Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Life and Times of a Bhogi

I must have been in grade 7 or 8 when I came across the term bhogi. (Obviously not a reference to the Bhogi Festival before Pongal!) Appa and his brother, my valiacha were engaged in a deep discussion about spirituality and I was trying to join the conversation so that everybody would be impressed. They were discussing a book called Autobiography of a Yogi. The book, one of the most widely translated in the world, is a spiritual gem, and it tells the story of Paramahansa Yogananda and his quest to realize God. At the end of the discussion, valiacha remarked that if he were to write his own story, he would title it Autobiography of a Bhogi. They all burst into laughter and I joined in too, although I didn't understand what it meant.

Today, nearly six years later, I think I have realized what the term means. The bhogi's story completely describes me. In a nutshell, a yogi has given up all attachment and is indifferent to whatever happens to him. Do not mistake it for passivity. He becomes a witness and doesn't struggle with emotions, having perfect control over them. In other words, come what may, a yogi remains unaffected.

In sharp contrast, to see how a bhogi's mind works, take a look at my schedule:

5 AM- wake up call from Amma, who dutifully gives me a missed call every morning, despite the fact that she's four hours behind me.

5.05 AM- My own alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button, tell to myself, '5 more minutes' and go back to La La Land and my exquisite dream.

8.00 AM Wake up with a jolt, realize am going to be late for my lecture and hurriedly get ready.

8.30 AM Make faces at the lift because it takes it's own sweet time to come.

8.45 AM Hurriedly grab breakfast, (most often scowling at the vegetarian choices) and run to the bus stop.

9.00 AM Make faces once again when I realize I've just missed the D2 that takes me to Business school...

And so I move on to lectures and tutorials, each time telling myself oh no so much to do! Each time this happens I tell myself to stay calm, and yet the mind begins to worry. What if's begin to attack my mind and I find myself a victim of 'Paralysis by Analysis', once again.

So much for controlling the mind! And then, the question of how I react to comments from others- for example, when I received positive feedback from a lecturer, my heart filled with pride and if my mind could dance, I can assure you it was doing the bhangra. At the other extreme end, I received my midterm feedback for a very difficult module yesterday. I wasn't expecting it to go well, and sure enough, it didn't. I was upset the whole day and worried myself to wits' end. (If this happened last year, I'm sure I would have spent the whole day in tears. Maybe, I'm improving already haha!)

Why does this happen? Is it because we become too attached to the process, the results, everything associated with it? Is it because we take pride in it, a sense of ownership for whatever happens?

This afternoon, I was walking back to my room after a long project meeting, and suddenly thought about the yogi-bhogi conversation. I realized the best way to look at things is to view it like a yogi would. Just do whatever I can, without worrying about anything. With a sense of yogic dispassion. I agree, the term sounds rather dismal. After all, what is life without passion, you might ask. I feel passion is required to keep you alive, to ensure you enjoy your work; at the same time dispassion is needed to ensure you don't get too attached to it. Something like the Taoist principle of wuwei. (Again do not confuse that with inertia!)

I'm resolving to myself that today onwards, come what may, I shall not worry about things I have no control over. I shall just do my best and see what the world has to offer me. After all, a yogi doesn't just ignore everything because of his dispassion. He has faith and that inspires him to move on.

Okay, enough tattvam for the day. Now that I've keyed in my words of wisdom, I shall just keep calm and move on.

P.S: No disrespect/criticism is intended at the book. I loved reading Autobiography of a Yogi and it continues to be one of my favorite books.

On a different note, being the 'quotehanger' that I am, I came across this wonderful quote, shared by a friend on Facebook today, and it just brought a smile to my worried self-'If you don't believe in miracles, perhaps you've forgotten you are one' :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nine Loves- The 10 Day 'You' Challenge

I've actually been longing to blog about something now, just to take my mind off the mountain load of work ahead of me, and then I remembered the 10 Day 'You' Challenge- So here's the next part of the Challenge.

A note of warning, though. This is not something you would like to read if you're on the quest for intellectual enlightenment. (Though I like to pretend think that I'm on the path myself.) It's just a list drawn to relieve me. All fine? Okay, so here's the list of my nine loves, excluding parents, friends and family, of course. I love them all-it goes without saying.

1) The quiet of early mornings. When I was back in school, Amma and I would wake at 4 every morning. Having stayed in the Middle East for nearly seven years, the call of the muezzin for the fajr prayers, will always remain special to me. There was some kind of incredible solace, just sitting at your desk, and listening to the prayers, chanted in a language I neither spoke nor understood. After the call, the quiet that followed was profound. I liked to think of it as a form of submission to the Almighty's Will, that the day will unfold itself according to His plans.

2) The night skyline of Singapore. This is something I have noticed very recently. I'm sure I've seen it before, but not really, noticed. This morning at around 5, I was heading to the pantry to make myself a cup of tea, when I saw the skyline out of the window, and I just stood and stared for some time. Tall skyscrapers reaching out to the heavens, glimmering structures against the backdrop of a velvet inky black sky, that showed the faintest signs of dawn.

I remember when Appa had gone to the States a long time ago, he returned with lots of pictures. He showed me a postcard of the place where he stayed. At that time, I thought it was awesome- Just looking at the postcard that showed a brightly lit room decorated with beautiful furniture, arranged artistically, used to bring me a lot of happiness. I kept it at my study desk and would dream about it when I was supposed to be studying Hindi. (groan! This, a task I cannot believe I achieved, considering the fact that the only Hindi I can speak today is err, hindi thoda maloom)

I guess the grandeur of these buildings fill me with a sense of wonder, a sense of accomplishment. If this can be done, anything can be done.

3) The Nilgiri Hills and the Velliangiri Mountains. I spent a considerable part of my childhood in Ooty. The Blue Hills were always a part of my life. Suffice to say, I harbor dreams of going back to the Nilgiris some day.

The Velliangiri Mountains are located on the outskirts of Coimbatore. Or rather, the city is protected by these mountains, an extension of the mighty Western Ghats. I believe that there is something truly divine about this place. A temple known as the Dhyanalinga has been built here, at the foothills of the Velliangiri. I've had the good fortune of visiting the spiritual centre (It doesn't restrict itself to one particular faith) a couple of times and I don't think words are enough to describe the experience. So in my mind's eye, whenever I think of the Velliangiri, I associate it with spiritual bliss.

4) Sitting for hours together in a bookstore. I can never get tired of this! As a child, when we were in the Nilgiris, my parents and I would visit the town every Tuesday. No trip was complete without a mandatory visit to the Higginbothams Book Store. And from then, much to Amma's annoyance, I have not given up on this love. 'Just five more minutes, please please!' is what I tell her every time she signals to me that it's time to leave the bookstore.

5) The fragrance of the incense sticks at the prayer alter, mixed with the earthy smell of lit oil lamps. This has been a constant feature at home, and now that I'm away, I realize that I terribly miss it.

6) Putting my feet up the couch and reading Anne of Green Gables. This has become a sort of ritual for me every time I go back home after a long semester. I love, love, love Anne of Green Gables. In fact, when I was younger, I aspired to become like Anne Shirley!

7) Watching old Mohanlal movies with Appa. (Not the new Malayalam ones, please! And yes, I dislike the term 'mallu'.) Some of these movies can still tickle you, even after all those long years. My favorites include Kilukkam, Manichitrathazhu and Chitram. Even now, I often discuss them with Appa!

8) Blogging. I simply love blogs, my own as well as reading others'. Putting down my thoughts on this blog gives me a chance to express myself, and at the same time, encourages me, since I have always loved writing. Unfortunately, I realize that my posts are not that frequent when I go back home. Guess I should start working on that.

9) Earrings. Dangling earrings. Stud earrings. Any type. Any color. It's there in my genes- Amma and I go crazy when we shop for earrings. Sounds slightly superficial? See, I am no saint. (Far from it!) I have worldly loves also, okay.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reflections on the 'Samaritan's Dilemma'

I just came back from a sectional class on business policy and strategy. Today, we discussed corporate social responsibility in the session and focused on the dilemma between ethics and profitability that many firms face today. How much can a firm do to contribute back to society, without antagonizing its stockholders in terms of eroding profits? The general consensus was that the firm should aim to strike a balance between the seemingly contradictory goals.

At the end of the class, my professor discussed 'The Samaritan's Dilemma'. The term refers to a dilemma of sorts faced by people when they try to help the poor. In the context of my strategy class, it was a metaphorical reference to the fact that if firms begin to help the poor, there is always a danger of their help being taken for granted. For example, a sense of complacence sets in and there is no motivation to work hard, since there is an easy way out. At the end of the class, as I walked to catch the shuttle bus back to my room, a stream of thoughts jumped into my mind. I was able to relate to this and I suddenly realized that we face this scenario back home quite often.

Whenever my parents and I go back to Coimbatore for our vacations, we often go out shopping at RS Puram. A Vinayagar temple is located in the middle of this part of the city, and we make it a point to offer our prayers there, since we have always felt that there is something special about the sacredness of that space. Outside the temple, one can see a few women selling lamps, garlands and jasmine flowers. And one can also see people begging for alms. As a child, I used to feel terribly sorry for most of them and would implore Amma or Appa to give them some money. And they always did the same. However, one day as Amma was about to buy a string of jasmine flowers before we entered the temple, a young woman approached her. She was dressed in tattered clothes, with sunken eyes, unkempt hair and held a baby at her hip. And she asked Amma for some money. I was so sure that Amma would give her something but to my shock, she just pretended not to hear. Then the lady spoke again and this time, Amma looked at her and said in Tamil, 'I'll give you a job. Will you work for me? Nothing much, just cleaning the house, basic cooking. Avalo dhaa!' The lady just stared at her, made a grimace and fled the scene.

I was indignant and said to Amma, 'How could you be so mean!' Then she looked at me and explained that the lady was young and in a perfectly healthy state to actually do some work, and earn a living, rather than beg one. And yet, she preferred to beg, since it was something that was much easier to do, compared to washing utensils or sweeping a house. The Samaritan's Dilemma indeed- by helping such people, more harm than help is done, since in a way, you are encouraging complacence and giving them more reasons not to work. In sharp contrast, we can also find children as young as ten (sometimes, even younger), selling bric-a-brac on the same streets. I wrote about meeting two such hardworking kids here and it's from people like them that we actually learn about the dignity of labor. And it's also people like them who truly deserve the help of the so-called Samaritans. There is absolutely no dilemma here, because as the famous adage goes, in this case, you are teaching a man how to fish rather than just giving him a fish for that day alone.

I sometimes feel frustrated about how little I can do to really change the world around me. The easiest thing for me to do is drop in a few coins and close my eyes to everything else, trying to convince myself that I have done what I could have done. But then, the Samaritan's Dilemma sets in again, and I know it isn't going to make much of a difference. I have always believed in living a life of meaning, and this can be achieved only if I find some way where I can truly help, not just give away some money glibly.

I'm still searching for the best way in which I can truly contribute (although I do have an inkling of what to do), and I sometimes dream that it can really make a difference. Here's to that dream and the realization of the same! But before I drift into La La Land, I guess I must at least graduate... Hold on, I'm already in Lah Lah Land!

P.S: Ignore the dreadful pun at the end- that's just university stress talking through yours truly!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My First Blogger Award!

Yay! I was given the ‘Your Blog is Great/Tell me about yourself’ Award by Spaceman Spiff whose marvelous blog I've been following for the past few days. Thank you so much Spiff! :) This is my first blogger award and I'm so glad that my blog is actually readable!

The award requires me to list seven random things about myself. I have already written 10 so-called secrets about myself here but I never miss an opportunity to talk about myself! Yes, sounds like Gilderoy Lockhart right? Anyway, here goes!

1) I have a lot of random conversations with myself and with God. I often imagine scenarios in my head (those that probably never occur), where I say some of the wittiest and funniest things, making me the centre of everyone's attention. Or I imagine incidents from my past where I could have said something witty/sarcastic, but didn't.
In my conversations with God, I talk to Him/Her like I would to a friend. Ever watched the Malayalam movie Nandanam? My conversations with God are somewhat like how Balamani, the protagonist, talks to God, just like a friend. In the same way as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. One of my favorites- Tevye looks up to the heavens and says to God, "Sometimes I wonder, when it gets too quiet up there, if You are thinking, What kind of mischief can I play on My friend Tevye?"
That being said, I sometimes think God is exactly like us, which of course is not the case. For instance, I had promised myself that I would go today for my Sunday prayers/satsang at Little India. The prayers start at 8, meaning I should be out of my campus by 6.45 in the morning, and today was one of those wretched days where I missed the alarm and woke at 7.50! I decided to quickly shower and take a cab, so that I could at least go for the last part of the prayers. Woe betide me! I couldn't even flag down a taxi. At 8.35 I decided to give up and trudged back to my room, dejected. You might ask, why? I somehow felt that if I missed the prayers due to laziness, my whole week wouldn't turn out the way I wanted it to. A little like God seeking revenge. I called Amma and she said, 'Edi idiot, how can you even think God will be like us? Only we think such petty things!' Of course, God is one of my closest friends, but I should realize that He/She is above everything!

2) I love scarecrows. I don't know why but I think they are incredibly cute. Maybe it has something to do with the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz:
'Dorothy: How can you talk if you haven't got a brain?
Scarecrow: I don't know. But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't they?'

3) I simply do not appreciate 'ppl hu tok lyk dis'. I often have a hard time trying to decipher what they actually mean.

4) I am slightly superstitious. Not the oh no! black cat crossed my path types, but I do have 'lucky' earrings for examinations. Quite stupid, really. I'm trying to grow out of this. *sheepish grin*

5) For my second birthday, my parents decided to call all their friends home to celebrate two years of their brat's ponnu mol's existence on the planet. I thanked them all for their presence by hugging the cake and refusing to share it with anyone.

6) I love, love, love Cadbury's Crunchie. 'Chocolate with golden honeycombed centre'. See, even the description is so yummy!

7) I'm Little Miss Chatterbox (okay, maybe not-so-little), but yes, I have a tendency to keep talking. I can talk about anything under the sun. :D

Alright, now I'm supposed to give away the award to other bloggers. *clearing voice grandly* I hereby bestow the award upon a few bloggers whom I have been reading ever since I entered the blogging realm:

Swetha - Howzzat
Karthi etta (my cousin) - Technical Philosopher
Nav - Words Are All I Have
Dhanya chechi (another cousin)- Travel Stories and More
Vijaya ma'am (My teacher from high school) - A4ISMS
Jyo - Lost in Translation

Of late, I've noticed, blogging makes me so much happier! It's been a really good stress buster at university :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Amma!

Dear Amma,

It's your birthday today. How I wish I could be back home, just to hug you and wish you at the stroke of midnight! Since that is not possible, I decided to write this post. Just to tell you how much you mean to me.

You've always been a tremendous influence in my life. As a child, I used to adore you (of course, I still do!) and you continue to be my idol. I vowed that I would be someone like you when I grew up. Your word was the Golden word and it just had to be obeyed. I never questioned you. However, I know there were times when I was quite a brat. (I can almost imagine you rolling your eyes at this. 'Was a brat? Aaaamaa, like you've changed!') One incident that remains in my mind's eye was the trip we made to a relative's house back in Kerala. I was probably around four or five at that time. Nikhil, my cousin, had snatched away the colorful pottu that you had painstakingly placed on my forehead, after selecting one which finally pleased me. I started crying immediately, shouted at Nikhil, and needless to say, everyone thought I was a brat. The aunty in the house politely offered to give me a new one, which I promptly refused, citing that it didn't match the color of my frock. You discretely pinched me, in a desperate attempt to quieten me, but unfortunately, that only aggravated the situation more. A year later or so, there was another gathering, the naming ceremony of my cousin Ekanath. I made life difficult for you again, this time because the kanmashi you applied to my eyelids had been smudged, making me look like a tiny rakshasi. I hated it, especially since Lily chechi was prettily dressed in her pattu paavadai and I looked hideous compared to her. I cried again, and everybody started asking what had happened. You said, 'Onnum illa', with an embarrassed smile and tried to wash away the smudged kohl. When that didn't work, you tried to quieten me, once again with the Pinch. It only made me bawl out louder. Gosh, I still cannot imagine how much patience you had to deal with all those tantrums! Apart from these pinching incidents, you continued to nurture me, ensured that I did homework, taught me all the spelling rules (I still remember that 'accommodation' has double cots and double mattresses!), saw to it that I had good friends, read out to me bedtime stories... You made sure that I was a happy child.

And then came my teen years. I remember you telling me that I should consider you to be a good friend first, and then only as a mother. You told me, 'No secrets between us, okay?' And I would pour out everything to you- gossip from school, stress about exams, petty incidents amongst friends- and you became my closest confidante. At this stage, we began to have common interests- we teamed against Appa when it came to shopping! We could now share earrings, shoes and sometimes even clothes. You would joke that we were like the mother-daughter duo in that lame Santoor soap ad, where everyone asks them 'sisters aano?'

Of course, we have always had our fights, but you continue to be my best friend. I realize that now, especially since I'm staying outside home. Who else would continue to put up with all my whims and fancies? Who else could I be this free with? Once you observed me talking on the phone to a teacher, and after the conversation, you told me, 'I never knew you could be this polite! How come none of this applies to me?' Amma, that's because there's nobody else in this vast universe like you. Thank you for the miracle of just being in my life. Thank you for bringing solace, happiness and laughter to my 19 years of existence on this planet. Happy birthday, Amma! I love you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ten Secrets- 10 Day 'You' Challenge


I came across the 10 Day You Challenge on a number of blogs I've been reading the past few days, and thought it seemed like a good idea. Right now, I'm in one of those moods where I just have to blog something before I get some constructive work done, and I couldn't think of anything else to blog about. Yes, I know Steve Jobs has passed away, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to three extraordinary women and the financial crisis seems to be getting worse day by day. Lots of exciting things happening around, but nothing pleases my narcissistic self more than talking about myself to all who care to listen (or read). So here goes...

1) I was born on Appa's star birthday. Appa says I was his best birthday gift. :D A star birthday is determined by the day on which your birth star falls in the Hindu calender. So Appa and I share the same birth star and the same Western zodiac- We're both Aquarians. (I never really understood the difference between a star birthday and a 'real' birthday. No complaints though- I used to get two sets of gifts! Especially new clothes from amooma on my star birthday!)

2) I was named after my paternal grandmother, Krishnaveni. My parents wanted 'Krishna' to be a part of my name, and so they chose Krishna Sruthi. They say they initially chose Tulasi instead of Sruthi, but seems like there was a popular ayurvedic soap called Krishna Tulasi at that time. (Random I know, but hey, that's the point of this post!)

3) I usually feel bad if I've been rude or mean to someone, regardless of whether they were the same to me in the first place. I try to reason with myself that they probably deserve it, but nevertheless my conscience is never at rest.

4) When I was a child, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. When I later realized that this would involve physics, I switched to more feasible options. I love history, so there was a time when I thought I could make a living as an archeologist. However, that was not to be either. When I was in grade 10, I was inspired by an uncle who is a chartered accountant, and that's why I'm studying accounting today.

5) I'm appalled by the lack of politeness in today's society. Simple phrases like 'Please' and 'Thank you' seem to have vanished. Having said that, there are many people who tell me that I can be exceedingly polite, so much so that it borders on being irritating sometimes. Hmph.

6) I want to be a vegan some day. No specific reason, just that I sometimes feel declaring myself to be a vegetarian and eating cakes, chocolates and eggs seems to be hypocritical. However, each time I think of being vegan, I remember chocolates and a little part of me dies. Maybe that's why this is fixed at 'some day'; seems like wishful thinking even to me.

7) I will never grow tired of reading Roald Dahl and Ruskin Bond. I can always count on Roald Dahl's Going Solo to lift me out of a bad mood. And there was a Ruskin Bond story called The Black Cat which we had as a lesson in Grade 5. I still remember the story- it revolves around a black cat that got lost and how its owner came to claim it. The owner, Miss Bellows, turns out to be a witch in the end, and she leaves with this song:
'With the darkness around me growing
And the moon behind my hat;
You will soon have trouble knowing
Which is witch and witch's cat'.
I remember reading the story over and over again, awed and fascinated. Ruskin Bond is a genius, I tell you!

8) Appa, Amma and I must have been the only people to stay in Dehra Dun for a year, and still not make it to Mussoorie, which is a mere hour's drive away.

9) I am a 'quote hanger'. I simply love quotes. Whenever I'm bored or depressed, you can see me googling for quotes.

10) I associate books with memories. Each book on my shelf back home has a special incident associated with it. Appa and Amma usually write down something in the books they give me, so it becomes dearer to me, and that's why I'm so possessive about my books. I still remember, I got a copy of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for beating Appa in a game of Scrabble!

There, now that I'm done I can get back to doing constructive work at last.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Life and Times of a Bhogi

I must have been in grade 7 or 8 when I came across the term bhogi. (Obviously not a reference to the Bhogi Festival before Pongal!) Appa and his brother, my valiacha were engaged in a deep discussion about spirituality and I was trying to join the conversation so that everybody would be impressed. They were discussing a book called Autobiography of a Yogi. The book, one of the most widely translated in the world, is a spiritual gem, and it tells the story of Paramahansa Yogananda and his quest to realize God. At the end of the discussion, valiacha remarked that if he were to write his own story, he would title it Autobiography of a Bhogi. They all burst into laughter and I joined in too, although I didn't understand what it meant.

Today, nearly six years later, I think I have realized what the term means. The bhogi's story completely describes me. In a nutshell, a yogi has given up all attachment and is indifferent to whatever happens to him. Do not mistake it for passivity. He becomes a witness and doesn't struggle with emotions, having perfect control over them. In other words, come what may, a yogi remains unaffected.

In sharp contrast, to see how a bhogi's mind works, take a look at my schedule:

5 AM- wake up call from Amma, who dutifully gives me a missed call every morning, despite the fact that she's four hours behind me.

5.05 AM- My own alarm goes off. I hit the snooze button, tell to myself, '5 more minutes' and go back to La La Land and my exquisite dream.

8.00 AM Wake up with a jolt, realize am going to be late for my lecture and hurriedly get ready.

8.30 AM Make faces at the lift because it takes it's own sweet time to come.

8.45 AM Hurriedly grab breakfast, (most often scowling at the vegetarian choices) and run to the bus stop.

9.00 AM Make faces once again when I realize I've just missed the D2 that takes me to Business school...

And so I move on to lectures and tutorials, each time telling myself oh no so much to do! Each time this happens I tell myself to stay calm, and yet the mind begins to worry. What if's begin to attack my mind and I find myself a victim of 'Paralysis by Analysis', once again.

So much for controlling the mind! And then, the question of how I react to comments from others- for example, when I received positive feedback from a lecturer, my heart filled with pride and if my mind could dance, I can assure you it was doing the bhangra. At the other extreme end, I received my midterm feedback for a very difficult module yesterday. I wasn't expecting it to go well, and sure enough, it didn't. I was upset the whole day and worried myself to wits' end. (If this happened last year, I'm sure I would have spent the whole day in tears. Maybe, I'm improving already haha!)

Why does this happen? Is it because we become too attached to the process, the results, everything associated with it? Is it because we take pride in it, a sense of ownership for whatever happens?

This afternoon, I was walking back to my room after a long project meeting, and suddenly thought about the yogi-bhogi conversation. I realized the best way to look at things is to view it like a yogi would. Just do whatever I can, without worrying about anything. With a sense of yogic dispassion. I agree, the term sounds rather dismal. After all, what is life without passion, you might ask. I feel passion is required to keep you alive, to ensure you enjoy your work; at the same time dispassion is needed to ensure you don't get too attached to it. Something like the Taoist principle of wuwei. (Again do not confuse that with inertia!)

I'm resolving to myself that today onwards, come what may, I shall not worry about things I have no control over. I shall just do my best and see what the world has to offer me. After all, a yogi doesn't just ignore everything because of his dispassion. He has faith and that inspires him to move on.

Okay, enough tattvam for the day. Now that I've keyed in my words of wisdom, I shall just keep calm and move on.

P.S: No disrespect/criticism is intended at the book. I loved reading Autobiography of a Yogi and it continues to be one of my favorite books.

On a different note, being the 'quotehanger' that I am, I came across this wonderful quote, shared by a friend on Facebook today, and it just brought a smile to my worried self-'If you don't believe in miracles, perhaps you've forgotten you are one' :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Nine Loves- The 10 Day 'You' Challenge

I've actually been longing to blog about something now, just to take my mind off the mountain load of work ahead of me, and then I remembered the 10 Day 'You' Challenge- So here's the next part of the Challenge.

A note of warning, though. This is not something you would like to read if you're on the quest for intellectual enlightenment. (Though I like to pretend think that I'm on the path myself.) It's just a list drawn to relieve me. All fine? Okay, so here's the list of my nine loves, excluding parents, friends and family, of course. I love them all-it goes without saying.

1) The quiet of early mornings. When I was back in school, Amma and I would wake at 4 every morning. Having stayed in the Middle East for nearly seven years, the call of the muezzin for the fajr prayers, will always remain special to me. There was some kind of incredible solace, just sitting at your desk, and listening to the prayers, chanted in a language I neither spoke nor understood. After the call, the quiet that followed was profound. I liked to think of it as a form of submission to the Almighty's Will, that the day will unfold itself according to His plans.

2) The night skyline of Singapore. This is something I have noticed very recently. I'm sure I've seen it before, but not really, noticed. This morning at around 5, I was heading to the pantry to make myself a cup of tea, when I saw the skyline out of the window, and I just stood and stared for some time. Tall skyscrapers reaching out to the heavens, glimmering structures against the backdrop of a velvet inky black sky, that showed the faintest signs of dawn.

I remember when Appa had gone to the States a long time ago, he returned with lots of pictures. He showed me a postcard of the place where he stayed. At that time, I thought it was awesome- Just looking at the postcard that showed a brightly lit room decorated with beautiful furniture, arranged artistically, used to bring me a lot of happiness. I kept it at my study desk and would dream about it when I was supposed to be studying Hindi. (groan! This, a task I cannot believe I achieved, considering the fact that the only Hindi I can speak today is err, hindi thoda maloom)

I guess the grandeur of these buildings fill me with a sense of wonder, a sense of accomplishment. If this can be done, anything can be done.

3) The Nilgiri Hills and the Velliangiri Mountains. I spent a considerable part of my childhood in Ooty. The Blue Hills were always a part of my life. Suffice to say, I harbor dreams of going back to the Nilgiris some day.

The Velliangiri Mountains are located on the outskirts of Coimbatore. Or rather, the city is protected by these mountains, an extension of the mighty Western Ghats. I believe that there is something truly divine about this place. A temple known as the Dhyanalinga has been built here, at the foothills of the Velliangiri. I've had the good fortune of visiting the spiritual centre (It doesn't restrict itself to one particular faith) a couple of times and I don't think words are enough to describe the experience. So in my mind's eye, whenever I think of the Velliangiri, I associate it with spiritual bliss.

4) Sitting for hours together in a bookstore. I can never get tired of this! As a child, when we were in the Nilgiris, my parents and I would visit the town every Tuesday. No trip was complete without a mandatory visit to the Higginbothams Book Store. And from then, much to Amma's annoyance, I have not given up on this love. 'Just five more minutes, please please!' is what I tell her every time she signals to me that it's time to leave the bookstore.

5) The fragrance of the incense sticks at the prayer alter, mixed with the earthy smell of lit oil lamps. This has been a constant feature at home, and now that I'm away, I realize that I terribly miss it.

6) Putting my feet up the couch and reading Anne of Green Gables. This has become a sort of ritual for me every time I go back home after a long semester. I love, love, love Anne of Green Gables. In fact, when I was younger, I aspired to become like Anne Shirley!

7) Watching old Mohanlal movies with Appa. (Not the new Malayalam ones, please! And yes, I dislike the term 'mallu'.) Some of these movies can still tickle you, even after all those long years. My favorites include Kilukkam, Manichitrathazhu and Chitram. Even now, I often discuss them with Appa!

8) Blogging. I simply love blogs, my own as well as reading others'. Putting down my thoughts on this blog gives me a chance to express myself, and at the same time, encourages me, since I have always loved writing. Unfortunately, I realize that my posts are not that frequent when I go back home. Guess I should start working on that.

9) Earrings. Dangling earrings. Stud earrings. Any type. Any color. It's there in my genes- Amma and I go crazy when we shop for earrings. Sounds slightly superficial? See, I am no saint. (Far from it!) I have worldly loves also, okay.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reflections on the 'Samaritan's Dilemma'

I just came back from a sectional class on business policy and strategy. Today, we discussed corporate social responsibility in the session and focused on the dilemma between ethics and profitability that many firms face today. How much can a firm do to contribute back to society, without antagonizing its stockholders in terms of eroding profits? The general consensus was that the firm should aim to strike a balance between the seemingly contradictory goals.

At the end of the class, my professor discussed 'The Samaritan's Dilemma'. The term refers to a dilemma of sorts faced by people when they try to help the poor. In the context of my strategy class, it was a metaphorical reference to the fact that if firms begin to help the poor, there is always a danger of their help being taken for granted. For example, a sense of complacence sets in and there is no motivation to work hard, since there is an easy way out. At the end of the class, as I walked to catch the shuttle bus back to my room, a stream of thoughts jumped into my mind. I was able to relate to this and I suddenly realized that we face this scenario back home quite often.

Whenever my parents and I go back to Coimbatore for our vacations, we often go out shopping at RS Puram. A Vinayagar temple is located in the middle of this part of the city, and we make it a point to offer our prayers there, since we have always felt that there is something special about the sacredness of that space. Outside the temple, one can see a few women selling lamps, garlands and jasmine flowers. And one can also see people begging for alms. As a child, I used to feel terribly sorry for most of them and would implore Amma or Appa to give them some money. And they always did the same. However, one day as Amma was about to buy a string of jasmine flowers before we entered the temple, a young woman approached her. She was dressed in tattered clothes, with sunken eyes, unkempt hair and held a baby at her hip. And she asked Amma for some money. I was so sure that Amma would give her something but to my shock, she just pretended not to hear. Then the lady spoke again and this time, Amma looked at her and said in Tamil, 'I'll give you a job. Will you work for me? Nothing much, just cleaning the house, basic cooking. Avalo dhaa!' The lady just stared at her, made a grimace and fled the scene.

I was indignant and said to Amma, 'How could you be so mean!' Then she looked at me and explained that the lady was young and in a perfectly healthy state to actually do some work, and earn a living, rather than beg one. And yet, she preferred to beg, since it was something that was much easier to do, compared to washing utensils or sweeping a house. The Samaritan's Dilemma indeed- by helping such people, more harm than help is done, since in a way, you are encouraging complacence and giving them more reasons not to work. In sharp contrast, we can also find children as young as ten (sometimes, even younger), selling bric-a-brac on the same streets. I wrote about meeting two such hardworking kids here and it's from people like them that we actually learn about the dignity of labor. And it's also people like them who truly deserve the help of the so-called Samaritans. There is absolutely no dilemma here, because as the famous adage goes, in this case, you are teaching a man how to fish rather than just giving him a fish for that day alone.

I sometimes feel frustrated about how little I can do to really change the world around me. The easiest thing for me to do is drop in a few coins and close my eyes to everything else, trying to convince myself that I have done what I could have done. But then, the Samaritan's Dilemma sets in again, and I know it isn't going to make much of a difference. I have always believed in living a life of meaning, and this can be achieved only if I find some way where I can truly help, not just give away some money glibly.

I'm still searching for the best way in which I can truly contribute (although I do have an inkling of what to do), and I sometimes dream that it can really make a difference. Here's to that dream and the realization of the same! But before I drift into La La Land, I guess I must at least graduate... Hold on, I'm already in Lah Lah Land!

P.S: Ignore the dreadful pun at the end- that's just university stress talking through yours truly!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My First Blogger Award!

Yay! I was given the ‘Your Blog is Great/Tell me about yourself’ Award by Spaceman Spiff whose marvelous blog I've been following for the past few days. Thank you so much Spiff! :) This is my first blogger award and I'm so glad that my blog is actually readable!

The award requires me to list seven random things about myself. I have already written 10 so-called secrets about myself here but I never miss an opportunity to talk about myself! Yes, sounds like Gilderoy Lockhart right? Anyway, here goes!

1) I have a lot of random conversations with myself and with God. I often imagine scenarios in my head (those that probably never occur), where I say some of the wittiest and funniest things, making me the centre of everyone's attention. Or I imagine incidents from my past where I could have said something witty/sarcastic, but didn't.
In my conversations with God, I talk to Him/Her like I would to a friend. Ever watched the Malayalam movie Nandanam? My conversations with God are somewhat like how Balamani, the protagonist, talks to God, just like a friend. In the same way as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. One of my favorites- Tevye looks up to the heavens and says to God, "Sometimes I wonder, when it gets too quiet up there, if You are thinking, What kind of mischief can I play on My friend Tevye?"
That being said, I sometimes think God is exactly like us, which of course is not the case. For instance, I had promised myself that I would go today for my Sunday prayers/satsang at Little India. The prayers start at 8, meaning I should be out of my campus by 6.45 in the morning, and today was one of those wretched days where I missed the alarm and woke at 7.50! I decided to quickly shower and take a cab, so that I could at least go for the last part of the prayers. Woe betide me! I couldn't even flag down a taxi. At 8.35 I decided to give up and trudged back to my room, dejected. You might ask, why? I somehow felt that if I missed the prayers due to laziness, my whole week wouldn't turn out the way I wanted it to. A little like God seeking revenge. I called Amma and she said, 'Edi idiot, how can you even think God will be like us? Only we think such petty things!' Of course, God is one of my closest friends, but I should realize that He/She is above everything!

2) I love scarecrows. I don't know why but I think they are incredibly cute. Maybe it has something to do with the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz:
'Dorothy: How can you talk if you haven't got a brain?
Scarecrow: I don't know. But some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don't they?'

3) I simply do not appreciate 'ppl hu tok lyk dis'. I often have a hard time trying to decipher what they actually mean.

4) I am slightly superstitious. Not the oh no! black cat crossed my path types, but I do have 'lucky' earrings for examinations. Quite stupid, really. I'm trying to grow out of this. *sheepish grin*

5) For my second birthday, my parents decided to call all their friends home to celebrate two years of their brat's ponnu mol's existence on the planet. I thanked them all for their presence by hugging the cake and refusing to share it with anyone.

6) I love, love, love Cadbury's Crunchie. 'Chocolate with golden honeycombed centre'. See, even the description is so yummy!

7) I'm Little Miss Chatterbox (okay, maybe not-so-little), but yes, I have a tendency to keep talking. I can talk about anything under the sun. :D

Alright, now I'm supposed to give away the award to other bloggers. *clearing voice grandly* I hereby bestow the award upon a few bloggers whom I have been reading ever since I entered the blogging realm:

Swetha - Howzzat
Karthi etta (my cousin) - Technical Philosopher
Nav - Words Are All I Have
Dhanya chechi (another cousin)- Travel Stories and More
Vijaya ma'am (My teacher from high school) - A4ISMS
Jyo - Lost in Translation

Of late, I've noticed, blogging makes me so much happier! It's been a really good stress buster at university :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Amma!

Dear Amma,

It's your birthday today. How I wish I could be back home, just to hug you and wish you at the stroke of midnight! Since that is not possible, I decided to write this post. Just to tell you how much you mean to me.

You've always been a tremendous influence in my life. As a child, I used to adore you (of course, I still do!) and you continue to be my idol. I vowed that I would be someone like you when I grew up. Your word was the Golden word and it just had to be obeyed. I never questioned you. However, I know there were times when I was quite a brat. (I can almost imagine you rolling your eyes at this. 'Was a brat? Aaaamaa, like you've changed!') One incident that remains in my mind's eye was the trip we made to a relative's house back in Kerala. I was probably around four or five at that time. Nikhil, my cousin, had snatched away the colorful pottu that you had painstakingly placed on my forehead, after selecting one which finally pleased me. I started crying immediately, shouted at Nikhil, and needless to say, everyone thought I was a brat. The aunty in the house politely offered to give me a new one, which I promptly refused, citing that it didn't match the color of my frock. You discretely pinched me, in a desperate attempt to quieten me, but unfortunately, that only aggravated the situation more. A year later or so, there was another gathering, the naming ceremony of my cousin Ekanath. I made life difficult for you again, this time because the kanmashi you applied to my eyelids had been smudged, making me look like a tiny rakshasi. I hated it, especially since Lily chechi was prettily dressed in her pattu paavadai and I looked hideous compared to her. I cried again, and everybody started asking what had happened. You said, 'Onnum illa', with an embarrassed smile and tried to wash away the smudged kohl. When that didn't work, you tried to quieten me, once again with the Pinch. It only made me bawl out louder. Gosh, I still cannot imagine how much patience you had to deal with all those tantrums! Apart from these pinching incidents, you continued to nurture me, ensured that I did homework, taught me all the spelling rules (I still remember that 'accommodation' has double cots and double mattresses!), saw to it that I had good friends, read out to me bedtime stories... You made sure that I was a happy child.

And then came my teen years. I remember you telling me that I should consider you to be a good friend first, and then only as a mother. You told me, 'No secrets between us, okay?' And I would pour out everything to you- gossip from school, stress about exams, petty incidents amongst friends- and you became my closest confidante. At this stage, we began to have common interests- we teamed against Appa when it came to shopping! We could now share earrings, shoes and sometimes even clothes. You would joke that we were like the mother-daughter duo in that lame Santoor soap ad, where everyone asks them 'sisters aano?'

Of course, we have always had our fights, but you continue to be my best friend. I realize that now, especially since I'm staying outside home. Who else would continue to put up with all my whims and fancies? Who else could I be this free with? Once you observed me talking on the phone to a teacher, and after the conversation, you told me, 'I never knew you could be this polite! How come none of this applies to me?' Amma, that's because there's nobody else in this vast universe like you. Thank you for the miracle of just being in my life. Thank you for bringing solace, happiness and laughter to my 19 years of existence on this planet. Happy birthday, Amma! I love you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ten Secrets- 10 Day 'You' Challenge


I came across the 10 Day You Challenge on a number of blogs I've been reading the past few days, and thought it seemed like a good idea. Right now, I'm in one of those moods where I just have to blog something before I get some constructive work done, and I couldn't think of anything else to blog about. Yes, I know Steve Jobs has passed away, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to three extraordinary women and the financial crisis seems to be getting worse day by day. Lots of exciting things happening around, but nothing pleases my narcissistic self more than talking about myself to all who care to listen (or read). So here goes...

1) I was born on Appa's star birthday. Appa says I was his best birthday gift. :D A star birthday is determined by the day on which your birth star falls in the Hindu calender. So Appa and I share the same birth star and the same Western zodiac- We're both Aquarians. (I never really understood the difference between a star birthday and a 'real' birthday. No complaints though- I used to get two sets of gifts! Especially new clothes from amooma on my star birthday!)

2) I was named after my paternal grandmother, Krishnaveni. My parents wanted 'Krishna' to be a part of my name, and so they chose Krishna Sruthi. They say they initially chose Tulasi instead of Sruthi, but seems like there was a popular ayurvedic soap called Krishna Tulasi at that time. (Random I know, but hey, that's the point of this post!)

3) I usually feel bad if I've been rude or mean to someone, regardless of whether they were the same to me in the first place. I try to reason with myself that they probably deserve it, but nevertheless my conscience is never at rest.

4) When I was a child, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. When I later realized that this would involve physics, I switched to more feasible options. I love history, so there was a time when I thought I could make a living as an archeologist. However, that was not to be either. When I was in grade 10, I was inspired by an uncle who is a chartered accountant, and that's why I'm studying accounting today.

5) I'm appalled by the lack of politeness in today's society. Simple phrases like 'Please' and 'Thank you' seem to have vanished. Having said that, there are many people who tell me that I can be exceedingly polite, so much so that it borders on being irritating sometimes. Hmph.

6) I want to be a vegan some day. No specific reason, just that I sometimes feel declaring myself to be a vegetarian and eating cakes, chocolates and eggs seems to be hypocritical. However, each time I think of being vegan, I remember chocolates and a little part of me dies. Maybe that's why this is fixed at 'some day'; seems like wishful thinking even to me.

7) I will never grow tired of reading Roald Dahl and Ruskin Bond. I can always count on Roald Dahl's Going Solo to lift me out of a bad mood. And there was a Ruskin Bond story called The Black Cat which we had as a lesson in Grade 5. I still remember the story- it revolves around a black cat that got lost and how its owner came to claim it. The owner, Miss Bellows, turns out to be a witch in the end, and she leaves with this song:
'With the darkness around me growing
And the moon behind my hat;
You will soon have trouble knowing
Which is witch and witch's cat'.
I remember reading the story over and over again, awed and fascinated. Ruskin Bond is a genius, I tell you!

8) Appa, Amma and I must have been the only people to stay in Dehra Dun for a year, and still not make it to Mussoorie, which is a mere hour's drive away.

9) I am a 'quote hanger'. I simply love quotes. Whenever I'm bored or depressed, you can see me googling for quotes.

10) I associate books with memories. Each book on my shelf back home has a special incident associated with it. Appa and Amma usually write down something in the books they give me, so it becomes dearer to me, and that's why I'm so possessive about my books. I still remember, I got a copy of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for beating Appa in a game of Scrabble!

There, now that I'm done I can get back to doing constructive work at last.