Tuesday, October 31, 2006

what's wrong with our temples?

hi folks!

i'm back after my vacation - which was a mix of visiting friends, some family functions and a vacation. (check out the pics at picasaweb.google.com/ckguruprasad/TripToKumbakonamSwamimalai)

after visiting some dear friends in chennai, we joined a bus-load of relatives for some serious temple-hopping to celebrate niru's mama's sashtiapatha purthi (60th birthday celebrations). we started with the shiva temple at chidambaram (www.indiantemples.com/Tamilnadu/chidchid.html) followed by the vaitheeswaran temple along the chennai-mayavaram route (www.vaitheeswarankoil.org/index.htm). this was then followed by the amritaghateswar-abirami temple at tirukkadaiyur (www.chennaionline.com/toursntravel/placesofworship/thirukadaiyur.asp) where people perform their 60th, 70th and 80th birthday celebrations. we then finally went to the karuvazhakarai amman temple which is near mayiladuthurai.

contrary to my belief, we had a great time visiting these temples. and we had loads of fun travelling to these places, mainly because of the intense card games in the last few rows of the bus!

but there was one thing which kept bothering me throughout the trip. some of the temples we visited, especially the old, large, grand ones were very poorly maintained. they were smelly and dirty and the priests and workers did not seem to be in the least bit bothered about the state of affairs all around them. the only enterprise and enthusiasm they demonstrated was when they could spot some opportunity to make some additional income from the visitors and pilgrims.

and these temples rake in crores of rupees every year through donations, hundi collections, pooja fees, etc. but most of this money is apparently siphoned off by the corrupt officials on the boards of the temple and devaswom trusts, most of which are government controlled. a paltry amount makes its way back to the actual running of the temples.

and then i paused to think. correct me if i am wrong, but i have not come across a single old/big/important church, mosque, gurudwara or fire-temple which is treated so shabbily and maintained so poorly. i am not being communal here, but i wonder why is there such a stark difference? is it sheer indifference or apathy among the hindu populace? or is it because of lack of a central controlling body? or lack of pride in our temples? or maybe our faith in our gods is so powerful that we believe that the gods will perform miracles and clean up the unholy mess at the right time?

but then i also think of some of the beautifully and meticulously maintained temples run by organisations like the chinmaya mission, the swaminarayan sect, etc.

and then the answer became quite obvious. the difference is the pride and devotion instilled among the care-takers and visitors of the temple by the vision of one man/group/organisation. if only some of the political leaders/ temple board trustees
could provide that vision!

Friday, October 20, 2006

there's this other theory i have. this one also might sound a little whacky. but if you think about it, it will start making sense to you too! (i think it would. but if nobody agrees then i might have to agree with your opinion about me being whacky :-) )

take the colour 'red'. why red, you ask? and why not, i counter! actually that's the first color that came to my mind. its also the title of a beautiful song by chris rea from the album 'espresso logic'!

but we're drifting. coming back to the point i am trying to make here. lets take the colour red.

you have been taught since childhood that a particular colour that you see is called red. but is the colour you see actually red? isn't it possible that the colour you see is not the same colour as i see? you might actually be seeing the colour red while i am seeing the same thing as a deep shade of green! but i have always associated this colour with red because that's what i have been taught since my childhood. so the shade that you see and call red is actually a different shade that i perceive but i too call it red. so though we both call it by the same name we are actually perceiving two completely different things. so our experience might be completely different but we call it by the same name.

now this can be extended to almost everything that we experience around us - colors, shapes, sounds, taste, etc. in fact all sensory perceptions would be victim to this confusion of definition.

you might say that even though our sense organs might perceive things differently, the instruments that we have created to measure the phenomena around us would not have such problems. each measuring instruments would measure the measured object in exactly the same way as another similar instrument. while that might be true, it still is a human being who is observing & reading the results and interpreting it. and that is where the subjective element again comes in.

so though the measured numbers are the same to both of us who are observing the phenomena, the actual observation might still be completely different. and yet we would still agree with each other about the observation because both of us believe that the other person is seeing exactly the same thing that you are seeing. so when both of us see the colour red as a certain measurement of wavelength of electromagnetic radiation within the visible spectrum (wavelength interval of the colour red is ~ 625–740 nanometers and its frequency interval is ~ 480–405 TeraHertz) we are actually seeing two different colours and calling it red!

is this possible?

if that is the case then the possibilities of confused definitions are mind-boggling! i might actually be seeing a monkey when i look at you and i have always labeled moneys as 'human beings'; and you actually see a donkey when you see me and you always labeled donkeys as human beings! how's that just for starters?

maybe you can come up with something wilder! ;-)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

my wife and i finally saw 'lage raho munnabhai'! i am not sure it is oscar material, if you were to comapre it with movies that won the best foreign language film award, but we had a blast watching it.

the funniest line in the movie was when circuit beats up someone and then asks him to get so that he can sorry to him! what made it extremely hilarious was the cool way in which the dialogue was delivered.

there was one loop-hole i found in the picture, i don't know if i misread it. correct me if am wrong. there is one part where 'lucky singh' calls for a press conference to prove that munnabhai has lost his head and is seeing visions. there in the conference the psychiatrist proceeds to prove that the 'bapu' that munnabhai is seeing is his own mental projection. he demonstrates how munnabhai's bapu can answer only those questions for which munnabhai already knows the answer. he does this by producing a list of 3 questions which bapu cannot answer because munnabhai himself does not know the answer!

but my question is - how did the psychiatrist know that munnabhai did not know these facts in the first place? he was not the one who provided all the other facts in the first place!

i couldn't come up with an answer. could you?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

what is it about us indians and road sense? many people label our behaviour as 'road rage' but i don't think that this term describes it completely.

i mean, picture this - you're driving along on a single lane road with a single lane also for oncoming traffic with no road-divider separating the two streams of traffic, but obviosuly.

you suddenly pull up since the vehicles ahead have stopped moving. and you notice vehicles lined up ahead as far as eye can see. now you fret and fume and curse the antecedents of whoever has caused the pile-up and throw in the weather, the politicians, the traffic police and the local municipality for good measure.

and then while you are waiting for the vehicles ahead of you to start moving you notice that some intrepid cowboy has decided to drive his auto-rickshaw/car/taxi/tempo/van/whatever in the next lane which was traditionally meant for only oncoming traffic! but then who's following the niceties here?

and suddenly, like the rats following the pied piper, a long line of vehicles zip along behind the leader in crime, with this firm belief that the afore-mentioned leader would have miraculously found some secret path ahead which would lead them all out of this jam into instant 'traffic nirvana'! within no time you have two serpentine columns of traffic facing each other on both sides of the road, resembling batallions lined up and facing each other for some unholy war!

this is approximately when some members of this frustrated, frazzled fraternity believe that the incessant blowing of their horns would clear the way ahead through sheer decibel power. there is obviously no such unfolding of events, much to their dismay!

what never ceases to amaze me is not the creation of such log-jams, but the fact that, eventually, they manage to unravel themselves. i wonder how that happens because none of the characters in this story budge from their seats to contribute to the unravelling.

and the amazing thing is that most of the people who created the problem in the first place or worsened it were hoping to save time but extricating themselves from the jam. but they only end up spending much more time in the entire process!

i have also noticed this irrational urge (even the author admits falling prey to this urge) among usually-sane drivers suddenly displaying blood-lust whenever some pedestrian (read jay-walker) is stepping off the curb to cross the street before your vehicle reaches him/her. the driver suddenly leans on the horn and accelerates lustily and feels some perverse satisfaction when the pedestrian starts and retreats to the safety of the footpath while the vehicle roars ahead only to stop behind a vehicle or at the stop-light just a few feet ahead!

i am sure you would have many similar examples to narrate!

why do well-educated, peace-loving, rational individuals resort to such self-defeating, irrational, almost violent actions like this?

if you were excepting some answers or theories to this phenomenon at the end of this piece, then i must disappoint you. i have none... but maybe you do?

Monday, October 09, 2006

someone once told me (or maybe i read it somewhere, i don't remember and it doesn't really matter) that the male of the species is the more attractive/colorful/etc. look at peacocks, elephants, panfish, etc.

but whoever arrived at this conclusion obviously did not take homosapiens into consideration! i personally believe that it is just the opposite among human beings.

why else do women models adorn more hoardings and magazine covers than male ones? but when animals are to be used in any picture, not necessarily for endorsing a brand, it is usually the male of the species which is used. have you ever seen a pea-hen being used instead of a pea-cock in any picture?

doesn't prove my point?

ok let me try present a word-picture of a very common phenomenon that all of you would have experienced at one point of time or the other. which irrefutably proves the point i am making.

imagine a couple walking along a beautiful promenade, as couples are usually wont to. they are chatting about things that couples usually chat about. now to avoid confusion lets label this couple as Couple A. now imagine another couple, lets call them Couple B, approaching Couple A from the opposite direction. as they get closer and are about to cross each other what do you think happens?

ok let me try describe it. and what i'm about to describe, i believe, is a universal phenomenon!

man-A looks at lady-B and for now lets not get into what man-A is thinking about her. man-B in the meanwhile is doing likewise with lady-A. but now it gets really interesting. lady-A is looking at lady-B and lady-B is also looking at lady-A. and chances are their thoughts are running along one of these courses -

1. she's fatter/slimmer than me.
2. the dress does/doesn't suit her. it think it will look better on me.
3. the chain/ear-ring/bracelet/etc looks cheap/expensive.
4. her hair is/isn't cut well.
5. why doesn't someone give her honest feedback about her dress/hair/make-up, etc.

but then i'm drifting from my point! all the parties involved in this example are looking only at the ladies! point proven, case closed!

Friday, October 06, 2006

i have this theory about parallel universes. you might think its rather warped, but i obviously think not.

i remember learning long, long ago in school that the human eyes are capable of seeing colors only between a certain frequency band. similarly we've also learnt that we also hear sounds only within a certain frequency band. and we are told that other animals can see and hear colors and sounds even beyond these frequencies. now this must be true for all our senses - sight, smell, taste, sound and touch.

this means that we are experiencing a part of the universe/world around us while there definitely exists another part which we do not experience. and just because we do not experience it does not mean that it does not exist! so we could say that we exist at one plane which we experience and there exists one or more other planes that exist which we are not aware of! or to put it differently, we experience a sub-set of the universe and we exist (or at least we believe) within that sub-set.

ok, now here's the hypothesis/question. is it possible that there is an entire universe existing parallely with our universe which we are not aware of, which is beyond the scope of our experience? and is it possible that there are 'beings' in those planes which may or may not be aware of our existence?

i agree that we have devices which are able to measure signals beyond those of human perception. but just like the limitations of our sense organs i believe these instruments would also have a limited scope of 'perception'.

imagine, there must be another 'being' sitting here next to me and chuckling at these conclusions that i am arriving at and another one sitting next to you reading this with you :-)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

for those of you who do not know, i am a mallu. but except for having been born in mallu-land (or so i am told) i have had no major exposure to mallu-land. i did my entire schooling in pune and then college education in mumbai. even my accent apparently doesn't give away my mallu origins.

but, without sounding parochial, i find mallu-land a beautiful place. and i look forward to each visit there, official or personal.

ok, now apart from maharashtra i also spent a year in shonar bangla (kolkata, to be precise). and i was amazed to see the similarities between kerala and bengal. here're some that came to my mind -

1. both states are coastal states with very similar weather and the country-side looks very similar. people also dress very similarly - whites, dhoties, plain cotton sarees, etc.

2. the staple diet in both states is rice and fish.

3. politically both states have a strong communist base.

4. people declare strikes at the drop of a hat! both states have a strong labor movement.

5. both states have high literacy rates.

6. people from both states are football lovers.

7. the women in both states are strong & assertive. women's emancipation must be the highest in the country in these two states.

8. the people in both these states see themselves as the protectors of culture and arts in the country. they have a very high opinion about themselves. very high percentage of national award winners in art/film/literature come from these 2 states. most of the art films in the country emerge from these 2 states.

9. people of both states are devi worshippers - bhagawati in kerala and durga/kali in bengal.

10. people from both states have a large migrant population working outside the state. i would even go to the extent of saying that people from both states do very well outside their own states!

any more similarities you know of?