Monday, October 31, 2011

Our trip to Mysooru. The river Kaveri, the palace and the reclaimed Sri Venugoplaswamy temple at KRS

We went on a trip to Paschima Vahini and Mysore. I have written about Paschima Vahini earlier. We had a very nice time as always in Mysore. It is still a laid-back city, the centre of the city unspoilt. But people are worried that it may go the way of namma Bengaluru! Hope not! Narsimha, my cousin Vatsala's husband says that people of Mysore are proud of their heritage and are ever vigilant in trying to maintain it. More power to them!

Our first stop was at Sangam at Srirangapattana which I had seen years ago as a kid. While the river was full and pretty as ever, the banks were as expected a mess. The path to the sangam is lined with shacks. I have no clue why we revere the river and hope to wash off our sins by taking a dip in it and go to heaven, but defile the river and a create a veritable hell out of the surroundings!

                                                                          I finally managed to block the uglier spots. 
 Onwards to Mysore after lunch at our family temple at Paschima Vahini. Luckily for us Vatasala checked and found that the palace would have lighting in the evening as it was deepavali. It was an incredible experience.


Saw the palace again! This time both the darbar hall and the family quarters. No pictures unfortunately! Tara had her fill of the palace as we saw the evening light and sound show and learnt a bit of our history in Kannada. It was nice, would have been nicer if people in front did not talk all the time. I requested them to speak softly and it was quiet for about five minutes and they started to speak again.

Frustrated, I moved to another seat, no luck, as the person nearby received a call on his cell phone. Understandably he had to speak louder to hear himself speak. I would have probably asked him to go a little away and speak, it was an open ground. But he was loud and would have heard him in any case. Moreover he wore a lungi. I have already seen that in most of the southie movies the lungiwallahs are quick to take offense and fold up their lungis and aim a karate kick at the offending person. Did not want to risk that.

We were with Adi, my cousin's son and wife Poornima the next day. I am thankful to Poornima for suggesting our next must see place and joinjng us as it was still not well known and in fact is not yet complete. We saw Sri Venugopalaswamy temple, reclaimed from the Krishna Raja Sagar lake and being relocated and reconstructed by the Khodays. I feel happy that the little contribution I made by drinking their Hercules rum is finally used for a good cause! Here are a few pictures of this beautiful temple.

 We entered the temple still under construction through a gap in the wall. I felt like a king as I surveyed the place, no one there to stop me, direct me or block my view!

More work is still to be done. The main idol is yet to be installed. It is said that the work completed in another six months.

 Good idea to hurry if you want to see it before the crowds throng the place and inevitable shops and hawkers surround the area!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thinking about 'the single best invention of life' the whole day!

It was one of those days. As I glanced at the Bangalore mirror early Sunday morning, A feature 'Death is the destination we all share.' hit my eyeIntriguing coincidence as we were to see a show; 'Swar Katha Upanishad' in the evening and Tara was part of the show. It is about a teenager Nachiketa and his meeting with the god of death.

The article in Bangalore mirror seeks a reaction from many to an obvious observation by Steve Jobs about death being 'the common destination' of all. Poignant in his case as he was close enough to it. I have minimum exposure to Steve Jobs' work and products directly.  This is not about Steve, it is more about the reaction of many, from a monk to a pastor to an atheist, to his speech at Stanford.  Jayanthi Madhukar, who explores the subject for Bangalore mirror, is an young friend of ours from our Bangkok days!

 Predictably it is about the (non-verifiable?) beliefs from the believers.
The Buddhist monk speaks of an in-between situation after death before we start a new stream of our consciousness. How we are placed in our next birth is the result of our actions (karma) - particularly the mental actions. (The mental actions part was a surprise!). He says: 'that as death sets in; the carpet is being pulled out from under us. The experience is said to be terrifying... If we prepare ourselves for death by leading a virtuous life...our minds will be at peace as we face our final journey of this lifetime.'

The Hindu priest said'...some fear death. I believe god takes care of me when I die. What is there to fear?' and holds that 'The Upanishads say only the ignorant will keep accepting the invitation to be reborn'.

The pastor states: 'Reincarnation is a lie' and quotes from the bible: 'It is appointed or destined that each man dies only once and after that comes death, believer's spirit and soul go to God and non-believers await judgement'.

A hypnotherapist believes that 'Death is just the beginning of another existence. Ask anyone who has gone through a near death experience and they will say that they saw a tunnel with bright light beyond....The other side of the tunnel is where we came from, the source or God. ...In my opinion, there is no such thing as heaven or hell or that good karmas will lead to merit.'

Then one, who looks young in the picture, says: 'I am not keen on speculating about death'. Fair enough, it is too early for him to think about death.

 And another, a counselor: 'I believe.. that when I die,  I will not be around. That is all there is to it....What happens to me after death is irrelevant to me....Why is it so hard for people to say 'I don't know' ..... even after 5000 years of recorded history, we are no closer to discovering God or what happens after life...The desire to find answers in some way or the other leads to finding answers from different avenues.'

 I was confused, as I tried to dwell on these various views on death. Significantly Jayanthi leaves it for us to decide.

The evening show also dwelt on death. I had actually seen the show earlier and remember that as I walked down the steps after the show, thought of young Nachiketa, all of seventeen, walking into Yamalokha without being dead. Wondered how he could manage it. It is possible that he did die but returned as he was gifted his life back by a pleased Yamaraja. A matter of detail, what is important are the lessons he learnt and the message he brought us from the lord of death.

As usual, my thoughts went off in a tangent. What if a fellow in his seventies like me was able step into Yamalokha alive and meet the Yamaraja. Would I be offered a boon? It may happen that Yama would be home and there would be no reason to grant one. It could be that there was a long line of beings waiting and I would be just stuck. Soon, these absurd thoughts stopped as I had to concentrate on  driving safely back home. Obviously I was not really keen for a meeting with Yama so soon!

The  Katha Upanishad is fascinating as we dwell on the teachings of Yama. He begins by distinguishing between preya, 'what is pleasant', and shreya, what is beneficial and further teaches Nachiketa 'about life after death.'

But coming back to Steve Jobs, it is clear he went about doing things which he thought were beneficial. While he lived much longer than the three months that was estimated initially. It is said that '...Jobs  resisted his doctors' recommendations for mainstream medical intervention for nine months, instead consuming a special alternative medicine diet to thwart the disease, before eventually undergoing a pancreaticoduodenectomy (or "Whipple procedure") in July 2004, that appeared to successfully remove the tumor. Jobs apparently did not receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

On August 28, 2008, Bloomberg mistakenly published a 2500-word obituary of Jobs in its corporate news service, containing blank spaces for his age and cause of death. (News carriers customarily stockpile up-to-date obituaries to facilitate news delivery in the event of a well-known figure's untimely death.) Although the error was promptly rectified,

Jobs reacted, quoting Mark Twain: "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated". In April 2009, Jobs underwent a liver transplant at Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in Memphis, Tennessee. Jobs's prognosis was described as "excellent".

Finally, Jobs announced his resignation as Apple's CEO on August 24, 2011. "Unfortunately, that day has come," wrote Jobs, for he could "no longer meet [his] duties and expectations as Apple's CEO". (Wikipedia.)

I have not read anything about Steve Jobs' religious inclinations, whether he wanted to go to heaven or merge with God without rebirth as aspired by many or whether he even wanted to understand meaning of all this; our cycle of birth and death and so on. But he did create a tremendous impact in the field he had chosen. But I feel it is all limited to his entrepreneurial Dharma and the rest of it is just accidental or media inflicted.

Speaking of my own confusions, the article does reflect the states of my mind at different times in my life. I did think that it was not a bad thing to have a rebirth if one could have a good time. We see many such examples. But now a days, especially after my return, as I watch the TV or read the papers, I do get worried. To be reborn in India or elsewhere in the next foreseeable future may not be so great!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Deep-rooted beliefs!

One of the things we do on getting back to India is to hire a help and end up adopting the family as well! Bhuvana, our help, has an younger brother who appears periodically and cleans the car. No matter he is expected to appear more often, but does a good job when he descends. He has moved north of Bengaluru and so he does descend!

Today is Ayuda Pooja and an important day. Santosh rang the bell in the morning and asked me to take the car out. He wanted to give it a thorough cleaning, better than normal as it was Pooja day. He planned to decorate it by tying two small banana plants on the sides, a huge garland in the front and so on. I disappointed him by telling him a few flowers should be enough!.

Went up for my shave! As I shaved, I recalled the story that Khsatriyas had to draw blood if they took their swords out of their sheaths ! Wondered what they did on Ayuda Pooja day. As I thought about this, sure enough, I cut myself and drew a little blood! I suppose the rules apply even to a mild brahmin!

Went down as soon as Santosh was ready and moved the car back.

Santosh performed the pooja. He knew the ritual quite well. Later he asked me to drive forward. I heard a pop and realised he had kept lemons in front of the four wheels. Symbolic sacrifice done I came up.

As I thought about this ritual, my questions were: when did  a vehicle become a weapon?  Yes it has the potential to draw blood, even take life. And as most Indians perform this pooja; has it reduced Indian accident rates?

 Here are some stats.  Road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per year: The world average was 20.8 and India was lower at 16.8.
I thought, not so bad! Hopefully the pooja  was a factor! But again Sweden was the lowest at 2.9. So it must be more than just a yearly pooja that reduced accidents and thus fatalities. Suprisingly USA at 12.3 was much higher than what I expected. Eritrea was the worst at 48.4.

The summary also said: According to the World Health Organization, road traffic injuries caused an estimated 1.26 million deaths worldwide in the year 2000. The average rate was 20.8 per 100,000 people, 30.8 for males, 11.0 for females. 90% occurred in low and middle income countries, with South-East Asia and Africa having the highest rates.