Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Best Christmas Movie of a Century

I am going off to CA to attend a Christmas party on the other coast. I think it is important to make a point that the best movie for this season ever to be made is the movie called "Its a Wonderful Life". If you havent watched it already please watch one during this month.Call me "old School" but the movie does define some essential characteristics of a good human...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Thought

In the end unlike what my mom says (you are what you eat), You are defined by what you chase.
So choose wisely.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Social Disturbances causes Economic Progress

Except US and Canada (who celebrate it on a different day), I dont think Thanksgiving as a holiday is celebrated anywhere else.Never knew it in India except through Dennis the Menace comics. Whats more, Lincoln proclaimed it to be last thursday of November which FDR amended to be the 4th Thursday of November. Cool. The power to contrive a holiday for convenience is so great (I aint complaining..more power to the philosophy of convenience)

Its a nice holiday weekend for travel but come to think of its origins its just a Harvest festival much like Sankranti/Pongal/Baisakhi/Lori/etc., except that instead of copying our so-called "pagan" roots it was re-created by so-called "pilgrims" and hence very legitimate. Now, that I am in the state where it all started its kind of fun to look back at it. The very first account was written by one Mr. Winslow around December 1621 stating the following:

"Our corn did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

There you go, the very first thanksgiving expression from the new colony. There's also a nice urban myth that the first thanksgiving meal was poisoned thus killing the local indians (now that the colonists want profits from private property instead of communal sharing) who were invited to the feast. While Colonists poisioning Indians is true of some accounts (also deliberately inducing small pox to eliminate the natives) , I am not sure if it is true of Thanksgiving. But then, Who decides what is a true source of knowledge and which one isnt??

For myself, I just celebrate by having popcorn rather than the conformal turkey..

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Few Things in Life

..can be as pleasing as pure piano played in a mellow tone with lots of space between the notes allowing one to sink in the G-Flats and F-Sharps almost like singing a lullaby (speaking of which ages since I heard a "proper" one)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happy Endings!

Just watched Om Shanti Om for Diwali.Nice entertainment. Really good show and the movie made people stick to their seats till the last credit was displayed (must give kudos to whoever came up with the out of box way of credit display and I was particularly impressed with the spot buy and finance team"). Coming to the movie, what struck me as insistent was the focus on a "happy ending". If it isnt happy then the movie apparently hasnt ended as per OSO(thus making any bollywood movie end only one way).

Since the movie is Retro, if you are reading this, please go and borrow this movie called "The Third Man" which is from 1949 but an yeggastradinary movie to watch for any buff.This movie will have different endings based on your geographical location. American DVDs have a different ending whereas British distribution of original has a different one and there is one which compromises between both approached. Reason was that Graham Greene wanted to have a Shah Rukh like happy ending whereas Selznick (Speaking of Selznick, OSO had this wonderful SRK line of "I dont give a damn,dear" which is cool adaptation) knew his market was not going to the movies for such assurances and begged differ.

I watched both endings and must agree with Selznick in that his adapation of the ending is far better in pleasing my aesthetic sense than the Greene one of make up at the end. The correct word to describe the selznick ending would be "tantalising the senses" rather than soothing. So there, one reason for not always having happy endings.

"In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed — they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

- Orson Welles' contribution to the script of The Third Man

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I wonder why.
I wonder why I wonder
I wonder why I wonder why
I wonder why...

-Dick Feynman
Have you ever wondered when you asked someone the question "Why" and they answer the "How" part or "When" part coupled with "Where" part. I dont intend to follow teleology but generally was curious as to why people answer a different question than what is asked and especially relevant in rhetoric and sales arguments. Lawyers and programmers are very good at persisting with the question whereas the normal layman usually accepts the answer and willing to be digressed into other territories.

I recently found the answer to be that human brain tries to answer the simplest abstraction of the question being asked. In other words, if the brain is not equipped with an exact answer it tries to give you an approximate answer in the neighboring region of the question rather than like a computer which simply answers "it doesnt know". Its neither good or bad but understanding such phenomenon helps navigate some turbulent waters especially when radical issues are being discussed.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Strotra of Terminalia Chebula in the Hand

When Sankara, was traveling in the western parts of India and overcoming in debate the
expounders of the various schools of thought, he once came to a village known as Srivali (near Gokarna in modern Karnataka). When an inhabitant of the village named Prabhakara heard about his arrival he went to him with his thirteen year old son. He prostrated before Sankara and made his son also prostrate. He then explained that the boy had been dumb from his childhood, that he had no likes and dislikes, nor a sense of honour and dishonour,and that he was completely inactive. The Guru then raised the boy up and asked him as follows in a cheerful tone:

1. `Who are you? Whose child are you? Whither are you
bound? What is your name? Whence have you come? Oh
Child! I should like to hear your reply to these questions.'

Thus spoke Sri Shankaracharya to the boy, and Hastamalaka replied as follows.

2. I am neither man, God, yaksha, brahmin, kshatriya, vaisya, sudra, brahmachari, householder, forest-dweller, nor sannyasi; but I am pure awareness alone.

3. Just as the sun causes all worldly movements, so do I -- the ever-present, conscious Self -- cause the mind to be active and the senses to function. Again, just as the ether is all-pervading, yet devoid of any specific qualities, so am I free from all qualities.

4. I am the conscious Self, ever-present and associated with everything in the same manner as heat is always associated with fire. I am that eternal, undifferentiated,unshaken Consciousness, on account of which the insentient mind and senses function, each in its own manner.

5. I am that conscious Self of whom the ego is not independent as the image in a mirror is not independent of the object reflected.

6. I am the unqualified, conscious Self, existing even after the extinction of buddhi, just as the object remains ever the same even after the removal of the reflecting mirror.

7. I am eternal Consciousness, dissociated from the mind and senses. I am the mind of the mind, the eye of the eye, ear of the ear and so on. I am not cognizable by the mind and senses.

8. I am the eternal, single, conscious Self, reflected in various intellects, just as the sun is reflected on the surface ofvarious sheets of water.

9. I am the single, conscious Self, illumining all intellects, just as the sun simultaneously illumines all eyes sothat they perceive objects.

10. Only those eyes that are helped by the sun are capable of seeing objects, not others. The source from which the sun derives its power is myself.

11. Just as the reflection of the sun on agitated waters seems to break up, but remains perfect on a calm surface, so also am I, the conscious Self, unrecognizable in agitated intellects though I clearly shine in those which are calm.

12. Just as a fool thinks that the sun is entirely lost when it is hidden by dense clouds, so do people think that the ever-free Self is bound.

13. Just as the ether is all-pervading and unaffected by contact, so also does the ever-conscious Self pervade everything without being affected in anyway. I am that Self.

14. Just as a transparent crystal takes on the lines of its background, but is in no way changed thereby, and just as the unchanging moon on being reflected on undulating surfaces
appears agitated, so is it with you, the all-pervading God.

As this stotra reveals the Self as clearly as the amalaka fruit placed on the palm of the hand (hasta), it received the name Hastamalaka Strotra. Moreover, the boy, eminent in jnana , came to be praised by all people of this world as Hastamalaka.

The father of the boy was speechless with wonder at those words. But the Acharya said to him: `He has become your son because of his incomplete austerities. This is your good fortune. He will not be of any use to you in this world. Let him stay with me.' He bade him go back and, taking the boy with him, proceeded on his way. The disciples then asked him: `How did this boy attain the state of Brahman without hearing, etc.?' The Guru replied: `His mother left her twoyear old child in the care of a great and highly accomplished yogi who was practising austerities on the bank of the Yamuna while she went to bathe in the river with some women. The child toddled towards the water and was drowned. Out of his compassion for the disconsolate mother the sadhu forsook his body and entered that of the child. That is why this boyhas attained this high state.'


This is my response that I couldnt formulate upon a session I attended by a filmmaker on Indian Untouchability where he documents a large cross section of the population including the the current holder of the "paramacharya" where half articulated answers about the caste system didnt quite hit the nail for me. The usual stuff was dished out about how bad the current situation is (discrimination just went high tech in urban areas and still the same old sense in rural populace). There were arguments either side moving onto affirmative action, social justice and such. Whats more, quotes exclusively from ManuSmriti (which is quite an embarassment to all of us there) were leveraged to show what had befallen us. My post here is to simply prove a point that you can never talk about India or Hinduism or any of its culture in singular. It always has to be plural and then one wonders about the meaning of such expressions such as these (one way of interpreting that can be social equality or polytheism or any plural attribute claiming equality)

a = b = c = d = e =f = ....

As a mathematics student that tells me simply nothing unless the last part of equality is some "k" (or any other symbol you prefer) but the point is its gotta end in a constant or else it doesnt mean anything. I have myself convinced of that constant to be embedded in the above stotra and hence a nice point to mark it as one to remind myself later whenever such debates enter, this is where they kind of end...