Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Mahabharat 2014 : What would lord Krishna do?

Every Indian knows about the Mahabharat. It is a great epic which showcases a great battle between good and evil. India goes to elections in a few weeks and is world's biggest democracy. A national election in India is no less than a war between the various parties competing for votes. I cant help but see some similarities between the Mahabharat and Lok Sabha 2014 elections.

Lets do a quick recap of the Mahabharat. Its about the Pandava brothers who are virtuous and their cousins the Kauravas who are evil. Pandavas are only 5 and Kauravas are 100. Yudhishtir is the eldest Pandava and Duryodhan the eldest Kaurava. They both are a part of the royal family and since they cannot agree on who should be the king the kingdom is split between them. Now Pandavas establish their capital at Indraprastha. The Kauravas in conspiracy with their uncle Shakuni invite the Pandavas to a game of dice where they cheat and defeat Yudhishtir who loses his kingdom to them. The Pandavas and their wife Draupadi are exiled for 13 years. During this time the Kauravas rule the kingdom undisputed. After 13 years the Pandavas return to the Kaurava's kingdom and ask to get their share of the kingdom. Duryodhan refuses and a war is declared between the two groups. The Pandavas had a much smaller army and less resources compared to the Kauravas. Kauravas had the entire royal army with them and master warriors like Bhishma, Drona and Karna. The Pandavas were the underdogs by all conventional standards, but they still won. The reason being they had lord Krishna on their side, even though in a completely non-violent role of a charioteer.

Now lets talk about the 2014 elections. The biggest parties in India are the Congress and the Bharatiya Janta Party(BJP). Congress faces a huge anti-incumbency sentiment after ruling for the last 10 years. The most obvious beneficiary of this is the BJP as the next biggest party. India being a diverse country has a number of other smaller parties too. The party everyone is talking about is the Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) which came into existance less than 2 years ago. It was formed by Arvind Kejriwal an IIT graduate and former IRS officer who has been active in social work for many years and lead the campaign for the right to information(RTI). He is also a recipient of the Ramon Magsasay award which is given to people who have done outstanding work in their field. It is a party of social workers, activists, professors, lawyers and other successful professionals. These are people who have made their mission to remove corruption from India. It is well known that Indian politicians are extremely corrupt and the whole world knows that. Politicians and their parties have accumulated huge wealth by siphoning off taxpayer money and taking bribes from mega corporations to give them public land and natural resources at throwaway prices. Here is where the comparison with Mahabharat begins. BJP and Congress are both rich and powerful like the Kauravas. Both parties also have a fair share of tainted politicians with corruption and criminal cases against them. AAP is good and honest like the Pandavas. Also like the Pandavas, they have a much smaller membership and very little money compared to their rivals. Like the Pandavas, AAP ruled Delhi for some time. Indraprastha being the ancient name for Delhi. Just like the Pandavas were cheated by the Kauravas and Shakuni into fleeing Indraprastha, the AAP was cheated by the BJP and Congress into resigning from the Delhi government. The AAP wanted to bring in a powerful anti-corruption Lokpal law that both BJP and Congress were opposed to.

In the coming elections the BJP is projected to become the single largest party according to various opinion polls. A lot of people have decided to vote for the BJP even though it fields corrupt and criminal candidates and follows an extreme right wing socially conservative and majoritarian ideology. BJP is getting support just because they are not Congress even though they are just as bad if not more so. When I ask people why they wont vote for AAP even though its a party of honest people, I get reasons like 'AAP does not have enough governing experience'. Some people also say that since AAP will not win nationally they don't want to waste their vote on a small party because that will create instability. They would rather have a stable and corrupt government. Thats exactly what they had under the Congress for the last 10 years, a party that they now hate intensely. They don't understand that the cancer of corruption will only go when they quit smoking the cigarette of dishonest politics marketed to them by selfish politicians and made using the tobacco like black money provided by unethical corporate executives who want anti-consumer monopolistic policies and want to win contracts for taxpayer funded projects without a fair and transparent process. Simply changing the brand of cigarettes from Congress to BJP will not cure this cancer.

AAP is clearly an underdog against the giants BJP and Congress. The situation is similar to the 1983 cricket world cup final where India was the underdog against the West Indies. But nowadays India is a top cricket team and wins much more, which has made Indians identify less with the underdogs and more with the favorites. Pandavas were also the underdogs in Mahabharata and would not have won if they did not have lord Krishna on their side. Krishna did not say that Pandavas should not get a kingdom because they don't have enough governing experience whereas Kauravas had been governing since many years. He did not say that Pandavas ran away from their responsibility to rule Indraprastha after they were cheated by the Kauravas and Shakuni. It appears that AAP needs nothing less than Krishna's divine intervention if they are to prevent the BJP or Congress from leading the next central government. I think the people who can play the role of Krishna here are the present day true followers of Krishna.

Arjun is considered the strongest devotee of lord Krishna. When Arjun had doubts about fighting against his own cousins and elders in Kurukshetra, Krishna told him that this is a fight for good vs evil and he must fight evil even if it means killing his own brothers, uncles and teachers. Just like Arjun, here are people today who know in their hearts that AAP is the most ethical and honest party but are still not planning to vote for it because their family, friends and colleagues are vocal supporters of the BJP or Congress. These latent AAP supporters must take this lesson from Krishna and vote for the ethical party even if it means going against the wishes of their family and friends.

Probably the most famous quote by lord Krishna is the following
    Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshu kada chana,
    Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani

This translates to the following
    You have the right to work only but never to its fruits.
    Let not the fruits of action be your motive. Nor let your attachment be to inaction.

The opinion polls by several media houses have declared that the BJP is going to win the most number of seats this election followed by the Congress. The number of seats projected for AAP are less than 20. Therefore many good people are hesitant to vote for AAP  because they think they will waste their vote. To them I say to remember this quote and just vote according to your conscience without worrying about the fruit of your action. So many people are volunteering and campaigning for AAP because its the ethical and moral thing to do, not because they want to be on the winning side. This quote warns against inaction too, don't take the easy way out and not vote at all. Krishna's elder brother Balram refused to take part in the war but Krishna did. Be like Krishna not Balram.

It is interesting to note that before the war Krishna gave a choice to Arjun and Duryodhan that they could either have him as a non-combatant or have his entire army called the Narayani Sena which will engage in combat. Arjun got the first choice and he chose Krishna, much to the jubilation of Duryodhan who wanted to have Krishna's army anyway. In this election the extreme right wing Hindu groups like Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad etc. are all with the BJP. These people see themselves as a religious army who often indulge in moral policing and violence against non-Hindu Indians.
The beauty of democracy lies in the fact that it is the only system that allows for a non-violent regime change. Krishna influenced the outcome of the Kurukshetra war as a non-violent participant. The women and men of India can influence the outcome of any election by the simple non-violent act of voting. If these people chose good over evil like Krishna did, they can clean up Indian politics by sending clean and honest people to the parliament.

Now lets see how many seats were won by the ruling party in the last 3 elections.
2009 Congress 206 seats
2004 Congress 145 seats
1999 BJP 180 seats

In 2014 the AAP is contesting from 385 seats as of today. This number will only go up. They need to win only a fraction to be a part of next central government. If you still have a doubt who you should vote for just ask yourself what would lord Krishna do.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Waiting

Waiting

I never waited for anything before, as much as I do now for you.
Did not know but I was always waiting, for someone just like you.

Before you came, my heart was empty, my life was a trifle tragic.
After the day I fell in love with you, all days have been like magic.

Every word you wrote or said, with love and joy infused my mind.
Every time you smiled at me, for my feelings words I could not find.

Now that our souls have fused, I am yours and you are mine.
So tell me then for your presence, why should my heart still pine?

Only a fortnight remains my darling, until we finally get to meet.
Just can’t stop thinking about you sweety, you are so very sweet.

Your mellifluous voice lives in my ears, your pretty face in my eyes.
I long for them as time stands still, they soothe me when it flies.

We have lived apart for far too long, now the time to unite is near.
Life is going to get more beautiful and fun, just you wait my dear.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Confession

I recently tried my hand at a romantic poem. This is the end product.
The poem is about how one feels before confessing to his love how he feels about her. All the doubts in his mind and ultimately the decision to confess. Hope you all enjoy reading this.

Confession

Want to tell you how I feel, but to myself i ask my dear.
How will you react? is that what you really want to hear?

So much i want to say, it is hard to have restraint.
But I wonder why should I, is your heart that faint?

What is there in my heart, even if you already know.
Let me say it still, of my feelings don’t stem the flow.

The candle that just got lit, in just a moment shouldn’t melt.
The flower which bloomed after aeons, must never swelt.

Whenever you are with me, you make my mind numb.
Make me say something stupid, please don’t think i am dumb.

Life it too short they say, and it might get over tomorrow,
If I don’t say what i want to, there will be no end to my sorrow.

I have no choice but to say it, you ignored my every clue.
My words may not be perfect, but I swear that they’re true.

I am no expert in romance, but I do know that we,
Are the closest thing to love as I imagine it to be.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Poetry by Baba Bulle Shah

I have taken a liking to Sufi music. It is just beautiful. The lyrics are so meaningful and the tunes so catchy. This music is a result of pure love for god. And anything that is result of pure love is beautiful. The Sufi music I listened to was by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Begum Abida Parveen and a few songs composed by India's superstar A R Rehman. Kailash Kher and Rabbi Shergill also sing Sufi songs and are pretty good at it. I found that a lot of these songs were written by Baba Bulle Shah. He was probably the most prolific Sufi poet of the Indian subcontinent. I wish I knew Punjabi and Urdu better so that I could fully understand what he said. There are some websites that contain translations of his works. But they are by no means exhaustive. My favorite song is Tere Ishq Nachaya as sung by Begum Abida Parveen, thankfully this is available on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcj8Zq2etlY.

Two of my favorite couplets from this song are these.

This is the first one.

ishq te aatish nu hi barabar
o vat ishq da tavut khera
aatish saare takht kanera
ate ishq saare dil jera
aatish nu paani bujhave
te dasso ishq da daru kehda
aakhe ghulam farida, aakhe peer farida
othe kuchh nahin bachda
ne jithhe ishq ne la leya dera

I could not find a translation online so I just posted a comment on youtube under my username there, which is retardedgenius. Fortunately, I recieved a reply from user Darvaish47. And this is the accurate translation. Poetry at it's best.

Love and fire are both similar
but love is more hurtful
Fire burns wood and grass
but Love burns Heart and Liver
Water douses fire but
whats the remedy of love
Peer Ghulam Fareed Says
There remains nothing else,
where love decides to stay.


Here is another couplet from this song.

padh path ilm hazaar kitabaan, kade apne aap nu padhiya naieen
ja ja vardi mandar maseeti, kadi man apne vich fadiya naieen
aivain ladada shaitan nal bandeya, kadi nafs apne naal ladeya naieen
aakhen peer bulle shah aasman fadeya, jo man vich basda onhu phadeya nahin

I was able to translate this one pretty accurately myself. But I still got it proof read from Darvaish47. Here is the translation.

Reading of books thousands book, never read your own self.
Always running to mosques and temples, but never ventured in your own heart.
You fight always with the Devil O Man, but never fought with your own self.
Bulleh Shah says, man catches what goes in the sky, but never catches the ONE who is in the heart.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Vagaries

Life happens to us unexpectedly, and a mystery it remains right till the end.
Abound in paradoxes and vicissitudes, where unpredictability is the only trend.

In a party to your friends did not say a word, alone in your room you soliloquized.
A hit comedy could elicit not one smile, that old joke every time has you humorized.

Your lover's perfume intoxicates deeply, a gallon of liquor keeps you arid sober.
A melancholy minute can last for a year, a blissful decade in a second gets over.

The ones you take for granted are those who love you, who you deify take you for a fool.
Can keep calm after a thousand insults, one word is enough to make you lose your cool.

A maestro's melodies are lost on you, a little child's laughter immensely does inspire.
Tell a hundred lies and don't even blink, speaking just one truth makes you perspire.

Insomniacal on the best mattress, on the soil in the park you snore and sleep.
Laugh at your own darkest woes, your best friend's troubles always make you weep.

Stare wide eyed at the high noon sun, can't look in your own eyes when you did wrong.
Kill a hundred foes and still feel weak, take a beating for your cause to feel strong.

Months of hard labor to become a genius, a moment of error and you are the worst retard.
Succeeding with just a mote of effort, you fail miserably when you work the most hard.

Everything is possible and anything can happen, clairvoyancy is just a waste of time.
Never ever give up what you love, with you as a victim there is no greater crime.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Adventure, Risk and Optimism

I was in the office till 11.30 pm today. James Bond is probably the only person who can say this and still invoke thoughts about adventure in the listener's mind . Alas, I am not a secret agent, but just a software developer. I know you want to leave already after knowing this, but stick around I don't write that bad.
The word adventure conjures some typical images in our mind. Usually those of adventure sports like rock climbing,skiing,sky diving or car racing. But what exactly is the essence of adventure? It is risk. Anything that involves a risk is an adventure. Why do we like to do adventurous things? To quote the cliche, it makes us feel alive. What does that even mean? Being alive is something we do 24X7. That is biologically true, but we are not really alive all the time. Being alive means being aware of everything around you. Experiencing something, means same as observing each and every detail around you in everything you do. When placed in a high risk environment our brain is always alert and therefore totally aware of what is going on. In such an environment our survival instincts kick in and we feel motivated and absorbed in whatever we are doing. Concentration is at peak. This leads to some hormonal activity causing an adrenalin rush. At the end of the experience if things go as we wanted we feel proud about having survived the situation. So adventure increases our self esteem.
The essence of any adventure is uncertainty or risk. At the start of an adventure we feel overwhelmed by the circumstances. Then we just give this thing all we have, and once we come out on top we feel good about ourselves. Adventure might be the reason why children are so happy. For them everything is new, they are learning all the time. Therefore each small victory gives them immense joy.
Now that we understand adventure we can realize that it does not necessarily have to be outdoors. For a PhD student, his research is an adventure since he devotes all his energy and many years (usually 4 to 7) into it hoping that he will get results leading to a thesis leading to a degree. He puts many years of his life into something hoping for a positive outcome. Similarly an entrepreneur is an adventurer too. He devotes a lot of money and energy into a business that he believes in. He is not sure of success but he tries real hard. Success does not come easy and quick but when it comes you feel that it was worth it. For someone driving in a big city like Delhi for the first time is also an adventure since that is literally a fatal risk. After a while we all get used to it. Let me tell you from my own experience, I have done skydiving twice. And when I did it for the second time I was only doing it for the view and not for the thrill. It is not as dangerous as it looks. This is because you don't do it alone as a beginner, your instructor is strapped to your back and opens the parachute when the time comes. So when I completed my first skydive I did not feel a sense of accomplishment or relief. But once when I made a round trip on my scooter from my house in NOIDA to college in Bawana which are more than 40km apart, it was an adventure. There were moments during the journey where I thought I would die. This is because I was not accustomed to driving the scooter that much but still made that long journey. After that time I never drove such long distance on a scooter again! The point to take home here is that adventure is there in all situations of life and not just in things that are stereotypically labelled as adventurous. Life is an adventure, skydiving and roller coster rides are just entertainment.
One more critical thing about adventure is that it requires a positive attitude. People who take risks have a naturally optimistic view of things. During any phase of adventure deep down in our minds we do harbor a positive attitude despite the possibilities of failure we see around us. Positive attitude is a very important quality in life. It is the same as faith. The reason people believe in the concept of God as an all controlling entity is because that convinces them that everything will be all right in the end and gives them strength to get on with life. You should have a positive attitude in life not because you believe there is a god but because you need to believe in yourself to succeed. If you don't believe that you will succeed in what you are doing then you will not try hard enough and eventually fail. Things worth having in life do not come easy. Failure should be a learning experience, it has to be taken as an opportunity to become aware of the flaws you committed. It should also be a time to study why the person who succeeded was able to make it. The way you can maintain a positive attitude in the face of failure is by telling yourself the things you learnt from it and realizing that you have become a better person since you will not repeat those mistakes again and can work on the areas that need improvement. If you don't want to do something then just dont do it, rather than doing it half heartedly since you will gain nothing out of the experience. But if you really want to do something then give it all you have, you will have a rich experience irrespective of the outcome of your venture. Even the Bhagwat Gita says the same thing about detachment from the outcome. Life is long enough to absorb failures doing things that you love to do but too short to waste it on things that do not inspire you. The worst 4 letter word in the world does have 'u' as the second letter. And that word is 'Quit', never quit. This poem by an anonymous author explains just why that is true.

Don't Quit

Author Unknown

*

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and its turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When they might have won, had they stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit,
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit


--------------------------------------------------------

Also remember that the night is darkest before dawn. Which means that the toughest battle happens when you are closest to victory. So if things are getting harder then you are on the right track!

I think I am getting too serious, so let us relax listening to this really nice song. It is available on youtube. It is by Bobby McFerrin.


Here's a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don't worry, be happy.
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy.
Don't worry, be happy now.

Don't worry, be happy. Don't worry, be happy.
Don't worry, be happy. Don't worry, be happy.

Ain't got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don't worry, be happy.
The landlord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don't worry, be happy.

Look at me -- I'm happy. Don't worry, be happy.
Here I give you my phone number. When you worry, call me,
I make you happy. Don't worry, be happy.

Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Ain't got no gal to make you smile
Don't worry, be happy.
'Cause when you worry your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
Don't worry, be happy.

Don't worry, don't worry, don't do it.
Be happy. Put a smile on your face.
Don't bring everybody down.
Don't worry. It will soon pass, whatever it is.
Don't worry, be happy.
I'm not worried, I'm happy...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Religulous

I have often struggled to define my religious beliefs. I am a Hindu but Hinduism is not really a well defined religion. I have wondered if God does really exist. If he does then why is there suffering in the world. Why does God not destroy all evil? No religious person in this world will have a satisfactory answer to that irrespective of religious affiliation.
The truth is that religion is a man made institution. The major religions of this world were created by men who claimed to be special. And history is proof that they actually were. This does not mean religion is bad. Religion can help people lead a moral and happy life. Something that is being lost on our generation that believes only in one religion - Materialism. Semitic religions like Islam,Christianity and Judaism tell you about heaven and hell. Heaven being a utopia which you can attain by leading a moral mortal life. Hell being a terrible place reserved for those who have lived an immoral life. The veracity of the existence of heaven and hell cannot be verified since nobody is supposed to come back from these places. If anybody ever claimed to have been there and come back to earth, then his statement would negate the premise of the existence of these microcosms since they are supposed to be final destinations without any escape routes.
Indian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism however believe in reincarnation, where you are reborn again and again until you live a perfectly moral life and then you attain Nirvana, and I am not talking about Kurt Cobain's band. Nirvana is freedom from rebirth. Or in other words a ticket to a permanent seat in heaven. People of these faith believe that if you sin in your life then you will be reborn as an animal or under more unfortunate circumstances. But if you lead a moral life you will be born into a good family and have a happier life ahead. Therefore religion uses fear and greed to make people follow it's tenets. Of course there is no evidence of this philosophy too. Some people claim to remember their past lives but there is no solid evidence to support such claims.
Most people think of God as an all powerful being that is sitting in heaven and watching over them. That probably the only thing that the major religions of the world agree on. On all other issues they violently disagree. It is this very definition of God that becomes the foundation of atheism. The atheists argue that if there is such an all powerful god somewhere then why is there suffering in this world. Why can't God create a world in which everybody is happy? Why is there poverty,crime,corruption and terrorism in this world? Why does God not put an end to all this? People ask themselves all these questions and obviously there are no satisfactory answers to these questions, prompting more and more people to call themselves atheists or rationalists(a more elitist term).
People of any religion consider themselves to be superior to people belonging to another religion. Atheists consider themselves superior to people belonging to any religion. This is a basic human tendency to feel good about yourselves. People find satisfaction in comparing themselves to others they consider less accomplished that themselves. Happiness is basically feeling good about yourself. This feeling occurs when one feels that he has accomplished something. That accomplishment may be something meaningful like achieving a major professional goal like completing a project. Or may be a personal goal like wooing the partner of your dreams. Or sometimes it can be something as crass as the satisfaction that I am going to heaven. I am more moral than others and people not subscribing to my faith are inferior to me. Also, one of the most satisfying feelings is to help someone. Religious fanatics think that they are helping people by proselytizing them. And therefore obtain great satisfaction that makes them even more inclined towards being religious. Karl Marx hit the bull's eye when he said that religion is the opium of the masses. That is exactly what it is. Religion is an intoxicant like opium when followed without questioning. They both make you feel good. Plus religion comes free unlike opium. Therefore there are much more religion addicts in this world compared to drug addicts. Incidentally, all religions either prohibit or discourage intoxication by chemicals like alcohol or tobacco. While on this subject let us look at the followers of 2 major religions in India. Muslims are prohibited to drink alcohol but allowed to smoke all they want, Sikhs are prohibited from smoking but can drink without guilt. This is an example of what being religious has got us, it gives us a choice in which way to die, lung cancer of liver failure. Don't get me wrong, I love my Sikh and Muslim friends. All I am trying to say is that both these religions would have discouraged against intoxication of any kind, but man just interpreted them so that he could have some kind of intoxication while renouncing another kind for the sake of piety.
Religion is the personal relationship between man and God. Before going any further let us define what is God? Is he the master of the universe controlling everything that goes on in this world? No, most certainly not. Atheists always ask that if there is a God then why is the world not perfect. In a perfect world everyone would be happy. Everyone would be equal. This means that everyone would be as happy as everyone else. Therefore everyone would lead the same life. Everyone would react the same way as others. Thus, the ideal world for an atheist would be full of robotic, emotionless clones that maintain equanimity in all situations. This would be like if everybody was a robot. So if you are an atheist, is a world full of robot clones what you want? I think most atheists would disagree with that. Actually the Bhagwad Gita which is a sacred book for the Hindus does urge people to become equanimous and consistent in all situations. But then why does God not make us that way in the first place? If such a situation were to happen, we would all cease to be 'human' as we are right now. This just shows how human oriented the concept of religion is.
Religion is a man made institution. All religious texts are a reflection of the thinking of the men and women(if any) who wrote them. I honestly believe that the people who came up with these religions had good intentions to begin with, but somehow every religion got corrupted. Religion is a man's personal relation with God. We must first define what is God. God is the collection of your core beliefs about everything that you consider to be ideal. In other words, God is your conscience. This is a subset of the stereotypical definition of God as an all powerful being. This definition is accurate for the most part, except that God is just as powerful as you want to be. The power of god is just your own will power and hard work. If you follow your heart, your conscience, your values, then you will attain a blissful state which is heaven. But if you get influenced by greed and sensual pleasure then your life would be dedicated to having temporary bouts of sensual pleasure but would be miserable for the most part, and that is hell. Heaven and Hell are just subsets of your own life. So just lead a moral life and be happy.