market over there. The discussion never seemed to end and we literally “killed” time as my friend wanted to.

The flight was delayed by around 40 minutes and that much time was enough for them to make one more friend. This Indian was some sort of a big short in aviation. He had come to Istanbul to understand the functioning of huge airports. Like the others he was also more than willing to share his experiences. When the Diamond merchant asked him as to why Mukesh Ambani was not allowed to have a new helipad in his new house (Actually he almost sounded as if he had been denied the permission and wanted an explanation for it). The guy coolly explained how messy the whole process of giving permission for new helipads were. He went on to give a detailed analysis of what problems might occur if helipads started cropping up unchecked all around the city. When my exporter friend asked him if they were anytime lines for the new Bombay airport, the guy stated in a matter of fact way that the Land mafia over there would ensure that the project would never takeoff. He went on to list areas which were bought by builders at a cost of around sixteen lacks per hectare and were demanding about a core for selling their land for the airport. I actually have many friends who actually believe that new Bombay is the next hep and happening place and how the new airport was going to shift the focus from Bombay to new Bombay. Guess this will be news for them.

Soon boarding was announced. The two IBM guys had got a seat behind me. And it did not take much time for them to befriend the Indian who was sitting next to me. They guy was actually traveling from Skopje. I had never heard of a city by that name in Europe. He explained that it was the capital of Macedonia. The only city I knew in Macedonia was Pella; Or so I thought. He explained that Pella, the birthplace of Alexander was now in Greece.

As the flight took off, my neighbor (who was a charted accountant) spoke of everything, right from his family his work and his experiences meting different people across Europe. He also very humorously disclosed that the flight was delayed because of him as it was snowing very heavily in Skopje and all flights were delayed there.

I had always believed that Wikipedia and goggle were the two tools enough to gain all knowledge. I still believe the same, but I have come to realize one other thing. There is only one way of gaining insight into people and that is though direct contact. No social networking site will help us with that. No amount of bogging will connect us to others. We need to reach out to them in person. That is one thing technology cannot change. My “Social Experiment” was certainly an eye opener for me. It has in a way changed how I look at things. I came back a little enlightened that day.

I could possibly go on writing about what all I discussed with the different people I met. But to cut the long story short, I realized that we Indians are different and unique. Not because of the distinct culture we have, that is something that every civilization has. But because there is something that binds us all; something which breaks the barriers of Caste, creed, status and region. I now firmly believe that it is not just the love we show to our fellow citizens but also the trust that we show to each other which makes us different and it is this trust, above all that defines our Indian ness. Trusting others is something I still need to learn.
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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And the war rages on ….

As a kid I have heard stories from my mother about the 3 great wars that India faced (before I was born that is). She used to talk about the disastrous Indo China war, which not only left the Indian economy in shambles but also dented the sprit of Indians to large extent. She used to describe how they were trained in school to hide under desks in the event of an aerial attack on her city. How they faced an acute shortage of essential commodities after it and how the government rationed it. She often spoke of the death of Lal bahadur Shastri, one of India most loved Prime ministers after the 63 war and the crushing defeat the Pakistanis faced in the 71 war.

And I wonder … What kind of stories will I tell my kids.. What will be the legacy of my generation? What is the single most important event that I would recall when I grow Old?

Of course the first thing that strikes me is the collapse of the twin towers and the subsequent declaration of war by the United States. The attack on the twin towers was touted as the 21st century Pearl Harbor by the Indian media.

But that was not always the case. I remember believing that the babri masjid demolition would be the darkest chapter in the history India. I was proved wrong within 6 months when there was a serial blast in Bombay. The 93 blasts bought terrorism from the Kashmir valley to our doorstep. The incident was recalled with horror for a long time by all Indians. The next significant incident for me was the Kargil war. The Indian Media covered every bit of it (almost live) and reporters like barkha Dutt become role models for many. Kargil was seen as a huge victory over pak sponsored terrorism and the vajpayee government was re elected on those grounds. The war also triggered the fall of a democratically elected government in Pakistan and the rise of general Pravez Musharaff. I can still recollect very clearly images of Pakistani army men taking over all the Television stations in Pakistan and general Parvez Musharaff giving his first speech as the new leader (well I must actually say “Dictator”) of Pakistan.

I am sure these incidents would have made very good stories for my children and grand children, But they were not nearly as horrific as the incidents which followed it. The attack on the twin towers proved without doubt that even the most powerful nation was not immune to this new plague called terrorism. No nation could claim to be safe from its affects. I was hopeful that this will lead to a conclusive war on terror which will prompt all modern nations to unite and at least at a bare minimum restrict nations like Pakistan from supporting terrorist outfits. But nothing positive came out of it. We are now living in a much more dangerous world.

The London bombing was the first of its kind for Brittan. The Madrid bombings were as horrific as the 93 blasts in Bombay. Bombay also suffered two more terror attacks after the 93 blasts. The attack on the Taj was probably the worst kind of terrorism we have seen in recent days. The kind which destroys the way of life of a city; the kind which arouses all sorts of suspicions and tries to divide communities.

The Lankan Cricket team was attacked in Lahore today .The media is reporting that one of the Lankan an players has been hit on his chest. Rumors are all afloat. Today’s audacious attack on the Sri Lankan players goes on to prove that terror is far from over. In fact we have greater challenges ahead of us. India borders are burning. The surrender of the Pak armed forces in Swat , the attempted military coup in Bangladesh, the aerial attack by the LTTE on Colombo are just pre cursors of something more disastrous we are about to face.

In Jaffa when French army fell prey to an unknown kind of plague, Napoleon boldly entered the tent where the sick soldieries were being treated and declared that the cause of the plague was nothing but fear and the remedy was moral courage. Terrorism is surely the plague of the 21st century. One which has consumed many and is forever spreading to new parts. And the only remedy for it is moral courage which has to be shown by us.

I hope by the time I am old this war on Terror is nothing more than history, just like World War II is to me. I hope the generations after us do not have to face this kind of war ever again.
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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Freedom is a Disease....

Yesterday I saw the movie, “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”…
It was a by and large a simple movie and depicted the most common storyline of movies all over the world. It had an oppressor and an oppressed. And in the climax the oppressed rise against the strong and invincible evil forces to emerge as victors. However what caught my attention was one specific line spoken by one of the vampire council members… He said “Freedom is a disease; If one has it, all will have it”.
And my mind wandered away.. It wandered of to understand how important freedom is to us. China does not provide freedom to its people but still the Chinese people are happy and contend with the government. During the Beijing Olympics the Chinese proved more than sufficiently that they were as great nation; A force to be reckoned with. Not only China, but also Pakistan was more stable under the dictator ship of General Parvez Musharaff than it is now under a civilian government. We could say the year of the emergency was one of India golden years. Indira Gandhi’s 20 point program put India’s financial state back on track. The Agricultural produce increased and all rioting between Hindus and Muslims ceased during the period. And I continue to Wonder... Is freedom nothing more than a disease... Do we as individuals’ deserve it? Can freedom for people actually work??
My mind wandered off to a story I had heard when I was a kid. The story of “The Wolf and the Dog”. The story speaks of a wolf that lived in a dense forest. He had to toil hard to get his food and would have to go on for days without it sometimes. He had to struggle even to get a small drink of water at the pond. He was always covered with fleas and hardly got a good bath each day. To add to all this; his cave was small and cold. His thick fur wouldn’t protect him at all times from the cold winter nights. His life went on like this, Miserable and uninterrupted until one day he met his long lost cousin the Dog.
He was shocked to see that he had shed most of his fur. The Dog replied calmly that he had met Man, who considered him his best friend and allowed him to share his cozy house which had fire to keep him warm. When the Wolf complained to him about the fleas, the Dog told him how man gave him a nice worm bath everyday so as to keep the fleas at bay. And finally when the Dog told him the kinds of food he was treated with for just barking at strangers, The Wolf was all too eager to join him.
As they both made way to the Man’s house the wolf saw that the Dogs neck had a ring like area without fur. When the Wolf enquired about it, The Dog yet again calmly replied, “Oh!! That’s because Man keeps me on a leash!!!!”. The Wolf refused to go any further with the Dog.
Obviously the Dog would never understand why the Wolf preferred a life of hardships to a life of Luxury. He would never understand why the wolf would prefer to live shabbily when he can get a good bath every day and enjoy the loving care of his master showered upon him.
In a way most of the people living in democracies are very much like the Wolf. We understand the need for freedom and can’t do without it. We accept the hardships and responsibilities which come along with it. But we will never be able to explain to others why it is so. Why is it that we cannot trade our freedom for a life of luxury? Why we prefer to work our way up painstakingly and slowly when we can get all of it for minor barter. Freedom is addictive. It is like marijuana. The more you have the more you need and we are all addicted to freedom. And soon this addiction or disease will spread to nations where people have never known the joys of this addiction through a new medium.
Freedom has always demanded a price from us. While we see the achievements of a dictator ship or a communist regime, we often fail to see the kind a damage it causes to a nation in the long run. The positive effects of the emergency were almost immediately lost once democracy was restored back. Democracy took time, but now India is not only stable financially but is one major economic powers in the world. Its agricultural produce exceeds its own needs a lot of it is also exported. George W Bush manipulated the Americans for eight years with the tools democracy provided; but even then America has its chance to do away with the Flawed Foreign policy which it adopted during the bush regime and start anew. USSR was much more powerful than china during its hay days and had achieved greater technological feats. Yet finally it fell. It won’t before the Chinese have a taste of this freedom drug and the communist regime meets a similar fate.
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Monday, February 2, 2009

What tears may bring.

Yesterday after Fedrer lost his match to Nadal, he reacted in the most amusing way…..
He cried !! Not that it is new for a sportsman to cry on field because of failure.. But none the less I was surprised. I have seen Agassi cry many a times after losing a grad slam final. Vinod Kambli cried once he knew the 96 world cup dream was all over. It doesn’t take much for a football player to cry once his team has lost in a penalty shoot out. And who can forget Sampras crying and playing at the same time when his coach had collapsed during his match.

I read an article in an Australian website … It said Fedrer crying on the field was understandable and that it was a touching response by an individual who had hardly known defeat for the last 5 five years.

But my mind did wander a bit ……
It wandered to understand why a great player like Fedrer who had won so many titles would break down because he lost a single match. Was it his frustration at not being able to regain his number one spot or was it deeper than that

What does it tell about an athlete’s character when he weeps after a loss?
When he sees tears as a solution to the huge disappointment he has just faced?
Can tears actually fix things which have gone wrong.. Can it change the past? Or is it just that a persons grief be reduced to some extent if he weeps.

Grief!!!! I guess is the most common emotion we all have. We grieve more than we rejoice as we think we toil more than we rest and we suffer more than we enjoy in our lives. This is something we all feel. But how justified are we in assuming this. Buddha in his teachings of the four noble truths tells us that we should understand “Dukham” or Suffering as a reality in life and we must understand that desire is the root cause of all our suffering .Of course he also preaches that there is a way to escape “Dhukam”, to be free of pain. It is a path which only a few understand and only a small fraction of those who understand take that path. He also says that men are bound by their Karma. And the cycle is forever, so would it mean that suffering is also for ever?

The Bhagwad Gita also offers a solution to get out of this cycle which is very close to what the Buddha preached. It tells us to the solution to escape Karma which means nothing but Action, is not Inaction but the execution of action as sacrifice, to toil hard for our goals, to be steadfast in our beliefs and never deviate from the path of dharma. This I believe is most certainly the best way to keep grief at bay. The path we take to reach our destination determines the joy we feel on completing the journey. Our character is not determined by weather we lost or won, but by how we won or lost.

For some defeat is just the beginning of a long and very successful life. For others it is a slide which puts to in the deepest pit, where they loose hope of gaining your ground again.

Tears certainly are not a sign of weakness, but it certainly defines your character. Sampras weeping at the sight of his mentor being taken to a hospital is very different than Agassi or Fedrer crying for the loss of one match. Fedrer should relish the fact that he was on top for five long years. He dominated the tennis world like no one has done before. He has most certainly left an indelible mark on world tennis. One small defeat like this should not have moved him to tears.

But Maybe, Just maybe I am wrong and have spoken too early.
I once heard a story about a Roman senator. It is said that when this senator was in his mid thirties, he saw a statue of “Alexander The great” and wept in font of it. He wept because by the age of 27 Alexander had conquered much of the known world, whereas he who was much older than him now, was just another Roman senator. How much of this affected him and in what way we do not know. But we know this. He went on to become Julius Caesar. The greatest and the most loved General Rome had ever seen.

We never know. Fedrer might just become Caesar in the world of tennis after this defeat.
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