Saturday, March 19, 2016

Our Religious Philosophies.

On my recent trip to Pune, I met a relative of mine and during the course of conversation learnt that he has begun the study of ‘Nyaaya Sudha’ written by Jayateerthaacharya. If you are a pursuer of Dwaita Philosophy and intend studying the works of Sri Madhwacharya, a thorough understanding of Nyaayasudha , which is in the form of 1919 verses, is said to be a must. I casually asked him what exactly was ‘Nyaaya Sudha’ and the following is the result of that question.

I have written whatever I understood after talking with him for about an hour and a half.  The conversation (I thought then) gave me a fairly clear picture.  I am not sure now. But I hope what I have understood is right and have attempted to put it in writing before the entire thing evaporated.  If you find a blunder here, it is not his. It is mine.

I have not written this to educate others. I know that it does not interest many nor do I have the required qualification. It is just to put whatever I learnt in black and white and keep it for future reference, if and when required. I sometimes make a half hearted attempt to know something about our religion and religious practices and this is one such. This blog is a place where my thoughts are likely to remain undisturbed and hence I posted it here.

I asked my relative about ‘Nyaaya sudha’ and he tried his best to explain it to me.  Since he found that my knowledge about our religion is next to nil, he began with a brief history of Hinduism in India.

 Budhddhism is probably the first significant religion of the sub continent. Before that, there was no religion as such. There were many beliefs and different kinds of worship. Some worshipped the earth, some the sun, some the rivers and many such groups worshipped many entities which they thought were mightier than themselves. There were some who had thought of a creator or god too.

Budhdhism preached that there is no creator or god and there is nothing called the ‘atma’ or Soul, which is eternal.  That philosophy is called  ‘Nireeshwaravaada’ and ‘Anaatmavaada’ meaning no god, no soul.  Budhdhism preaches a life devoid of greediness and says that by leading a life full of virtues like right intention, right speech, right livelihood, right actions and concentration/ meditation, one would attain enlightenment or relief from the bindings of life.

 Budhdhism was followed by Jainism. Jainism recognises the concept of a soul and says that a soul in its pure form exists in every living being. The soul is imprisoned in the body and it can be liberated by practicing ‘Ahimsa’ - Nonviolence, ‘Anekantavaada’- Non Absoluteness and ‘aparigraha’ - detachment.  Both Budhdhism and Jainism follow the doctrine of ‘Nireeshwaravaada’ - That is, there is no ONE god.

This was the scene, around eight century, when Adi Shankara was born and he put forward the Advaita philosophy. Jagadguru Shankaracharya’s major contribution to Hindu philosophy is supposed to have been his acceptance of ‘Vedas’ and ‘Brahmasutras’ as the roots of this philosophy and recognition of the ‘soul’. He is said to have travelled the length and breadth of India, spreading the advaita philosophy and setting up schools or Mutts for its propagation. The Advaita philosophy believes that there is a soul or ‘Atma’ and a super soul or ‘Paramaatma’ (or god)  and that they are actually one and the same. The soul which is present in every human being is the same super soul but in a form that is temporarily masked by illusion or ‘maya’. Once the soul gets rid of ‘maya’ and attains ‘Moksha’ or liberation, it merges with the super soul. There is no differentiation between the soul and the super soul.

Through his clarity of thought and powerful presentation, Shankaracharya is said to have won over most other schools of thought and the ‘advaita’ philosophy had the sway over most of India.  However, certain Philosophers in southern India thought differently. They were from a sect known as ‘Vaishnavas’ who worshipped only Vishnu or Narayana as the supreme god. They accepted the existence and the significance of Vedas and Brahmasutras and the existence of soul and supersoul. They differed slightly from advaita. They put forward what is known as the ‘Vishishtaadvaita,’ the main proponent of which is Ramanujacharya. His philosophy -  put in the simple form by my relative, to suit my brain - says that atma and paramatma are similar but are differentiable when the atma or soul exists in a human body.  Once the soul attains salvation, it will be same as super soul. Vishishtaadvaita believes in similarity between soul and super soul and that Vishnu or Narayana, the only ‘God’, is supreme and controls everything else.

I have finished about 2/3rds of what I intended to write and I hope that it makes some sense. I have not gone into the details of different schools of thought since I do not have a thorough understanding.  For someone, who does not believe in religion, god, soul etc etc, and do not want anything to do with those things, the whole lot is garbage.  And for those who firmly believe in all that, have thought about it and already have a clear idea, this is very very basic. They are welcome to improve this writing if they can. Apart from being a record of my understanding, ( Don’t ask me why I need a record) this piece may be of some use to half baked souls like me who are neither here nor there and like to have some information on our religion in a nut shell.

Acharya Madhwa or Aanandatheertha, born in 13th century, who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Hanuman or ‘Mukhya Prana’, strongly disagreed with Shankaraachaarya’s philosophy. He based his teaching on ‘Vishnusarvottamatva,’  meaning , Vishnu,  Sri Hari or Narayana , (THE GOD or super soul - Paramaatma) is supreme and entirely differentiable from any other ‘Jeeva’ or  soul.  Differentiation or ‘Taaratamya’ between any two things in this world (any two inert matters, between inert and living, between two living beings and between all these and god)  is the second  important factor of his philosophy. Since he said that there are two realities - god and everything else and that they are different, his philosophy is known as the ‘Dvaita’(dual) philosophy. He also said that Vedas are fundamental for our understanding of god and everything that Vedas mention is true and real.

The Vedas are said to have originated as sound waves emitted by God. The seven great ‘rishis’ (Vasishta, Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Goutama, Atri, Bharadwaja, kashyapa) had the capabilities to grasp these waves and they gathered and spread them for the benefit of mankind.  Vedavyaasa or Krishna Dwaipayana as he is also known, wrote 564 (according to madhwa school of thought)  ‘Sutras’ or formulae known as the ‘Brahmasutras’ to help one in understanding the Vedas.  Acharya Madhwa wrote ‘Brahmasutra Bhaashya’ or ‘Anuvyaakhyaana’ (commentary on brahmasutras) which simplifies the Brahma sutras. And Sri Jayateertha or Teeekaacharya as he is also known, who was the sixth pontiff of Madhwa peetha  wrote Nyaayasudha, a detailed commentary  on Madhwacharya’s Brahmasutra bhaashya, in the form of 1919 verses.

It takes considerable dedication and efforts to reach a level where in one may attempt to understand Nyayasudha and it may take years to complete the study of the text.  Nyaayasudha, as I understand now, is the first step towards understanding  Brahmasutra bhashya, which is necessary to get a grasp on the Brahmasutras, which in turn help one to understand the Vedas.

I think a few words about my relative, are in order here. A mechanical engineer by profession, with a post graduate degree from IIT Madras, he is a senior executive in an automobile firm. He firmly believes in our religion and religious practices and follows them sincerely. In spite of being a staunch believer, he does not impose his beliefs on any one and does not have contempt/ look down up on   those who do not believe/ practice the religion. While he maintains rigidity in his practices, tries to simplify them and make them as flexible as possible for the uninitiated souls like me. My sincere thanks to him.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Evening setting - Madkaim, Ponda

While driving aimlessly around the out skirts of Ponda I was on the loop road which starts near the Mahalaksmi temple, goes winding through the villages of  Bandora, Gaune and Veling and comes out to join the highway at Mardol. When we neared the entrance of the industrial village Madkai, I turned towards the cause way crossing the backwaters at the entrance of Madkai and found this very appealing evening setting. I usually like any place where there is water and ended up walking along the new road being constructed between Madkaim and  Durbhat. Here are the scenes which made the evening walk a very pleasant one.
Clean water for a change, if you ignore the edge. Notice the house on the left amidst the palms? lucky people aren't they?

Same place from another direction, after walking half a kilometre.

Mangroves which are supposed to be home for a lot of birds and aquatic life. The flying specks are the Brahmini kites which roost in the mangroves.

Plenty of egrets. The white spots which are visible in the middle. I was happy to see them as they should be. I pity the dirty ones which I see around the garbage dumps in Ponda.

The sun sets and our evening around the back waters end.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Clinical Records.

I have a bad habit of keeping clinical records of all the patients treated by me. They say that it is a good habit to keep records. May be. But it is bad when it shows a failed case or a missed diagnosis. The patient sitting in the chair would have forgotten what his complaint was when he had visited me four or six years back or that the tooth about which he presently has a complaint had actually been treated by me earlier. It would be very nice to consider it as a new case without bothering about the inconvenient history. But for the record, I would not remember the case, the patient’s memory would be worse and I would treat it as a new case. I may even get to blame the previous dentist (Gleefully. Who doesn’t like other’s mistakes?) for messing up the case and charge a little more for setting things right and doing the patient a favour! But my record does not allow such pleasures. It places my blunder in front of my eyes in black and white. Painful. That is why I sometimes feel that I would be better off without my records.

But it has its uses. Once in a way I get a patient in whose mouth I find some really good job done. I mention it to the patient and he/she says “Oh, that was long back doctor, I do not know who did it”. It would be extremely gratifying when the record shows that it has been done by me. People get different teeth treated by different dentists as per convenience and never remember who treated which tooth, let alone where and when. Sometimes they will have totally forgotten visiting any dentist in their life at all. “No doctor, I swear that I have never been to a dentist before. This is my first visit ever.” I place the card in front of them and hear an excited “Oh, you still have my card! That was when I was in sixth standard. I never had any trouble later and have entirely forgotten about it” and it impresses them a lot.

 Some cards bear cautionary signals like “Very apprehensive patient”, “Never keeps appointments”, “Bargains. Quote more”, “Collect fee in advance” etc etc which are very useful in running a practice.

The popular belief among my patients is that winter is bad time for dental treatment. For that matter, dental treatment is considered bad in any season but worse during winter. Hence the attendance in the clinic is quite low during winter. Yesterday was one such day with just two patients.  I removed few teeth for one of them. Since that was to be followed by making an artificial set, the patient said that she would pay for everything together and walked away. No collection for the day.  Not even the milk and vegetable money.

I was about to close when the second patient walked in. It was quarter past eight. He just wanted an appointment for a filling. An appointment was fixed but I can not charge someone for just fixing an appointment. I am not that bad yet. And they wouldn’t pay even if I do. So pockets remained empty. When he was about to leave, the patient mentioned that he had visited me years back for some fillings and I took out his card just to check. He was right. I had done some filings for him but he had not paid me! That was ten years back and he owed me five hundred. I mentioned it and said that he may pay me when he came for his fillings. “Oh I am so sorry doctor” he said “No, No, I will pay  right now.”  He sheepishly took out the cash from his purse, paid me and left putting me in the black for the day!

Of all the benefits of maintaining records, I feel this is best!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Urban wild Life - Sand Boa

Last night when I stopped the car in front of our house, the head lights picked up a long sluggish creature crawling on the road. I knew that it was a snake but was surprised at the slow movement. Snakes do not come out for a leisurely walk. I went closer. It was a snake alright but a Sand Boa. Since I am much more evolved now as a naturalist than what I was decades back, I did not pick up a stick to beat it’s life out of it but took out my mobile phone to get some pictures.  I hope that I will evolve further and when I find the next snake, will be able to suppress the urge to take pictures, switch off the head lights and leave the snake in peace.

This is how it looked right in the glare of head lights. More shadow, less Sand Boa.  
I  changed the angulation and a helpful passer by focused the light from his mobile on it's head while goading me to go closer assuring me that the snake is harmless. Good intentions but bad results.
This time however I got some pictures while a passerby focused the light from his mobile phone on the snake. while I was dancing around the snake, my wife ran inside to get the camera, did not find it, shouted from the balcony, got my reply, ran down the stairs without tripping and breaking her bones, found the camera in the clinic and brought it. By then the Sand Boa had crossed the road, moved along the border of my neighbour’s compound and was just about to get into a hole. Still, I did get most of it in my camera and so you are able to see how it looked without the shadow play.

Somewhat better picture after the snake moved away from the glare of head lights. 
This is how it really looks. It is headless but since the head and tail look alike in a Sand Boa, you did not miss much.
I do not know if you have a seen a Sand Boa live. It actually looks and behaves like an overgrown earth worm. I understand that it lives by eating rodents, lizards and other snakes. I also understand that coming under the wheels is a major cause of It's death. I fail to understand how it manages to catch a rat or a lizard unless they have suicidal tendencies. But obviously, nature has provided. And till date this Boa has been lucky to cross roads without getting under a wheel. Luck be with you Sand Boa!


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Second Childhood

“Go, get a haircut”

That was my wife ordering me. She was not happy with the look of my hair and was insisting that I have a haircut. I am not against haircuts.  I usually go for one on my own accord every two months or so. But it was just about three weeks since my last cut and she was ordering another one. I did not like it.  

 As I said, I am not against a haircut but I do not like to go to the barber often. The barber whom I patronise has a shop in the centre of the market. When I go there I will have to first worm my way through the market by lanes, find a place free from garbage to park my scooter,  carefully walk some distance avoiding stepping on heaps of cow dung deposited at strategic points, squeeze myself between a cart selling ‘limbu soda’ and another selling sugarcane juice, and enter the barber’s shop. The barber does not give prior appointments and his services are on first come first serve basis. He is almost always busy and I will have to wait for my turn. I hate to touch the old magazines leafed through by hundreds of licked fingers and can’t bear the bollywood music on the TV. Hence I avoid visiting him frequently.  Some may suggest that I change my barber but it is not easy to change your barber once you get used to him. (Like your dentist for that matter - a sentiment, of which I happen to be a beneficiary)

Now the trouble is, I try to avoid frequent visits to the barber but my hair grows quite fast. “There is lot of manure in the head” is an old joke but my friends stress that it is not a joke in my case. Well whatever it is, I feel very uncomfortable with overgrown hair falling over my ears and neck.  So, I requested my wife to cut it and she was aghast at the suggestion. I told her that it is the wives job in the US and she asked me to shift to US and marry a wife who is ready to cut my hair. I requested my son and he did it once. He made a big fuss over the bits of hair falling all over his clothes and small bits getting entangled with his body and pricking him throughout the day. He refused to cut it the second time saying that he is a dentist and not a barber. I reminded him that barbers were his professional ancestors but he was not prepared to appreciate the fact.  I had to fend for myself.  

I decided that “self help is the best help” and purchased a pair of scissors. Using them I could trim the hair on the right side of my head reasonably well, enough to ward off a visit to the barber by a week or two but the left side was tricky. I could not reach behind the ears and the back of my neck was worse. I did not give up. I persisted, tried to practice cutting with my left hand, nicked my ears, poked my neck, was frustrated and had to give up. (Have you ever tried trimming the hair behind your ears? Try it once- particularly the left side if you are a right hander. It is fun)

During my visits to the barber I had noticed that he used an electric trimmer to start with and then he continued with the scissors and comb. And he effortlessly removed tufts of hair with each swipe of the trimmer. It was so easy! During my last visit I stealthily noted down the make and the model number of his trimmer. I was overjoyed to find the trimmer available on Flipkart and ordered one.  Strangely my wife who had made a lot of noise over me cutting my hair with the scissors (and bits of hair over the wash basin and the floor around it) did not make any fuss and she resigned after saying “You better close down your clinic and start a barber shop”.

During the past two weeks I had practiced running the trimmer over the easily accessible parts of my head and it was time to go further. I got an opportunity recently. We had to attend a wedding reception in the evening and three weeks after the visit to the barber my hair was just right for a trim. Soon after my morning walk - before my wife woke up - I carried the trimmer and a hand mirror to our backyard and trimmed my hair in the peaceful surroundings.  No ‘give away’ bits of hair around the washbasin. I could trim not only the hair over my ears, but also the back of my head and my neck easily. I was ready for the reception.

In the afternoon, I was appreciating my work standing in front of the mirror when my wife exclaimed “What happened to your hair?”

“My hair? Nothing. What happened?”

“It looks moth eaten. Did you try to use the trimmer?”

“Me? No. You know that I am not capable of avoiding your eyes and ears.”

 “But you have done something. It looks like rats have been at it.”

I told her not to imagine things and said that my hair was fine.

“See here.”

 She held her mobile to my face. There it was. A moth eaten patch slightly above my neck on the right.  Not very much visible but visible to my wife. Photographic proof and no scope for further evasion. It was a mistake buying her a smart phone. Now she has photographic evidence for everything.  “See here” she holds it in front of my eyes - “You left your sandals on the door mat”, “you left the wardrobe door open”, “You did not close the jam bottle ” so on and so forth.  And now, it was my hair.  I told her that there is nothing wrong trying to be self reliant and mentioned that even Gandhi had tried cutting his hair himself. “Don’t dare trying everything that Gandhi did” she retorted and continued “Go, have a haircut, or else I will not be coming to that reception with you.”

I tried to tell her that nobody in the reception would be bothered about my hair but just then my phone rang. “Appa,” it was my son “Go have a hair cut”. I was surprised and uttered “Well.....” but he cut me short. “I saw the picture and I don’t want to hear anything. Go have a hair cut”. This lady had not only taken my picture but had ‘whatsapped’ it to my son and had enlisted support. It was another mistake teaching her to send the pictures of her sarees, bangles, handbags and sandals to her sister.

The last time I had heard that order was about fifty years back, in my childhood. When my mother could no more bear the look of my over grown and unkempt hair she would say “Look at you.  You look like a shabby sloth bear. Go have a hair cut” and she would press a rupee coin in my hand.

The SMS from HDFC bank said “Sir, we notice from our records that you will be sixty next week. Please contact the nearest branch for changing over to a senior citizen account and getting the senior citizen benefits”.

There is a saying in Kannada which means “Second child hood starts at sixty”.

My second child hood has started with the very familiar childhood order “GO HAVE A HAIR CUT” and me obeying it.


Thursday, December 24, 2015


Walking through the streets of Silva Nagar on Christmas morning you just can't help imbibing some Christmas spirit. I mean the figurative Christmas spirit. You can hear the shouting and laughter of the younger generation who have imbibed the real spirit and celebrating - after the midnight mass, at a distance in the adjoining football ground. It has become an annual ritual for me to change my walking course on 25th Dec to enjoy the festive look of the locality. And I try to capture some of the spirit  in my Sony and post it here. A bit early and it is too dark for the abilities of my camera, a bit late and the lights are switched off.  May be I was at the right time today. Got a bit of both. Here they are.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Before I write anything else, I declare that my knowledge of art is zero or less and that any feelings hurt due to the expression of my opinion here is unintended and deeply regretted. I am only expressing my ignorance  and what is written has nothing to do with the quality of art displayed in the Kala Academy, Panjim - Goa.

My wife had some work in Panaji and I drove her there this morning. It is the year end, a time when people go crazy over Goa for reasons best known to them. To top it Panaji is hosting the 46th IFFI followed by the feast of St Francis Xavier. Needless to say that the city is overflowing. All the roads are jammed and no place even to park your legs. I dropped her on the road in front of the place she intended reaching and drove around Panjim searching for a place to park the car. Found a place two kilometers away from the spot I had dropped my wife - at the Kala Academy, Panaji.  

Other than promoting art and culture the Kala Academy serves the humanity through two very useful ways. It has lot of parking space which is freely available for parking when there are no programmes in the academy and it has very decent toilets. Having parked my car in the parking lot, I walked in. The academy building was being 'done up' to host the forthcoming Film festival. I walked around watching the work going on, used the toilet and was walking towards the canteen  when I came up on some art work in metal which have been installed near the canteen. As mentioned earlier I can’t recognize a piece of art even when it is labeled and placed in front of me. Since these were placed at strategic locations in the Kala Academy building and had a brass plaque in front of them giving the name of the art and the artist I think they are valuable pieces of art. For my untrained eyes they look like random selections from a scrap yard welded together. But the trained eyes in the academy must have chosen them carefully, paid good money and installed them there. Here they are.
This is the first one placed near the entrance to the hall that attracted my attention. According to the plaque it is a 'Dancing girl'. To my eyes it does not look like a girl and if it is one certainly she is not dancing. By stretching whatever imagination I have at my disposal, I may call it a two legged being which has undergone some surgery to set right broken hands and the surgery has gone wrong. 
This is called 'Goat'. I would be happy if someone can explain to me why it is a goat and not a wolf, dog or a deer. I wouldn't suggest a cow because once you call it a cow, you can't dismantle and dispose it off. 
I did not find a plaque before this piece of art. May be I could not make out which was the front and which was the back and was looking for a plaque on the back side. 
I like this. This is called 'Adrift artifact.' Meaning things found adrift in a junk yard (?). I would have made it better by adding 'welded' to the name. A honest piece of art!
There were many  more but since I did not carry my camera and since my mobile phone is just that and not a good camera I did not take more pictures. 
After going through the art exhibition I must have walked in a daze for sometime and when I came to my senses I found myself at the boundary of Kala Academy, looking at this great piece of art. 
 I have a suggestion for the administration of Kala Academy. Sell the pieces as what they are - pieces of scrap, at Rs 20 a kilo.  Use a part of it to paint an arrow with the words “Art - This way” and lead the fluff headed art lovers like me to the boundary of Kala Academy from where we can witness a great art. The art of nature!