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.
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…
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.
A spoon, a fork and a knife; and a large chunk of chicken leg piece on the plate. And just besides that, a person utterly confused about what to do with the silverware. Never ever in his wildest of dreams had he imagined that one could use any of those to eat chicken. Why can’t I eat with with my bare hands? What’s more? A bowl of red chili powder on the table and the person not pouring it all into his food just for the sake of humility. Why? Because the person besides the table is an Indian (that’s me) and as per his standards that chili powder isn’t hot at all. Really… Believe me, I added 4-5 teaspoons of it in my food and the the taste didn’t change at all.
“Enjoy!”, said the Dutch friend sitting opposite to me. “Enjoy!”, I reciprocated. “So, how do you say ‘Enjoy’ in…”, the Dutch paused and pondered for a couple of seconds and continued “’Enjoy!’ in INDIAN?”. I corrected, “You mean Hindi?”. “Oh ya… ya… in Hindi”, he smiled. This seemed to be a trivial question for my friend to ask but it was one of the most difficult questions ever asked. “Do we ever say such a thing in Hindi?”, I thought. But in a desperate search of answers gave it my best try, “Shuru kiya jaaye…”. “Shu-ru khi-yaa jhaa-ye?”. “Yup! That’s right”, I smiled. Now my Indian friends may suggest the possible better versions of the response, but you would have to admit; given the fraction of second I had, that was a good try.
I spent about two months in Netherlands and realised one thing for sure. If I ever get an opportunity to teach them something, I would definitely go for cooking. Whenever I added a ‘chhaunk’ to daal (pulses) in the kitchen out there it was the most amazing thing they had ever seen in life. The shrilling noise of the process and the aromatic fumes which which brings smiles to the faces of us Indians, brought tears in their eyes and concern on their faces. “That thing which you did there… Isn’t that hazardous?” “Nope! We do it all the time”. I tried to be convincing and reassuring but still the expressions on the faces could almost be heard out loud, “I am telling you dude! You will kill us someday.”
My visit to Netherlands made me realise one undeniable fact. We live in one of the most ‘complicated’ countries of the world… A large, weird, diverse, colourful, confused and complicated country. The look on the face of the people around you when come to know of the population of the cities… when they come to know that we have 18 official languages, hundreds of dialects and still no national language… when they come to know that it takes almost 3 days to cross the country… THAT expression on their faces makes us truly realise the great identity of the nation we live in… It gives you the true feeling of being an Indian… A feeling which we generally overlook.
I realised for the first time that we live in a ‘diamond’ shaped country. A country with the largest populations of followers of (at least) 5 different religions, with almost all possible geographical terrains and probably the most number of festivals. No surprises that we live in a diamond shaped country… No surprise we live in India.
1. The meal which I was talking about earlier… I took 2 hours to eat the meal. And then I realised the true meaning of the saying, “Apnaa haath Jagannath” 😛
2. I also realised how complicated our mythology is. An interested friend asked me to explain the gist of the story Bhagwad Gita… And I had a tough time explaining why we worship a man who persuaded his friend to go for war against his own kin. After all the gods are supposed to be peace loving. Isn’t it?
Millions – if not billions – of eyes followed the spacecraft as it slowly disappeared to its distant mission to the red planet. It was the 5th of November when PSLV – C25 launched off carrying the completely indigenous ‘Mangalyan’ capsule on an year long voyage to mars. The ever faithful comrade of ISRO – the PSLV series of launch vehicles – successfully maintained its 100 percent success record. As the small capsule leaped forward into the space, India reiterated its presence in the scientific community by becoming the nation to launch a martian mission at one-tenth of the cost of an equivalent US mission.
And today, 60 days after the launch a humble traveler in the path of science introspects on the position of his country in the scientific arena. His country! A country too colourful; a country too diverse; the birthplace of the oldest religion of the world; a country that proudly shelters more than 18 languages; a country that boasts of its festivals and culture. He greets you from Bharat, Bharatvarsha, Aryavarta, Hindustan. He greets you from India.
As a billion souls felt their chests broaden after the launch, a few eyebrows were also raised. The questions were not new; but they were relevant. The writer’s country is not only a country brimming with culture and diversity; it is also a country where more than one-fifth of stomachs sleep fighting hunger; its also a place where thousands of children find themselves in tea stalls and not schools; it’s also a country where hospitals are a luxury for some. And the question that was very evident after the mission was this –
Should a country of more than 400 million poverty stricken souls spend 73 million dollars (450 crore rupees) on a mission which may or may not yield a major breakthrough?
Well yes we have a large population under the poverty line. And it may seem to be a sheer muscle flexing act by India to send off a mission to mars and not divert the money to the upliftment of the poor. But is this expenditure really a waste? Well for one thing; out economy was growing at a fast pace when the western world was facing a global slowdown. So we do have money to sustain ourselves. Additionally, even if the mission does not provide something amazingly new, I guess it is an achievement in itself to launch such a cheap mission. This gives the outside world a faith in India’s technology. This attracts may other nations to trust India as a cheap and efficient client to launch their satellites and other space missions. This is one of the immediate returns of the investment.
On the broader perspective, this mission or any other scientific success has a much larger impact. To reduce the economic disparity of the nation, it is essential that the youth gets educated. The question arises why are they not getting educated? In today’s India, most of the citizens appreciate the importance of education. The problem arises because there are not many teachers in the country. Same goes for the health sector – there are hospitals, but doctors are nowhere to be found. And believe me it is these small success stories which create teachers and doctors. It is these scientific stories which inspire the children to take up science; pursue higher education, and be the future scientists, doctors, professors and teachers. So the investment in Mangalyan may seem to be a huge in the short term; but the long term returns of missions like these are things which cannot be simply measured in monetary terms.
At this moment I also feel a lot of responsibility on my soldiers. As a student of science in India, I realise that we as a nation have a long way to go before we come up to the front line of the scientific race. I also know the level of competition in the top-notch institutes of India. I have faced it . And I have survived. But now I feel there are millions of eyes staring at me in expectation. There are thousands who deserved to get through but couldn’t. There is something that really needs to be done. If India; a country of 1.2 billion has produces just 4 Nobel laureates (India born foreign citizens excluded); there is something seriously wrong. When 4 other India born foreign citizens receive the same prize; there is something to ponder about. Why did these people need to become foreign citizens before they could get the Nobel?
When someone addresses us as the cream of the cream (or crème de la crème) of Indian education system, it definitely fill us with pride. But more than pride, it fill us with a sense of responsibility. The cream of the cream should not fail. The cream of the cream cannot afford to fail.
It is said that C. V. Raman cried as he received the Nobel prize; as he was standing under the Union Jack as he got the prize. Although aspiring for a Nobel would be highly over-ambitious for me, I can guarantee the soul of Dr. Raman that if such a day comes, it would be an Indian standing under the Indian tricolour.
Before I end this rather long speech of mine, I would like to make two announcements. Firstly, a friend of mine, Harshda Mangal has participated in a story writing competition. So you members of the Facebook community, please read the story and vote for it if you like. Here is the link. The voting lines close tomorrow. So please hurry up! Please use a PC or a laptop to vote as voting by mobile has some issues. (You might ask why didn’t I participate. Two reasons. One, I don’t have a Facebook account. And two, I don’t write stories).
Secondly, From tomorrow I am thinking of starting a series of daily posts on sharing of the quotes said by some of the brilliant people on the planet. I hope you would enjoy them.
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 🙂
Exams ahead… Signing off from blogging until the second week of May. Till then I keep my faith in the following…
कर्मणयेवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि।
English translation of lines :“You have a right to perform your prescribed action,but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results your activities,and never be associated to not doing your duty.”