pippala leaf

March 11, 2010

spooked…for nothing

Filed under: Uncategorized — MBN @ 6:03 am

after completion of ‘Spook’ , the so called  ‘science tackles the after life’  book,  where do i stand ? the same place. did i gain any new insights? nope. did i lose any? nope. would i recommend it to anyone? i doubt it.

August 8, 2009

സഖാവെ ലാൽ സലാം!

Filed under: Malayalam — Tags: — MBN @ 3:40 pm


ജീവിത നിയോഗങ്ങൾ വിജയകരമായി നിവർത്തിച്ചതിനു ശേഷം വേഷം അഴിച്ചുവച്ച്‌ അരങ്ങ്‌ ഒഴിഞ്ഞ ശ്രീ മുരളിക്ക്‌ ആദരാഞ്ജലികൾ.

April 25, 2008

Gang Leader For a Day

Filed under: Books — MBN @ 12:03 am

SudhirVenkatesh The gulf that exists between life and facts about life is vast. The facts about life seldom reveals the real. It gives a different perspective, a perspective that carved out from tones of statistical data and complex mathematical methods. After being squeezed out the real essence: the human life with all it’s situations, struggles, aspirations, dreams and emotions; this quantified version seldom has soul of it’s own. However for all practical purposes, business as well as political , such perspective is indispensable. But to see and experience the life of a community in all it’s essence, the above mentioned perspective is grossly inadequate. Researchers, when they study a society, often fail to see both perspectives. This could be either of inaccessibility or the restrictions imposed by the scientific method they adopted. But Sudhir Venkatesh was courageous enough to take a different route that most of the researchers dare not even dream about.

This young Chicago university student broke conventions and flouted the established rules to learn and experience life in the most violent, dangerous communities of Chicago gang world. As Stephen Dubner phrased, with “an overdeveloped curiosity and an underdeveloped sense of fear” Sudhir walked into the crack gang infested  life at Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago. Under the protection of gang leader J.T. he spend his next seven years living, observing and documenting life in the ghetto; Or to put in his own words: “how does it feel to be black and poor ?”.

The harsh life he witnessed there made him realize how inadequate and out of touch were the standard tools and social policies that  sociologists had been employing to prevent hardships of the poor and unemployed. He found life in the projects were “too wild, too hard and too chaotic for the standard prescriptions that the social scientists could muster”. He observed how scarce resource availability pushed people to believe in the principle ‘end justify means’.

During his life at Robert Taylor Homes project he faced other problems as well. Once in the middle of a gang shootout he had to dodge bullets to save the life of a gang member. On another occasion he joined other gang members beat up one of it’s member. The legal implications of his association with gang members, his knowledge of their activities, wrath of corrupt cops, his fall out from the community’s trust when J.T. double crossed him,  made his life altogether extremely risky. His luck was very strong. Undoubtedly it enabled him to complete his research work and came out of there without getting hurt.

The book provides great deal of insight on how such communities function, their social structure, their power hierarchy and economics. A good read.

November 17, 2007

Gandhi my father

Filed under: Movie — MBN @ 6:11 am

They say every being moves on it’s determined path and destiny. As actors in the play, each one has a definite script and role to play. Heroism, villainy, comedy, love, hatred, insignificance, all would act out on the stage.

The events that unfolded on the stage between 2nd October 1869 and 18th June 1948 had stirred up myriad emotions among the spellbound spectators. Then the play came to an end. The stage became empty. The actors departed. So many questions in the play were left unanswered; many things were left unsaid. The spectators were left behind moved, confused and disturbed in mind.

This mysterious phenomenon, life, has always managed to defy anybody’s understanding. Something that had never existed before had came into existence for a brief period of time. Then it disappeared forever. How can one explain that?

Why did this happen? It is futile to ask such questions about life. Each question would lead to further questions, and finally, all of them would remain unanswered. There is no “if” in the history. Things just happened the way they happened. That is the only explanation one can give. Equally futile is the attempt to blame the actions of any one actor in the play. No person is an island. No action is an isolated event. Every event, every action is interrelated and interdependent, like a river. Mahatma Gandhi said his life was all about his search for the Truth, the Reality. For him everything else was secondary. His actions, decisions were all made according to the light he had received on his journey. Harilal Gandhi had a different journey. Were they wrong, in their motivation and actions? Those roles had acted out on this stage in the way they were meant to be. Who can judge? In life where there are no absolutes, where everything is relative, judgement is futile. We all travel according our convictions. So were Bapu, Ba, Gulab and Harilal.

Gandhi my father was very touching and unforgettable experience. 

October 8, 2007

Mahabharata – The story of contradictions

Filed under: Indian Epics — MBN @ 12:28 am

Malayalam literature is blessed with so many brilliant writers. The short piece ‘Sita continues to be abandoned’ by Sri N.V.P Unithiri brings to mind two Malayalam masterpieces based on Mahabharata: Randaamoozham by M T Vasudevan Nair and Ini Njan Urangatte by P K Balakrishnan. Former was written from the perspective of Bhima and later of Draupati. The essay ‘Mahabharathathile dharmma sankalpam’ by Yati is an excellent critical analysis on the concept of ‘dharma’ in Mahabharata. These works encourage the reader to look into these epics from a different perspective.

If one strip off the divinity from the characters Vyasa and Valmiki had created, one would invariably see one’s own reflection in them. The characters of Yudhishtira and Rama tell the tragedy of egoistic human nature: his craving for social approval, his blind faith, his fanatic adherence to the social, religious, cultural norms and rules that were set by his ancestors, his distorted interpretations of the scriptures without any understanding of underlying fundamental principles and finally his tragic end. At the end of Mahabharata one witness the very dharma that Yudhishtira has been ardently following, fails him. It brings him nothing but misery and pain. The very thing that meant to bring happiness made him pitifully helpless and miserable. He becomes a prisoner of his own ‘dharma’. At the end of the tragic war everyone loses. The dharma of Yudhishtira and Duriyodhana had failed them both. Apparently the dharma that had been practiced throughout Mahabharata was not the dharma Vyasa had in mind when he proclaimed ‘yato dharma tato jaya’ – victory is where dharma prevails. Yudhishtira and others understood it rather differently.

Rama of Valmiki also suffered similar fate. Happiness evaded him throughout his life. He was busy following the path of dharma. Every one of them missed that essential ‘knowledge’ which is sublime and subtle. They all missed except one. In Mahabharata only one character had lived his life in full – Krishna. We never saw his eyes wet at any stage of his life. Instead Mahabharata says ‘he smiled’. When he faced defeat from his formidable enemies, when he lost his kingdom, when he was forced to retreat and hide in mountains, his countenance never faded. When Gandhari, from her heart wrenching pain cursed him, he smiled. When he witnessed the annihilation of his own family before his very eyes, he smiled. Like Rama he also suffered immensely in his life, but he always stood like a rock. And Rama wailed throughout his life. In their approach to life, one may say, Rama and Yudhishtira were idealists. Krishna, who saw the truth of life, was realistic and pragmatic. Interesting are these characters and their outlook towards life.

Often I wonder – why did Vyasa tell that story, the story of contradictions: the dharma that no one can ever follow, the bunch of people who had tried to follow and failed? Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa has been trying to tell us something that we tend to miss always.

The Legend of Santiago

Filed under: Books — MBN @ 12:17 am

alchemist.jpgPaulo Coelho’s Alchemist tells the story of Santiago, the shepherd boy, who set out to discover a treasure that would forever keep him happy. In his dreams Santiago was told about that treasure – hidden somewhere in a very distant exotic and mysterious land. But the journey would not be smooth. The great desert, where danger lurks around, had to be crossed. Local ballads sung stories of brave souls who attempted and never returned. Then there are bandits who would rob and kill anyone who cross their path. But those challenges did not deter him for he knew such a treasure could make him happy forever. He sold his sheep and began his journey. On the way he met people, did business, fell in love, fought war and found the Alchemist, who holds the key to that secret. Finally he reached the mysterious place only to found out, after much digging, that there was no such treasure. The realization dawned on him. The treasure was never kept hidden in the caves of Egypt or in the busy streets of Cairo. That kind of treasure did never really exist. This world could never have such a treasure. He could never found it outside because the treasure, the source of his happiness, lay buried within himself. He always had it within himself. He only needs to know how to dig within himself. And no Alchemist could do that for him. He had to do it himself.

In fact, in a way, all of us are Santiagos..searching for that ‘Treasure’ outside among names and forms, travel in great length, encounter troubles and hardships, in the hope to get hold of that ‘thing’ which would wipe out our miseries and relieve us from our painful existence forever. Searching for something permanent and everlasting in this transient world. Sometimes we come across, on the way, a bright glittering stone. We grab it with frenzy and hold it so dear to our heart, convinced that this is indeed that Treasure which will quench the thirst of our heart for everlasting peace, pleasure, happiness and satisfaction. We start to enjoy it’s warmth, the pleasure it invokes in our senses. It begin to sooth our troubling mind with peace and tenderness. We push back, into some remote corner of our mind, that ever lingering sense of uncertainty, insecurity. We feel at the top of the world and we sleep soundly. Then one morning we wake up with a heavy gloomy heart realizing that familiar sense of uncertainty, that insecurity has returned. The stone has lost it’s brightness, it’s glittering has gone.

In desperation and hope we start our search again. On the way we come across many who claim themselves as “the Alchemist”, the one who possess the secret knowledge of the treasure. Some of these wise looking ones dressed in three piece suits and carry laptops. Some of them have long white beard, adorn beads around their neck, hands and carry a bundle of books. They confidently map the way for us and offer their expertise, most of the time with a price tag. We buckle up and travel through their way. We trek through Wall streets, climb the peaks of mighty Himalayas, looking inside every glass doors and caves for the treasure. Then somewhere in the middle of the desert, under the fire star, when every one feel tired, thirsty and lost, they tell us, “ ….sorry I thought this was the way, at least that was what my computer calculated for me…that was what I read from my ancient book of wisdom….I am not very sure now”.

May 29, 2007

Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple and purification ritual

Filed under: Religion — MBN @ 12:55 am

My dear friend, you seem to be very much agitated? Oh! because of the temple entry issue?

What did I think about temple entry for non-Hindus? Well it doesn’t matter what I think. It does matter what the resider thinks about someone entering his house…. in this case Sri Krishna because He is the deity of the Guruvayoor temple. Did you bother to check with him…?

My friend why did you scoff at what I just said. Why there is sarcasm in your voice? Oh you think He did not have any opinion on this matter …only His servants – Tantris, Community leaders and Kerala Yogakshema Sabha have an opinion?

Did you say this was a matter of faith? I dont agree. I think faith should be based on reason and fact.

Well if my memory is correct Krishna already discussed and settled these issues with his long time pal Arjuna. It was a long time ago and the transcript of that dialogue is widely available for anyone who bothered to look into it.

Yes my friend, I am talking about Bhagavad Gita.

Oh you were saying Tantri might be right when he ordered purification ritual after the entry of a non-Hindu? You mean the Supreme God got defiled or polluted by the presence of a mere human being and His power got somehow diminished by coming in contact with a mere mortal? Well in this case Sri Krishna, the resident of Guruvayoor temple, did not seem to agree with the you or the Tantri. He said:
This all-knowing Self is never born and never dies. It has no cause and undergoes no transformation in it’s essence. It is unborn, eternal, immortal and ever existing. Weapons do not cut this Self nor does fire burn it; water does not wet it and wind does not dry it up. This Self is eternal, all prevading, unchanging, un-moving and ever existing. He who considers this self to be the killer and he who considers this self to be killed – both do not clearly see the Truth“.

(so much so for a purification ritual which include water that wet. What good it will do when you sprinkle purification water to something that never get wet ?)

Very wise, you agreed. But you seem to be little confused.
Okay now your argument is God’s power is manifested more in certain places or personalities and therefore it should be protected and revered more. Well, you my dear friend, may not want to know what Krishna think of people like you – He calls your type : “persons of poor intellect”.
All this visible universe is filled inside and outside by Me. Persons of poor intellect, not knowing My supreme casual form, which is the support of all the universal factors, misunderstand Me as having taken a human body“.

I noticed anger in your face and your hands clenched into a fist. Sorry, I can’t help it. If you still adamantly hold that the rituals and customs should be strictly adhere to, even when one thinks they make no sense, then it will come of no relief for you when I say Sri Krishna call your types “the ignorant ones”:
the ignorant ones find pleasure in the sacrificial rites and their heavenly fruits described in the Karma-kanda of the Vedas; they hold that there is no greater truth than that and no other liberation“.

Still if you think Sri Krishna have some soft corner towards your types. Oh brother…He disappoints you again:
I am the Supreme Self, remain equally in all universal beings. To Me, no one is specially an object of anger and no one is specially dear. Those who worship me with pure love reach Me and I too shine in them“.

Dude…bottomline…. it’s upto you – who you want to believe. Bhagavan Krishna ? or Tantris, Community leaders, Kerala Yogakshema Sabha etc ?. You decide.

Catch you later.

January 26, 2007

The Middle of the World

Filed under: Movie — MBN @ 9:04 pm
Odyssey of a poor Brazilian family on four broken-down bikes travelling 2000 miles towards promised land – Rio de Janeiro. It is a simple story beautifully told. Director Vicente Amorim never attempts to display any degenerated sentimentality or negative display of poverty and misery. The beauty of this movie lies in it’s honest portrayal of inner dynamics of the characters – their interaction, their spirit, their love, the values they hold despite their hardship, their vulnerability and poverty.
There are so many interesting conversation happen among the characters. One such dialogue take place when the eldest child Antonio challenge his parents and refuses to travel any farther:
Father: Let’s go. It’s a long way to Rio de Janeiro. Antonio take Rodney.

Antonio (defiantly): I’m staying here

Mother (with anger and frustration): Listen I’m your mother. I tell you what to do. You have no choice. Stay alone here? Do you think you’re your own boss. You are not.

Father: Yes he is. A son must respect his parents but parents don’t own their children

Mother (protests): But man…

Father: A mother gives life, but she doesn’t own her child.

A beautiful movie.

April 13, 2006

Rule of this game

Filed under: Uncategorized — MBN @ 3:51 am
World politics was, is and will be played by just one rule: “POWER”. It could be financial, military, trade or any other. Those who have it lay down the rules. Others just play along. There is no role for idealism in this game of power play..if there is any it is again “POWER”. Those who have power always rule. Long ago Rome had power over the world. Then came British. Today it is United States. Tomorrow it could be China or someone else. But the rule of this game remains the same whether one likes it or not. All the struggle, as an individual or as a nation, is just to have more power..power against their opponent(s). Jo jeeta wahi Sikander. Prove me otherwise.

February 21, 2006

The Book of Tibetan Elders

Filed under: Books — MBN @ 3:17 am
When the iron eagle flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered over the earth and the dharma will go to the land of the red man – Tibetan prophecy of Padmasmbhava (eighth century ).

In the course of Time the things that are destined to happen happens. The prophesy fulfilled in 1950 with the Chinese invasion of Tibet. It marked end of an ancient-wisdom culture. The red-robed people of the east lost their land and scattered over the earth. In 1991 writer Sandy Johnson was assigned, by her editor, to wrote a book that records the life stories and wisdom from the existing spiritual masters of Tibet. She traveled to India, Tibet, Europe and America to meet Tibetan elders – the ones who are the embodiment of the ancient wisdom, power and practices. In this book the reader gets a glimpse of that lost world that strived to attain the highest state- the buddhahood and it’s current struggle to preserve it’s valuable traditions.

From the book:
“I hear that people in the outside world live comfortable lives with tables and chairs and carpets in their homes, and have everything needed to be happy sugar and rice and all that. I have only tsampa and tukpa (soup) to eat, but I am happy; I have no teeth in my mouth anyway. I see you in your fine clothes, and I am in rags. Yet I hear there is much unhappiness in the outside world. Can you tell me why that is ?”

“No I can’t”, I admitted. “Do you have some thoughts about why that is so?”.

She shrugged. “Maybe your fine clothes and all your furniture and riches take up too much of your time and leave you no time for prayer. May be your riches have taken more away from you than they have given. But I don’t know about these things…” She yawned, bringing the conversation to a close.

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