Forbidden Acts Wednesday, Jan 18 2006 

It is surprising to note that religious scholars are obsessed with more mundane issues such as carnal passions than the customary spiritual topics. Their enthusiasm to regulate all aspect of human life by foolish interpretation of scripture lead the faithful astray. If human society could do away with the dubious clerics and god men of every hue, much of the evils that plague human life could be avoided.

If the U.S. and its allies spent their effort and resources on means to wean away poor people from the hold of such sinister men rather than declaring ‘war on terrorism’ by brutally inflicting untold suffering on innocent people, it would make the world a better place to live in.

I was astounded to read this article in Guardian. It’s strange that people endure this breed of men in the name of faith.

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A Lesson for Pakistan Sunday, Jan 15 2006 

(CNN) — Pakistan has protested to the United States over an airstrike on a remote village near the Afghan border that killed 18 people, but apparently missed its target, bin Laden’s No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Hundreds of residents chanted anti-American slogans Saturday near the targeted village of Damadola.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office said Saturday it lodged a protest with the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Ryan Crocker, and the issue is being “thoroughly investigated.”

Link

Maybe, the U.S. may strike at/take over their nuclear installations one day if the chase leads them to that direction. Surely the Pak establishment knows it too well.

Swami Ramdev and His Medicine Saturday, Jan 14 2006 

Although I’ve a keen interest in contemporary god men of Hinduism, Swami Ramdev remained unknown to me until recently when a controversy catapulted him onto the national scene.The Swami is a business man as well as a ‘holy man’ with ‘connections’, since his followers include the wealthy and the powerful. He runs a factory in Haridwar producing Ayurvedic medicines and his products command a huge customer base. His factory follows no labor norms and fires workers at will.

When a leftist woman politician who is an MP intervened on behalf of the sacked workers, she stumbled upon the deleterious ingredients in Swami’s herbal medicines. The samples she obtained and sent for investigation confirmed the presence of human and animal bones in Swami’s concoction. The dismissed workers said they were fired because they refused to touch bones bought for grinding and mixing with herbal products manufactured in the factory.

As the news made headlines in national newspapers and TV channels, Swami Ramdev’s followers went on a rampage and the proponents of right-wing Hindu politics came out in his support, strongly denouncing the leftist politicians, the liberal intellectuals, the media and everybody else whom they consider as enemies (which include everyone other than themselves) of Hinduism and India’s ancient tradition.

The central government and the leading party of the coalition that rules at the center maintain a studied silence on the whole issue.

Swami Ramdev and his supporters raise the bogey of ‘Hinduism in danger’ and ‘our culture under attack’ to ruffle the emotions of the Hindus. They warn of a nefarious design by the enemies of Hinduism and culture, whose goal is to destroy Hindu faith and Bharat Mata (motherland, India seen as Mother).

Ramdev, the ‘holy man’, says his medicinal products conform to WHO standards and there’s no truth in the allegation, which is the handiwork of anti-national forces and multinational companies bent on destroying India’s “scientific heritage”.

Swami Ramdev belongs to the lineage of the controversial holy men like Dhirendra Brahmachari and Chandra Swami, who enjoyed the patronage of the political establishment and had the knack for courting controversy and thriving on it.

To Speak or Not to Speak English Friday, Jan 13 2006 

I learn that it’s beneficial to babies if parents talk to them (as they do in their mother tongue) in a second language of their choice from early days. Some parents who are not conversant in a second language engage a tutor to do it.

In our case it’s a problem.

I had made up my mind to talk to our baby in English while Ani vowed to speak only Malayalam, our mother tongue. But when I tried it I discovered that I didn’t enjoy it for the simple reason that it didn’t give me any sense of fulfillment. On the contrary, talking to Pranav in my mother tongue is a highly rewarding experience for me. Gradually, talking to little Pranav in English began to sound comical to me and I stopped it altogether.

It’s certain from our life style that Prananv will learn Telugu (the language of Andhra Pradesh) and Hindi (our national language) only when he goes to school. He’ll learn them from his classmates and friends. He’ll be going to an English medium school, so naturally he’ll learn English at school. Since Ani and I are teachers, Pranav will get all necessary help from us both. Then we’ll feel comfortable speaking to him in English, because his lessons are in English and using English becomes an absolute necessity. One language that he’ll never need at school is his mother tongue!

If we neglect the mother tongue now, when he’s still a little baby, he’ll probably never acquire fluency in it and our native culture and its heritage will remain foreign to him forever.

But, is it advisable denying our son the opportunity to learn English from us from his early days? Should we put aside all other considerations and talk to him in English? Or shall we use both English and Malayalam (won’t it complicate his little mind)?

An Aborted Journey Wednesday, Jan 11 2006 

My sister and her husband, who have been our guests for a month, were supposed to go back to Kerala on 4th Jan by Sabari Express.
Since it’s the peak season of the pilgrimage to the hilltop temple of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala in Kerala, there are no seats available on the train until 20th Jan. Anyone who travels to Kerala by train from any part of the country knows that the two and a half month long pilgrimage season (Nov-Jan) is the hardest to book tickets.
The pilgrims book all seats in advance. It results in ordinary passengers facing untold hardships.The railway runs special trains from various stations to Kerala to ease the rush, but the devotees of Lord Ayyappa don’t spare the special trains either!
Knowing the situation very well I booked two seats in waiting list through a friend for 4th Jan. What we thought was that we could manage to get the tickets confirmed in emergency quota with the help of a contact. It had worked on a few occasions in the past. But this time it didn’t work. We knew this bitter truth only after we had reached Secunderabad Railway Station for boarding the train.
The platform was inundated with the pilgrims in black robe and the atmosphere was reverberating with their chants and songs with the accompaniment of musical instruments. It was clear that for every reserved seat there would be a dozen swamis (the devotees, pilgrims) hanging on.

My sister and brother-in-law stood no chance of a comfortable journey. So we canceled the tickets and returned home.

Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa!

The Visa Temple Wednesday, Jan 11 2006 

We went to Chilukur Balaji Temple on Sunday, 8th Jan. My wife had suggested the trip and I agreed right away.The temple, which is said to be over five centuries old, is some 50km away on the outskirts of the city from our place.

I had heard of the temple and its popularity among the ambitious young people seeking higher education in foreign universities or better careers abroad. For this reason the Temple is nicknamed ‘Visa Temple’!

It’s said that anyone praying to the reigning Lord Balaji (Vishnu) at Chilkur Temple for a visa to a preferred foreign destination is granted their wish. The aspirant-devotees whose wishes have been fulfilled offer ‘pradikshan (circumambulation)’ around the temple by chanting the Deity’s praise. A round of 108 times is the minimum. Some do ‘sayana pradikshan (rolling oneself on the ground around the temple), an extreme offering expressing their gratitude and devotion to the wish fulfilling Deity.

Chilkur temple is without any Hindu temple architecture or art work. It’s just a small concrete structure with compound walls. Another small shrine close by devoted to Lord Shiva shares the compound and the devotees pray there as well.

It’s said that 75,000 to 100,000 devotees visit the temple in a week. Fridays and Sundays are the busiest days at Chilkur.

On our return, after a few kilometers, I saw two huge hoardings of ‘Higher Education in Foreign Universities’ and ‘Visa Counseling Services’ erected prominently on both sides of the road meeting the main road ahead.