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Proud to Be an Indian

How many ages have passed?


mans hand using door knocker on wood effect upvc door cold calling household
So, ‘the festival’ has ended. Although the festive season in India is in full swing; ‘the festival’ of Bengal culminated yesterday with ‘Vijayadashami’ or ‘Dussehra’. So Shubho Bijaya and Happy Dussehra to all of you. BTW, is anyone still here?

Before I move on; it is my responsibility to tell you about my whereabouts during these days. Simply put I was busy doing effectively absolutely nothing. So let’s see what did I do in these months. Firstly I spent my birthday alone in a foreign land (Germany… to be precise) sitting lonely in a room as no-one knew about my birthday. No-one except probably a bird who used to sit on my window each day. I also wrote a 200 odd page document that contained nothing… well effectively nothing… although some people call it a ‘Project Report’ and were seemingly impressed by it.

After coming back home I spent effectively 2 months in one of the most ‘interesting’ endeavors of my life – preparing for PhD applications. It might seem interesting to you that it order to get a very good PhD position in ‘Physics’, the most important skill to master is ‘English’. You heard it right… English vocabulary is the key to succeed in Physics research… Not the laws, equations, theorems, diagrams, postulates or any other crap that you learnt in the last 5 years as a physics student… ONLY ENGLISH. Confused? So to put things straight, to get a successful PhD position in a reputed place in USA or Europe, you need to score extremely well in and English exam called GRE which requires you to know meanings of words which you would never use in a ‘sane, cultured society’. There were 1500 such words that I mugged up ‘in principle’; and needless to say, deleted from my memory the second I walked out of the exam hall. And this, my dear friends is called ‘system’.

Agaain, it goes without saying that thanks to my brilliant luck, my exam was scheduled yesterday – the last day of a 10 day long festival – and hence when my friends were enjoying the festival on the streets, I was sitting in my room improving my English. People buy new dress during the festivals, I couldn’t even mend my torn shoes this time. Although the reason for that is ‘laziness at its peak’.

And yes, there is one more thing that ‘we’ did as a nation. We reached mars. I guess you have heard a lot about that news, so I would just like to congratulate ISRO and my countrymen for the achievement. Although as a science student, I know that for future missions, a technological leap is needed (for the science enthusiasts; we need to perfect the cryogenic stage of GSLV to carry heavier payloads). I wish ISRO the best for that too.

So this was a random post, just to wake up my blog and to pay gratitude to my readers who have been following me. Especially the few of you who actually poked me time and again, informing me how they missed my blog. ‘Serious’ stuff comes in the following posts. Till then, take care.

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The Complete


पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदम् पूर्णात् पूर्णमुदच्यते |

पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ||

Translated as

This is complete; that too is complete. What this completeness yields itself is complete.

And from this completeness; even if the complete is taken out, what remains is complete.

A verse from the Isha Upnishad which which has intrigued me since childhood. Not only due to the marvelous rhythm of the verse itself (which was the first reason to get attracted to it), but also due to the layers of meanings that one can derive out of it.

The first quarter beautifully states that “Not only this; but even that is complete… Everything around us is complete.” Complete in what sense? I feel it to be complete in manifestation. Complete in its identity. Complete in its reason to exist. What it also indicates is as all are complete; hence all are equal. How is it that everything is complete? It says, “What completeness yields is also complete.” It is a self propagating engine. And hence the source of all completeness, which is also complete, which we (probably naively) call the creator. And if the complete creator, creates us; we too are complete… We too are the manifestations of the same creator… so much so, that we are the creators in our own right.

The last part is the most fascinating. “Even if complete is taken out from the complete, what remains is complete.” Completeness is unharmed, indestructible. Howsoever large part of it do you try to carve out; the complete still remains complete. Whatever you do to the creator, the creator remains unaltered.

I can’t help but bring out the parallel with the concept of infinity. In science and mathematics, whatever you add or subtract to infinity, it remains unaltered.

Irrespective of truth and validity of mythology, the fact remains that some brilliant minds could think and perceive of these ideas thousands of years ago and moreover put them in such beautiful poetic forms. Respect is a small word for them…

The Sea of People


population

What’s the population of your city?”

This innocent looking question seemingly becomes one of the most frequently asked question in ‘foreign lands’. And if you are live in the west ask this question to an Indian, well I, being an Indian can guarantee you that situation will become humorously awkward in in a few moments. Why? Two reasons… Firstly, we generally don’t remember the population statistics of our cities. On the contrary I (including my friends) find it weird that people in the west actually remember their city’s population. So the most common answer that you would get any of the facial expressions expressing shock and confusion, a strange look, five seconds of pin-drop silence followed by a hesitant ‘quite large’. And I am telling you, he is being modest. Secondly if you meet an exceptional statics-crammer or a person who has faced this situation earlier and learnt from it; well then his answer will most probably blow your mind out. Believe me! Me and my friends have been asked this question many number of times in our short foreign tours and… there have been no exceptions… ‘Shock’ is the only word that can describe the situation of the person who asked the question.

Example required? OK… I am from Kolkata. And the population of Kolkata is… well infinite. No… probably ‘more than infinite’ is a better approximation. You may object to this claim and open up Wikipedia and say that it is ‘ONLY… 14 MILLION’… and then after a gulp, still defend your pride by saying… “Well that’s still not infinite.”

To that I would only say, “What matters is the feeling… Come to Kolkata and you would realise what I mean.” Upon that… it is not the population what matters is the population density. And you CANNOT beat my city on that. People seem to be crammed up in this city. Open up the list of densest cities in the world and you will find 5 out out of the top ten cities to be Indian. What is more surprising is that ALL of these cities are practically in Kolkata. Beat that if you can!

And if you really want to see the population miracle of the city; board the local trains. It would be an astounding experience for the newcomer to realise the various weird angles at which our human bodies can bend when crammed for space. And if you are a young boy; you might very well try hanging out from the doors of a running train. I have tried it (or have been forced to try it) several number of times and trust me… you can never get bored (my parents are not reading the post, right? 😛 ). And if that was not enough, your self-esteem will surely get a severe blow once you see a vendor with a huge basket on his head moving smoothly through a compartment which you thought could not accommodate a single more soul.

But all of this said, Kolkata is a city of its own kind. The cheapest, the vibrant and the nostalgic. quoting from my earlier post. There is something in the city which always captures your imagination. There is something in the city that it has produced so many greats in the world. There is something in the city that I just want to be a tiny drop in the sea of people… forever…

अपनी माटी


indian-national-flag-images

जहाँ सूर्य की पहली किरण से
हर सवेरा अपनी माँग सजाता;
जहाँ अनंत नील गगन
असीम समुद्र में लय हो जाता;
जहाँ लहराते हरे खेतों पर
स्वर्णिम सरसों मुकुट चढ़ाती;
सब रंगों से सजी हुई
सतरंगी है वह अपनी माटी।

जहाँ ईश्वर को साथ पुकारें
मस्जिद की अजान मंदिर की घंटी;
जहाँ प्रभात का स्वागत करती
कोयल की वह मधुर बोली;
जहाँ आज भी रास रचाती
राधा की पायल कान्हे की बंसी;
अमर रागों को सुनती-गाती
सुरीली है वह अपनी माटी।

आज वही सूरज वही गगन
वही कोयल है पुनः पुकारती;
दिल में लाखों प्रश्न लिए
आर्य-पुत्र को है ललकारती।
गीत शौर्य का गाते हुए
बलिदानों की याद दिलाती
महापुरुषों ने देखा जो सपना
वही स्वप्न है पुनः दिखाती

बहुत कुछ है पाया; बहुत कुछ है पाना
लम्बे कठिन इस मार्ग पे तुम कहीं थक न जाना।
मार्ग कठिन है; देखो देश कहीं भटक न जाए
कीचड़ से कली फूटी है; बिन खिले सूख जाए।

Happy Republic Day to all Indians… 🙂

Translation is not possible (yet again)… However, I present the Roman transliteration for some of my dear readers…

Jahaan surya ki pratham kiran se
Har sawera apni maang sawaarta
Jahan anant neel gagan
Aseem samudra mein lay ho jaataa
Jahaan lehraate hare kheton par
Swarnim sarson mukut chadhaati
Sab rangon se saji hui
Sanrangi hai wah apni dharti

Jahaan prabhaat ka swaagat karti
Koyal ki wah madhur boli
Jahaan ishwar ko saath pukaaren
Masjid ki ajaan, mandir ki ghanti
Jahaan aaj bhi raas rachaaye
Raadhaa ki paayal, Kanhe ki bansi
Amar raagon ko sunti gaati
Surili hai wah apni maati

Aaj wahi suraj, wahi gagan
Wahi koyal hai punah bulaati
Dil mein laakhon prashn liye
Arya putra ko hai lalkaarti
Geet shaurya ka gaate hue
Balidaanon ki yaad dilaati
Maha purushon ne dekha jo sapna
Wahi swapn hai punah dikhaati

Bahut kuchh hai paayaa, bahut kuchh hai paana
Lambe kathin is maarg pe; kahin tum thak na jaana
Marg kathin hai, dekho desh kahin dhatak na jaaye
Keechad se kali phooti hai, bin khile sookh na jaaye.

खूनी हस्ताक्षर


1282111942_Netaji_Subhas_Chandra_Bose

In memory of the great man who created an army to free his motherland…

The very famous (and one my favorite) poem by Gopal Prasad Vyas…

Happy Birthday… dear son of India…

वह खून कहो किस मतलब का
जिसमें उबाल का नाम नहीं।
वह खून कहो किस मतलब का
आ सके देश के काम नहीं।

वह खून कहो किस मतलब का
जिसमें जीवन, न रवानी है!
जो परवश होकर बहता है,
वह खून नहीं, पानी है!

उस दिन लोगों ने सही-सही
खून की कीमत पहचानी थी।
जिस दिन सुभाष ने बर्मा में
मॉंगी उनसे कुरबानी थी।

बोले, “स्वतंत्रता की खातिर
बलिदान तुम्हें करना होगा।
तुम बहुत जी चुके जग में,
लेकिन आगे मरना होगा।

आज़ादी के चरणें में जो,
जयमाल चढ़ाई जाएगी।
वह सुनो, तुम्हारे शीशों के
फूलों से गूँथी जाएगी।

आजादी का संग्राम कहीं
पैसे पर खेला जाता है?
यह शीश कटाने का सौदा
नंगे सर झेला जाता है”

यूँ कहते-कहते वक्ता की
आंखों में खून उतर आया!
मुख रक्त-वर्ण हो दमक उठा
दमकी उनकी रक्तिम काया!

आजानु-बाहु ऊँची करके,
वे बोले, “रक्त मुझे देना।
इसके बदले भारत की
आज़ादी तुम मुझसे लेना।”

हो गई सभा में उथल-पुथल,
सीने में दिल न समाते थे।
स्वर इनकलाब के नारों के
कोसों तक छाए जाते थे।

“हम देंगे-देंगे खून”
शब्द बस यही सुनाई देते थे।
रण में जाने को युवक खड़े
तैयार दिखाई देते थे।

बोले सुभाष, “इस तरह नहीं,
बातों से मतलब सरता है।
लो, यह कागज़, है कौन यहॉं
आकर हस्ताक्षर करता है?

इसको भरनेवाले जन को
सर्वस्व-समर्पण काना है।
अपना तन-मन-धन-जन-जीवन
माता को अर्पण करना है।

पर यह साधारण पत्र नहीं,
आज़ादी का परवाना है।
इस पर तुमको अपने तन का
कुछ उज्जवल रक्त गिराना है!

वह आगे आए जिसके तन में
खून भारतीय बहता हो।
वह आगे आए जो अपने को
हिंदुस्तानी कहता हो!

वह आगे आए, जो इस पर
खूनी हस्ताक्षर करता हो!
मैं कफ़न बढ़ाता हूँ, आए
जो इसको हँसकर लेता हो!”

सारी जनता हुंकार उठी-
हम आते हैं, हम आते हैं!
माता के चरणों में यह लो,
हम अपना रक्त चढाते हैं!

साहस से बढ़े युबक उस दिन,
देखा, बढ़ते ही आते थे!
चाकू-छुरी कटारियों से,
वे अपना रक्त गिराते थे!

फिर उस रक्त की स्याही में,
वे अपनी कलम डुबाते थे!
आज़ादी के परवाने पर
हस्ताक्षर करते जाते थे!

उस दिन तारों ने देखा था
हिंदुस्तानी विश्वास नया।
जब लिक्खा महा रणवीरों ने
ख़ूँ से अपना इतिहास नया।

Men Not Allowed


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Troubles always come in groups… huge groups. And troubles have a special affection for your dear author. And the beloved troublemaker of all times… The laptop… (For glimpses of the trouble-making refer this followed by this). So one fine day pretty close to exam time; when my laptop entered the yearly phase of trouble-making (this time it was motherboard which had passed away); I had no other option but to bunk my classes on a weekday and give the service center a visit.  And after gloomily handing over my beloved laptop in the center; and having ‘something’ to eat from the roadsides of Kolkata, I decided to return back to the hostels. And this is precisely where the fun begins…

I look at my watch which says 5:30 PM and rush to the metro station… And I saw exactly what was expected – A sea of people… No literally… Combine the following facts together – End of the office time; a country of 1.2 billions; a city of over 4 millions and the cheapest metro of the world. What else would you expect? So waiting for the metro amidst the crowd you realise how insignificant you are and how large is the world. 😛 And as soon as the train arrives, the fiercest of the races starts – the race to a vacant seat. Being extremely well versed in the art, I kicked a person ahead of me, punched another who was trying to get ahead and gloriously sat on the seat which I had won. But as fate always has it moments of glory were limited. A couple of moments elapsed and I realised the mistake – the above the seat, proudly announced, “WOMEN ONLY”. And so did the eyes of a lady standing just in front of me. I cursed my luck and the race which I lost after winning and humbly left the seat.

After the metro, came the train, where luckily seats are not reserved for women (certain compartments are). But there too, neither my luck nor the fairer gender spared me. After successfully establishing myself on a hard earned seat, I thought I could relax an have a nap. So with A.R. Rehman plugged in my ears, I peacefully dozed off. But for long… a (gentle)man wakes me up. I realise that a lady is sitting next to me and the (gentle)man sat besides her. “Don’t sleep!  Sit properly!”, said he. I analysed the situation… dress extremely traditional, age- 40 to 50, man and lady sitting side by side – Conclusion: They were a couple. And the problem was that in sleep there was a slight possibility that by mistake I touched her wife. I mean… what the hell… If you have problem with sitting besides a young ‘potentially dangerous’ man, why don’t you exchange your seat with your husband? Why disturb the sleep (which is the most dear thing to a student) of a person who is now forced to keep his eyelids open, staring at nothing for the 2 hour journey?

And finally the bus… For the half an hour journey, I deliberately chose a bus which was scheduled to depart an hour later (as it was be empty) so that I could securely get a seat and ‘relax’.  No use… Slowly as people poured into the bus, I could see millions of standing souls. And… despite 50 per cent seat reservation… a few of the souls were ladies. Unfortunately one of those souls stood besides my seat. And being a young blooded gentleman, I forgot all my sleep and left the seat for her… so that the atrocities of the violently rocking bus (yup… it was on Indian roads) are born by these tired legs…

In short that day (as many other  days) made me realise that we are the most unfortunate group in India. Caste reservation eats up half of the seats in the competitive exams for any ‘general’ candidate. As a ‘young’ citizen you are supposed to be responsible and sympathetic. And as a guy, you must be considerate towards women – even though they receive reservations in buses and trains; they pay atleast half of the fee we pay in any exam, preferential treatment in scholarship and so on…

But… Ladies! Beware! Every gender has its day (or set of days)… There would be a day when train compartments would announce “Women Not Allowed”

Vijayadashami… Festival, Mythology and Musings


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With her divine presence spread throughout, she fades away to nothingness… Only to return once again

 

Days of celebrations are over as the days of wait begin. A-midst the rhythmic  beats of the drum we bid adieu to mother with her promise to return again next year.

 

And in these moments where tears awkwardly merge into joy, the mind switches to the thinking mode and tries to look beyond the stories… and asks, “What is the essence of the celebration?”. For those who are unaware of the story, here is what the Hindu mythology has to say about the festival (in brief)…

 

Once upon a time, there was a demon or ‘asura’ named Mahishasura (The demon who could change into buffalo) who aspired to capture the all the worlds and rule them via unjust means. To accomplish his task, Mahishasura meditated and pleased Lord Brahma (the creator). As a boon he got the assurance that he won’t be killed by a man. Overjoyed with the boon, he fights and conquers the heavens and the earth. Commotion is created across the universe. On seeing this dangerous situation, the supreme gods: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer combine all their powers to give rise to Durga, a female warrior. She is depicted with 10 arms, adorned with numerous weapons gifted by various gods. The creation of Durga is marked by Mahalaya (the first day of the 10 day festival). Subsequently after 10 days of fierce battle, Durga kills Mahishasura and perishes his army. The 10th day is celebrated as the day of victory called Vijayadashami.

 

Overall, it is the same old story of victory of good over evil, but the subtleties are worth pondering upon. One of the highlighting features of the story is the depiction of woman in her powerful, ruthless form. The same woman who is seen as peaceful, loving and caring in motherly forms like Parvati, Saraswati or Ganga is depicted in a devastating form here. So if time arises, women can perform acts of courage and bravery which are even beyond the reach of men.

Some other points that catch my attention include the meditation and boon of Mahishasura. The creator gave the boon to Mahishasur knowing its potential misuse in future. This in my viewpoint shows the concept that regardless of who you are, efforts always yield the fruits. Anyone who is dedicated to his work, gets his reward – be it a saint or a demon.

There is also a point of unification of powers. Durga was created by the combined powers of the trinity. To me it signifies the importance and necessity of unity of good to combat evil.

It may be very well possible that there was never any Mahishasur or Durga in the real world. But this story would always be a source of motivation and inspiration to millions. The story, which may seem rudimentary at first glance has simple yet deep interpretations hidden within…

Anyways, this festival has much more to do with culture than religion. This is an excuse for thorough cleaning of the household; new clothes; fabulous food; creativity in designing of idol, pandals, rhythms and… overall the environment. There has to be a something in this grand festival that so many eyes await her arrival, so many hearts celebrate her stay, and so many eyes moisten as she departs… There has be a reason so many poets write in her praise and so many musicians sing in her awe.

Shubho Bijaya to all… Celebrate the victory… Spread the joy 🙂

She’s Coming!


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Hearts have waited for so very long

Mind and soul do dance along

The breeze does rush through the grass

And awaits the earth adorned in kaans

 

The drummers await as she comes

A-midst the rhythmic beat of drums

And so do wait the millions of feet

To tap and dance along the street!

 

The pandals get ready as they wait

To house the carrier of dreams great

The sculptors make strokes flawless

As they give form to the formless!

 

Shubho Mahalaya to all of you! Today is the day when Mahishasur Mardini… The destroyer of the deamon Mahishasur was formed. And we all wait as she arrives again as the destroyer of all evils to reside in our hearts…

Let the celebrations begin….

Come to Form; O Formless!


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O one who gives the sun its glow
O one who makes the rivers flow
In whose praise the seas do roar
Come to form; O Formless!
With a mighty uproar

O one who flows in veins as life
O one who holds us through war and strife
The creator of smile on a warrior’s face
Come to form; O Formless!
And the world you do embrace

O one who is spread on the lands so vast
O one who flutters the flags on masts
On rhythms of whom life does flow
Come to form; O Formless!
With your majestic glow

O one who transforms the sweat into grains
O one who showers new life as rains
On whose arrival the earth does smile
Come to form; O Formless!
It has been a long while…

 

One of the biggest Indian festivals – Durga Puja (Navratri) – is knocking on the door. And this poem calls upon the omnipresent Goddess Durga to take form and reside in our hearts. Happy Navratri to all of you.

 

This poem was originally written in Hindi. I then translated it to English. I tried to keep the essence intact and not the exact meaning. Here is the original poem in Hindi.

सूरज बन धधक रही जिसकी ज्वाला 

नदियों की जो उज्जवल धारा 
भर रही जो सागर में हुंकार 
समाहित है जिसमें सारा संसार 
साकार रूप में अवतरित हो; हे माँ निराकार!
 
शरीर में बन रक्तिम धार 
कर रही जो नव-जीवन संचार 
मन में ले  ढाँढस का अवतार 
प्रसारित कर ज्योति अपरम्पार 
साकार रूप में अवतरित हो; हे माँ निराकार!
 
जिसके लय पर थिरके जीवन 
ताल पे जिसके नाचे सावन 
विस्तार है जिसका अनंत अपार 
उद्घोषित कर प्रचंड रण-हुंकार 
साकार रूप में अवतरित हो; हे माँ निराकार!
 
सुगन्धित कर दो वन-उपवन 
बरसाकर निज-आशीष पावन 
देखो भक्तों की भीड़ अपार 
प्रतीक्षा करता सारा संसार 
साकार रूप में अवतरित हो; हे माँ निराकार!
 
And here is its Anglicized version… (for those who can’t read the Hindi script) …
 

Suraj ban dhadhak rahi jiski jwala
Nadiyon ki jo ujjwal dhaaraa
Bhar rahi jo saagar mein hunkaar
Samaahit hai jismein samast sansaar
Saakaar roop mein awtarit ho; he ma nirakaar!

Sharir mein ban raktim dhaar
Kar rahi jo nav jeewan sanchaar
Man mein le dhaandhas ka awtaar
Prasarit kar jyoti aparampaar
Saakaar roop mein awtarit ho; he ma nirakaar!

Jiske laya par thirke jeewan
Taal pe jiske naache saawan
Vistaar hai jiska anant apaar
Udghoshit kar prachand ran hunkaar
Saakaar roop mein awtarit ho; he ma nirakaar!

Sugandhit kar har van upvan
Barsakar nij aashish paawan
Dekho ma bhakton ki bheed apaar
Prateeksha karta saara sansaar
Saakaar roop mein awtarit ho; he ma nirakaar!

Just in case you are curious: The verse (shloka) in the image is in Sanskrit which translates (roughly)to…
The one who is present in all forms; in all beings and has all the powers…
One who removes all fears; We bow to that Goddess Durga…

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